Extensive compressor reviews and FAQ

Sabine NEX-5400: This pedal was only made for a couple of years, around 2000-2001, by a company mostly known for their tuners and digital processors. It's an analog VCA comp with a good array of controls.
 
It has a significant EQ pre-shape, with a permanent huge boost in the low end. The mids are somewhat flat (not cut or boosted), and the highs depend on the setting of the tone knob. You can get sort of close to flat in the highs with the tone knob at around 2:00. With tone set below that point, the highs get increasingly rolled off in a long curve. Above 2:00, the highs get boosted in a wide "hump" shape, leaving the mids scooped. So this pedal is not for the purist who wants transparency--but the inherent EQ shaping could be very musically useful or pleasant to somebody else.
 
There is not much noise, and no noticeable artifacts when crossing the threshold. The tone is mostly neutral; it starts to get muddy during heavy compression, but otherwise it's clean and natural (apart from the EQ shape). While I wouldn't advertise it as fat sounding generally, I found some beefy tones with the ratio and threshold both at medium-low settings. The controls include attack, ratio, threshold, output level, and tone. I'm not positive what the max and minimum ratios are, but I'd estimate roughly from 2:1 to 20:1, a good wide range. The threshold and attack knobs also have a useful range.
 
The pedal is fairly large, similar to the Joemeek; the area it takes up is a tad bigger than the "medium size" of Barber, Diamond, FEA pedals. There is no LED to indicate signal crossing the threshold, but the control panel has a cool glowing red backlight around the knobs. It has both an effect output jack and a dry (uncompressed) parallel output. The body and footswitch are super rugged and heavy-duty. They claim it has a "hard wire" bypass, but theirs is an older type of non-buffered switching system that is not "true" bypass, and unfortunately it loses some low end when bypassed.
 
It runs on battery or a DC supply from 9V to 16V, but an important detail is the power jack is NOT the Boss standard size of 2.1 mm--it's 2.5 mm instead. Some multi-outlet power bricks on the market come with a 2.5 mm adapter, but not all do. The Sabine wall-wart power supply is still available for sale at some larger web stores.
 
While the pedal's size, bypass, and power jack are certainly big strikes against it, the low noise and wide range of useful controls make it worth grabbing if you happen to find one for cheap.
 
Price in USD: $25-$50 used, no longer available new.
 

 

 
 
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