Edit: Since publishing this review, Lusithand has released an updated Alma compressor, the Alma Comp MKII which I reviewed here.
Lusithand is based out of London, UK with a portfolio of interesting gear including guitar and bass preamps and pedals. Here we take a look at the Lusithand Alma Compressor which is inspired by the legendary Diamond BCP-1 compressor and Diamond Bass Compressor JR. The Diamond compressors certainly have quite the following but the Diamond company has ceased operations.
Like the Diamond BCP-1/Bass Compressor JR, the Alma is an optical compression engine with some definite improvements. That's not where the similarities end though. Read on. The Alma comes in a simple box with folder single page instruction guide. Nothing fancy. There are four dials on the fact of the pedal, one toggle switch, an LED and foot switch.
The dial labeled COM adjusts the compression and overall gain level. It is basically controlling the amount of compression that is applied to the signal coming in. As you rotate the dial more clockwise the level of compression increases. The level of available compression stays true to the Diamond comps with the ratio fixed in the range of 3:1 to 4:1. Like the Diamond comps, Alma is not the compressor for you if you seek higher ratios or a compressor getting you in to limiting territory. Also, you aren't getting control of threshold, release, attack, etc. with this tool. People looking to the Diamond devices are typically seeking tone enhancement along with some signal smoothing and are fine with the lack of control of ratio. That is also why you would seek the Alma. The dial labeled VOL adjusts your compressed signal volume. There is plenty of volume on tap. The dial labeled EQZ is a tilt equalizer which together with the toggle switch labeled SHIFT EQZ allows you to compensate for different sounding instruments. The effect is gentle, but a little goes a long way. The EQ adjustments are very musical. Tilting a little to the left of noon takes off some of the edge of an otherwise bright instrument. Tilting a little to the right of noon adds in some bite and very nice detail. Real nice for punchy finger style bass riffs. I found a real nice sweet spot with the dial between noon and 1:00 because it adds some nice, subtle "tone magic" that livens things up. This is also where I really like the tilt EQ of the Diamond set. At noon there is no coloration of sound. There is no center detent. No big deal. What is actually happening is that when the turned clockwise, the frequencies above the tilt point get boosted while the ones below get attenuated. Turning more counterclockwise the opposite is true. The tilt point is controlled by the SHIFT EQZ toggle switch. In the upward position the tilt is centered at 900Hz. When the switch is in the downward position the tilt is centered at 250Hz. It sounds great in either position — set to your taste (which might vary depending on what instrument you are using with Alma). Now, here's where things depart more from the Diamond. There are plenty of documented complaints of Diamond users taking issue with the level of "squish" or lack of headroom with high output basses. Others complain about the feel of the attack. In my review of the Diamond I said "I find the threshold is very sensitive to output or hard string attack. To my ear, the comp knob gets squishy anywhere past 2:00 — especially at 4:00 and higher. This isn't the compressor for you if you want control of your compressor." While the squishy feeling is still there, the dial labeled CLN comes to your rescue with the Alma. The engineers at Lusithand added a clean buffered path to be blended with the compressed signal. Yes, that means parallel compression is at your disposal. Turning the CLN dial more clockwise blends in more of your dry, unaffected [uncompressed] signal. And that can help a lot.
The CLN control is magic for this circuit. It's what the Diamond BCP-1 and Bass Compressor JR needed. You get it with Alma and that is worth the cost of entry.
Lusithand also added an internal voltage doubling circuit that goes from 9v to 18v and from 12v to 24v depending on the input voltage. An internal switch turns the voltage doubler on and off. Left is off and right is on. Use only a 9v or 12v power supply. Headroom is not an issue. Unwanted clipping/distortion should not be an issue. It wasn't for me with all four of the basses I used for testing purposes and all have active circuits [preamps]. The whole circuit is cleaner all the way across the compression range, unlike the Diamond compressors with no unwanted noise or artifacts.
The LED in the middle of the pedal illuminates green when the pedal is powered and activated.
This thing is gold. It is a great compressor to improve your tone while keeping everything smooth and together. It fixes what many of us felt was "broken" with the Diamond BCP-1/Bass Compressor JR.
There are other pedals in this space of "tone magic" or "colored" or "fattening" compressors including the Dedalo Gorila, Doc Lloyd Photon Death Ray, and the Mad Professor Forest Green, to name a few. Read my review of those for more on the feel and nuances of each. Sometimes I prefer certain compressors in front of certain types of gear. For example, sometimes tube based compressors sound wonderful in front of solid state gear but can be too much of a good thing in front of tube amps. Frankly, the Alma sounded real good in front of whatever I threw it at. Does it sound exactly the same as the Diamond compressors? Like the Diamond (and the other devices mentioned above) the Alma definitely has the rich sound to it, yet it is never muddy. It also lacks the "thwack" in the attack that some Diamond users complain of. Some how it manages to maintain a feeling of openness while definitely adding "mojo" we often refer to as "fatness" that many of us look for in a compressor. It's great at smoothing out your playing in non-sterile way, just like the Diamond compressors. There is no issue with the low end from a 5-string bass due to the clean blend. I do hear the Diamond circuit as darker than the Alma though. More "gooey" sounding. There is something about the mids in the Alma that isn't quite the same as the Diamond compressors. The Alma would probably be considered to be the more "punchy" of the two. However, keep the clean blend counterclockwise and the sound and feel is closer to the Diamond. There's a lot of similarity and overlap for sure but the Alma is not just a clone.
I suspect some of my readers are wondering whether it is worth it to upgrade from a Diamond Bass Compressor JR or BCP-1 to the Alma. If I had a BCP-1 I would without hesitation. The form factor alone would make me want to do so, not to mention the power requirements. If I had a Bass Compressor JR I probably still would upgrade because, well, yes I find the Alma is an upgrade. It does everything right. It has a great form factor. The CLN dial is a blessing. Headroom is not an issue. I think I personally prefer the more punchy feel of the Alma over the somewhat darker tonal quality of the Diamond. 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. I did ask Nuno at Lusithand about the functionality and he said it wouldn't be possible without having to use a bigger enclosure which he feels would be an inconvenience. Also, the ability to run off a 9-volt battery is missing which is a feature many people like about the Diamond Bass Compressor JR.
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.
I do prefer pedals with top mounted input and output jacks so that's another thing I wish the engineers were able to incorporate. However, others may prefer side mounted jacks so this is very much a subjective comment. Sometimes you know right away when you are going to like something. I had that feeling with the Lusithand Alma and found myself smiling right away.
So what type of person would not like the Alma? It would not be for you if you desire clinical compression and a truly transparent sounding device. If you require control of attack, threshold and release the Alma is definitely not for you. If you are looking for something that can serve as a limiter, look elsewhere. These things are not what the Alma is designed for. In other words, versatility isn't the goal here. Tone sweetening is. If you want flashy graphics, well Alma isn't that either.
If I had a top 10 list of compressors, the Alma would be on that list for sure.
It does so much right and really does sound great. It is well made and has a nice clean look (in my opinion). It's just so easy to get along with. It is quiet too. If the Alma is the type of compressor you are looking for its hard to find fault.
If the Alma gets more exposure I can see it respected as one of the bass compressor elites. 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 Cons: • Lacks versatility • Lacks fine adjustments to things like attack, release, threshold, etc. • No gain reduction LED • Some might prefer top mounted input and output jacks • Some might prefer the darker sound of the Diamond compressors