Extensive compressor reviews and FAQ

Ashly SC-50: This is a one-rackspace line-level mono unit from the 1970s, and it has a reputation for being epecially good for electric guitar in the recording studio. It also happens to sound great on bass.
 
It has a unique, rather colored sound, with a slightly hollow quality and some grit and "wooly thickness" in the highs. This tonal quality is not as strong as an "effect", but rather a subtle coloration that gives a unique, bluesy, vintage character. The high frequencies are a bit muddy and muted, but there is no loss of low end.
 
The noise level is very low, with no swell of noise on the note tail. The action is very smooth. It has a decent range of usable settings, and it can sustain nicely. It can be set up as a hard limiter, but like many comps it doesn't do as good a job of that as I'd like--it's much better at more moderate compression. At all settings there can be a bit of a "click" artifact when the threshold is hit.
 
I really like this one for what it adds, but it won't suit players who want a modern transparent sound. For what it's worth, the one I'm testing is the "blue face" model, the first version Ashly produced, which has slightly different components than the later "black face" model. The black one is supposed to be pretty similar though. The "In/Out" switch only turns the compression on and off; your signal still passes through the gain stages of the circuit when it's "off", so the unit can't be bypassed altogether. If you're a blues-rock player, though, you won't switch it off!
 
Price in USD: $100-$250 used, no longer available new.
 

 

 
 
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