Here's a bit of a rare find in the United States — The CAE V-Comp from Japan. The V-Comp compressor is no longer made by Custom Audio Electronics but the same (or very similar product) seems to be currently produced by a company called Custom Audio Japan. I have not found any US distributors though I have regularly seen used ones for sale on eBay from sellers in Japan. I cannot comment on any differences in design of the CAE version compared to the CAJ version.
The lack of availability is a shame because the CAE V-Comp is a nice little compressor. I say 'little' because the pedal is quite small and there is a ton crammed inside the enclosure. It is wider than your typical Boss or MXR style pedal but considerably smaller than other tube based compressors such as the Markbass Compressore, Effectrode PC-2A or Effectrode LA-1A.
It really is quite remarkable how much circuit board, wiring and of course the tube itself is crammed inside.
The V-Comp is an optical compressor design with one tube for the make-up gain stage.
There are just two controls. The Gain dial is there for makeup gain. The Threshold dial is there to increase the amount of squash. At lower settings your tone can breathe but it becomes fairly squishy as you rotate the dial clockwise.
With the Threshold dial around 8:00 to 10:00 the effect is warm and colored but still quite organic feeling. Maybe describing it as less of an effect and more of a tone coloring device would be a better way of saying it. But as you rotate the dial higher you definitely introduce more compression. I did not care for the Threshold dial set any higher than about 1:00 where it just feels too muddy. Interestingly, as you rotate the Threshold dial clockwise (which introduces more effect) the V-Comp never really does the dip-and-swell thing. It stays pretty even and even remarkably quiet. At lower settings though you definitely get more warmth and tone fattening. Quite nice actually.
The Custom Audio Electronics V-Comp would be a good choice to put in front of a solid state amp to warm it up and add a bit more vintage flair.
Stacking it in front of a tube head would not be my first choice.
The V-Comp is more akin to the Markbass Compressore and Effectrode PC-2A than the Effectrode LA-1A. However, it offers much less versatility than the Markbass and the LA-1A for that matter. The Effectrode LA-1A seems wider in feel and maintains the highs better. The Markbass and V-Comp have more of a wooly sound and feel. The PC-2A offers the same type of tone fattening. The Markbass gives you control of Attack, Ratio, Release and Threshold. The Effectrode LA-1A gives you access to dialing in Attack and Knee.
If you want ease of use and tube tone fattening the V-Comp makes a nice choice. If you can find one.
I've seen some CAE V-Comps marked as receiving 12 volt AC and others 9 volt AC. The unit I am testing requires 9 volt. I cannot speak to differences between the two designs. You probably would not be successful running the pedal in a daisy chain scenario because of the demand for high current.
There is a switch on the back to select input or line level output which is nice for various configurations such as serving as a front end compressor or running through an amp effects loop.
Input and output jacks are top mounted as is the power input. There is a red LED that illuminates to indicate gain reduction but it is not all that responsive. There is definitely effect taking place even though the red LED is not illuminating. I would use your ear, not the LED.
The V-Comp is quite small compared to other compressors with a tube so a bit more pedal board friendly in that regard. But like the other compressors with tubes the V-Comp runs at high voltage making the power requirements somewhat challenging for the typical pedal board user.
All-in-all its a surprisingly nice little unit.
If you are looking for a compressor with tube tone and already have the Markbass Compressor, Effectrode LA-1A or Effectrode PC-2A I wouldn't run out seeking to find an available V-Comp.
But if you ever come across one or enjoy the thrill of the hunt, I'd recommend giving it a whirl.
• Tube tone
• Tone fattening (color)
• Nice size for a compressor with tube
• Easy to use
• Finding one
• Power requirements
• Not all that versatile
• Can be muddy
Price: Used $250 - $300