This little compressor comes in a small 1590A enclosure in raw aluminum with no paint. Branding and control indicators are hand stamped into the aluminum casing. It's a minimalist design, looking pretty utilitarian, but is unique and beautiful in its own right.
It is an all analogue, JFET feedback compression device and handles a wide variety of signal sources. I had no issue with headroom with any of my basses, including high output preamps.
In keeping with the minimalist approach, there are only three controls: Volume knob and two three-way switches.
Believe it or not, these few controls offer a fair amount of variation in response and flexibility.
Switch one controls the Ratio. There are three positions. • O is the downward position and sets the compressor to a 3:1 ratio. • 2 is the middle position and sets the compressor to a 12:1 ratio. • 1 is the upper position and sets the compressor to a 6:1 ratio.
The other switch controls the Pad which simply attenuates your signal before the compression. By cutting the Pad you are effectively cutting your input signal which is like raising the threshold at which the compressor kicks in. • O is the downward position and cuts 16db • 1 is the middle position and cuts 8db • 2 is the upper position and has no cut (0db)
Yes, positions 1 and 2 are not consistent between the Ratio and Pad switch positions. Yes, I find that to be unconventional and slightly confusing.
The PAD and RATIO controls work together and will determine how much compression actually happens. The louder the incoming signal, the more compression happens, so in effect with the different PAD settings you are changing at what level the compression happens.
The Volume knob is essentially your makeup gain post compression and there is plenty of gain on tap.
With both switches set to the zero position, the compressor is the most neutral or least noticeable. Even at this setting though the Accountant is not completely transparent. There is a slight coloration and some tone fattening is there. I really liked this setting to be honest. It smooths things out and would be a nice always on type of effect.
Think of it like this. The lowest compression (and most neutral or unnoticeable) will be Pad and Ratio at 0. The most aggressive compression (with the most squash) will be Pad and Ratio at 2. Then of course you have variations in between to experiment with.
Fairfield documentation says that setting Pad at 0 and Ratio at 2 puts the Accountant into more of a limiter type of effect. I think that is mostly true but the Accountant would not be my first choice as a limiting compressor. Overall, I think it shines as a tone enhancing device more than a versatile compressor/limiter. That being said, there is obvious inherent compression but the device has real nice tone enhancing capabilities.
Case in point. You'll get a nice warm OD tubey breakup type sound with Pad at 1 or 2 and ratio at 1 or 2. The more extreme settings and the more hot the incoming signal the more breakup and harmonic content you will realize.
When you get your Accountant, you're going to want to play around with the various switch positions for sure.
Did I mention this is not a clean, transparent compressor? There is always an inherent coloration, even at less extreme settings. With both switches in the 0 position it is punchy with a sharp attack. It is smooth, but not smooth like other clean compressors. There is always an inherent bite.
With both switches in position 2 the Accountant is going to distort all of the time. Depending on what you are looking for, the Accountant might be just the ticket for some fattening and breakup. It's a real nice breakup too. Not the kazoo type effect the Fairfield Barbershop is sometimes criticized for on bass. I can see where some might even like the Accountant as a slightly dirty boost pedal. In this capacity it would suit me just fine.
Ok. Is it noisy? The Accountant has been on the market long enough by now for reports to come in about the noise floor. True, it is not the most noise free compressor out there. In any setting there is an inherent white noise — a sort of hiss. Don't think of it as an oscillating windy sound. It's an always present consistent white noise and is much more noticeable as you increase the Pad position to 1 or 2. On my unit, both switches set to 0 was easily quiet enough to be acceptable and I suspect that would be true for all but the most picky users. Pad and Ratio at 2 was easily the most noisy on my test unit and that is what I would expect. In live band settings I doubt most users would have any issue. It's just part of the personality of this pedal and personality it has in spades.
With my various active basses my preferred setting was Pad at 0 and Ratio at 1. Real nice fattening with a gnarly bite. Again, not clean by any means, but not overly distorted either. Good punchy fattening that sounds fantastic in a band mix. It's a lot of fun to play with and I see why the Accountant has become a go to device for many — beyond just using as a compressor.
I think the Fairfield Accountant is ideal for the bassist wanting coloration that is more raw than the likes of the Diamond. The JHS Pulp 'N Peel is capable of dialing in some OD and grit but the Accountant has more personality.
People toss around the notion that some compressors impart a sort of "tone magic". While this can mean different things to different people I'd include the Accountant in that camp. A real nice tone enhancing tool.
The pedal is protected against reversed polarity and operates at 9 volts. It is certainly pedalboard friendly. A white LED illuminates when activated. There is no LED indicating overall gain or threshold metering. Foot switch is true bypass. Input/output jacks are on the sides as is the power input. There is no battery connection inside the pedal. It is certainly pedal board friendly and seems well made.
Retail price: $200