This new compressor from Ampeg is an optical circuit ranging from pretty subtle compression to pretty squishy and a lot in between. It's easy to use with only 3 dials. Let me say up front that this one surprised me in a good way.
With the compression dial past noon it is definitely not transparent but has a unique vibe to it. I think some would call it on the darker side but while it has an inherent darker flavor to it that isn't a bad thing. It manages to maintain plenty of life without feeling dull. It has a more vintage sound but it isn't overly woolly either. On the lower end (more clockwise) of the compression dial it adds a real nice subtle bigness to the tone without feeling grabby. It's subtle, but you can tell its on. On the scale of transparent to highly colored compressors its somewhere toward the transparent end but with a little extra life to the tone. Maybe a little bit of tube vibe. In other words, not lifeless like some of the more transparent compressors can sound.
The compression knob adjusts the amount of compression applied to the signal and ranges from pretty subtle (counter clockwise) to pretty squishy (all the way clockwise). I found I liked it most set between 9:00 and 11:00.
There is no input control but I found the pedal to have plenty of headroom even with my hot output G&L L2500. No issues there.
The Release knob controls the amount of time it takes the compressor to end gain reduction. Faster release time is counter clockwise, slower is clockwise. I found I liked the release knob in a variety of placements — anywhere from 9:00 to 2:00 suited me just fine.
The Output knob adjusts the overall output volume of the pedal and has plenty of gain on tap. It does make for a pretty nice boost pedal with compression and release knobs all the way counter clockwise and output adjusted to taste. Too my ear it isn't 100% transparent though. There is something nice going on.
Inside the enclosure is a pad switch to reduce the input level by -15 db. I found I didn't need to mess with it at all with any of my basses.
To my ear I did not find much of any loss of lows but I do think the highs are rolled of some. Not nearly as much as the Darkglass Supersymmetry though. It responds a lot like the highs with the FEA Opti-Fet where the highs just feel a bit attenuated. It really didn't bother me though.
Diming all of the dials brings out a unique flavor that is pretty squashy but still usable unlike a lot of compressor pedals dialed in to such extreme settings.
There are two LED's. The power LED lights purple. The second LED is a gain reduction meter which lights green and increases in brightness as gain reduction increases. I found the gain reduction LED worked just fine and is frankly a very nice feature, especially at this price point. Nice job Ampeg!
There is a quick start guide in the box that describes the overall features of the pedal. It is very simple but is something some pedal manufacturers are skipping these days. Good thing too because the URL to the PDF download of the manual is currently a broken link: https://ampeg.com/pdf/manuals/Pedals/Opto Comp Analog Optical Compressor_OM.pdf
The pedal is powered by 9 volt power supply (no adapter included) and does accept a 9 volt battery inside the enclosure.
Foot switch seems sturdy enough. The pedal is quite light weight, and is bigger/taller than a Boss or MXR style pedal but pedal board friendly. Side input/output jacks and front mounted power input. The enclosure itself is a nice pearl white with silver Ampeg logo raised off the surface. Rubber feet come attached to the bottom.
It is relatively low noise, but not as quiet as the FEA compressors, Smoothie, Empress, or Diamond.
This is a very satisfying compressor, especially for the $99 price.
The Ampeg Opto Comp offers a fair amount of control and a gain reduction meter meaning there is a lot of bang for the buck here. It will do a good job of evening out your tone and adding just enough presence to make your tone sound a bit more lively.