The latest compressor offering from Broughton is the Monocomp. I reviewed the Apex compressor and and the out-of-production Monocle compressor earlier and found both to be solid offerings, albeit quite different from each other.
The Broughton Monocomp is said to be an expansion of the original Monocle compressor. To me, that is a good thing. With the Monocle, good things do come in small packages. Everything just sounds better with it on, like the Diamond bass compressors in many respects.
So if the Monocomp is an expansion of the goodness that is [was] the Monocle that would be intriguing, for me anyway.
The Monocomp compressor is optical-based and designed to deliver warm, colored compression. It also adds the ability to shape the tone, as well as add in your direct unaffected signal. Notable upgrades to the smaller, less feature rich Monocle.
There are four controls and two LED's, still unassuming compared to many compressors on the market today with a plethora of dials and switches. More control often equals more customization for tone tweaking but it is not necessarily what people look for in a strong compressor offering. I found the four controls to be highly capable of delivering a huge variety of tones and versatile configurations.
The compression knob is there to increase the amount of compression applied. Simple as that. Watch the red LED which is there to indicate when the compressor is engaged. The compression ratio is dependent on the strength of the input signal. You get a limiting effect with compression dial all the way clockwise (maximum compression). Yes, it makes for a fantastic limiter.
The Direct Level dial is there to bring in more of your dry signal to blend with the effected (compressed "wet" signal). I personally appreciate the power of parallel compression because it really does allow you to dial in higher levels of compression but help eliminate the squishy feel and lack of attack. Turning this dial more clockwise adds more unaffected dry signal.
Speaking of attack there is no way to adjust attack or release timing. Whether this is a deal breaker is for you to decide. I will say the auto attack and release timing seems to be pretty fast meaning the compressor inherently tends to clamp down fast and release quickly. That said, at more subtle settings some of that goes out the window. I never really felt like my tone was being squashed too quickly. Especially when I had some dry signal in the mix.
Broughton's published description of attack and release is this:
"Due to the light memory of the optocoupler, continuous compression will decrease the attack time and delay the release time slightly. Although transients may be quickly subdued, the thump of bass transients can still be captured by mixing in the direct signal."
In practice, I agree with this. Bass transients feel punchy especially when mixing in some direct signal.
The tone control functions as a tilt equalizer and is flat when set at noon. If you have used the Diamond compressor, Becos Stella, Forest Green or JHS Pulp-n-Peel you will quickly resonate with the feature. The tone control only affects the compressed signal; the direct signal is unaffected and the center frequency of the tilt is 300 Hz. Turning the dial clockwise brings in more lows and attenuates the highs. The opposite is true when turning the dial more counter clockwise. It has a graceful curve and is quite usable across the range. It definitely colors your tone as you rotate but it is not as dramatic as the Diamond or Forest Green tilt EQ function.
The Comp Level dial is there to deliver makeup gain and there is plenty of gain on tap.
The Broughton Monocomp requires 9V DC but can accept up to 24V DC. You get more headroom operating high higher voltages. I did encounter some distortion when using a bass with preamp and high output when operating the pedal at higher compression levels. Running at 18 volts for example eliminated the issue.
When the pedal is activated there is a LED that illuminates green. The red LED is a threshold indicator and works quite well. In my opinion, single threshold LED's have nothing on a full array of LED's like you find on the Grompressor, Empress, Keeley, Becos products and Broughton's own Apex compressor but at least there is something giving you visibility into how the compressor is operating. In practice it works fine and is better than the alternative of no indicator.
When I think about the inherent attributes of the Broughton Apex and Broughton Monocle the tone and feel of the Monocomp is definitely more akin to the Monocle. To my ear Apex is pretty transparent along the lines of the Empress. Conversely, the Monocle delivers more big midrange punch similar to what the Diamond offers and some of that "tone magic" people talk about. The Monocle is not totally transparent nor is the Monocomp. To my ear, and in my opinion, the Monocomp offers an excellent upgrade from the Monocle. I'd go so far as to say I'd rather own the Monocomp.
Due to the fact that the Monocomp offers top mounted jacks and power input there is really no additional pedalboard space required compared to the smaller enclosure but side mounted input/output jacks on the Monocle.
Tonally, the Monocomp can be relatively transparent with tone knob at noon and subtle compression dialed in. But that's not really where it shines. There is a lot of goodness backed into more compression mixed with dry signal and some twisting of the tone dial.
I found several sweet spots. One being with compression at about 1:00, dry signal at noon and tone dial at about 1:00. Huge, fat tone. Twist the compression back to around 10:00 and lower the dry mix to around 9:00 for more subtle smoothing. At either of these settings when you turn the pedal off you notice right away.
The Monocomp is one of those compressors that makes for an excellent always-on device or more of a case-by-case effect and even limiter.
I this sense it is highly versatile albeit less neutral than the likes of the Empress or Keeley products.
I really like the Broughton Monocomp. It's not exactly a sexy looking pedal with its cream color and simple black font. Definitely utilitarian compared to the Doc Lloyd Photon Death Ray at another extreme.
On the one hand the Monocomp is capable of fat and punchy tone. On the other hand it can be subtle. And as a limiter it works very well for that ultimate squash.
The Monocomp reminds me in one way or another to the following compressors:
Obviously some good company there.
Quality is excellent as are all Broughton products. Footswitch is true bypass.
• Threshold indicator LED
• Punchy sounding
• Usable as a limiter • Tilt EQ (if coloration is your thing)
• In the "tone magic" camp
• Relatively few controls yet capable of versatility
• Nice bridge between the more transparent compressors and colored compressors
• Competitive price
Cons: • Not for you if you want totally clear and transparent with no inherent coloration
• Even though in production, Broughton products are rarely regularly in stock
• No control for Attack and Release which may or may not be a deal breaker
• Inherent Attack and Release are both quite fast which may or may not be a deal breaker
• Lack of total control over Attack, Release, Ratio, Threshold, etc. may be a deal breaker for some
Retail price: $175