Limetone is a manufacturer of guitar pedal devices out of Japan led by designer and engineer Yujin Imanishi. I became aware of the Limetone Audio Focus compressor while perusing Reverb and it certainly looked intriguing. Shortly thereafter, I received a couple of requests to formerly review it from bassists on Talkbass.com. So here we are.
To be clear, the model I am reviewing here is the Focus. There is also a Focus-NX which focuses on midrange adjustment. The standard Focus includes Treble and Bass adjustment. On the face of the pedal are five knobs: compression, level, gain, treble, and bass. There is an LED that illuminates blue when the pedal is activated via foot switch. A second blue LED illuminates when compression is taking effect — essentially a gain reduction meter. The large compression dial adjust the amount of compression which seems to be altering the ratio and threshold simultaneously. As you rotate the dial clockwise the amount of compression increases rather substantially. There is a wide range of compression from subtle to a lot of squash. Across the whole range it feels quite natural and useful. I'm not sure this would make the best limiting type device but it can substantially knock down transients.
The Level dial adjusts the output volume and there is plenty of gain available. The Focus would make a nice boost pedal.
The Gain dial does increase harmonic content and is a nice feature to add some color.
Don't expect anything dramatic playing at home with headphones. It is not overly aggressive and some might find it too subtle but it is there.
It is certainly more noticeable with guitar and strumming chords than with single low note on bass guitar. The Treble dial adjusts the volume of the high frequency range. According to the included manual, the 12:00 position is flat and to my ear that seems about right. Rotating it more clockwise introduces more high content and the opposite is true when rotating more counterclockwise. Subtle adjusts make a fair amount of change. The Bass dial adjusts the volume of the low frequncy range. Like the Treble control, noon is flat. Turning more to the right will bost it and to the left will cut it.
Both EQ frequency controls sound great with guitar and offer a nice way to tweak your signal chain.
I didn't love the Bass EQ as much on bass but it still useable and slight adjustments can help compensate for issues in your chain. Having the controls can be helpful to compensate for any changes in tone the compression itself causes. The design of the circuit seems to prioritize simplicity of use with customization of tone. While there are no controls for things like ratio, threshold, attack, and release, the style of compression feels nice. Whether playing through the Focus with guitar or bass, it is inherently clean and transparent.
True to it's name, it brings focus to the tone.
I wouldn't describe the Limetone Focus Compressor as adding punch or heft but rather, focus across the range. It will certainly control a low B string and add balance across all other strings. It handles all frequencies with ease. There is not much in the way of loss of lows or highs unless you get into more extreme compression settings. With the Treble and Bass dials at noon, the compressor is neutral and uncolored though not sterile. Adding in more gain and you get more color in a pleasing way. That said, in front of a couple of my tube preamps, I didn't care for the way the compressor sounded with gain increased past noon. It's as if it conflicted with the sound and feel of the tube circuit in the preamps themselves. On the other hand, with solid state gear the gain control adds pleasing content.
On bass, playing slap style, the Focus has a nice bounce to it.
You know, the kind of feel where it is as if you thumb has more bounce off the strings. The Focus would make a great compressor for slap bassists in my opinion. Add a little more Treble EQ for some nice bite.
The footswitch is true bypass. Input and output jacks are top mounted as is the 9 volt power input jack. The pedal itself has a nice, solid feel with a fair amount of heft to it. There are a couple different enclosure color variants available at Limetoneaudio.com. I like the look of the black design best. The knobs all turn with precision and have a nice tight feel. Overall, a quality package. I like the blue LEDs and the gain reduction LED works well to give you visual cues of what the compressor is doing. The circuit board is amazingly clean with much attention to detail.
The Limestone Audio Focus is a real nice device. It sounds beautiful with guitar and is all about focus on bass. The build quality is fantastic and I hope to see more from them. It seems like for now at least, the only way to get one is direct from LimetoneAudio.com in Japan or via their Reverb.com store.
Retail price: $299 Pros: • Adds focus and clarity • Inherently transparent design • Beautiful with guitar • Useful EQ controls • Gain control for a bit more color • Quality build • Attractive looking pedal (in my opinion) Cons: • Maybe too neutral/transparent for some • Price • EQ not as useful with bass guitar but still helpful • Gain control didn't sound as great in front of tube gear