XAct Tone Solutions Fermata Review

Opening the box you will find the Fermata in a canvas type bag. There is no instruction manual included though there is a PDF on the XActone website.

The pedal itself is a little bigger and taller than a MXR type pedal and it has top mounted jacks. It has a matte greenish speckled finish that seems like it would be quite durable. Inside it has room for a battery and uses Neutrik jacks. The footswitch is the softswitch type. The pedal makes a slight popping noise when engaging.

The Sustain knob adjusts the threshold of the compression. The ratio of compression is controlled by the 3-way switch. It is quite useable in all three positions.

Volume knob is the output of the compressor and has a pretty wide range with plenty of gain.

I find the definition of the Attack confusing in the manual. When the manual says "higher attack times let more of the transient through before compression" I think they mean that turning the knob higher (clockwise) is slower attack which of course means more time before the compressor hits the transient and starts compressing. Turning the knob clockwise does slow the attack.

Turning the Tone knob clockwise adds more high mids and highs. I quite like it at about 1:00. Adds some sheen without being prickly or shrill. Turning it counterclockwise removes highs and gets more wooly or smooth. Frankly, the tone knob sounds pretty good in most places. I really like how the tone knob affects the tonal variety.

Update: I received clarification from XTS on the tone knob. "FYI, the Fermata doesn't have a tilt EQ in the traditional sense. It only operates cut or boost in the HF region. It doesn't boost bass as it cuts HF and vice versa.

It does, however, offer a trick. It actually operates as a cut/boost shelf and graphic at the same time at two different center frequencies. So when you really gas it, you're not getting a tone of prickly high-end but are still adding quite a bit of glass." </end update>

But the magic is in the red contour knob. I've sent an inquiry in to XTS to get more specifics on this contour but it acts like the HPF in the Cali76 CB.

The manual seems to suggest this when it says "this control desensitizes the compressor to low end frequencies" which is effectively what Cali says about the HPF in the Cali 76. Turning it all the way counterclockwise triggers the threshold and compressor for a wider range of frequencies. Rotating it all the way clockwise and whoa, you get way more low end. It's big and bottomless feeling. Anywhere from about 1:00 and higher and its really quite magical if you want your low end to come through.

The LED lights green when you activate the pedal and flashes an orange/yellow color as you hit the threshold. However, it doesn't seem very sensitive but maybe it is actually quite accurate. In other words, the magic is in that contour knob. But turning that knob up and you are definitely compromising the amount of compression being triggered by the full range of your bass frequencies. Therefore, you won't see the LED flash on lower strings as you turn it higher. Compared to the Cali, this contour has a more noticeable range. It really produces "big" tone with that contour up at 1:00 or higher. Bigger than the Cali, Smoothie, FEA Optifet, and probably bigger than the Doc Lloyd Photon. It reminds me of how the Darkglass Supersymmetry handles the low end but the Fermata is more open feeling on the top end. The highs feel very nice. Combined with the Tone knob, you have a great combo of punch and big tonal enhancement.

Turning the Sustain knob up to 2:00 or higher with the attack knob counterclockwise at 11:00 or more counterclockwise with the contour knob at 11:00 or more counterclockwise and you'll get a fair amount of squish and some pumping.

Compared to the Cali, it is missing a dry blend control. That parallel compression feature is something I personally really like and I think having such a feature in this Fermata would make it a seriously strong competitor to the Cali76 CB. The form factor is definitely more pedalboard friendly than the Cali and it is much lighter too. I like having the separate attack control that the Cali76 CB lacks. Neither has a true release control. The Fermata is less expensive.

I find the Fermata knobs easier to see where you've set them compared to the shiny Cali knobs.

I used the compressor with both my hot G&L MFD pickups/preamp and didn't notice any headroom issues. It runs at 9 volts.

I definitely want to spend more time with this one but my initial thoughts are quite positive. I'll update as I have more thoughts.

Retail price: $229