Extensive compressor reviews and FAQ

RDL ST-CL1: Radio Design Labs makes a series of many tiny modules for a variety of audio utility applications. These are minimalist circuits in a bare-bones plastic packet about the size of a pack of gum. Of course I had to try their compressor.
 
The noise level is about average compared to many pedals. At low amounts of compression the tone is transparent, even, and natural across the full frequency range, with no loss of highs or lows. The one big down side is that it distorts very easily. It only has two controls: tiny screwdriver trim pots for input and output levels. It has three compression stages in series: "Comp", "Limit", and "Heavy", each with their own indicator LED, and your signal progresses through them in that order as it gets louder. As long as you dial back the input gain so that your signal stays in the "Comp" stage, there is only a very little bit of distortion. When it does distort at that stage, weirdly it's on the high notes, not the lows. As soon as you cross the threshold into the Limit and Heavy stages however, it's distortion city, especially on big low-frequency peaksjnmbhgn .
 
It has only screw-terminals for connecting to your other equipment. There are no jacks or bypass switches included. Also note that it runs on 24V DC, and the stock RDL wall wart supply is huge, like four times the size of the audio module itself.
 
Price in USD: $30-$80 used; the CL1 is no longer made, but its replacement the CL2 sells for $170 new. I haven't tested that one.
 
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