Earthquaker Devices The Warden: This is an optical comp from an up-and-coming boutique pedal brand, and I am adding it to my list of "top picks"! It has a clear, neutral tone and very very low noise. I'd recommend it more for clean functionality than for super fat or "magical" tone.
The low end is strong, with a slight rolloff just below 40 Hz. The highs taper off in a long, gentle slope. The Tone knob raises and lowers the mids and highs in a wide hill-shaped curve, so the highs can be lifted back up to unity by turning the Tone all the way up, but the mids will be boosted much more by that point. Turning Tone all the way down cuts the highs significantly, and across the middle positions are a wide pleasant-sounding range of variations on the mid-focused shape with full-strength lows. There is no "flat" setting.
The other controls include Attack, Release, Level, Sustain, and Ratio. The attack and release have wide useful ranges of time. Ratio covers a range that I would estimate (by ear) to go from around 2:1 to 10:1, maybe a bit higher. It can do a very good job as a peak limiter with Ratio at maximum and Attack at minimum (the fastest time). Sustain controls the gain of your signal into the compression circuit, so it is essentially a boost across a fixed threshold. This type of system also means the higher you set the Sustain, the more it may color your signal, and amplify any noise that was already in your chain. You can get an interesting (subtle) range of tonal results by trying a high Sustain with a low Ratio, or vice-versa. Even at high Sustain settings the noise level is better than average.
The construction quality is very good and solid. The housing is about the size of a Boss, with top-mounted jacks. It runs on standard Boss-type 9V DC, which is boosted internally to 18V for higher headroom (less distortion). There is no LED to indicate the amount of compression. The footswitch is "true bypass".
Price in USD: new $195, used $125-$150.
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