Extensive compressor reviews and FAQ

Trace Elliot SMX: This old, long out of production pedal has a cult following among bassists. It is a dual-band comp, which was very rare at the time it was produced.
 
Unusual features include: separate knobs to control the amount of compression for the high and low sides of the crossover; a "tilting" EQ knob that emphasizes either the highs or the lows; and a second footswitch to bypass only the high band of the compression (meaning only the lows would get compressed).
 
The center frequency of the crossover is 350Hz, but it has a shallow slope so the upper and lower bands actually overlap between 225Hz and 900Hz. The compression attack is not adjustable, but they preset a fast attack for the high band and a slow attack for the low band, which seems like a good setup. The noise level is fairly low--not the quietest, but acceptable. It does roll off a bit of both the lows and highs. The overall tone and action are quite smooth and musical, clean and punchy, at most comp settings; only at the highest settings it can sound a bit "artificial". At high ratios there can be a noticeable "pop" or "tic" artifact when the threshold is crossed. The maximum ratio is 8:1, so even at the highest settings it does not act as a limiter on the strongest peaks.
 
This pedal is not quite up to the same audio standards and capabilities as the Rane or FEA dual-band comps, but it does sound quite good, and the differences would be less apparent while playing live on stage. Dual-band compression in general can allow much more finger-articulation sound and less "swallowing of the highs" than a single-band system, so the Trace SMX is a worthy contender if those qualities are important to you, and if you find one at a fair price.
 
It runs on 18V DC, which means either using two batteries, or finding an 18V adapter with a 2.5 mm barrel plug, because the "normal" 2.1 mm Boss-type plug does not fit. Finding an appropriate AC adapter is critical, and if one of these pedals is sold [u]with[/u] the adapter then it is worth paying more for. If you have an isolated-outlet multiple power supply (like the Voodoo Labs PPII+) you can have Voodoo Labs custom-make you a series Y cable for 18 V, with the appropriate 2.5 mm plug. The construction of the pedal is very heavy-duty. It's a bit over twice the width of a Boss pedal. There is no LED or other meter to indicate signal over the threshold. The footswitches are not "true bypass", but the bypassed tone is fairly clean.
 
Price in USD: $75-$175 used, no longer available new.
 

 

 
 
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