Extensive compressor reviews and FAQ

3Leaf Audio PWNZOR: 3Leaf is an up-and-coming small boutique brand, and this is their first compressor. For the older readers here, "PWNZOR" means something like "dominant winner" among kids playing online games.
It's an optical design, and it has the smooth fattening quality typical of opto comps. At the lower half of the range of ratios, it has a similar feel to the Diamond, adding subtle thickness and sheen while keeping your articulation. Higher ratios, up to the maximum of about 10:1, get much chewier and more "effected"--you might like the result, or you might think it mashes your sound too much. It can limit some biggish peaks when you have a high ratio and a low threshold, but it's not really suited to that kind of function. The maker told me he really likes the punch given by a slow attack and a low ratio, so he built this pedal to be at its best in that lighter compression range. The noise level is very low--not dead silent, but much better than average.
The attack knob has a very useful range. There's a release control too, but it's a small trim pot inside the housing. The input knob controls the level of the signal feeding into the effect, so it also controls the threshold, and it has a pretty useful range as well, handling both low and high-output instruments with no trouble. If your bass has really high output there is also an internal trim pot for bringing that signal down to a more useful level. I wasn't able to make this pedal distort, no matter how high of a signal I fed it. There is just one LED, and it serves double duty, lighting green to show the effect is engaged, and turning orange when your signal crosses the threshold.
It has a toggle switch labeled "Vintage", and this selects between two types of operation of the opto comp circuit. With the switch "up" it is in feed-back mode, with more of a traditional/vintagey smooth action; with the switch "down" it is in feed-forward mode, with a more noticeable/effecty action.
An internal switch selects whether the bypass footswitch is buffered or a relay-based "true bypass". Both ways have their merits, so it's really nice to be able to choose for your own tastes. The buffered bypass is just as transparent as the "true" bypass. The construction quality is good. It runs on standard Boss-type 9V DC, which is boosted internally to 18V for higher headroom. To be clear, you just use a normal power supply, not an 18V one.
Because this pedal is more about tone improvement than about limiting or "surgical" compression, I'd recommend it mainly to people who want a bit more fatness and harmonics in their sound. It can be used for funky chicken-pickin'/squashing, but it's hard to say whether it will do it the way you like. In a way it's the counterpart/opposite of the MXR M87, which is all about crisp action and peak limiting, while the PWNZOR is better at "organic" tone and envelope qualities.
Note: March 2013, 3Leaf discontinued this pedal, at least for now. Look for a used one!
Price in USD: new $219, used $160-$180


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