Recorded with Fender Telecaster, blackface Fender Vibrolux, Boss DD-5 recorded via Shure SM57 and Apogee Duet.
No effect followed by preamp only with all knobs at 12:30, compressor only with all controls at 12:30, preamp and comp together at same settings, and lastly preamp and comp together with low preamp volume, compression volume at 2 o'clock, ratio and sustain at maximum.
Some noise at moderate compressor volumes.
Ease of Use:
The democratization of high-quality recording technology (and the attendant demystification of recording studio practices) has far-reaching effects on art, music, and culture in general. It’s probably also informed stompbox design, manifesting itself in the trend toward emulating outboard studio gear in pedals. Take the Vertex Nyle. It’s one of several pedals that use the legendary Universal Audio 1176 compressor as inspiration. Ambitiously, it’s also designed to replicate the function of a Neve 1073 preamp.
That’s a big ask from a pedal, to say the least. And it begs an obvious question: Is it possible to approximate the sound sculpting power of two legendary outboard processers worth thousands of dollars in a $249 analog stompbox? The realistic answer, as anyone who has spent time with the real deal (or chased an inexpensive substitute) can attest, is “yeah, kinda.” Yet, in aping the compression and preamp characteristics of the 1176/1073 formula, the Nyle achieves many cool compression and preamp colors that add punch, snap, definition, dynamic control, and rich low-gain distortion to your signal.
If you’ve spent time around an engineer, a studio, or used one of the better virtual studio environments like Universal Audio’s Apollo system, you’re probably aware of the reverence for the UA 1176 and Neve 1073. In general, the FET-based 1176 compressor is valued for fast attack and release and the ability to impart a just-right heat and controlled excitability to a signal. But it’s equally loved for its ability to add color and cohesiveness while doing very little compression work at all—excelling in both subtle and extreme applications. The Neve 1073’s particular magic, meanwhile, could be considered the audio equivalent of butter added to finish a sauce—a flavorful fattening agent that ties loosely aggregated ingredients into a delicious whole.
While both the 1176 and 1073 are elegantly simple (The former has input and output level controls, attack and release knobs, and four compression ratio presets. The latter a simple 5-knob array of EQ and boost/cut controls.), distilling the full functionality of each in a single pedal would be space-intensive. Vertex cleverly consolidated these functions into a 6-knob, 2-toggle set up. On the compression side, there is an output level control, a sustain knob (which stands in for the compression ratio), and a useful but curiously named ratio control that actually regulates wet/dry blend. There’s also a 3-position toggle that selects fast, slow, and neutral attack times. The preamp section reduces the Neve’s 5-knob control set to a master volume control, a single EQ knob, a gain knob, and a 3-way treble toggle that works with the EQ knob to help reproduce the 1073’s formidable EQ capabilities. The preamp and compressor can be used together or independently via the two footswitches.
Like amp-in-a-box pedals, stompboxes that mimic studio compressors and preamps use small-form pedal components to replicate large-form circuit topologies. With an inverted circuit board that conceals its parts, it’s hard to know precisely what’s standing in for the real thing. But the pedal is sturdy and the controls are quite intuitive, even though the tight, clustered knobs and the tiny pink-on-purple descriptions make early explorations tricky.
Spank ‘n’ Growl
When you think about “fun” pedals, compressors and preamps probably don’t top your list. But the Nyle is a kick to use. And once you get a feel for the functionality, it’s easy to arrive at the sound and dynamic response that you want. Just like it’s inspirations, the Nyle rewards familiarity with compression, preamp, and EQ concepts—particularly with respect to how those elements work interactively. If you’re experienced, you might fast gravitate toward a few favorite settings and deviate from them infrequently, but the Nyle is a great vehicle for exploring creative compression tones, too.
I tended toward a few favorite, excellent core sounds. The first, which you can hear in the audio clip, is an even but slightly mid-forward and growling low-gain distortion that gives little amps a tromp l’oreille muscularity in a mix. The other—which approximates the Nile Rodgers and Prince tones that inspired the pedal’s look and name—is a super-squashed comp voice derived from fully wet compression settings, low gain from the preamp, and trebly EQ settings from both compressor and preamp. It’s easy to imagine building a whole album around these two contrasting, addictive, and engaging tones. But there are many in-between shades to discover via the flexible interactive control set.
At just about any setting, the Nyle adds the warming, cohesive qualities of high-quality studio compression and preamp coloration (which might just lead you to use a lot less of both in a studio). In live settings, it’s a killer tool for adding a touch of refined control-room magic. But in any context, the Nyle is, like its inspirations, a versatile special sauce that animates and energizes dinky, lifeless tones. Once you’ve mastered its performance envelope and uncovered its pleasing intricacies, the Nyle might replace a few lesser pedals, making the $249 price tag a much more palatable, and fair, investment.