Punch Factory Compressor Pedal
This is a studio quality
sounding compressor that is very simple to use and relative to other optical
compressor pedals reasonably priced. But yet it has some issues.
It is rare to look at the processing racks in any major recording studio or a
top FM radio station and not see Aphex gear of some sort. The "Aphex Aural
Exciter with Big Bottom" is a very popular and often used device in recording
studios and radio stations as it increases apparent loudness without actually
making things any louder. All radio stations want to be the loudest on the
dial yet are restricted by federal regulations regarding maximum modulation so
many use the Aphex Aural Exciter. And in case you havenít noticed even
recorded music seems to be louder. Aphex was alone in the psycho-acoustic
enhancement business for a great while, however a similar product called the
Sonic Maximizer was introduced by BBE several years ago. I worked at one
FM station that used BOTH those devices in the air chain. AM stations
donít benefit so much from this psycho-acoustic technology because of the audio
spectrum limitations imposed again by the federal government. Aphex rack
mounted compressors are mainly used in recording studios of the musical and
broadcast audio production genres along with finding their way into live sound
applications. (Most top radio stations use Orbanís OPTIMOD
multi-band audio limiting/compression systems in their air chain as they are
unrivaled for AM and FM broadcasting. Optimods also cost a small fortune.)
Iíve used other compressors. I had an Ibanez and I also had used an EBS.
The Ibanez was hissy and honky sounding. The EBS was equally amazing in the sound
department but was less feature rich. For example
the EBS did not have an XLR out or run on phantom power from a mixer. When I found
out the Aphex had just two knobs and a bunch of features missing on the others I had to try it! Well truth be told, when it was
new this pedal made me forget the EBS compressor which I sold off on eBay in
about a week.
What I like about the Aphex Punch Factory right out of the box was the smooth
natural sound of optical compression. It really sounds amazing and
musical! It is so easy to set input level and output level. The LED
meter is very useful to adjust the compression level so there is no guesswork.
Once you learn your settings, left knob 7 & right knob 6.5 for me, just a glance
is all you need to know it is set correctly. You can run it off about any
AC power supply that fits the power in jack or off Phantom power from a mixer.
It has an XLR out so you can use it as a direct box. All great features
shared by another Aphex pedal I use, the Bass Xciter which basically is an Aural
Exciter in pedal form.
Now to what I donít like about the Aphex pedals in general which also applies to
the Aphex Bass Xciter pedal. All the jacks and push buttons all
crammed together on the back of the pedal make it too crowded back there. The
second thing is that the phone jacks are plastic and soldered directly to the
circuit board! This is the cheapest possible way to build these pedals and
almost nobody else is doing this! Sure it sounds good new but sooner or
later those cheap jacks are going to mean big trouble. Fortunately my Punch
Factory pedal lives on a pedal board and both phone jacks are left in place. My
chain is a Whirlwind Selector A/B/Y switch to the Aphex Punch Factory then to a
Tech 21 SansAmp Bass Driver Deluxe and then to the amp and/or mixer from there.
So I never unplug it. The Bass Xciter is only used when recording.
Recently during setup I had to remove and reinsert the plugs on the Punch
Factory because it just didnít sound right and I heard some crackling and then
it sounded fine the rest of the night. Iím sure these jacks are going bad
and Iíve really not used them that much since they stay plugged in about all the
time. Additionally the switch can be a trouble spot. Even though I
leave it on all the time, I have had to cycle the switch a few times on occasion
because I donít think the switch is making good contact for some reason.
It looks like a typical pedal switch, but I think it is some cheaper version.
Aphex has a well deserved
reputation of building top quality proprietary products for studio applications
that are affordable, well made, durable and reliable. This makes the
dubious jack and switch quality of this pedal and the sister Aphex Bass Xciter
pedal perplexing. I donít use footswitches on compressors. I just
leave them on all the time, so I donít understand the noisy switch issue at all
and it plagues both my Aphex pedals.
What I intend to do eventually is bypass the switch so that the pedal is always
on and replace the jacks with Switchcraft jacks if there is room and frankly Iím
not sure there is. Keep in mind the stock jacks are soldered right to the
circuit board. Taking this pedal apart to do this and making all the
solder connections on the circuit board by hand is risky because I could mess
something up. For sure my modifications would void the
warranty if it was still in effect, but Iíve been using my Aphex pedals for
going on four years and the warranty was 90 days. If my ďsave the Punch Factory pedalĒ overhaul doesnít
work Iíll go back to EBS who has a two knob pedal now, or maybe try one of the
pricier Keeley two knob pedals or even the new MarkBass tube compressor pedal
which others find a real winner. What I don't like about the MarkBass is
that it will not run off my pedal board 9 volt power supply requiring a separate
12 volt power supply, meaning I'd have to run another cord to the power strip
and the hefty power supply would add more weight to my already hefty gear bag.
Also tubes go bad, often with no notice. So while the MarkBass may be
great sounding it does have drawbacks too, and there is no XLR out on the
The actual compressor part, meaning the brains of the Aphex Punch Factory pedal,
It is exactly the sound I want. This natural sound and the simplicity of the controls make it my favorite
bass compressor pedal but I find the cheap connectors and troublesome switch a
nuisance. I would have thought twice about abandoning my EBS compressor
pedal so soon if I had known these problems were going to develop with the Aphex
Punch Factory. My Aphex Bass Xciter pedal has exactly the same problems. I
find it hard to believe that Aphex would continue to make these great sounding pedals
with such junky connectors and switches. The Punch Factory sounds AMAZING and first rate when it works
correctly, but when it doesn't work 100% it becomes a liability.
Aphex seriously needs to redesign this pedal and all their other guitar/bass pedals with
pro quality Switchcraft jacks and switches. They need to move the instrument input and
output phone jacks to the SIDES of the pedals to unclutter the back and conform
to standard pedal in-out design used by most other pedal makers. I
would pay extra for a totally professional caliber pedal
instead of trying to figure out how to rescue this Aphex pedal from itself.
With the name Aphex on it, I would have expected only the best but got something