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Origin Effects Cali76 FET Compressor Review

The lineup of compressors from Origin Effects is almost legendary. No doubt these new smaller form factor compressors from Origin will be a hit due in part to the history of quality, sound and performance.


This is my second review of one of these new devices launched in 2024 having reviewed the Cali76 Bass Compressor here. In that review I said, "Many still consider the various Cali76 "Big Box" compressors the best there is. They sure do sound great albeit, well, they are big for a pedalboard. When Origin released the smaller format compressors like the Cali76 Compact Bass and Compact Deluxe people readily snatched them up." I am a fan of the new Cali76 Bass Compressor and also wanted to experience the new FET Compressor. So here we go.



The Cali76 FET Compressor is inspired by the world-famous Urei® 1176® studio compressor, heard on many of the greatest studio recordings since the 1960s. It is an all-analogue signal path. There are a couple of things worth noting up front. Unlike its predecessors, this one runs on 9 volts only with voltage increased internally to 24V for high headroom. Origin Effects says it was built with improved dynamic response that matches the old “large format” Cali76 boxes. Origin Effects also says the Cali76 FET Compressor was optimized for guitar. I tend to agree. More on this later. Just like the former Cali76 Compact Deluxe and Compact Bass and the new Cali76 Bass Compressor the new FET Compressor has six dials on the face of the pedal. If you are familiar with the former Compact Deluxe you will find the controls on the new FET Compressor to be identical.



IN: This control sets the signal level into the compression circuit, with higher levels resulting in more compression. If you want the compressor to be triggered more aggressively, rotate the input control clockwise. Increasing the IN control will also make the signal louder, so you will need to carefully balance this with the OUT control. OUT: This control determines the level of the compressed signal present at the pedal’s output. This control will need to be increased when using lower settings on the IN knob and vice versa. It is worth noting that as you increase the Dry control you will definitely need less output, sometimes to the point of not using the Out at all with it rotated all the way counterclockwise. DRY: This control varies the amount of dry, uncompressed signal present at the pedal’s output, mixing the dry signal in parallel with the compressed signal. Rotating the dial clockwise adds more dry signal. It's called parallel compression. Adding some uncompressed signal in parallel serves to restore natural dynamics and clarity to heavily compressed sounds. It's a nice feature to have. It is important to point out that unity gain is not with the dial all the way counterclockwise as you might expect. Origin Effects says unity gain is somewhere around 2 o’clock on the DRY knob. Turning this control fully clockwise will boost the signal by 9dB. Yes, between 2:00 and dimed you are adding 9db to the signal path. You will definitely need to decrease the OUT control as you increase the DRY control to maintain consistent output volume. RATIO: This control adjusts how much gain reduction is applied to signals that exceed the fixed threshold of the compressor. All the way counterclockwise is 4:1 with a relatively high ratio of 20:1 with the dial all the way clockwise. Setting the RATIO high and the IN control low results in the peaks of the signal clamped down quite severely. High IN settings with lower ratios result in a gentle fattening of the whole signal. This is how I prefer to use the FET Compressor. Use parallel compression with higher ratios and higher use of the Input control to restore dynamics.



ATTACK: This control sets how quickly the compressor starts acting after the signal exceeds the threshold. The fastest attack is set with the control all the way clockwise and attack times range from 0.2 ms to 4.8 ms. A longer attack time allows the initial transient through before the rest of the signal is compressed. Fast attack times reduce the amount of attack let through to create smoother, even dynamics. RELEASE: This control sets how quickly the compressor stops acting after the signal begins to drop in level. Longer release times will result in increased sustain, as the tail of the note continues to be compressed. Release times range from 69.5 ms to 398 ms and the fastest setting is fully clockwise. Simply adjust to taste. To dial in more sustain, set to a slower release time. A significant functional change between the former Compact Deluxe compressor and this new FET Compressor is that Origin Effects did away with the jewel style LED that served dual purpose of indicating when the pedal was activated and offering some degree of visual threshold/compression monitoring. The jewel LED had three stages of illumination indicating threshold/compression. Red meant the signal was below threshold. Orange indicated moderate compression which varied just a little bit in brightness. Yellow indicated intense maximum effect. While the jewel looked cool and worked, it really wasn't ideal. It was enough to give you a general idea of what is happening and was certainly better than nothing. But it pales in comparison to the magnificent threshold metering found on the big box TX. Now, like the new Cali76 Bass Compressor, the Cali76 FET Compressor has adopted a single orange LED indicating the pedal is active and also an array of 10 white LEDs. It's a much better implementation in my opinion.


So how does it sound?

I'd use descriptors like "smooth", "polished, "warm", and "pleasing" to describe the inherent quality of the compressor.

That said, mixing in more dry signal and lower ratios and slower attack and the FET Compressor can be as percussive as you want it to be. In my review of the old Cali76 TX I described it tonally as sweet in the mids and highs, and quite round sounding. To my ear, that is also true of the new FET Compressor. In that sense, Origin Effects did achieve the goal of delivering dynamic response that matches the old “large format” Cali76 boxes.


If you are a fan of these big box Cali's I will go out on a limb and say you'll be quite pleased with the FET Compressor.

And you'll benefit from a much smaller form factor. To my ear, I hear subtle harmonic content that is real nice. I do think the former Compact Deluxe offers up more clarity overall though. There is a subtle coloration here that is pleasing. How well does it work with bass guitar? Certainly, the new Cali76 Bass Compressor targets bass players due to the High Pass Filter. This HPF allows the user to adjust a variable high-pass filter on the compressor’s sidechain. The sidechain is part of the compressor circuit that determines how the compressor responds to the input signal. With bass guitar, low end content can unnecessarily trigger compression. The HPF function here allows you to filter out low end content from the side chain to prevent the compressor from being triggered by the extreme lows. You don't have that control on the FET Compressor. On the other hand, the FET Compressor offers up independent control of attack and release. On the Bass Compressor there is a combined ATT/REL control simultaneously adjusts the Attack and Release of the compressor. While it works well, there are those who will prefer, and maybe even require, independent control of attack and release.


The FET Compressor works well with bass guitars though it is possible to distort the circuit.

You must be careful with Input control and high ratios and fast attack. That's where the issue of distortion is most as play. In general, low end is maintained but is definitely compressed. That's the intent of using a compressor though, right? So, if you are a bassist looking for versatility with control of compression functionality and desire a balanced and tight compression across all of your strings (whether 4, 5, or 6 string bass), the FET Compressor is a fine choice. On the other hand, the HPF on the Bass Compressor is really nice if you want to filter out low end content from the side chain to prevent the compressor from being triggered by the extreme lows.



If I were to compare the old big box Cali76 TX to the Compact Deluxe and the new FET Compressor I'd put it like this. The Cali76 TX still has this richness that the other two just don't deliver. I'm guessing it is due to the integration of the transformer in the circuit. But the FET Compressor is close. In the studio you might notice more but, on a pedalboard, the FET Compressor is a fine choice and subtle differences will go unnoticed. To my ear, the Compact Deluxe might be a bit more "raw", brighter and livelier than the others. It has this "sparkle" up top that is pleasing.

To me, the form factor and 10-LED meter would push me to choose the new Cali76 FET Compressor for my pedalboard.

For the bassist, well, you need to decide what functional aspects are most important to you. Tonally, the FET Compressor and Bass Compressor are quite similar. Both are noticeably quieter than the previous generation. The footswitch delivers buffered bypass and electronic switching for low-noise operation. When powered up, the pedal will automatically default to being switched on. Input and output jacks and power output jack are top mounted. Remember, unlike the prior iterations from Origin Effects the FET Compressor operates at 9 volts only.


One thing I wish Origin Effects would have done differently with the enclosure this time around is to have removed the protruding screws on the bottom. It makes it difficult to apply Velcro and to easily attach to a pedalboard. Not sure why they couldn't use flat head screws mounted flush to the bottom of the enclosure.



It's a heavy pedal too.

The new compressor lineup from Origin Effects sure does bring on the G.A.S. (gear acquisition syndrome) in a big way.

Sure, they are not the cheapest compressor around, but they ooze quality and have a killer look. Maybe you just need to splurge. They work well, are intuitive to use, and perform even better. They are a better interpretation of the classic Urei® 1176® studio compressor than most other pedalboard compressors out there. I think the Cali76 FET Compressor (and the previously reviewed Cali76 Bass Compressor) are winners.

Pros: • Build Quality • Design • Versatility Nice 10-LED meter Warm, smooth, polished tone Top mounted jacks and power input

• Quiet Cons: • Price Those hoping for the same "sparkle" up top like the Compact Deluxe might be let down • Protruding screws on bottom of pedal makes mounting on pedalboard with Velcro difficult • It is possible to distort the input at some settings, especially with bass guitar


Retail price: $369


Available in three different color varieties at OriginEffects.com



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