Broughton Omnicomp Optical Compressor Review

The latest compressor offering from Broughton is the Omnicomp. I reviewed the Apex compressor, Monocomp compressor, and Monocle compressor earlier and found all to be solid offerings, albeit quite different from each other. I believe all but the Omnicomp are out of production now.

Josh Broughton says the Omnicomp was designed to combine the precision and clarity of the Apex compressor with the presence and tone of the Monocomp compressor.

In my review of the Monocomp I said that 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. 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. However, the Omnicomp doesn't have a tone knob. There is no ability to manipulate highs and low, tilt EQ style. Instead, the Omnicomp is focused more on ultimate control of the optical compression circuit. It is definitely more utilitarian than the Monocomp in that regard. The Apex is very transparent and the Omnicomp could also be considered transparent but in a less clinical feel and sound.

There are six dials:

  • Gain - Up to 20dB of clean gain on the output to make up any volume lost due to compression

  • Blend - A blend between your clean signal and compressed signal. Counterclockwise is more dry signal, clockwise introduces more effected signal.

  • Ratio - Determines how much signal is shunted. Ranges from 1:1 to full limiting. Turning the dial clockwise increases the ratio.

  • Attack - The amount of time it takes for compression to apply. As you turn the dial clockwise you are slowing the attack time meaning more transients sneak through as you rotate the dial clockwise.

  • Release - The amount time it takes for compression to release. Turning the dial clockwise slows the release. The device is capable of influencing a nice level of sustain with slower release times.

  • Threshold - The amount of signal sent to the side chain to trigger the compression. Rotating the dial clockwise lowers the threshold at which the compression engine is triggered.

Though it cannot be user controlled, the Omnicomp circuit includes a gentle high pass filter that gets more steep for very low frequencies. Essentially, this means that bass heavy instruments will not overly trigger the compression. Having used the Omnicomp with several 5-string basses include a Sadowsy, Spector and Warwick the low end never does feel overly squashed but the Omnicomp is by no means as flexible as a multi-band compressor or compressor with high pass control like the Origin Effects Cali76 CB or Empress Bass Compressor. Yet, the Omnicomp feels nice with the low B string. It's a decent compromise and is not a gimmick.

The Omnicomp is built with an internal 30 volt regulated supply so headroom is not an issue. It's going to handle any signal you throw at it with ease and distortion is probably not an issue. It is also very quiet compressor.

Other features include a single yellow compression LED indicator. Broughton says the indicator shows precisely the same illumination as what the optical element receives. In general, I am a fan of some sort of compression indicator even though single LEDs can be finicky and sometimes not all that useful. That said, this one seems highly sensitive and quite precise and definitely helpful in dialing in the perfect amount of compression for tone and feel. It's still no multi-led design

The footswitch is the soft touch stomp type and the user can define whether the pedal defaults to bypassed or unbypassed upon power-up. Hold down the footswitch, and then apply power to the pedal to toggle the default power-up state. The LED marked active will illuminate yellow when the pedal is in use. The pedal requires a DC power supply (not included). The DC supply should be a standard Boss style connector, center negative polarity. The pedal can accept 9 to 18 volts but performance will be no different. The pedal case is pretty utilitarian with a drab blue color with a hint of sparkle in the paint. Top mounted input and output jacks and power input. Dimensions: 4.77" long x 2.6" wide.

In summary, I do feel The Omnicomp fits in the center of the spectrum between the more clinical Apex and colorful Monocle.

That said, the Omnicomp is still not a highly "colorful" compressor like the Diamond Bass Comp JR or true valve based compressors, for example. It is utilitarian in the sense that it offers a lot of control and this should not be understated. Utilitarian can have negative connotation but the Omnicomp easily could be a "do it all" type of compressor for you. On the other hand, it has a very pleasant presence and is one of those compressors that can easily be dialed in as an always on device making everything feel and sound, well, more pleasing.

Of all of the Broughton offerings to date, the Omnicomp is easily my choice.

It's a real nice compressor and is one of those devices that makes it more enjoyable to play your instrument. That's a win in my book. Having used the Omnicomp with multiple instruments I came away feeling like it was a win with whatever I through at it. Because there is a high level of control offered you will need to spend time using your ear (and the LED, thankfully) to understand how each control interacts with the others. Sometimes compressors can offer so much control that that a little tweak here or there throws off the whole setup. I suspect some will find that true of the Omnicomp too but to a much lesser degree. To be honest, it is one of those compressors that you can hear (and feel) pretty quickly what is going on. That's commendable. All Broughton products seem to be released — maybe deliberately — at odd times such as the middle of the night and are typically sold out in minutes fueled by pent up demand on Internet forums. People often ask me if it is worth the effort to seek out a Broghton device.

In the case of the Omnicom, I'd say if you can find one, check it out.

Having now spent time with the Omnicomp, I'd skip the Apex, Monocomp and Monocle altogether. The Omnicomp is that much more well-rounded in my opinion. It's a nice culmination of compressor for the brand. Since it is an optical compressor, the Omnicomp is certainly designed differently than the likes of the Empress MKII or Empress Bass compressor or Becos Stella but I suspect musicians considering one of those compressors might also want to consider the Omnicomp. Both the Empress and Stella offer more tone shaping capabilities, better LED metering but they are fantastic compressors in their own right and offer a high level of control. Read my reviews of both of those to see what I mean. But the optical circuit in the Broughton has a real nice feel that you need to experience. Notables include:

• Huge headroom • Highly flexible • Highly controllable • LED metering (more on that later) • Nice form factor with top mounted jacks • Wonderful feel — makes you enjoy playing • Transparent enough to be useful with virtually any instrument • Preset side chain that does make the lows feel natural Cons include: • Not readily available for purchase • Possibly not colorful enough for some • LED metering not nearly as robust as other compressors on the market today (but at least there is one LED) • Side chain that is not user controllable • I suppose not particularly attractive aesthetics (but does that really matter?) Retail price at time of publication: $249 Available through (Currently not available)