Origin’s Cali76 pedals boast an enviable list of big name owners, but the original units didn’t leave much room on a pedalboard. In a sensible move, the UK effects maker has opted to discontinue the old big box range and introduce new compact versions.
The circuitry has been miniaturized with surface-mount components and stacked circuit boards, but the Compact Series Cali76 still features high-current, low-noise, fully discrete Class-A circuitry with low-noise transistors for true FET compression. There’s no room for a battery, but Origin specifies a regulated centre-negative supply. The Cali76 can run at nine volts but 18 is recommended for increased headroom, cleaner processing, and for handling higher signal levels, such as active pickups.
There’s a lot of controls here for a compressor, so let’s run through them. ‘In’ increases preamp gain, raising the signal to the compression threshold and beyond, with the jewel light turning from red to orange to indicate the onset of compression.
‘Out’ sets the output level to match or boost the bypassed level, and ratio sets the gain reduction – here, the light turns yellow when reduction reaches 27dB. Attack determines how quickly the compressor reacts and release determines the amount of time the compression stays active.
These controls all feature on original 1176s, but the dry control takes the Deluxe to another level. Studio mix engineers use parallel compression to combine heavily compressed and uncompressed signals to enjoy extreme compression effects without losing natural dynamics. Dry lets you do just that.
Compressors divide guitarists, but much depends on what you expect from them. You can use them to add a punchy and percussive thump to funk parts, squish out all the attack and decay for near-infinite sustain, mimic rectifier sag with even the stiffest and spikiest amps, or simply smooth out the unevenness of a badly set up guitar or poor playing.
Stompbox compressors that can do all of the above are scarce. If your requirements extend to low noise and minimal tonal colouration, the list becomes even shorter, but the Cali76 Deluxe is undoubtedly at the top and it does more besides.
Studio compression can enhance subtle details and clarity with guitar. The elements you may like best about your tone – such as woodiness in the low mids or a sweet sheen in the upper mids – can get swamped in a mix. Good compressors will bring those qualities back to the fore to let them be used as tone enhancers, and the Cali76 does this superbly.
Compared with the big box Cali76-TX version, we find that the little fella is very slightly clearer, less coloured and more versatile. It’s an outstanding compressor that seems to work with you rather than fight you and almost every time you switch it off, it’s to the detriment of your tone.
Key Features Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe
• DESCRIPTION Fully discrete FET compressor pedal running on 9V/18V external power. ‘Signal-conditioning’ bypass. Made in the UK
• PRICE £279
• CONTROLS Dry, out, in, ratio, attack, release
• OPTIONS Three-knob Cali76 Compact (£199), Cali76 Compact Bass (£279)
• CONTACT Origin Effects 01376 553016, www.origineffects.com