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Here we have a Ryu vs Ken moment. On one side we have the flaming multi-hit Shoryuken, and pretty boy looks matched with a rockstar arrogance that just jumps out of the screen and infects the player. On the other side we have a disciplined and focused lifetime warrior, complete with reverence, inner calmness, a more powerful hadouken and a tatsumaki-senpu kyaku that avoids projectiles. But pit the two against each other and time after time it is shown to be pretty much an even match.
This time, Instead of Capcom, we have MXR producing the characters: two high-quality and equally non-asian looking whippersnappers just waiting to jump into the fray and wrassle it out, and in this battle I have already selected my fighter—the MXR Custom Shop Custom Comp (In an actual SF match I would choose Ken of course). You will find out that like Ryu and Ken, deep down these two pedals have the same heart and soul.
In 2010, As Street Fighter II was approaching its 20th anniversary, pedal manufacturer MXR (or is it Jim Dunlop?) discovered a stash of legendary CA3080 “Metal Can” ICs, the principal component that provided the legendary tone of the original dyna comp. Being a fervent owner of the standard block M-102 Dyna Comp (it is the only pedal I keep on ALL the time, with low sensitivity and high output) I decided to follow this trend. The 00’s standard dynacomps are OK but not great compared to the original dynacomp, which sounded more open and less restricting. For $69.99 new, they are still a good deal, offering a much needed boost to the natural guitar harmonics and increased sustain with enough accompanying noise to make you consider getting a noise suppressor. They also choke your tone and give you too much squish if you max out the sensitivity. All in all, they don’t even touch the tone of the original. So, MXR decided to put their supply of NOS CA3080s to work and release a new reissue pedal true to the original 1976 dynacomp specs and tone, completely handwired, and just like the original with no DC jack (battery only) or LED indicator, and of course the fancy script font. It retailed for $174 and like Ken there was a tradeoff for being the cool kid.
People greeted the ‘76 RI with open arms and loved the tone and lower noise levels, and for the money many even preferred the ‘76 RI flavor to boutiques like the Keeley compressor. A lot of people were also sending their pedals to Analogman for his mod, which added true bypass, a DC jack, and an internal LED. Falling under the camp of modern conveniences I held out for the rumored 2nd edition of this pedal.
A few months later mid 2010 we get the MXR Custom Comp. Built from the same CA3080 Metal Can IC as the ‘76 RI, the custom comp includes the DC jack, LED, and internal trimpots for fine tuning the pedal. It isn’t handwired, and has slightly cheaper jacks and switch than the ‘76 RI. Also, much like Ryu, the Custom Comp isn’t as flashy as its counterpart, but the guts are the same. It is also much cheaper at $129 compared to $174 for the ‘76 RI. I’ve found it for as cheap at $105 new online. Tone? Just as good as the ‘76 RI, the difference between the two being negligible. So there you have it: two very similar-sounding pedals with different cosmetic features and vastly different price points. Also, as of 2011, MXR no longer manufactures the ‘76 RI, but the Custom Comp is still in production.
Now on to the Custom Comp. Much like a dynacomp it has two controls: Volume and Sensitivity (which controls the threshold of compression). Also there are two internal trmipots inside the unit. As another reviewer put it, nothing could be less BOSS than internal trimpots. I concur. The two internal trimpots in the Custom Comp control attack repeat time and trim, which is code for some kind of tone control. With trim all the way down I found the tone to be extremely bright and way too tinny, so I maxed it out in the opposite direction and discovered a much warmer full-body tone that i was going for. I also turned the attack repeat down to its minimum time (50ms). The pedal has a built in attack of 5ms, and the internal trimpot does not adjust this built-in attack time, but instead adjusts the delay after the compressor begins to work before it can retrigger again. You can hear the effect more if you play very quickly which I don’t. With minimum attack and max trim settings on the internal trimpots I started to achieve a hi-fi approximation of the standard block dynacomp sound that I was so used to drenching my tone in. All with less noise, and clearer yet not boosted highs! If you thought that Dynacomp style compressors were only useful for Gilmour-esque style leads, think again. Rich harmonics. Sustained bliss. Chords work too. You never knew your guitar put out this much sound. Skip the standard block dynacomp and shell out a little more for the Custom Comp.