Collaboration Devices is the result of collaboration between four different entities contributing their own unique skills to what has become the Collaborations Devices The Compressor. Patrick Chen is the founder and originator of the brand. Peter Bregman, who designed the Chase Bliss Audio ‘Brothers’ pedal, designed The Compressor circuit. Jake Swogger, a graphic/product designer, designed the enclosure visuals. Cusack Engineering & Manufacturing manufactured the product. Cusack also owns Mojo Hand FX.
The Compressor is Patrick's take on a VCA buss compressor. It has a cool vibe with the vintage looking db compression meter blended with clean modern font for descriptors on the front of the pedal.
There are four knobs on the face of the device as well as two foot switches. One to activate the pedal and the other to enable the parallel gain stage. When The Compressor is activated, the db meter is backlit white indicating that power is applied and the compressor is ready to go. It is not the brightest light and when used outdoors or in environments with bright overhead lighting it can be hard to tell whether the pedal is on or not.
The Comp level dial simultaneously adjusts the threshold and ratio. The pedal is based on the “auto” release setting of the SSL Buss compressor where the attack/release times are dependent on the transients in the audio passing through the RMS detector. Turning the dial clockwise generally increases the ratio and decreases the threshold which are both dynamic and reactive to incoming signal. There is a fair range of adjustment but the Collaboration Devices The Compressor never gets in to limiter territory. It is more about subtle "glue" — the narrowing of the range and variances in your playing. This isn't one of those compressors where a tiny adjustment throws everything off. You really need to explore the possibilities by listening carefully. The more you do, the more you realize what seemed subtle at first might not be in reality. That said, I found the full range of the Comp level dial usable and useful in coordination with the rest of the controls. That is not something I can readily say about all compressors I've tested where some just seem to go into extreme territory quickly. Just as important as the Comp Level dial is the Comp Blend dial which serves as a parallel blend for your compressed signal. When it is all the way counter clockwise, you will only hear your clean signal. The more you rotate clockwise, the more effected (compressed) signal you are blending in. This is highly useful and very pleasing and transparent. It is implemented very well on this design feeling organic and useful all the way across the full spectrum of the dial. It will have a dramatic effect on the feel of the compression, however.
When compressing your signal, you are limiting its dynamic range which is where the Make Up dial is critical. As you add more compression, your overall signal comes down so turning the Make Up dial clockwise offsets this reality by adding more gain to bring the signal back to unity. There is plenty of gain on tap. Inside the pedal enclosure are three trimpots. One of those allows you to tweak the Make Up gain further. It comes from factory straight up the middle. If you find you want to reduce the amount of gain resulting from the Make Up dial, simply turn down the trim pot. Or increase to essentially turn The Compressor into a useful boost pedal.
I will say, it is worth experimenting with this trim pot. Definitely try turning it all the way up and see how it interacts with al of the other controls.
The last dial on the face of the pedal is the Saturation feature which enables a drive circuit. Push the Gain foot switch to activate this circuit. A red LED will illuminate indicate the circuit is active. The Saturation control is a parallel blend that is blended in to your compressed circuit. The compression circuit must be activated to use this Saturation circuit. The amount of gain (resulting distortion) ranges from barely there to in your face. In this sense, there is something for everyone.
Even if breakup/harmonic content is not your thing, don't write it off. Just the slightest bit of saturation creates a bit of "tube-like" tone which can be very pleasing in a mix.
The Saturation control, meaning the feel of the saturation, is interactive with the amount of compression level dialed in. Nice! You need to experiment to find your sweet spot and it is highly dependent on the input signal.
The second trim pot inside the pedal is called the Harmonic Trim which effects the overdrive saturation. Turn it clockwise for more grind, turn it down to get that edge of break-up. Then use the Saturation control on the front of the pedal to blend it.
If you dig the Saturation circuit you will definitely want to experiment with the placement of Harmonic Trim.
The last internal trim pot is labeled VU Cal. The user manual states in bold print *VU Cal is set to factory and should really be left alone. Out of the box, I noticed right away that even at the highest Comp Level setting (all the way clockwise) the db Compression meter on the face of the pedal never registered higher than 4. Trying a bass with higher output (active preamp) the db Compression meter displayed a bit more but never reaching 8. I reached out to Patrick Chen to inquire about this. Basically, the bottom line is that the db Compression meter is not intended to accurately correspond with how you have the pedal dialed in. In other words, it isn't possible to accurately calibrate it. But, if you want to make the meter more responsive, well, that's where the third VU Cal trimpot comes in to play. I did adjust my test unit to make it more responsive. While the meter looks cool, it isn't really all that useful. The whole meter enclosure is plastic, including the clear window.
Did I say the meter looks cool?
The enclosure itself is aluminum and the dials turn with authority. Input and output jacks are top mounted as is the power input. Dimensions: 4.75” x 3.75” x 2.5” Power: 9v only, center negative pin, 40ma draw
So how does it sound? Aside from the Saturation circuit, The Compressor is relatively subtle. Emphasis on subtle, but not sterile. There is a big difference. The Compressor is clean and transparent, doing what we want any good compressor to do — smoothing out your signal and staying out of the way. By doing so, it makes your signal more pleasing. This is definitely one of those compressors that can be used as an always on device, in my opinion. It sounds great however you dial it in. It will never feel overly squishy and don't expect it to replace your current limiting type device. While it definitely is capable of clamping down it manages to do so in an unobtrusive and bold way.
Use your ear and vary your string attack to clearly hear it working its magic.
It is definitely a tone enhancing device albeit in a subtle way. That's a good thing. It works equally well on bass and guitar. With 5 string basses, The Compressor handles the low B well. My preference would be that every compressor have an adjustable side chain to regulate how the device reacts to lower frequencies but I have no real complaints with how the Collaboration Devices The Compressor responds to the low end. Of course, using the Comp Blend to allow more of your dry (unaffected) signal into the path greatly helps retain the low end. And then you also have the Saturation circuit offering subtle to wicked crunch.
I think it sounds especially nice with guitar, but even bassists will benefit from the range of possibility. If nothing else, it is fun to have on tap.
Enabling it and adjusting higher will add to the noise floor however. Try turning the Comp Level up 100% and set the Comp Blend around 9:00 to 10:00 or so. Wow. Huge punchy tone. Oh, and then activate the Saturation circuit with Saturation dial about 7:30 for some additional subtle growl that rips a bit more when you dig in.
Here's another setting to try. Reduce the Comp Level to 11:00 or so and increase the Comp Blend to around 2:00 - 3:00 for some real nice smoothing out of your tone. Nice elevation of quieter notes and reduction of extreme peaks bringing things to a nice fluid delivery. Nice! I should mention that the device I used to test in preparation for this review was my second Collaboration Devices compressor. My first one purchased in 2019 was quite noisy and also introduced a dramatic audible "pop" when enabling the Saturation circuit by pressing the foot switch. Patrick brought the feedback to Cusack who went to work at refining. I can say I have no issues with noise based on my second unit. Whatever was done, addressed the problem satisfactorily in the design of the circuit. That said, expect more noise to be introduced as you add more Comp level and certainly more Make up gain and Saturation. While The Compressor is not the quietest compressor ever, it is definitely not the the noisiest either and any criticism would really be getting picky.
The Compressor from Collaboration Devices is a nice package. It looks great and the db Compression meter, even though not accurate, has a cool vibe.
It's going to attract attention for its fusion of vintage and modern vibe.
Sound and function, what matters most, is great too. This is one of those devices that just makes your signal better, no matter what you through at it. You notice the difference when you turn it off. I am pleased the product has been updated to address some early quirks because it has a lot to offer. For those looking for a simple to use device that is easy to dial in, give this one a look. Plus, it is just fun to use. Now that's something that just can't be said about any compressor.
Pros: • Cool vibe • Tone enhancing • Easy to dial in • Compression and usable saturation circuit • Unique in the market • Top mounted controls • Enjoyable to use Cons: • Potentially size of the enclosure • db Compression meter is not accurate • Possibly not enough control for some (no independent Threshold, Ratio, Attack, Release, etc.) • Some noise with higher make up gain and comp levels Retail price: $245 CollaborationDevices.com