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Aguilar TLC Compressor Review

I'm sure Aguilar is a name you are familiar with, most notably for their line of amplifiers, cabinets and pickups and preamps. The Aguilar brand is associated with quality and tone and the TLC Compressor fits into that heritage nicely.

The pedal itself is rugged and the same form factor as all other stomp pedals in the Aguilar line. It has a nice weight and feel to it. The knobs turn with precision and enough resistance to be reassuring.

"TLC" stands for Trans Linear Control which is a proprietary compression circuit they developed.

In general, the tone is quite open and smooth and even across the range of compression settings. It doesn't really ever feel overly grabby or squishy.

There are just four controls and the range is useful, for the most part. The exception would be the Attack control. More on that later.

Level controls the overall output or makeup gain. There is plenty on hand.

Threshold has a very wide range and will accommodate a wide range of instrument inputs allowing you precision control over the threshold at which compression engine engages. If you have a very low output instrument, the Aguilar TLC would be a good choice due to the sensitivity control of the Threshold dial. The same is true for higher output instruments though my Sadowsky bass with Sadowsky preamp was capable of causing the TLC Compressor to distort at more extreme settings. Therefore, the Aguilar TLC is not recommended for very high output instruments such as basses with 18 volt preamps.

The Attack controls sets the amount of time before compression begins after a note is played. Turning the knob clockwise causes the attack time to become longer, allowing the leading edge of the note to be heard without compression. The range is marked 10ms to 100ms but honestly, I couldn't discern much difference. If anything, the attack feel in reality is very subtle which is disappointing.

Think of the Slope dial as your ratio control. As you turn the knob clockwise the dynamic range is compressed more. The range here is very useful allowing you to dial in very subtle compression to more of a limiting effect.

The TLC is mostly transparent though you can definitely feel the lows tightened. I didn't notice all that much in the way of attenuation of highs but I wouldn't call the Aguilar a bright compressor. It is quite neutral and not really a compressor for tone "fattening" though you will benefit from the tightening of the low which benefits you in the mix. I've read other reviews where the TLC is described as more "sterile" or "clinical". I don't agree with that. There is definitely a noticeable difference playing through the TLC. But it is not the type of compressor we refer to as those exhibiting some type of "tone magic". Rather, it is best at being, well, a compressor doing what a good compressor should.

On the downside, I noticed a persistent "fwack" on the attack of everything I played through the TLC on basses with preamps. I could't dial it out.

It is like an initial clip of the input. It is there whether attacking the strings aggressively or lightly. In a live mix it might not be all that noticeable. I didn't hear it with my Fender Stratocaster so it is more a result of how the TLC reacts to lower frequencies. Your mileage may vary but my test gear consisted of 5 different basses and one guitar.

The Aguilar TLC is pretty quiet, not silent like the Effectrode LA-1A or FEA compressors, but definitely on the more quiet side. That's nice.

Like all Aguilar stomp pedals, input and output jacks are top mounted as is the 9-volt power supply input jack.

There is a blue LED that illuminates when the compressor pedal is engaged. There is no threshold/gain reduction LED or meter. You will need to rely on your ear to dial it in.

There is room for a 9-volt battery inside.

In summary, the TLC is a decent compressor. It sounds quite good with lower output instruments. It won't impart some sort of tone magic or otherwise overly color your tone. But considering all of the other options these days I'm not sure there is enough here to recommend the Aguilar TLC. There isn't any one function or tonal impact that really differentiates it. It does what a good compressor should in term of tightening the sound, adding sustain, and making things feel overall more punchy. Nothing less, nothing more. If you are looking for a good limiter, the TLC would serve you well. It is well built and pedalboard friendly.

The Aguilar TLC Compressor is a good utility compressor.

Retail price: $215


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