David Barber has been around for many years and must be one of the original boutique pedal builders. Throughout the years, he has come up with many coveted pedals and designs and he even has started building amps. Barber Electronics has a big range of pedals, most are overdrive/boost/distortion pedals with some special stuff thrown in. I’m looking at the Tone Press compressor, the first pedal compressor to feature parallel compression.
The Tone Press comes in a standard size enclosure in a very standard layout. You get 3 controls to tweak the box. It has the standard volume and sustain controls but the Blend control makes this a special pedal. The Blend sets the mix between the dry and compressed tones. This is possible because the compression circuit is parallel to the dry. This allows you to get a very squishy comp tone and then dial it back with the blend control to get your attack back. The Volume control has enough range to boost your signal to make up for the loss because of the added compression
On the inside it has a "color" control, it acts as a tone control allowing you to either make the pedal transparent to your base tone or make it darker or brighter. To me this is a set-and-forget control so it’s not a big deal that it’s on the inside.
I bought the Tone Press many years ago when I was on the hunt for a quality compressor. I tried all the usual suspects but never liked how they changed my tone, how they squashed the attack and tone etc. Until one afternoon I tried a bunch of Barber Electronic pedals and the Tone Press was a homerun. Since that day, I have tried a lot of other compressor pedals and I have yet to find one that I like more than the Tone Press. Sure, there are some great pedals out there but the Barber still does it for me.
When I tried the Tone Press, I immediately loved that it has the tone control. This is a huge bonus over a lot of other compressors. I think I have it dialed in for a bit more brightness, not sure because I haven’t looked at the control in 5-6 years. Set and forget, right? So with the tone control set, you are ready to discover what the parallel compression can do. I do not like very squashed compressor sounds so I want something that compresses but isn’t to noticeable. That’s where the Blend control comes in the picture. Set it to max so you get the full compressed signal, dial in the amount of compression you want with the sustain control. Yes, it can get very squashed. Then, dial back the Blend control for a perfect, euhm, blend of dry and compressed signal et voila. You can still have a nice attack with good compression happening. The volume control can then be used to add the lost volume from the compression. Or use it as a boost!
Yes, it also works as a boost. I’m sure a lot of people will not think about this but the Tone Press works really well to boost an overdriven/distorted tone for lead playing. There’s plenty of output from the volume control and the sustain and blend controls can get you a bit of smoothness for lead playing. One last thing I have to say about the Tone Press is about noise. What noise? Indeed, there’s no noise, the Tone Press is very silent and even when using it as a boost, it doesn’t add noise!
The Barber Electronics Tone Press is the pedal that I have been using the longest of them all. Chose it after testing some other comps, have compared it with more comp pedals since and it's still the one I use. And it sure isn't going anywhere either!
- More info: Barber Tone Press