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FEA Dual Engine Compressor Limiter Review

Yes, the FEA DE-CL is brighter than both the DB-CL and certainly the Opti-Fet.

The DE-CL I tested was just as quiet as my DB-CL. FEA makes some of the best compressors with the lowest noise floor out there. When A/B tested along side the DB-CL the DE-CL seems more natural and transparent believe it or not.

It offers a wide range of compression, all the way from very subtle to even pretty heavy signal squish. There is no release control as the release times are adaptive to how you are playing (aggressive or long sustained notes). The FEA web site says "If the instrument signal triggers the threshold in short bursts then the release will be fairly quick. If the threshold is continually activated over a period of several seconds, then the release will be slower." To my ear, it works pretty well though I personally prefer having control over release timing.

The other compression controls are Threshold, Ratio, Attack and Gain. There is plenty of gain on tap. I liked the Threshold set around 2:00 with active basses and with those basses the compressor starts to react too much to incoming signal as you turn the knob more counter clockwise. The threshold knob seemed more touchy than those on my DB-CL.

At lower ratios the DE-CL exhibits soft knee compression and at higher ratios, hard knee compression. It has a nice range and sounds great across the dial.

Both the limiter and compressor control a single optical gain cell. The limiter side of the unit works great too. The trick is coordinating the compressor and limiter. My advice: Be patient. I took my time experimenting with subtle tweaks and then I discovered that what works well for one bass won't for another. But when you do get the two dialed in, it is marvelous. The limiter foot switch activates the limiter function independently of the compressor so you don't have to run both if you don't want. Conventional wisdom would say to set the compressor so the comp stage LED lights up according to how much compression you like and then setting the limiter LED lights infrequently (only on larger peaks). That's how I liked it but I can see where it would be nice to have more aggressive limiter settings dialed in and then kicking in the limiter for more aggressive playing or slap solos. Since the limiter section has a gain control you can balance the volume between both stages. That's pretty slick. With my active basses I found I liked the Limiter set with the threshold at about 4:00, attack around noon and gain just a touch higher than the gain setting on the compression side.

The warmth control is nice up to about noon before it starts producing more of what I call "unnatural" breakup.

But between 8:00 and 11:00 it does add some nice harmonic content [warmth]. As you dial in more of the warmth knob it changes the feel of the compressor as a whole. To my ear, not in a good way. Maybe more harmonic content is making the ear hear more compression naturally? You'll have to adjust the threshold and attack as you turn up the warmth dial. I found I liked the dial at about 9:00 to 10:00 best which does warm it up in a pleasing way.

The DE-CL is built like a tank, just like all of the FEA pedals. The paint job is great and the knobs turn with authority and are tight. You won't accidentally adjust one. There Active LED lights blue when you activate the pedal. The Limiter LED lights red when you activate the Limiter side. Both stages have an orange LED that lights according to signal over threshold. Very nice indeed. It runs on a standard 9 volt power supply which is boosted internally to 18 volts for plenty of headroom and plenty of gain on tap.

Between the DB-CL and DE-CL I would describe the DE-CL as the more open of the two. The Opti-Fet is easily the most dark sounding. I personally like the ability to independently control the way the lows are compressed with the DB-CL but the organic natural openness of the DE-CL is pretty spectacular. It's not that there is a loss of lows (or highs for that matter) with the DE-CL, it's that you can make the lows feel "bigger" with the DB-CL. The DE-CL seems to be about evening out the notes and being a very flexible compressor. The Limiter function is a pretty compelling add-on. The ability to turn it on and off on demand is real nice.

Pedal foot switch is true bypass. Like all FEA compressors, the Dual Engine Compressor Limiter has side mounted jacks and front mounted power input.

Retail price: $265


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