Published On: Mon, Jul 7th, 2014

Strymon OB.1 Optical Compressor Review

Strymon are well-known for their guitar delays and reverb, but how does their compressor stack up in a tricky bass situation? Review by Gareth Morgan

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Details
Description: Guitar or bass guitar optical compressor pedal. Made in USA
RRP: £199
Contact: MusicPysch Ltd – 0207 607 6005 – www.musicpsych.com

Serious FX-ophiles amongst you may have come across Damage Control pedals whilst idling sleuthing the web. They first appeared in 2004, so you may own one; your pedalboard would know about it if you did, as they were seriously high quality units, about the size of a small car. Co-founders Gregg Stock, Pete Celi and Dave Fruehling realised they had a good concept, but when by 2009 the pedals hadn’t really lit major commercial fires, they kept DC as a parent company and formed Strymon, a new line of high-spec, largely handwired wares designed to be fit more within the boundaries of acceptable stompbox girth. Strymon’s fare is mainly guitar-oriented but one offering we bassists can get down with is their optical compressor, the OB.1.

Sounding very much like the surname of a character from Star Wars, the OB.1 comes in the form of an orange aluminium anodised box, weighing 392.8g/13.85oz and chunky but reasonably-sized at 101mm wide by 63mm high and 112mm deep (including controls and sockets). Battery power is an option, but it comes supplied with a 9v plug. As well as the usual On/Bypass stomp switch, there are three main controls; the two larger knobs are Output, which controls the overall volume, and Comp, which sets the compressor’s threshold – more transparent and natural-sounding to the left side, and more intense and squashed to the right.

As well as compression, the OB.1 offers a clean boost function via the smaller rotary knob and some switches. The mini toggle switch offers three EQ settings – Flat, Mid and Treble – each a different starting point for your boosting endeavours, while the Boost Level control regulates the amount of boost, although we can’t tell you how much in dB. You can turn this on or off via the Boost stomp switch. There are also internal DIP switches, accessed via the back plate, for varying the mid and treble frequency to be boosted.

Sounds
A good starting point with compressors is to set the output (or equivalent) to match your basic level and then tweak the compression control. With Comp spun to the left igniting the OB.1 is like spring-cleaning your tone, and although you should note this involves a slight diminution of bass end, you can compensate by boosting your bass EQ a notch higher than normal.

The left-hand offerings are sparkly and beautifully transparent with excellent sustain, and the main body of your held note takes noticeably longer meet its inevitable fate. It’s darker at around 10 o’clock, and the punchy low mids are delivered with a barking aggression. On the right, the stunted squashy character kicks in around 2 o’clock, with the highs graduating rapidly from losing a little bite to sounding downright choked.

The boost function only works when compression is engaged, and with the toggle switch in the Flat position, it’s wonderfully clean. To simply boost your inputted signal, roll the Comp dial fully left and – internal DIP switch settings notwithstanding – with the EQ toggle at Treble you get a slightly less weighty and expectedly brighter starting point, but Mid doesn’t beget a usable bass tone. Still, it might be useful if you want a ‘special occasion’ sound or just a level hike for soloing.

Verdict
Whilst we haven’t been able to check out tonal possibilities relating to resetting the DIP switches, anything they offer can only improve what is already a very good unit. True, anywhere past minimum compression level does have a negative effect on the bass end but it’s easy to learn by how much you need to compensate with EQ. On radical settings the squashed ’80s sound is readily available and the more subtle settings are gorgeously transparent. The price is on the high side, but this is a very good pedal.




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