Here's a rare bird, the elusive Broughton Monocle optical compressor.
These are currently out of production but I've had so many requests to do a review. I was finally able to get my hands on one.
First of all, it is tiny and it goes to show that good thing do come in small packages. Just two knobs, two LED's, a foot switch, power jack and input/output jacks.
It is an optical circuit and has a very smooth feel to it. As you rotate the Comp dial clockwise, the Monocle gets more squishy. I'm not sure what the ratio range is, but it is wide. All the way clockwise is actually useful (albeit with more noise) and much like a limiter but still playable. I typically prefer mild to medium compression but the Monocle sounds really good with more squish going on. Totally smooths out my playing without sounding overly effected.
On the lower end of the dial, say between 8:00 and 10:00, you get a real nice subtle fattening.
There is plenty of makeup volume on tap to cover any rotation of the Comp dial.
The green LED located in the lower left adjacent to the footswitch illuminates when the compressor is activated.
The red LED between the Comp and Vol dials flickers as your signal has crossed the threshold. It's not as easy to see as other threshold indicators, but still nice to have. The red LED flickers pretty faintly. Nowhere near as visible as the array on another tiny compressor, the Becos CompIQ Mini for example. But still a nice feature to have to understand how the compressor is reacting.
But how does it sound?
To my ear it reacts and sounds a lot like the Diamond Bass compressor (BCP-1 or Bass Compressor JR) with the tilt EQ centered in the middle.
It has that same big midrange punch that the Diamond offers and that "tone magic" people talk about. It is not totally transparent. Your tone is altered when you stomp the foot switch turning it on. But totally in a good way. Just makes everything more punchy and full. No real loss of lows (except for higher compression settings) though the highs seem to be rolled off just a little.
Unlike the Diamond, the Monocle has plenty of headroom. The Monocle wasn't challenged even with my basses with 18 volt preamps.
Now that being said, would I trade my Diamond Bass Compressor JR for the Broughton Monocle? If I used a passive bass exclusively and only looking for tone enhancement, probably not. That tilt EQ on the Diamond can be addicting and is stellar at adding in even more big fullness to bass tone. Plus you have the 900khz/250khz switch to further tweak the mid point at which the EQ is adjusted. It's just more versatile and is the more colored of the two.
There is more "tone magic" in the Diamond.
On the other hand, if I wanted a broader range of compression (more compression) and more headroom, well then the Monocle reigns supreme. It's big and punchy but can dial in the squeeze when needed.
I quite like it, a lot.
The Monocle is the size of the Becos CompIQ Pro MINI and Pro One MINI compressors. Both of those devices offer much better threshold metering. Both offer dry and wet blend. Both have a form of threshold control. The Pro MINI offers control of soft vs. hard knee. On paper, more versatility and control for sure and that is certainly true. The Becos products are also more transparent and uncolored. The Monocle is more punchy. It is more colored in sound.
The Broughton Monocle is very quiet (except at more extreme settings for which we can extend forgiveness).
Side input jacks and top mounted 9 volt power input.
Not much else to say folks. I don't know why the Monocle was discontinued, but it is a really nice little compressor. I was pleasantly surprise by this little compressor and found myself not wanting to turn it off. Everything was better with it on, a lot like how I feel about the Diamond compressor. I prefer the Monocle to the sound and feel of the Broughton Apex which is the more transparent and uncolored of the two.
If you've got just a little space on your pedalboard and can locate a Monocle, I highly recommend giving it a shot.
Pros: - Small size - Threshold indicator LED - Easy to use, just two dials - Big and punchy sounding - Usable as a limiter - In the "tone magic" camp
Cons: - Not all that versatile - Not for you if you are looking for totally clear and transparent with no coloration - Highs might be attenuated a little
Price: Unknown, discontinued. Possibly find on the used market.