• Gurus Amps Optivalve compressor review

    Gurus Amps Optivalve compressor review

    A compressor pedal might not be on the top of your list but, when used right, they can seriously improve your tone and be the secret weapon you need to really shine. I recently got my hands on the Optivalve from Gurus Amps. Here’s my review.

    My relationship with compressors has evolved from being something I felt I had to keep on my board but rarely used, to something I depend on for almost all my tones. Whether it’s cleans that needs a bit more definition or lead tones that needs more sustain.

    A compressor controls the dynamic range of your tone by making the quiet notes louder and the louder notes more quiet.

    Peaking transients will be smoother making the signal to appear lower in volume. However, the amplifying of the lower frequencies, will make the overall volume sound more consistent and fatter and therefore make it stand out more in a mix, with more presence and sustain.

    Optivalve is, as the name implies, an optical tube driven compressor based on the classic Teletronix LA-2A studio unit. In addition to the input and output controls, the Optivalve also feature controls for ratio and tone.

    Input: adjusts the input gain to meet the fixed threshold for compression
    Ratio: adjusts the amount of compression applied once the threshold is exceeded
    Output: adjusts the volume depending on how much compression is applied, as compression often lower the overall volume. This can also be used to lower or boost the volume beyond unity level.
    Tone: allow some fine tuning of your tone depending on how much compression is applied.

    Like the Echosex, which I did a review on a couple of months back, the whole front lights up in the dark and there’s also a “magic eye”, or pulsating light, that indicates the amount of compression.

    Like all optical compressors, the Optivalve is subtle. Unlike the typical transistor compressors (MXR Dyna Comp, Boss CS2), which has a very distinct limiting, the Optivalve is more of a tone enhancer, carefully levelling nasty peaks and bringing out more of the lows. It’s more of a feel than anything else, although, at higher settings, you can get a really nice squeeze for more dynamics and sustain.

    The “rule” for guitar compressors is to place them first in the chain. This way, they compress the signal from your guitar, distributing an even signal to the pedals and the dirt pedals in particular and bring out the dynamics in your playing.

    You can also place the Optivalve last in your chain, after the delays, like an outboard studio unit. This will maintain the headroom in your tone and amp and the compressor can also be used to boost the front end of the amp.

    The Optivalve can also be used with other instruments, like acoustic guitar and bass, or as an outboard studio unit, for recording or mixing.

    I’ve always been a fan of the old studio compressors and the LA2A in particular. With the extra ratio control, the Optivalve becomes even more versatile and suitable for guitar. The tone control is a brilliant addition as these units tend to sound a tad dark when you crank the compression. Now you can restore your high end, without those nasty peaks.

    So how does the Optivalve compare to other, similar compressors? The Effectrode PC-2A is perhaps the closest match. Both being based on the Teletronix LA-2A. They’re obviously very similar sounding, with a transparent tone and subtle effect. I can’t really tell which is better but the Optivalve has the controls for ratio and tone, which I find very useful. The Effectrode has a wider range on the input gain, or compression, which might suit finger pickers better. It’s also got a switch for heavier limiting and the smaller footprint might be a bonus for some.

    I can’t really find anything to put my finger on here. The Optivalve sounds no less than amazing! It’s subtle but it makes your guitar sound so sweet, dynamic and warm. It’s definitely one of those pedals you want to leave on for all your sounds. Whether you need to beef up thin sounds from your bedroom setup or add presence and sustain to your recording and stage tones, the Optivalve is as good as it gets. Highly recommended!

    Check out gurusamps.com for more.

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45 Responsesso far.

  1. Robert M. says:

    Another great review.

    Compression is, IMO an essential tool for any musician who makes a string vibrate. It can be easily misused or over used, but that shouldn’t keep us from under using it. It just takes a little time to wrap one’s head around the principles involved and then dialing in what works with our individual setups. Not sure how much BS is in there; but as I warned, it’s just my opinion.

    I’ve heard good things about Gurus Amp gear but haven’t tried any myself. I did recently add the Effectrode’s PC-2A to my setup. In terms of the comparison between the Optivalve and the PC-2A, given the similarity in design, here’s what I suspect will prove to be the biggest difference between the two: The Effectrode compressor pedal has two knobs to worry about, while the Optivalve has more.

    That’s simplistic, but meaningful. If you happen to be playing on stage and need to change the settings, which pedal would you want to mess with? I’d always go for the one with the fewer knobs. Why? Because I’d be less likely to f–k up my sound with the two knob unit. That, and the fact that I already have a rack mounted compressor sitting next to my preamp in my gigging equipment case. That equipment is dialed in to produce the tones I want, and I don’t like messing with those settings. The little PC-2A sitting downstream adds the functionality to adjust the sound without messing with my base setup.

    For someone who doesn’t have a similar setup, or someone who doesn’t already have some type of compressor, the Optivalve would probably be a better deal. It gives access to all the regular controls for attack, release, etc., that work best for them and the setting.

    Either way, these two little tube compressors do something to the music we create that we won’t get from a standard compressor pedal.

  2. Jae says:

    Great review of a compressor Bjorn. Probably the best I’ve ever seen! the switching back and forth while playing a familiar piece in the first clip made the changes obvious. To be completely honest I wasn’t expecting anything nearly that dramatic. It almost makes me wish I hadn’t spent all that money on the echosex. Keep up the good work and I’ll find a way to scratch up the cash for this must have compressor.

    Thanks again,
    Jae

  3. KEITH says:

    Very nice, definitely somthing I’m interseted in, especially for recording. It’s been awhile, so hello to all the Gilmourish community, and Bjorn, I miss our charts and will be in touch soon. So much has happened in my life since last we spoke
    Peace all, Keep at it, Keith

    • KEITH says:

      Also, ( besides an apology for my typos), I’d like to say Hear, Hear to Brad’s response to the soet of misguided post he responded to. Brad, you nailed the whole purpose, and allure of this site, and the great, kind, and HONEST man who spends a great deal of his free time doing this for us, and fir FREE. I’m quite sure he could be spending this time with his family, but continues the site for all of us. I’ve agreed with you many times Brad, and this time I could not agree more. If not fir Bjorn, I’d still be in my self imposed decade long hiatus from music, but he inspired me the first time I found Gilmourish. Now, 4 or 5 years, and a few 10’s of thousands of $’s later, I remain inspired, and have learned things I never even thought about in over 30 years as a hobbyist, and professional musician. Thanks Brad, and thank you Bjorn!!!

      Peace, Keith

      • Bjorn says:

        Cheers, Keith!

      • Brad Roller says:

        Thanks Keith! Nice to hear from you man! Hope you’re well! I always look out for your responses and look forward to reading your input also! I sure hope you can make us the castleberry muff demo :) I have the reissue powerbooster made by him for Colorsound, and it is AMAZING!

    • Bjorn says:

      Hope all is well Keith… we miss your posts!

  4. Roger Sartori says:

    Marvelous review, Bjorn. Congrats!
    Main problem is that is very hard to find (and expensive as well!) most of these great pedals you write about. Here in Brazil we have to stuck to the regular ones, but stay tuned to the TC Electronic products. I think they have a great line on these days. Hypergravity compressor is relatively good for the price they ask for. Nova Drive is very good too. In fact, former guitar player of the Pink Floyd cover band, Brit Floyd, Bobby Harisson used some TC products on his live rig. I think he sounds great. Cheers.

    • Bjorn says:

      Hi Roger! Yes, the TC stuff is great and they’ve come up with some really nice sounding pedals lately. I use the Flashback myself and recorded with the Niva Drive at times. Check out TopTone pedals… maybe you know them. Brazilian company that makes some of my favourite pedals. You’ll find reviews here on the site.

      • Roger Sartori says:

        yeah, I know Omar Garcia, the guy behind Top Tone. Incredible person, awesome products! But it’s a very short line of pedals, only 4… I had all of them, but now I have only the Light Drive. DG-1 and DG-2 are great but in terms of Big Muffs now I have the JHS Muffuletta (because of your review), fantastic! I asked Omar about making a compressor based on Gilmour tone, but he said he does not have much time now to elaborate new items. LOL. I have a CS-2 for compression, it’s OK but I’m looking for something else. I owned the Demeter Compulator which is very good but I don’t know why I couldn’t get the tone I wanted with it… I’m still looking for a new compressor (budget in first, of course, haha), that’s why I mentioned the TC Hypergravity… but in the end, I just got the Mooer Yellow Comp based only on the internet videos… waiting for it to arrive. Tell you later about it. Best regards, my master!

  5. Brad Roller says:

    The man has stated a thousand times on this site that what he says is his opinion and not the gospel. I don’t see how he could be any more clear on that. It’s his site, so he can comment on whatever he pleases, however he pleases. And I don’t think it’s coincidence that most of us, for quite some time now, agree with him on his opinions and his idea of a good tone. I’m sure you meant well but, until you find a free site, with an almost unlimited amount of data on David Gilmour, his tone, setups, advice on recreating his tones, and also creating your own tones, and also find someone with the same amount of experience as Bjorn to run the site, you might should keep the nit picky criticism to yourself. You like the “clicking pop” from 5 a.m. Bjorn isn’t a big fan of it. It doesn’t mean it’s bad, it’s just his opinion. Maybe I’m coming off as being a jerk, and if so I’m sorry man but it’s kind of hard to stand by after all Bjorn and this site has done for me personally. I’ve been coming here for over 10 years and I always learn something new. Not being a kiss ass, just trying to clear some stuff up. Peace out!

  6. Lui Sutil says:

    First of all, please let me say I absolutely love this site , it’s definitely the best most conlrehensive site to all things Gilmour and Floyd which is awesome, I am eternally grateful for the time and energy Bjorn or sorry if I misspelled the name but out beloved webmaster… But I have to point out that I’m starting to doubt his ear or his knowledge of tone and not in general but in some cases… Like when he calls the compression with a percussive attack like in 5 a.m or Shine on your crazy diamond a “pop” instead of a musical “click” … Uh, what?
    That sweet, sweet “pop” is called vintage swash, or more accurately put: Gilmour style compression… For me that was the thing that really made me think this. I had my doubts with the ratings of some amazing brilliant pedals that get a rating of a 6 when some other descent but bot great overdrive gets a 10. I know it’s hard to get all the gear you need up there where he lives, but to not have reviewed the Thorpy “Muffroom Cloud” by now, which would be in the interest of every Gilmour fan…
    This site has been immensly informative and I visit it everyday and will continue to so… But I would advice people to take his advices on tone with a grain of salt.

    And I read his whole article on compression and it was spot on… But I guess he is not too familiat with the blues or using a conoressor as an effect rather than just a utility pedal for dynamics control… Not all compressors are made the same and we Floyd freaks love to use it as an effect… And to say that Gilmours tone “chokes” is absurd… He used the same term to rate the velvet fuzz which is one of the best pedals on the market… I hate to go negative on such a beautiful site and a great man from the north named Bjorn…

    Sorry, I know most people wont take my point seriously , so that’s good… But seriously, absolutely love the site and will continue to visit it to check out Gilmours gear and setup as well as news and info… But I wouldn’t take advice about tone, or at least not take it as the tone to follow….

    • Bjorn says:

      Thanks for your comment, Lui. Hmmm… where to start…. I appreciate your honesty but I think you have completely misunderstood the goal with this site and my intentions. The site is sort of built around two parts. One is the David Gilmour gear resource, which, as far as possible, is built on hard evidence. The other part, which I guess you’re referring too, is built around me trying to present the gear I feel is the best for replicating David Gilmour’s tones. It’s my opinion based on my experience.

      I try every piece of gear I comment on. If I haven’t commented on it, it’s because I haven’t tried it. That also mean that I don’t tell any lies or pretend to know what I’m commenting on. I’m sorry that you feel mislead but I think you confuse that with not agreeing with my opinions, which is your given right. By all means. I have never claimed to be a guru of tone or be a Gilmour oracle. I simply write these features and reviews because I enjoy every minute of it… I have never said that what I like, everyone else must like and use. It’s my subjective opinion.

      In that sense, since you’re mentioning it, the reason I haven’t done a review of the Muffroom Cloud is that I haven’t tried it yet. I’d be very happy if you could send me one to try and I’d be happy to do a review. Please appreciate that this is not a commercial site. This is not Guitar World or Pro Guitar Shop. This is my blog and I spend hours and hours in guitar shops trying gear so that I can write reviews for you for free. Keep in mind that this also means that I have no agenda. I don’t have to review gear that I don’t like because I’m not trying to sell anything or please my supplier. I turn down everything I don’t like and review the stuff I feel needs to be heard.

      Keep in mind that I come from a different country. English is not my native tongue so I might be using works and expressions that aren’t right. I apologise but I also think that most of my readers can understand my intentions.

      But, I’d be very interested in hearing tone tips from you. Maybe you want to share your experience with us and your knowledge of gear? After all, Gilmourish.Com is about sharing our love for David, his music and guitar gear.

      • Huy Tran says:

        Bjorn, if you were a politician you’d be a terrible one. You are too honest, too reasonable and make too much sense.

        I think it is a very grand gesture that you took the time to address Lui’s post so comprehensively and elegantly.

  7. Great showcasing in the video. I was listening through my in ear monitors and that last note sounded so huge!

  8. David says:

    Hey Bjorn,

    Do you believe the ~$60 price increase on the Optivale is justified compared to the Effectrode, or in your opinion would I be better off saving my money and getting the Effectrode?

    Thanks,
    David

    • Bjorn says:

      In regards to the tone… probably not. They are very similar. I would say that the ratio and tone control is worth the extra though.

  9. David says:

    Bjorn
    Love the site and have gleened a lot from your experiences and trial/error. Thoughts on the OptiValve vs. the Effectrode PC2A since they are both based on the LA2A? Pros/cons of each?

  10. Wagner says:

    Hi Bjorn, can you make a comparisson with the Effectrode Compressor as both are based on the same studio unit (LA-2A). Thanks.

  11. Bruce B. says:

    Thanks for helping me understand the processes of (at least what this one does) as how compression is beneficial in pre-production. I’m much more knowledgeable about post production compression, it’s overuse, but most importantly, how it can kill the best expressions of music. Using a compression pedal seemed as counterintuitive as it gets! Recently a friend lent me one, I’m so glad it was broken & unable to try it before reading this-you likely saved me hours of frustration or worse, with a un-informed & uselessly biased opinion. The way you explained it made all the difference in the world to me, Bjorn, thanks so much for what you do.

    • Bjorn says:

      Cheers Bruce! It’s not really any difference in how a pedal and studio unit work but rather how in the chain you place them. Normally, you would place a pedal first in the chain, compressing the signal from your guitar. If you overdo it, you’ll lose all the dynamics and expression in your playing but done right, with a moderate setting, you’ll get a much more even signal to the pedals and amp, which again enhances your tone and playing. If you place the pedal last, which you obviously also can do, it would be the same as in a post production situation. Done right, you can add headroom and balance but too much will kill the dynamics.

      • Bruce B. says:

        Thanks again for the advice, Bjon(& sorry about the “auto incorrected” name change). The thing that bothers me about modern recordings is lack of dynamic range-it can absolutely kill an artists expressions musically. I’ve been playing for 30 plus years but only had electrics for about a year. Now suddenly I have 7, I’m chasing tones and having a great time at it. I never thought I’d be playing riifs from my all time favorite leads (Dogs) your blogs and videos have been especially helpful to a newbie like myself! .

  12. Rob says:

    HI Bjorn – how does this compare to other tube compressors, like the Effectrode?

  13. Chicco says:

    Nice Review Bjorn! as usual..

  14. Giovanni says:

    Another killer pedal by the Italian Gurus! I’ve had the chance to try myself the Optivalve and I fell in love with it! Can’t wait for buying one! :)

  15. Joe says:

    Hey Bjorn, any thoughts on how this stacks up to the Cali76 compressors or the SlideRig comp? I’ve heard DG is using those.

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