Athens, Georgia. Home to luminary bands such as R.E.M and Pylon. A town known to aficionados of a certain strain of independent rock music in the ‘80s. And now, home to Greer Amps, a maker of quality effects pedals for musicians across the land, including the Lamplighter optical compressor, a new shining star in the world of optical compression effects. For a little of that old-fashioned (classic) compression tone, you need look no further than the Lamplighter.
The pedal’s compression was warm and ever so slightly warbly, just as a person would expect from a vintage unit. For added flexibility, Greer Amps included a three-way toggle for selecting the speed of the compressor’s release. Fast release mode worked particularly well for quick, punchy playing. Think: funk-style strumming and palm-muted notes that seem to percolate out of the amplifier. Medium and Slow release worked well for slower strumming, or for passages with softer dynamics; the characteristic “clamp-and-release” tone was subdued.
At the highest compression settings, the Lamplighter produced very little warble or breakup in the Medium and Slow release settings. The Fast release produced the most breakup and warble, but I found what otherwise could be viewed as a drawback to be charming in its own way, a characteristic of old-fashioned technology.
Aside from its tone, I knew I would appreciate the pedal even at first glance. That’s because the folks at Greer did a smart thing. They separated the Volume and the Comp Mix knobs. Such a detail might seem a trifling thing to Joe Badtone. He might wonder what the problem is with a hard-wired mix that runs right into a Volume output knob. But with Greer’s design, a fellow can dial in a totally dry sound—why, I do not know—or a totally wet sound, or something in between, then boost or diminish the output volume of the combined signal with another knob. It’s a simple concept, but readers might be surprised to discover how often pedal makers fail to break apart these two controls.
The Lamplighter also features a special Treble adjust knob and a three-way toggle for selecting the speed of the compressor’s release. Noon seems to be the neutral setting for the Treble knob. I didn’t feel much of a need for cutting treble from my signal; the Lamplighter doesn’t sound strident. The Treble knob is good for cutting through some of the darkness that compressors tend to impart to one’s tone. Fortunately, the Lamplighter was actually fairly transparent in this respect, so I felt little need to add any Treble to compensate for any tonal defects. But for sparkle and shimmer, the Treble knob worked wonders.
Finally, a few words about aesthetics: the Lamplighter is a handsome pedal. Its glossy black paint pairs perfectly with its gold lettering. It’s almost as if…the letters were illuminated against a black backdrop. At the very least, the owner of the Lamplighter won’t have to feel ashamed about poor pedal aesthetics.
Compressors might not inspire the enthusiasm as would a hot, new distortion pedal or even a cool phaser. Yet they have their place in the effects chain and, when used well, are useful and interesting. Greer’s Lamplighter offers enough vintage color and an abundance of functionality that it should become a favorite of compression enthusiasts beyond Athens.
What We Like: Classic, warm compression with a light touch; a special Treble knob for adding shimmer; separate Comp Mix and Volume knobs
Concerns: I can’t say that anything about the Lamplighter struck me as problematic or bothersome.