Quick Hit: Ampeg Opto Comp Review
Three knobs and an optical circuit brew up mellow analog compression that fills out tone rather than choking it.
Oh, compression. You thing that many don’t understand, don’t want to talk about, and often don’t think they need. Well, Ampeg cares—and they’ve made it easy with the analog Opto Comp, one of the latest additions to their growing pedal line.
The white metal box has just three knobs to get your head around. Compression sets the amount of the effect to your signal (up to 20:1), release sets the point at which the signal returns to uncompressed, and output level sets the volume of your signal. That’s it! There are two LEDs: purple-ish to let you know the pedal is engaged, and green to display the level of compression and release.
To me, excessive and/or unnatural-sounding compression is akin to nails on a chalkboard. I guess that’s why I like the Opto Comp. It’s a subtle pedal that’s clean and transparent—not a super squasher to lifelessness. I’d liken it to a squuooosshy, light-as-air translucent pillow that gently manages the peaks and valleys without being omnipresent. You might not even know it’s engaged until you start playing well past noon on the compression and release dials, but it is there. Diming the dials brings out more noticeable and unique tonal flavors, but still not over the top. The Opto Comp is a painless and affordable door to a needed tool for bassists, and with just a hint of engagement—with the compression and release dials around 10 o’clock—it’s a pedal that can be used 24/7.
Test gear: Fender Precision, late-’70s Epiphone proto with P-90s, Gallien-Krueger 800RB, Orange OBC212, Focusrite Scarlett 2i4
Recorded direct with late-’70s Epiphone proto with P-90s using Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 interface into GarageBand.
Clip 1: Compression at 11 o’clock, release at 11 o’clock, and output at 1 o’clock. Pedal engaged at :20 mark.