Extensive compressor reviews and FAQ

Maxon RCP660 (Ibanez Tube King): This is a tube comp pedal with the usual arrangement of a solid-state compression circuit and a tube gain stage. As far as I have been able to find out, the Maxon RCP660 and the Ibanez Tube King Comp are the exact same pedal. I have not tried the newer RTC600 version yet.
 
The ratio is fixed at 3:1, good for general smoothing and fattening, but not for peak limiting at all. The "Sustain" knob controls a gain boost going into a fixed threshold, so increasing the Sustain necessarily also increases the noise floor. Unfortunately even low Sustain settings are a tad noisy already. Oddly, the noise increases with a little "whoosh" when your signal crosses the threshold, and then drops back down as the compression releases.
 
A few things about this pedal are backwards. The in and out jacks are reversed from the normal order. The Sensitivity control is just a volume knob that turns down the input level, going counterclockwise, so its "maximum" setting is just your normal unchanged signal level. And the Attack knob goes clockwise from fast to slow.
 
The good news: the tone of this pedal is actually quite sweet. Very tubey and energetic, with nice bright highs. The lows get attenuated a bit, but not too badly--it just sounds "tightened up". As long as I ignored the noise, I really liked the positive effect this unit had on my instrument's tone. Also, the pedal features a separate boost footswitch, and the boost sounds really good too. The boost is fixed at about 13 dB gain. Unfortunately the compression has to be engaged in order to select the boost, but this will be fine for people who leave the compressor always on.
 
The construction quality is decent. It is larger than the T-Rex Squeezer, but smaller than the Markbass Compressore. The footswitch is not "true bypass", but it is quite clean sounding. The tube is easy to access, once you've removed the 8 screws that attach the base plate. It runs on standard Boss-type 9V DC, which is very convenient, although with tube comps a higher voltage is often preferable for higher headroom and lower noise.
 
There are other tube comps I would recommend for smaller size, lower noise, better controls, or better low end; but the RCP660 has an exciting colored tone you might like, and uses a more convenient power supply. That weird extra whoosh while the unit is compressing a note is a deal-breaker for me though.
 
Price in USD: maybe $100 to $150 used, no longer available new.
 

 

 
 
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