WARNING: Proceed at your own risk. I have a hunch this review could be GAS inducing.
RT Electronix is a boutique electronics company out of Nashville, Tennessee making analog effects by hand. All of their designs are unique and the Multiband Compressor JR is certainly no exception. I can think of no other compressor on the market that is similar.
At first glance, it is an unassuming piece of gear, with flat white casing and black font and black knobs. Upon further investigation you will see that there is not one or two bands of compression but three bands of compression. There are certainly other multiband compressors on the market but most are limited to two bands, potentially with a crossover between the two bands.
There are seven knobs and two switches.
For each band you have a Compression dial and a Trim dial.
The Compression knobs on the Multiband Jr. are all in one controls. As the knob is turned up (clockwise), effectively the compression threshold is reduced, ratio is increased, and make up gain is added to compensate for the lowered threshold. With all compression knobs at 0 (counterclockwise), all trims at 0, and the output knob at 100% (fully clockwise) the pedal should be pretty close to flat/unity.
Activating the push switch “drives” the compressors harder, offering more compression globally. It makes the feel more punchy and full in a very nice way.
Then you have the Trim knobs which offer +/- 15dB of boost or cut on each band. That means you tweak the compression then you get to boost or cut the output of that band. Compress Lows, Mids, and Highs individually then use each bands trim knob to sculpt your ideal tone. Now that's pretty unique I'd say.
The Shape switch is 3-way and offers three different tone shapes as a starting point for compression. Each position isn't a subtle change. There is a radical difference in frequency point adjustment with each position. Flipped up is brighter with hi mids accentuated. The center position is full and punchy with some low end boost. The downward position inserts quite a lot of low end to the signal path. At first I thought I liked the upward position best. But then as I used the compressor more I came to love the middle position. The downward position is too colored for my personal taste but would be great for dubby tones.
The Trim dials are unity trim at noon (no additional gain or cut added to that band) but I suspect the folks at RT Electronix never intended for anyone to leave them there. No, the fun here is with all of the experimenting and vast diversity of tone and feel this pedal offers. Trim knobs have center detents which is nice.
The Multiband Jr is like a mastering tool for tone, with the three bands selected accordingly. I spent a lot of time with this device which allowed me to come to my own conclusions and I'd say this pedal works more like a super-EQ than a traditional compressor.
The low band controls the very lowest part of the frequency spectrum, the beef and rumble, the sub harmonics. The mid band is the largest, and encompasses most the string note fundamentals. The high band controls all the harmonic content. The compressors are designed for smoothness so that ratios and attack and release times are more subtle.
This isn't a compressor to serve as a limiter. It is fairly transparent, until you start adjusting the Trim dials and Shape switch. Want a lot of low end rumble? No problem. There is plenty to go round. In fact, it can sound downright huge. There is a surprising amount of mid range diversity to be had. You really have to experience it. The majority of tonal versatility is in the mid band.
At first I started with all Comp dials fully counterclockwise and then slowly adjusted them clockwise expecting compression to intensify. But that isn't what I experienced. Given time, I realized that's where the Trim knobs come in. They are highly interactive.
I reached out to RT Electronix to get some feedback on their design and one of the most interesting and compelling comments was that the
"ratio is program dependent (somewhat). The further the threshold is lowered (or the louder the input signal) the closer to the top of that curve the response is. 4:1 was the imagined sweet-spot, but in the end we designed with our ears."
The high band is more for sparkle. Most of the bass guitar spectrum is handled in the Mid and Low bands.
With my passive bass, the effect was more subtle. With active basses that drive the compressor input harder there is more noticeable compression. The Multiband JR is definitely more of a tone enhancement device than compression device. On the other hand, this thing makes for an amazing EQ. It is quite unlike anything I've experienced before.
You can seriously spend hours adjusting dials so that rule out this device for many readers. Here's my suggestion.
Turn up the bass control until you start to feel the low end really coming in and then back it off a little. Adjust the bass level with the trim. Then I would turn the high compression until the noise floor is obvious, then adjust accordingly with the gain trim. After setting the outside of the tone, then adjust your main compression with the mid band. Use the trimmers and the mid switch to further sculpt your tone.
The Output dial is there for makeup gain and there is a fair amount of gain on tap.
The pedal has nice weight to it and the knobs turn with a nice amount of resistance. Foot switch is true bypass. Power is 9 volts but requires 200ma minimum.
There is an LED that illuminates white when activated. There is no threshold/gain reduction LED. Top mounted input and output jacks. The pedal itself is relatively small given the amount of controls on the face. It is essentially the size of the Diamond BCP-1. Certainly easy to fit on most any pedalboard.
Overall, the Multiband JR is pretty quiet. Depending on how you have the high band adjusted (and Trim adjusted) will effect the amount of noticeable white noise. I wouldn't describe it as a noisy compressor, but it is not completely silent either. Certainly not a problem when using live.
Want something to fatten up your signal? No sweat. Want to manipulate your mids? no problem. The RT Electronix Multiband JR has an inherent smooth feel. This is not a compressor to quickly set and forget. But those who choose to work the device are rewarded with rich, full, and punchy tone for days.
Pros: - 3 bands of compression - Boost and cut for each band - Major tone manipulation - Relatively small form factor for all of the controls on board - Like an EQ on steroids - Big, full, and punchy - Unlike anything on the market
Cons: - Not for the faint of heart - Takes time to dial in - No threshold/gain reduction indicator - Unique in its approach to compression; you need to give it time and experiment - Not really a device to manage signal peaks; more of a tone enhancer - Pricey
Retail price: $399