After only a few minutes of playing through the Crush I was intrigued by how musical it sounded.
It never felt forced or unnatural. What you put in comes out but with... more. It is on the more uncolored transparent side of the scale but seems to impart a breathiness or airy feel.
It's also a beautiful pedal to look at. It truly has that boutique feel — down to the the laser engraved branded plate adorning the face of the pedal.
The Pettyjohn Crush is a Discrete Voltage Controlled Amplifier (VCA). Pettyjohn says the VCA chip is made specially for Pettyjohn Electronics. It is quite transparent and very quiet. The Crush uses a RMS detector circuit that offers average level detection for natural response to incoming signal.
There are four knobs and two switches.
Ratio switch offers three ratio settings: • Light = 2:1 • Medium = 4:1 • Hard = 10:1
My preference was medium ratio but honestly, the pedal sounds great at all ratios.
Release switch offers three settings: • Short = fast release (75ms) • Medium = medium release (125ms) • Short = slow release (250ms)
My preference was slow.
The Crush isn't the best choice if you are looking for ultimate sustain.
You really have to use your ear to hear differences in the release settings. The difference in feel between the three is not obvious.
The Compression knob sets the compressor threshold level. Compression increases as you turn the knob more clockwise. You can crank the compression and then use the Mix knob to blend in some dry signal for real nice compressed sound while maintaining your original sound. Even at extreme compression settings when you use the mix blend the Crush just feels so natural. It's not spongy and there is not really any dip and swell. Most impressively, it remains real quiet along the entire range.
The Level knob sets the gain of the VCA to make up for gain reduction as you apply more compression. There is a fair amount of gain on tap. I'd wager that there is enough gain to satisfy almost anybody. Not the most ever gain on tap, but plenty.
The clean Mix knob is especially useful when applying higher levels of compression. It allows you to blend in some of your dry signal to restore lost transients. All the way counter clockwise the Crush seemed to be mostly (or possibly fully) compressed signal. At full clockwise the mix becomes more blended with dry signal. I'm not sure the Mix knob ever allows for 100% dry. To my ear anyway it seems like even dimed at 100% clockwise the Crush still had some compressed feel and tone. Honestly though, the pedal is transparent enough that I found myself not looking at the mix dial while playing just using my ear and relied on feel. My favorite spot was with the knob at about 11:00 so more on the compressed side with only a little dry in the mix. Interestingly, there was some audible gain realized with the Mix knob panning to noon. Maybe because dry and wet are equally blended at that point? I recommend going by feel with the Mix knob. Don't get hung up on where the knob is positioned; rely on what feels good to you. The Mix knob makes a big difference in this circuit. It's not a dramatic effect, but listen carefully and use your ear and you will realize just how much impact it is really having... in a very musical way. It is simple and not overpowering.
The Tilt EQ knob has a center frequency of 750hz. I recommend starting at noon for a fairly neutral starting point. Turning counter clockwise attenuates the highs and accentuates the lows. Likewise, turning clockwise has the opposite effect. It's voiced differently than the Diamond's tilt EQ. It is smoother than the Diamond. The tilt EQ of the Crush reminded me a lot of the sound and feel of the Tilt EQ in the XAct Tone Solutions Fermata compressor. The sweet spot for me was about 11:00. Still quite transparent but a little more presence.
The LED is similar to the gem look like that of the Cali76 CB or Spaceman Electronics pedals. It is a bright white which illuminates when the pedal is activated. It does not work to indicate threshold metering like the Cali however. That would be a great functional enhancement.
The Crush officially requires 12V-18V of standard center tip negative power with at least 150mA. However, it will operate at 9 volts too. I used a CIOKS DC7 and operated the Crush at 9 volts, 12 volts, 15 volts, and 18 volts. You definitely will get more headroom when operating at 15 or 18 volts. At 9 volts the pedal still sounds OK but the Compression range diminished and has overall less "umph". To my ear, there was little difference operating between 12 or 15 volts and sounded fine either way. For whatever reason, the sweet spot for me was operating at 12 or 15 volts. I'm not sure how to explain it but it just had a really nice feel. 18 volt was maybe a little more modern sounding or something. The threshold range was greater at 18 volts and there was more gain on tap.
Top mounted jacks and power input. Everything about the pedal is quality. The position markers on the knobs are difficult to see in both high light and low light scenarios though. The tops of the knobs are so shiny that in high light, it is nearly impossible to see the position markers.
The enclosure is very solid and has a similar paint job to the newer FEA pedals. Interestingly, the screws on the bottom of the enclosure are not flush and there are no rubber feet provided making it not the most pedal board friendly in terms of using Velcro.
It is not as big as it might look in some pictures.
It's quite tall but not much longer than many others.
Bottom line: The Crush is a highly musical smooth compressor.
It is equally good on guitar and bass. My Fender Strat sounded fantastic as did my four different basses.
It fits in a sonic space between a tube compressor like the Effectrode PC-2A or Lightning Box Op-2 and the other end of more transparent almost more sterile compressors like the Empress or Keeley. In some ways it reminded me of the Cali76 CB though it is smoother than the Cali and lacks that initial "pop" that you can dial in with the Cali. The Crush maintains lows and highs naturally and in a balanced way. Highs are not accented as much as they are with the Cali.
It is built well and oozes boutique goodness.
It's the kind of compressor that makes for an always on effect. It isn't going to highly color your tone. When you turn it off, you definitely notice and miss it. Playing through the Pettyjohn Crush is more exciting and has a voice that just makes things better.
Update 12/17/2018: Stephen Pettyjohn contacted me to let me know that they are working on in-set screws for the bottom of the pedal for next year. They are having to change box manufacturing and design a bit to do it. That said, heavy duty velcro should work perfectly fine for sticking the pedal with current screws to a pedalboard. Thanks Stephen!
Retail price: $369