This one really surprised me in a good way. G-Lab is a Polish company and the BC-1 is an optical compressor with two channels. Well actually three. I'll touch on that later.
When you open the box you'll notice the compressor is not as big as it might seem in pictures. It's very close in size to my Shift-Line MKIII preamp and its not much taller than the Smoothie. See the picture for reference with a Smoothie and Cali76 CB. Inside the box is also a very nice user manual unlike the rudimentary folded piece of paper most compressors are coming with these days.
The pedal itself appears to be very high quality. It is definitely solid and hefty in weight. The switches are the soft click less relay types with exterior springs. I'm not sure I've ever seen switches like this. Very solid and precise feeling.
The BC-1 is a compressor which can also be used as a booster or as a booster-compressor.
On top are two sets of simple dials: Compressor adjustment and Volume (boost) adjustment for channel A and then Compressor adjustment and Volume (boost) adjustment for channel B. By default, the foot switch on the right marked A/B switches between the two channels. This is great if you want a more subtle compression setting on channel A and then a strong compression on channel B. Another way to use it would be compression and lower volume on channel A and then use channel B as a clean boost with little to no compression. You could set channel A for light compression and then dial in channel B as more of a peak limiter. Channel C could be kicked in when you really need to stand out. I really like to set the compression levels at about the same level but set channel B to be a higher volume level to kick in when I need to pop out a little more. Nice thing about this setup is you don't need to rely on a second pedal to get your boost which might alter your tone. Both channels sound exactly the same save for the difference in compression you dial in. Nice!
The LEDs on top identify that the compressor is on (Red LED), Buffer is on (Yellow LED) or off (no LED), Channel A is on (Yellow LED) or off (no LED), Channel B is on (Yellow LED) or off (no LED), Channel C is on Yellow LED) or off (no LED), and finally the Dump (amount of signal over threshold) indicated by flashing red LED. The Dump LED is very useful even though it is just one LED. It acts with the most precision of any single threshold LED I've tested to date. It lights with more intensity the more you drive the pedal and reacts to peaks with more intense LED. The brighter it lights, the more it is compressing the signal. Nice!
On the right side are two dip switches recessed into the side of the metal casing. The first is a gain switch which adjusts the sensitivity of the pedal. This switch is marked Humbucker Active (Low) and Single Passive (High). Even though most of my basses have preamps I found I gravitated toward the High Single Passive setting. This allowed me to set the compressor dials lower. To my ear, it just sounded and felt better to me. Your mileage may vary though. The second switch is the work mode switch labeled guitar and bass. The manual says that switch adjusts the release timing to match guitar or bass guitar. The difference here is very subtle. I've written G-Lab asking for more clarity on the release timing specs of both settings and awaiting a reply.
On the left side are four more dip switches and a midi channel dial. The four dip switches are marked DS1 - DS4. • Switch DS1 off = True bypass mode on when the compressor is not activated • Switch DS1 on = Buffered bypass mode on when the compressor is not activated (which sounds great by the way)
Other dip switches allow you to set the order of how you switch between channels and how the foot switches control the switching. • Option 1: Left switch turns effect on and off. Right switch flips between channel A and B. • Option 2: Left switch turns effect on and off. Right switch flips between channels A, B, and C. • Option 3: Compressor is on 100% of the time. Left switch activates channel A and right channel activates channel B. • Option 4: Compressor is on 100% of the time. Left switch rotates through compressor channels C -> B -> A. Right switch rotates through compressor channels in the reverse A -> B-> C.
Channel C is set to always be at 100% compression and 100% boost. Activating channel C will really let you stand out in a mix.
The rotary midi dial selects the MIDI channel. The BC-1 can be controlled by Program Change and/or Control Change commands.
The compression effect itself is very smooth and organic and quite transparent. It is very quiet. Amazingly quiet actually.
It isn't really a "tone magic" tool but when activated you get more of a full sound. To my ear it doesn't hurt lows or highs and doesn't really add anything either. But it does something nice when on in a clean sort of way. A little more punch.
With quality earphones you can hear a widening of presence when activated. You could use the compressor as a clean boost as their is a fair amount of boost available. Not as much as the Cali76 CB or Empress or Doc Lloyd for example, but sufficient. You won't get squashing effects out of this one and no pumping either. It stays clean all the way across the dials. If you are looking for a peak limiter, there are better options out there. For smooth evening out and a little something nice on top of your tone, the G-Lab BC-1 is really nice. It sounded great with my passive and active basses as well as my fretless bass.
I can see this as a tool replacing a boost pedal for a lot of users. A compressor with boost all in one in a pretty small package is compelling. I can't think of anything else that does what it does. The range of controls and channel switching is unmatched.
It's worth noting that the switches on the sides of the compressor are not easy to adjust. If you are careful you can get your fingernail in there to flip the switches but really a small flat screwdriver would serve you better. These aren't the kind of dials that you are going to adjust on the fly during a gig.
I suspect some readers are going to be distracted by all of the talk about the switches and jump to the conclusion that this compressor is challenging to operate. That's really not so. Once you set the switches, you'll likely not change them again. Then you have a simple one volume one compressor knob operation for two channels. Pretty simple.
Coming full circle here, the BC-1 is quite versatile and useful and really sounds great.
It is extremely quite which is something I've come to really appreciate.
It operates on standard Boss-type 9V DC and fits on a pedalboard nicely. It might not be the most beautiful pedal, but it wins on flexibility.
Retail price: $250