Overstayer Stereo FET Compressor by prontold
I've been on a bit of a compression kick as of late. It all started with a cheapo ART Pro VLA ii last winter, followed this fall by an FMR PBC6A, and eventually an Overstayer FET. Of these three, the OS is by far my favorite.
The compressor features rotary controls for Drive, which controls the level of incoming signal going over the fixed threshold for compression, Output, which controls the signal level after processing, Blend, to mix in uncompressed signal, Attack, and, in my case, Release (you must pay extra for this feature). Push button controls include Tint, a nice sounding low-pass filter on compressor output, Dirt, which wrangles some extra-textured harmonic distortion out of the FET, Grab, which makes the compression more sensitive to bass frequencies, ARX10, which increases the attack and release times by a factor of 10, ALT Release, which does something I haven't really managed to understand yet, Stereo Link, and Bypass.
There are LEDs to indicate when the unit is powered on, when the unit is engaged, and how much compression (green much, yellow much, or red much) is happening. The metering is very basic, but use your ears and you will get what you want. It would have been nice to have an on-off switch, since I need to take the plug out of the back when I'm not using the unit in order to avoid wasting energy.
Ease of Use
The attack and release times on the overstayer are quite wide-ranging, from 0.1 ms to, well, I forget, but a very decently long time. Furthermore, the device's amplifier also seems to be somewhat prone to distortion. It can be very easy to turn this into a fuzzbox when you don't want to. However, try longer attack/release times, lower the drive, and you should find a vast range of cleaner sounds at your disposal. Or, take advantage of the many shades of distortion this compressor can give you, and be happy with the fact that you have a damn interesting saturation unit on top of a dynamics processor.
An added benefit that I've noticed is that as long as your output is turned down, you can drive the crap out of the front end of the Overstayer and not distort whatever comes next in your signal chain.
Hmmm, not sure exactly how to be objective about this... There can be a lot of distortion going on with this box, or seemingly less, but I'm never sure if it really counts as clean and transparent. Suffice to say, I really, really like the things I can do with it. It's great for adding a little extra texture, adding some fuzz, getting incredibly, awesomely squishy compression, or getting fairly transparent level control. I have not found a way to make it pop like a VCA compressor can, but I find that the Overstayer works exceptionally well for making spiky sources smoother and more mix-ready. Furthermore, whatever effect you are going for, you can blend it with the original signal to taste!
Overall, I find the box usually places some emphasis on the low-mids, and I usually like this effect.
Here are some observations on the sonic options:
TINT: This subtly notches out some high frequencies in whatever signal you are passing through the compressor. I've found it to be very audible with vocals and acoustic guitar. In my opinion, it compares favorably with the PBC6A's Thick feature, and I preferred the color it imparted to the sound of the PBC6A. Great for making things just a bit smoother.
DIRT: Surprisingly, dirt mode doesn't contain the most distorted tones this box is capable of. In fact, settings that result in very fuzzy distortion in normal mode often seem to be saturation-free in dirt mode. What it does do is change the nature of the box's distortion and harmonic content. It seems to make some things sound smoother, emphasize the mids a bit more, and at high compression settings, results in very interesting texture as the compressor's envelope engages or releases. Dirt mode is quite fun, and a great additional feature.
GRAB: Changes the reaction of the compressor to low frequencies, which in applications on solo instruments usually results in a lower relative balance of bass frequencies to mids and highs.
Everybody raves about this on drum bus, but I haven't had occasion to try that application yet. I imagine its insanely well-suited.
I love the OS on vocals, synths(!), bass, charango (kind of like a cross between a ukelele and a mandolin, but more awesome-sounding), and pretty much any sound I want to mess around with. Unlike the other compressors I've used, I find this one has a very noticeable, and often desirable effect on sustained material as well as on transients.
"Bang for Buck"
This is by far the most I've payed for a compressor. At $630, including shipping, it's not cheap for a primarily-hobbyist like myself. I'm usually the kind of guy who waits for great deals to pop up before making a move (and they come! AT4050 -$250. FMR PBC6A-$350, Samson VR88 [Ignore the brand name, this mic is pretty nice]-$50), but after getting all torn up about missing several deals on this piece, and obsessing a bit over the kinds of sounds I was hearing in online clips, and getting a sizable tax return , I bit the bullet. I do not regret it. I wound up having to sell the PBC6A at a bit of a profit to balance the budget, but the OS is well worth it in my opinion.
In conclusion, this awesome, unassuming little box puts countless dimensions of sonic mayhem or sonic control at your disposal. Highly recommended!