Like the BB-1X Bass Driver we reviewed in September ’16, the BC-1X is among Roland Boss’ newest designs. And like the BB-1X, the BC-1X compressor makes use of the latest development to come from the ever-clever minds at Boss. Called MDP for Multi-Dimensional Processing, the technology revolves around dividing a signal into multiple frequency bands and processing each independently. Depending on the MDP’s application, it can also detect a signal’s amplitude and dynamic characteristics and use this data as the basis for alterations in various effect parameters. It may go without saying, but given the complexity of MDP, it’s a digital process, meaning an audio signal goes through A/D/A conversions in the pedal.
Before diving into the BC-1X, it’s worth having a little refresher course on compression and why dividing a signal into multiple bands can be an effective technique. A compressor works by taming the amplitude of a signal once it crosses a user-determined threshold. Past this threshold, the effect occurs according to an adjustable ratio of input to output gain: For example, if the ratio is set to 3:1, then anything 3dB above the threshold winds up being only 1dB above the threshold. In some compressors, the quickness of the compression onset relative to a given transient is adjustable via an attack control, and the length of the compression is adjustable via a release control. Finally, since compressors reduce gain and thus make a signal quieter than it would otherwise be, most compressors include a “makeup gain” control to ensure that engaging the compressor doesn’t also lower the volume. But the signal can also be divided into different frequency bands, so that a set of parameters can be applied to each frequency range as appropriate. For example, a bass’ low-frequency content is substantially more energetic than its higher-frequency output. This can make a full-band compressor overly sensitive to the low notes of a bass part, making it tricky to set a threshold that also applies good compression to the highs. Dividing the part into different bands allows a compressor to focus on specific areas of a signal without compromise. Multiband compressors have long been a must-have tool for sophisticated mix engineers, but are relatively rare in the stompbox realm.
The BC-1X is unusual for a multiband in that there is no control over the crossover points, the frequencies at which the bands are divided. All of its multiband magic occurs under the hood according to algorithms set at the factory. While this may be irrelevant if the pedal still sounds good, it does reduce its utility as a precision compression tool. The pedal offers makeup gain (level), control over release time, a ratio knob, and an adjustable threshold. It also includes a fast-acting LED gain-reduction meter, which can help ensure a consistent setting. Of the typical compressor options, the BC-1X is missing an attack control. This can be a useful adjustable parameter, as setting a slow attack time can allow initial transients to poke through before the compression sets in, increasing punch. Construction is standard-issue Boss, with the durable small box we’ve all seen a million times. As with other Boss designs, a thumbscrew makes battery access is a cinch.
The BC-1X is a solid-sounding compressor, capable of adding texture and grind, a subtle coherence, or authoritative limiting to even the most spikey signals. Its intrinsic nature is fairly transparent, but the substantial interactivity of parameters (due, I’m sure, to the behavior of the MDP circuitry) means a player would be well served to spend time dialing it in before a gig. I loved the way it helped smooth out lumpy fingerstyle and tamed aggressive highend pops, although I did miss having an attack control to govern my sound’s punchiness or, in tandem with the release control, to make my parts “pump.” There’s a lot of gain on tap, too, although unity gain is somewhere below the 12 o’clock position. The bass response is solid, but it doesn’t have the enhanced booty effect that some optocomps (such as the LA-2A) have on the low frequency timbre.
The BC-1X is a capable, well-built, fairly straightforward compressor. It is clean-sounding and broadly capable, whether you like your compression tame or wild. While I wish it had a little more flexibility given its high-tech engine, I was able to coax out an array of fantastic-sounding, smooth tones. Definitely worth a look.
Pros Nearly transparent compression with a sophisticated gloss and the ability to get a touch gnarly if necessary
Cons Would have liked an attack control on tap
Bottom Line Any bass-specific new pedal from Boss is worth checking out. The BC-1X builds on the company’s MDP technology to deliver multiband compression to the masses.
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