The Xotic SP Compressor might just be the very best guitar compressor available. It’s based on the design of the classic Ross Compressor, revered by many professional guitarists and now fetching steep prices.
Both products utilize a particular type of compression circuit known as an Operational Transconductance Amplifier. An OTA provides a smoother, more musical response that most guitarists prefer.
Even better than the original…
Xotic, a boutique manufacturer of premium pedals based in Southern California, has implemented a number of improvements and enhancements to the original Ross design, adding some additional controls to give musicians much more flexibility in sculpting their sound perfectly.
The SP is simple to operate, with two control knobs for Blend and Volume, and a three-way switch to set the amount of compression. In addition, internal DIP switches provide access to attack and release options, a hi-cut filter, and an input pad. Together, they enable you to use the pedal as a normal compressor or as a sweet-sounding booster.
So, let’s go through our in-depth Xotic SP Compressor Review to find out what makes it so special and if it deserves a place on your pedalboard…
Look and Feel
The SP Compressor is housed in a space-saving metal mini case, 3.5 x 1.5 x 1.5 inches (89 x 38 x 38 mm). It feels very sturdy and weighs a surprising 9.1 ounces (260 g). Also unusual for a pedal of this size, a 9-volt battery fits inside, accessible by removing the back cover. This is handy if you want to use it without your pedal board and power supply. The pedal draws only 5 milliamps.
It comes with the usual 1/4-inch input and output jacks on opposite sides of the case. True bypass switching ensures that when the pedal is off, the signal passes through with no modification. On the front is a DC input jack that can accept 9 to 18 volts.
Simple to control…
A black stencil on the top panel of the off-white case provides easy-to-read lettering. Controls are two large translucent knobs, a three-way switch, and a heavy-duty stomp switch. A large green LED lights when the device is active. It’s bright enough to make it easy to see the control settings in low light.
All controls are mounted to the case, not the underlying PC board, to ensure that it can withstand heavy use onstage.
When the back panel is removed, it exposes not only the 9-volt battery but a set of DIP switches that modify how the SP operates.
User controls are simple but effective…
The main control knobs are labeled Blend and Volume. Blend, an option not found on most guitar compressors, lets you adjust the output mix anywhere from 100% dry (uncompressed) to 100% wet (compressed).
Volume does what you would expect, providing up to 15 dB of boost. This enables the SP to double as a pure boost pedal. And the three-position toggle switch marked Hi-Lo-Mid lets you choose the amount of compression that’s applied.
More magic under the hood!
With the back cover removed, you gain access to a block of four DIP switches. The first two switches work in combination to control the SP’s attack and release times. Turn both switches On, and you’ll get the fastest response, suitable for twangy country music “chicken pickin’.” You’ll want to experiment with these switches to find your ideal sound.
Switch #3 engages a high-cut filter that gently reduces the bite of note attacks. It’s normally On, but you can turn it Off to get a slightly brighter sound.
Switch #4 is an input pad combined with a subtle low-cut filter. Also On by default, it helps to prevent undesirable distortion from high-output humbucker pickups. You’ll probably want this switch Off for a guitar with single-coil pickups.
How does it sound?
Like all compressors, the Xotic SP is designed to color the sound slightly by flattening the dynamic range. But it does so in a way that always sounds very musical. It excels at making a guitar solo cut through a mix with singing sustain. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to set the controls to get a bad sound out of it.
For most applications, a LO or MID Compression/Sustain switch setting will sound best. With the switch set to HI, the noise level might be a bit high for clean playing, but perfect for gain-saturated solos.
The effect of the internal DIP switches is subtle. So, expect to spend some time experimenting to get exactly the sound you want.
Double your voltage for more headroom!
The SP Compressor can be combined with the Xotic Voltage Doubler. This little box takes a 9-volt DC input and steps it up to 15 or 18 volts. The higher voltage gives the SP more headroom for an even better sound. While it’s not a radical difference, it’s definitely noticeable.
Xotic SP Compressor Review Pros and Cons
- Superb sound.
- Very versatile.
- Small footprint allowing it to fit on even a packed pedalboard.
- Good quality build.
- Well designed.
- Easy to use.
- Great value for the money.
- Clear knobs featuring black stripes can be hard to read, especially on dimly lit stages.
Looking for more superb Compressor options?
Then check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Compressor Pedals you can buy in 2021.
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Xotic SP Compressor Review Conclusion
The Xotic SP Compressor offers all the goodness of the iconic Ross Compressor and much more. It’s more versatile than most compressor pedals on the market, adding extra life to sparkling clean or distorted playing.
It’s very solidly built, takes up little space on your pedalboard, is attractively priced, and has excellent resale value. The preferred compressor pedal of many professional guitarists, it might turn out to be the only one you’ll ever need.