Janglebox Compressor/Sustainer Review
Janglebox is a new name to some people but if you look into the company’s history the design of these pedals has a lot of history going on in them given the way the Jangleboxes became a popular choice of Rickenbacker players. Back in the ‘60’s Roger McGinn from the Byrds and John Lennon (should need no introduction) were championing Rickenbacker and although the company was one of the founding fathers of what became the modern electric guitar it took until The Beatles, The Byrds and a small handful of psychedelic rock bands were seen jangling away on 330’s and 600’s. The sound that you hear on The Byrds ‘Hey Mr. Tambourine Man’ (written by Bob Dylan) is quintessentially Rickenbacker, squashy yet sparkly at the same time. As much as the guitar is evidently a Rickenbacker there was also some studio mojo happening on the track too. If you read into the history of early Abbey Road, Sun Studios, Hitsville USA et al there are some remarkable creations that were developed and indeed invented during records at these studios a great example is John Lennon allegedly christened the effect ‘Flanging’ when running two identical signals together one at a slightly slower speed. In amongst all of this history you will no doubt notice the surge of development in compressors, the mythical beasts of music recording and performance, these things are both really obvious and yet complex. I you do any product research you will see that some early BBC and Neve produced compressors can be bought and sold for huge amounts, plus every big name producer will have their ‘go to’ compressor that is part of their signature sound, Bob Clearmountain is a name that will constantly appear, a producer with a remarkable talent for controlling sound and tone.
A compressor is a unit to control the amount of gain while narrowing the dynamic range of the the signal. This controls both the lower and upper range of the frequency spectrum, which aside from the obvious benefits of using compression on vocals and drums in particular guitar players began to use them to control wayward guitar notes and if you ‘jangle’ away on a Rickenbacker or a Fender Stratocaster you will know what I mean by this, it’s one thing to control it with correct technique but there will always be times when you want to dig in and play some crashing chords but in a way that won’t interfere with what the rest of the band are doing. The Janglebox JB1 compressor/sustainer is voiced so that the guitars sweet-spot is controlled and expanded. The presence that these pedals can offer is fantastic for your tone and is noticeably one of the quieter guitar compressors out there. The unit is sturdy, always a good thing for being on the road and the pedal is powered by a standard 9v power supply.
The Janglebox JB1 compressor/sustainer has a peculiar connection to Rickenbacker given the origins of the circuit, if abbreviate history a little, during the ’60’s there were a lot of effects being discovered, Reverb control was still very young and among all fuzz pedals and modulation (Uni-vibe and phaser) the Rickenbacker players wanted something to help ‘warm up’ their guitar tone and help to control the signal. Some units were built into guitar and became specifically voiced for their purpose. The circuits were expanded upon and taken out of the guitars which neatly brings us round to the Janglebox JB1 compressor/sustainer. A compressor that seems so natural for it’s purpose it’s difficult to go back to some other compressors, largely because the circuit of the Janglebox JB1 compressor/sustainer was developed for the guitar doesn’t have it’s origins in studio compressors. The sustainer works remarkably well and long held chords are given a new long, plush sparkle. There are so many good recordings over the years with obvious guitar compression that it would be impossible to list them all, but listen to ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’, ‘Good Times’ by Chic and ‘Free Falling’ by Tom Petty and you will get the idea of what the compressor can bring to your tone. The cool thing about the Janglebox compressor is that you can achieve the classic ’60’s ‘push’ of a compressor, playing ‘Drive my car’ is great when the attack is rolled up plus you can turn the attack dial all the way up and get a very satisfying country spank sound. If you have a Telecaster type guitar with a maple fingerboard, try this and play some bends, it’s a cool thing to hear and even cool to feel under your fingers. You can of course have the compressor set at a more conservative level to give you a nice sonic boundary for playing chords and keeping a wayward rhythm part in check. The dark and bright switch is a unique feature on this pedal and given the pedals history it makes a lot of sense. The bright setting is perfect for the classic Rickenbacker tone giving the brightness back to the guitar after it’s been compressed. The dark setting is great for playing long held chords, the compressor helps to sustain the notes and as the top end is rolled off a little, it give a nice, almost LFO quality to the signal. In the normal position the compressor responds as a very good standard compressor.