There are a lot of compressor pedals on the market today. It's a crowded landscape for sure. Despite this, I'm always on the look out for that next special device that introduces something new and innovates in a different way. Spaceman Effects certainly has a reputation for unique and quality devices and when I learned the launch of the Ixion was imminent my interest was piqued.
In particular, features like the "equal-loudness filter" got my attention. The fact that the Ixion also features a dry blend mix control and tone circuit is compelling. How does it all play out though? Read on. The Spaceman Effects Ixion is an optical compressor circuit which typically means smooth and clean compression. There are five dials on the face of the pedal. Threshold controls the amount of signal going into the sidechain. This determines at what level the compression kicks in. When set to maximum, gain is reduced at a 6:1 ratio. The Treble control finely tweaks the top end of your tone. Warm and thick when counter-clockwise. Neutral when the control is in the middle. Top boosted when turned clockwise. I like being able to restore some highs that often get suppressed with compression.
Spaceman documentation says the Contour control "blends from a custom designed A-weighted equal loudness filter in the counterclockwise direction, to flat in the clockwise direction. A completely unique way to maintain low frequency integrity with truly bottomless bass at its extreme." Hmm.... maybe? In practice, I was not impressed.
Mix goes from 95% dry to 95% wet. Counter-clockwise for more dry, clockwise for more effected signal. Particularly useful for parallel compression techniques, and retaining the inherent transient response of your instrument. Finally, the Level dial controls the make-up gain to compensate for the compression. There is plenty of gain on tap. On the side of the pedal is an input jack labeled Sidechain. You may use a simple TS (mono) cable to send an independent audio signal to the sidechain to control compression. Sleeve-GND. Ring-SEND. Tip-RETURN. There is also a jewel style LED that illuminates red when the pedal is activated. As the unit compresses, the LED introduces a blue color but frankly, it is not effective.
In normal lighting, you won’t see the LED flashing hardly at all. When you do see it, it won’t be an accurate representation of the degree of compression taking place.
Unless you hit the compressor with a strong signal or have the threshold dial nearly dimed, you won’t see much reaction from the LED. With the threshold dial at noon or lower you will rarely see the LED flash. It isn’t sensitive enough to be useful to the user. You are better off using your ear. Any use if the contour (anything CCW) will further diminish any measurably offered by the LED. Even the rather unsatisfying jewel style LED of the Cali76 compressors are better executed.
I contacted the folks at Spaceman and Morgan himself replied with some thoughts. Regarding the LED, he is looking into potential options on this front for potential future circuit revisions. There are many factors at play. I will say the LED as a meter is more useful for guitar because of the larger frequency range of the guitar, and less so for bass guitar. How does it sound? Well, use of the contour control seems to be altering the tone of the device even though the concept is only allowing more lows through (and not triggering compression as strongly on the lows).
On bass anyway, the treble control isn’t substantial enough.
While the compressor is compressing, it seems to take something away from the punch of the tone. It is adding focus but I feel like I am sacrificing punch. The treble control is good at getting some of that jangly sparkle on guitar, which may potentially be at a higher frequency range than is ideal for bass. I didn't find it all that useful with bass guitar. The Ixion is not the most transparent sounding compressor. Even with little to moderate compression dialed in there is an inherent tone change. It is definitely tightening up the lows.
Input and output jacks are mounted on the sides, as is the 9-volt power input. The Ixion requires external power of 9-18V DC, negative center via 2.1mm jack. Maximum current draw is 32mA when the effect is engaged. It is definitely a quality pedal build.
I really think the Ixion is better suited towards guitar and other full range instruments.
This may be a case where the tone control, and sidechain filter just don't work as well on bass as they do for guitar. Morgan and I have exchanged emails about possible tweaks that could be made for a version of the Ixion better suited for bass. I am interested in continuing that conversation and seeing something come to light. At the end of the day, there is nothing remarkable about the Spaceman Ixion. It is neither excellent or terrible but it would not be a compressor I would recommend (for guitar or bass).
Pros: • Inherent tonal coloration
• Real nice looking • Contour feature useful for guitar Cons: • Not a great option for bass guitar • Gain reduction LED is not useful • Nothing really remarkable about it — not worth it for the price
Retail price: $279 SpacemanEffects.com View all compressor reviews