This baby from RT Electronix is the antithesis of all those compressors out there with just a couple of dials on top. The Broadband compressor is all about control and versatility.
RT Electronix literature says,
"You’re a grown up and we believe you can turn your own knobs!"
You get manual control of Threshold, Ratio, Attack, Release, makeup Gain, and wet/dry mix (parallel compression). That's just the dials! Add in some tone sculpting 3-way switches and you've really got one versatile device on your hands. If that weren't enough an Auto/Manual switch and a switch to push the compression a bit harder is some special sauce on top of an already killer tone machine.
Then there is the retro vibe VU meter indicating gain reduction relative to 0. It does look pretty cool and is back lit for easy viewing even in dark settings.
Let's start with the controls.
Threshold sets the level at which compression takes place (turn clockwise for more compression). It is fairly sensitive and tiny turns can make a big difference. There is plenty of variability to accommodate weak signals to hot output 18-volt preamps. With all of my basses I found the sweet spot to be between 1:00 and 2:30 on the dial. Little tweaks make a big difference in how the compressor reacts.
Ratio determines the amount of output compression relative to the input. Range 1:1 to ∞:1. Interestingly, RT Electronics told me that an approximate ratio of 4:1 is achieved at the noon position. So the latter half of the rotation of the dial will have increasingly stronger impact on the compression ratio than the first half of the dial rotation. While there might be better options out there for limiting big peaks and spikes in volume, the Broadband is respectable as a limiter. The Ratio range is useful and the Ratio dial is highly dependent on how the Threshold dial is set. For example, you could set the ratio quite high (say at 2:00 or even 3:00) but have the Threshold dial set to only react to more extreme volume spikes for some nice smooth but not overly squashed tone sweetening. Real nice actually.
On the other hand, you could set the Threshold dial to react quite quickly and set the ratio at 8:00 - 9:00 for a real nice punchy feel with even string-to-string balance.
The Attack dial allows you to adjust the time before the the compressor clamps down on the audible signal. Turn clockwise for slower attack which would allow more initial transient through. I typically prefer at least some initial transient through and this one delivers. I found anywhere from 9:00 to 3:00 to feel real nice. I think anybody would be satisfied with the range of the Attack.
The Release dial adjusts the amount of time before the compressor releases the compressed signal. Turn more clockwise for slower release. Frankly, it sounds great across the entire range. If there was a weak spot though, I'd prefer to see a little more variability in the Release. In general, it feel pretty fast.
The Gain dial has a center detent and provides make up gain that is post compression. Noon is approximately unity gain assuming you haven't highly adjusted other dials. In most cases, you will have the Gain dial set to at least 1:00 to offset how you've dialed in other settings. There is +/- 15db on either side. This is a compressor not a boost pedal so that should be enough available makeup gain, though not as much as other compressors on the market.
Turing the Mix dial clockwise brings in more wet (or effected) signal. There is a center detent on this dial with noon being approximately a 50/50 split between dry and wet signal. The sweet spot is definitely somewhere to the right of noon. That's where things start sounding and feeling sweet. Volume will also increase as you rotate the Mix dial more clockwise so the Gain dial will be required to optimize total output. In this sense, those two dials are highly interactive.
Similar to the Keeley Compressor Pro, the Broadband Compressor has an Auto mode which is activated by the Auto/Manual toggle switch. Flipping up elects the auto attack/release mode. Flipped downward is Manual mode where you have manual control of Attack and Release with the respective dials. In most cases I would prefer to have manual control over attack and release.
But just like the Keeley Compressor Pro, the Auto setting sounds fantastic and would be a quick way to run the compressor in a live setting where you don't have time to dial in your settings. It really works great and I would be content just using the Auto setting.
Lighter playing seems smoother. More aggressive playing feels more punchy. It's as if the compressor is reacting to your style on the fly. Well, not quite that dramatic, but very nice indeed. In fact, I would recommend users first start with the device in Auto mode and work to dial in Threshold, Ratio, Mix blend, and Gain first.
Then you have the Push/Norm 2-way toggle. RT Electronix literature says the Push setting is there to
"intensify compression for a fatter, punchier sound."
It might, but it is very subtle. You will notice it most when the compressor is set to Auto and ratio is relatively high and threshold is relatively low. You will then notice a little more sensitivity in the VU meter indicating the compressor is being pushed a little more. I preferred the setting on Normal. You would never notice the difference in a live setting. If you have a good ear though, you can tell the compression engine is reacting a bit more. On guitar, it is more noticeable when strumming chords.
Well if that weren't enough, we still have two more switches to play with.
The Mid switch provides three positions for flat, boost or cut of mid frequencies on the compression path. There is an obvious audible difference between all three positions with the center position being flat. Flipping the switch downward kicks in lower mids and gets bigger and fatter sounding, but also less focused and open sounding. Flipping the switch upward brings in more upper mids and approaches more of a grindy down that is definitely less smooth. Nice! Unlike many compressors that have EQ sections that seem catered to guitar, all three Mid switch positions on the RT Electronix Broadband Compressor work well with bass.
The Bright switch operates just like the Mid switch offering a 3-way position to boost highs, leave them alone, or cut highs. I liked the neutral center position best, but flipped up adds a bit more bight (and a bit more noise), and flipped down cuts out highs which would be useful for a bright or overly clanky instrument.
The RT Electronix Broadband Compressor is highly versatile and has a cool vibe with the VU meter. I was skeptical of the VU meter at first but it does work really well. I'll tip my hand and admit I prefer LED's for metering but this VU meter does work very well. There is a dial inside on the circuit board that allows you to trim the VU meter to get it exactly at 0 with no signal. Mine came dialed in properly so I didn't touch that internal dial. The red side of he VU meter is not used.
Input and output jacks as well as the power input are located on the top of the pedal. The Power requirement 9 volts DC Pin Negative and 150 mA.
There is a LED that illuminates bright white when the pedal is activated.
Footswitch is true bypass.
The pedal has a nice solid feel to it with a glossy black paint. The finish attracts fingerprints and scratches very easily. The dials turn with authority. It is larger than a typical MXR or Boss style pedal though very much pedal board friendly. It is similar in size to the original Diamond compressor box size, but still a bit larger. The Broadband Compressor is the same size a the RT Electronix Multiband JR.
I'd describe the RT Electronix Broadband Compressor as quite transparent. But with the EQ toggles you really have a lot of tone tweaking options.
I'd put it in the camp of the JoeMeek FloorQ, Keeley Compressor Pro, Becos family of compressors, and the Empress. All respectable compressors in their own right so the Broadband Compressor has good company. All of these compressors make your tone smoother, more controlled, and just better sounding. It is built to be a clean studio compressor with a high level of versatility. It succeeds on all fronts.
Cool vibe; VU meter is a nice touch
Auto setting works surprisingly well
Top mounted jacks
A little tricky to dial in
Potentially the size of the unit
Retail Price: $369 (4 - 6 week build time)