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This article was originally published in issue #26
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Sometimes pedals don't have to have a million buttons and switches on them to fulfil a role and frankly, sometimes the fewer knobs the better! Here's a great example of such a pedal: the OptiComp OC-5 from the US specialist audio company, BBE. The OC-5 is a new upgrade version of the best selling 'Opto Stomp', instantly recognisable by its identifiable looks: the yellow 'moustache' version, so called as it features a monocle and moustache logo on the front panel, and the original and sought after BBE Opto Stomp that had a yellow front panel and big red writing.
First of all, a bit about this type of compressor effect. The pedal is an optical or 'opto' type compressor. An optical compressor uses a small lamp or LED inside that tracks the input signal level. As you play louder the light glows brighter. Physically connected to it, a light sensitive device known as an LDR senses the brightness of the LED. This in turn controls the amount of attenuation that the compressor circuit applies to the input signal. The result is a soft limited sound at the output. Using this method of limiting, the circuit is said to be 'musical' and pleasing to the ears as the light circuit described above has a certain relaxed, less aggressive clamping effect on the resultant sound.
The all metal casing is rugged and the blue LED at the top will have you under no illusions whether or not the pedal is engaged - it's nice and bright! The connections for instrument and amplifier are metal and you have the option of running the pedal with a 9v battery or a standard boss type power supply. The power socket is sited on the top edge of the casing. Finally a heavy duty foot switch takes care of engaging the effect or switching you to a 'true hardwire bypass' when disengaged.
This pedal does a fairly admirable job and sounds good at lower and softer compression settings, though we found a 'rounding' of the overall bass tone generally. High compression settings in the studio were also handled well and at extreme settings we did get the odd bit of noise at the start of each note - but that does happen with many 'off the shelf' pedals and in any case, I don't think I'd use such a high setting on this pedal anyway. On lower threshold settings I think the pedal does a good job of rounding-off your level peaks and helps toward a punchy and more controlled sound. That's not a bad thing at all.