Extensive compressor reviews and FAQ

Alesis Smashup: About 10 years ago Alesis came out with a series of small effects units aimed at the DJ/remix market; they got poor reviews from most users, and the line was soon discontinued. This is a digital processor in a tabletop module format. It can operate in mono or stereo, and at instrument or line level.
 
Before I get into its various features, I have to say there is a high-pitched ringing background sound, probably the clock noise from the digital processor. It does not go away at any knob or button setting other than turning down the volume. It increases for a moment each time I press a button. If you generally roll off all the treble anyway, or your music is lo-fi glitchstep, then it won't be an issue; but everyone else will want to avoid this unit.
 
It features six presets for models (emulations) of different types of compression such as optical and VCA. Two of the presets, labeled "Pump" and "Fat", are intended for extreme squashing effects. The presets are chosen with a simple up/down button to scroll between them. Another button turns on/off a function called "Look ahead", which uses a few milliseconds of delay in the signal to allow instantaneous attack times. This function is very useful in post-production "in the box" of a DAW (recording computer), but in a real-time processor like this the idea doesn't make much sense. The next button, labeled "Sizzle", boosts the high frequencies and reduces the amount that low frequencies get compressed, essentially resulting in a mid scoop. The last button turns the compression on and off. It's not a bypass really, because your signal still passes through the D/A converters. Each button and mode has its own on/off LED.
 
There are knobs on top for threshold, attack, release, and output level, plus a knob hidden on the back to adjust the input level. In addition to the pairs of in/out jacks, it has a jack for connecting an external on/off footswitch (not included), and a multi-pin jack for using a special cable (not included) to join multiple Alesis modules together. It runs on 9V AC, so it won't work with daisy chain or Boss-type power supplies.
 
Although it can be used on a pedalboard, it has no footswitch and is not designed for strength. And while it can be installed on a rack shelf or bracket, that would be a ridiculously inefficient use of rack space. The bottom plate is metal, but the rest of the housing, jacks, and controls are just metallized plastic. The construction is cheap and a bit flimsy.
 
The "Pump" and "Fat" effects actually sound quite cool, and would work very well on the sort of techno tracks they were designed for. There's no loss of low end, and the noise level is not bad--apart from that obnoxious ringing sound.
 
Price in USD: $30-$60 used, no longer available new.
 

 

 
 
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