Thanks to a Talkbass member I was able to get my hands on one of the newer reissues of the Squeeze Box. The Squeeze Box is a high voltage all tube transformerless design in a "stomp box" format. I put stomp box in quotes because it is not small, but it does have a foot switch. It's not going to fit your Pedaltrain nano board though.
But if you can deal with its size ad the 120 volt power requirements The Retrospec Squeeze Box is a fantastic sounding piece of gear.
From the Retrospec web site, the Squeeze Box Features: -High Voltage, all tube, transformerless design -Classic, studio quality optical compression -Hi impedance input to get the most out of your instrument -Tube buffered 1/4” output -Mic level balanced xlr output -Internal linear power supply for stability and reliability -Gain, threshold, and ratio control, with independently activateable passive eq circuit -Noiseless switching between compression and dry signal -Solid Aluminum chassis construction - Frequency response-10Hz-40KHz +/-1dB
The In and Out jacks are mounted on the top facing side of the Squeeze Box. There are four knobs and three toggle switches.
The Power toggle switches the unit on and off with a corresponding LED lighting to indicate power. The second toggle activates the EQ feature allowing it to be in or out of the circuit. Nice! The third toggle is a threshold switch allowing for different amounts of sensitivity at the input and accommodating a wide variety of instruments.
A green LED lights indicating the compressor is activated via the foot switch.
The Out knob controls the amount of volume output. There is plenty of gain on tap.
The EQ knob is basically a sort of treble cut and doesn't seem to impact lows or mids much (if at all).
The Ratio knob adjusts the ratio of compression and visibly indicates the ratios around the knob. There is a wide range here providing for very subtle compression (1:1) all the way to 20:1 for some nice squish and limiting.
The Threshold knob indicates the input level at which the compressor kicks in is also marked around the knob. I had no issue with headroom with any of my basses though I needed to adjust the threshold to accommodate each. That's to be expected though and I had no issue dialing in quickly.
There is a 4-way LED on the face below the Threshold knob that indicates the amount of compression.
There is also an XLR out for running direct. Retrospec says the output of the XLR is 20 dB lower than the 1/4" one. I was not able to test the XLR output.
The foot switch is pretty quiet but is not true bypass.
Inside the enclosure are two tubes and nice circuitry. It does get warm.
Do you know the feeling when you plug in a piece of gear, fire it up, and the result puts a smile on your face? This one put a smile on my face right away. I initially left the EQ off and set the ratio at 4:1 and threshold around 10:00 so the LED meter bounced to the -3db indicator range. Wow! I noticed it sounded very clear and transparent but big, smooth, and round in a very pleasing way. True "studio sound" is what comes to mind. It's got a nice warm feel to it but not in a wooly dark sort of way. It's an exciting tone. It has a presence that is not sterile in any way but it won't radically color your tone either. It's all you, but better. Much better.
Cranking the ratio (all the way clockwise) and lowering the threshold even further and the Squeeze Box gets squishy and some of that dip and swell effect comes through. If that's your thing you'll find the Squeeze Box very pleasing.
To my ear, the Squeeze Box maintains lows, mids, and highs very well. What goes in is what comes out, just more "enriched" with tubey goodness in a very natural way.
I've read where people complain about the Squeeze Box being noisy and susceptible to electronic interference. I did not notice anything significant. It is not the most quiet of compressors but isn't on the noisiest side of the spectrum either.
This is a compressor that sounds good across the whole range. From subtle transparent smoothing to full-on squish, it sounds great.
I imagine people will want to compare the Squeeze Box to the Effectrode PC-2A and while there are similarities, they are quite different in sound and feel. To my ear, the Effectrode colors the tone more with more audible harmonic content. The Squeeze Box is more transparent with stronger highs. The Squeeze Box is the more "hi-fi" sounding of the two but certainly not in a sterile sort of way. The Effectrode is capable of a lot of squish (if you dial it in) and that squish doesn't feel as natural as the Squeeze Box. But the Squeeze Box is much bigger. Because of their power requirements neither would be considered pedal board friendly.
I've been comparing it mostly to the Diamond, FEA CB-CL, Hyper Luminal, Ampeg Opto Comp, and Amptweaker PressuRizer. To my ear, the Squeeze Box has a little of the "excitement" that the Ampeg Opto Comp and Diamond add, but much better compression range than either of those. The PressuRizer seems similar two in terms of its "bigness" and smoothing. The PressuRizer has similarities in tone. The FEA sounds more sterile, for lack of a better word, when compared directly to the Squeeze Box. It's not a bad thing, its just that the Squeeze Box has a little more of a "juicy" sound. Obviously, each of these compressors have unique features and benefits beyond just the sound.
These things are expensive. Whether the cost is justified is up to you but the Squeeze Box is a great sounding tool.
I'd like to say thanks to the Talkbass member who sent me this compressor for review.
Retail price: $700
Retrospecaudio.com Also available for purchase through the Retrospec Reverb store.