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Drybell Unit67 Compressor Review

DryBell is a small team of five located in Krapina, Croatia. Zvonko Suhodolčan is the owner and founder and creator of the DryBell brand.

Word on the street is Zvonko is an electronics wizard and somewhat of a perfectionist (I.E. sometimes hard to work with with keen attention to detail).

The Unit67 is my first foray into the world of Drybell and I must say everything about the pedal is quality and well thought out.

Even the packaging is exquisite with an outer box with DryBell branding and then a sealed inner DryBell branded box containing the Unit67. There is also a leather keychain to hold picks and a user guide.

On the Unit67 there are 5 knobs and 2 toggles, one foot switch and one LED. First of all, yes the Unit67 is a compressor, but it is more than that and is frankly pretty unique. It is a fully analog EQ set, boost and 1176 type compressor all in one small enclosure, about the size of a Dunlop style pedal.

Right out of the gate I'll say the Unit67 is a pretty impressive tone sculpting tool.

You could use the DryBell Unit67 as just a clean boost. Or you could use it as a flexible EQ with Rangemaster type mid control. Or you could use it as a compressor. The magic is with all combined, in action together.

The big knob is the Boost control. The lightning strike mark at 10 o'clock represents unity gain zone (0dB). Turned fully CW, the gain of the boost stage is 22dB (with the EQ turned off). The input signal level can be reduced up to 7dB at minimum setting (-7dB turned fully CCW). DryBell says it works internally at 23V so you can send a very high signal level to the pedal's output. There is plenty of audible boost on tap. DryBell also says the output stage has carefully tuned bass and treble frequency roll-off at the higher gain settings (more than 1 o'clock). Between the lightning bolt and 2:00 or so I didn't notice much (if any) low end loss. Due to the size of the knob you can tweak it with your foot on the fly. I liked it bumped to about noon to juice everything downline in my pedal chain a little.

The Sustain knob adjusts parallel compression level, allowing you to set the mix of dry/compressed signals. Turn the Sustain knob fully CCW for 100% dry signal, or fully CW for 100% compressed signal. I found my personal choice of a sweet spot at about 11:00. At this setting there is nice smoothing but not obvious squishing. I felt like my initial attack was there still. As you rotate the Sustain knob clockwise there is more squish and usable across the whole range. The Unit67 would not be more first choice as a limiter but it is capable of pretty significant leveling out. It's the type of compressor that I think is better suited as a tone enhancer, especially when coupled with the EQ circuit. It's the type of compressor that you notice when you turn it off and want to immediately turn back on. It must makes notes sound, well, better. At its core, it is a transparent and super smooth compressor but adding in the EQ circuit certainly alters your core tone.

The Input toggle lets you select between two types/gains of compression. In the downward position (the Low setting) it activates +4dB gain and lower compression. In the upward position (the High setting) it activates +10dB gain for longer sustained notes. The switch essentially changes preamp gain and the threshold level (the input signal level where the pedal starts to react) is also changed. The difference is subtle with the Sustain knob at 9:00 or lower but becomes much more noticeable as you turn up the Sustain knob. You really do get two different feeling types of compression. I'm not sure which I prefer. I really like the Input set on High with the Sustain knob at 10:00 or lower. I preferred the Input set to Low with the Sustain set at 11:00 or higher. You will feel more squish with the Input set to High for sure.

The EQ toggle engages or bypasses the Unit67's EQ section. To me, the magic happens with the EQ circuit activated. The EQ section is engaged on position "1" or bypassed on position "0". If you don't want any EQ influencing your tone, no problem. Just flip the toggle to the "O" position and the EQ is totally removed from the signal path. But I found the EQ to be very useful. The Low dial controls the low frequencies from -15dB up to +9dB. The High dial controls the high frequencies from -13dB up to +7dB. They are not symmetrical tone controls and both knobs have unity gain position at approx. 12:30. The Range dial controls a mid-range frequency spectrum and is very nice. DryBell says the control is based on the old classic "Rangemaster". I love the Range dial. Especially bumped to about 1:00 which adds this wonderful bite and bump that I think just pops out in a mix. This was true with all 5 basses I used to test the Unit67. That Range dial was fantastic. Actually, also bumping the Low and High to about 1:00 was my preferred sweet spot. That combined with the compressor made for a big, fat, punchy tone. It's the kind of always on type sound people talk about. Really nice.

Note: DryBell says that combining EQ and Boost dial fully CW can result with a maximum pedal gain of 41dB in the mid-range frequency spectrum.

I had no issue with headroom with any of my basses and noticed no distortion at any point in my testing.

This one surprised me in a good way. On the one hand, it is extremely versatile with the significant available boost and flexible EQ. On the other hand, the compression versatility is fairly limited. It's a pretty unique offering for sure. It sounds very, very good as an always on type tone sculpting tool. I wouldn't recommend it for someone looking for a versatile compressor with control over attack, threshold, ratio, and release as those are all fixed internally and not user configurable. But I suspect that's not the type of user DryBell designed the Unit67 for. I'm a fan of the Diamond compressor for its tone enhancing capabilities and I think the Unit67 has the leg up on the Diamond. The Diamond offers the simple tilt EQ but the Unit67 offer a wider range of EQ tweaking, especially with the Range dial.

I wouldn't recommend it for somebody looking for a limiting type device. There are better options for that like the Keeley Bassist or Becos compressors for example.

I do think the Unit67 would make for a fantastic boost pedal for somebody wanting a fat punch through the mix type option. Another great use would be placing it front of a tube amp to add a little more character and "sparkle", shall we say. I bet putting the Unit67 in front of your OD or muff pedal with a bit of mids and compression would sound awesome.

The footswitch is buffered bypass. I didn't notice any pop when activated. When the effect is active a red LED illuminates. There is no LED indicating signal reduction levels. The Unit67 will run at 9volt - 18volt though it will run hotter at 18volt (which according to DryBell is expected and normal).

Price: $289


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