The folks at Lusithand are back with an update to the successful original Alma Compressor. I'll just start by saying the MKII is everything the original was plus a lot more goodness. Be sure to read my review of the original Alma Comp because in this review I will be focusing on the updates included in the MKII. Everything I wrote about the original is still true.
The original Alma compressor delivered a fixed ratio in the range of 3:1 and 4:1. Now with MKII you have a 3-way toggle allowing you to select ratios 2:1, 4:1 and 8:1. Go with 2:1 for subtle softening, 4:1 which is true to the original Diamond comps or 8:1 for more squash. Each setting is highly useful, depending on what you are looking for. I consider it quite nice to have the options here. If you wish your Diamond Bass Compressor had a wider range of ratio options, well look no further. The second enhancement is the Alma Comp may now be operated at 18 volts. The original was operable at 9 volts or 12 volts. Internally, the voltage is still doubled which means you now have an incredible 36 volts of operation for extreme headroom. I can't imagine anybody having any issue with clipping no matter how hot your input signal. This is definitely not true of all pedalboard compressors on the market these days. Running the Alma Comp at 18 volt makes everything sound bigger. If you have the juice, use it at 18 volts. In my prior review I said:
I would prefer that the Alma incorporate some form of gain reduction/compression LED metering. Even a single LED like the Diamond has would be welcome in my opinion.
Well, guess what? The third enhancement is the inclusion of a LED indicator of level of compression. The on/off LED is now purple and flashes pink incrementally as compression is taking place. I messaged Nuno at Lusithand about how it functions and how to interpret what you see. The stage in the circuit that triggers the LED in the opto-coupler (which is how this circuit reaches compression), also triggers the LED that shows, partially, what is happening inside. Both LED's, the one of the opto and the pink LED (the one that shows the triggering of the compression), behave in the same way and simultaneously. So two interesting things are happening. The first one, which is related to what we can hear, is that the LDR takes its own time to go up and down in resistance when the led of the opto-coupler shines on it, and that is, effectively, what creates the effect of compression. This makes it impossible, with this type of compression, for the pink LED to show what the LDR is really doing as it can't "read" its increase and decrease in resistance. So, what we're left with is with the information that the pink LED is showing us the trigger, or, how much you are crossing the Threshold, therefore triggering compression. Secondly, the Ratio implementation is located in a place of the circuit that directly influences the gain going into the pedal. This ratio application can only be made in this particular place, without an overall total redesign of the circuit which would change everything else which is great about it. This affects both the input gain and output gain which slightly changes the triggering of the Threshold point where compression happens as well as the pink LED. It might sound counter-intuitive, but, when the ratio is at 8:1 the pink LED has less signal triggering it, so you may notice LED flashes weaker. On the other hand, when at 2:1 ratio, there is more signal going into the gain stage that regulates everything else and it reaches the threshold point faster making it compress faster and also making the pink LED flash brighter and in a more convincing way. So, here are some cool tips: 1) The pink LED indication is not perfect and is more true at lower ratios because there is less signal being attenuated and therefore gets triggered better. 2) The red LED is not reading (and it can't) the LDR which is the last part of the puzzle that creates the compression effect. It reads the triggering gain circuit instead, same as the other led which is part of the optocoupler and is necessary for the LED/LDR combo to work. This is irreversible, or so it seems. 3) The 3 ratios also change the threshold point because there are 3 different levels of attenuation on the input circuit that commands this whole, very sophisticated and interdependent, compression overall circuit. So, when you compare two different ratios without changing the COM level, for example, at 2:1, the compression effect doesn't go as deep because there is less signal being attenuated and simultaneously it will get louder and you will hear the effect of compression happening faster. With 8:1, in comparison, the effect of compression is deeper but you need to compensate with the COM level so that you get more more gain to go past the threshold point and trigger more of the effect. Therefore, all of this affects the pink LED display which means that it is virtually impossible to get everything perfect with this type of circuit and there are a few learning curves when using this new version of the pedal.
Bottom line for me is to use the visual LED as guidance but also be sure to use your ear. Whatever is going on inside Alma is mighty fine and results in great compression that will improve your tone while keeping everything smooth and together.
You get punchy, full sustain. In my review of the original Alma I said Lusithand fixed what many of us felt was "broken" with the Diamond BCP-1/Bass Compressor JR. I still feel this way and MKII has further upped the game.
In order to accommodate the changes to the circuit in MKII the input and output jacks needed to be relocated to the top of the pedal. I consider this a bonus because I prefer top mounted jacks but some may not.
The Alma Compressor MKII is an evolution of it's predecessor in that it retains all of the original functionality that makes the original so great with meaningful enhancements. If you have an original Alma, I see the MKII as a worthy upgrade. If you have and love the Diamond Bass Compressor JR, you definitely should check out the Lusithand Alma MKII. I suspect it will bump the Diamond off your board.
In my prior review I said:
I do think it is much easier to dial in the Alma than many other compressors so just use your ear. It's hard to get a bad sound out of this one.
With MKII that is certainly still true but now you have more options. The Alma Compressor MKII is a killer compressor to help you improve your tone while keeping everything together and making your playing feel more lively. It is quiet, well-built (albeit a bit utilitarian in look), easy to use, colorful sounding yet transparent enough, and now even more versatile.
I highly recommend this one.
If I had a top 10 list of compressors, the Alma MKII further solidified its place on that list for sure.
Pros: • Sounds fantastic
• Fixes a some of what people consider problematic with Diamond bass compressors • Easy to use • Clean blend and tone control • Tone mojo • Headroom/varying powering voltage option
• Visual compression indicator
• 3 ratio settings • Top mounted jacks • Versatility Cons: • Lacks fine adjustments to things like attack and release • Some might prefer the darker sound of the Diamond compressors • Sort of plain looking enclosure design
Retail price: Approximately $275 USD at time of writing Lusithand on Facebook