Doc Lloyd Photon Death Ray: This is an optical design with a couple of interesting qualities. Most potential buyers will be enticed by the colorful cartoon graphics and the big jewel light, but it is not just a pretty face.
The main feature that sets it apart is a filter in the sidechain that emulates the "equal loudness contour" of human hearing. Our ears do not hear all frequencies at the same relative level of sensitivity, so it takes different amounts of signal gain to present them equally in our perception. With most ordinary comp designs, low frequency peaks will trigger the compression sooner than high frequencies, and the comp reacts by turning down the volume on the whole signal equally. This means what we hear at the output often sounds like it had one end of the frequency range turned down more than the rest. The Photon addresses that by filtering the signal that the compressor hears, along the same curve that our ears hear, so that it does not over-react to the lows.
Compared to most other optical designs, this means it will have more clarity in the high end, and less effect-like action overall, which you'd hear as a more "natural" or transparent sound and feel. On the down side, the Photon is not as capable of limiting big low-end peaks. With a generally boomy bass, I wasn't able to use this pedal to keep my preamp from distorting, even at strong settings.
The frequency response of the actual audio path is flat, with no loss of highs or lows. The filter feature is only for the sensor circuit, it doesn't change the frequency range you hear. Tonally it is mostly clean, with some "warmth", but that warmth mainly becomes noticeable at the heavier range of settings. It has a low overall noise floor. The action is smooth and unobtrusive.
Aside from the usual Comp and Vol knobs, it has a Mix knob to blend in your uncompressed signal, and a Thresh switch to set a different level of sensitivity to match the output of your instrument. Overall this pedal is not versatile exactly, but it provides a great range of control over exactly how transparent or low-impact it will be. In spite of the superhero laser-blast imagery and the name "Photon Death Ray", this pedal will best suit people who want a mellow squeeze instead of strong or surgical compression.
The construction quality is good, and the housing is about the size of a Boss pedal, with top-mounted jacks. It has a single LED to indicate the amount of compression; the large jewel is just the on/off light. The footswitch is true bypass, and it takes standard Boss-style 9V DC, or up to 18V safely.
Price in USD: new $199, used about $170.
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