As a company that makes guitar effects pedals, Strymon must qualify as one of the coolest on the block. It has all the necessary factors for the ranking – it’s Californian, and it’s run by five techy-looking guys who are all musicians whose mission is to build no-compromise guitar effects with top quality components, while at the same time have fun doing it.
The Strymon OB.1 – the name comes from Greek mythology or it’s a rare butterfly, take your choice – is one of a range of six smart-looking pedals, all of which have features that you’re not going to find on their equivalents from other companies. The idea of an optical compressor that also has a clean boost struck me as an intelligent solution to an age-old pedal board problem. Boosting an already compressed guitar sound works, but it means another pedal taking up space. If the boost is in front of the compressor, the sound becomes so ‘squeezed’ as to be all but useless. The OB.1 overcomes this by integrating a transparent-sounding optical compressor and a clean boost in the same box.
The first feature that strikes you is the dark metallic orange colour of the finish. This is pretty looking, but I would guess the anodized aluminium box will soon show the knocks. Flip it over and the back panel is held on by four cross-head screws. This is rather old-hat, and I would like to have seen a proper plastic battery compartment, especially on a pedal of this price. However, it’s the front panel were more interested in.
There’s one compressor level control, which will take you from a clear, very subtle and transparent compressed sound through to a vintage-sounding squashed tone. Kick the Boost in and there’s a proper clean lift although you need the control set to about three o’clock to get the benefit. A three-way mini-switch selects Treble, Mid or Flat voicings, all of which add distinctive characteristics to the boosted signal. I would probably use this pedal in the Flat position most of the time, as it retained all the body and warmth to the sound of all the different guitars I tried the OB.1 with and didn’t remove the top end. There are internal DIP switches that allow the treble and mid boost frequencies to be altered and I would recommend a look at this option, as I found the treble and mid selections slightly harsh, although that could have been to do with the test amp I was using. The OB.1 can be powered with a 9V battery or a coventional adaptor.
With totally analog circuitry, true-bypass, the extra boost features and great sound, I can see this pedal making it’s way onto a large number of boards. Expensive? Yes, but it is made in the US and although the company avoid the term ’boutique’, the Strymon OB.1 must rank alongside the best of the bunch of top-of-the -range compressors.