Photo-optical compressors have played a key role in many legendary recordings, but their high prices have kept them out of the hands of most personal-studio owners. With the release of the C2, Joemeek-long renowned for its great-sounding compressors-has brought high-quality, stereo-optical compression to the rest of us.
This green, half-rackspace unit can give its more expensive brethren a run for their money in many compression applications. We found it particularly effective for processing guitars and drums, but it also performed admirably on vocal, bass, and keyboard tracks. To keep the price low, the folks at Joemeek designed the C2 with a minimal but functional set of controls. From the front panel, you can adjust the amount of compression, the attack and release times, and the input and output levels. The ratio (which ranges from 2:1 to 14:1) does not have its own dedicated control. Instead, it's governed by the input level.
Overall, we found the C2 to be smooth sounding, quiet, easy to use, and, most important, a great value. In most years, those attributes would be enough to make it the hands-down winner, but this year we nevertheless had a close race between the C2 and the impressive Focusrite Platinum ComPounder. In the final analysis, though, the C2's combination of high-quality photo-optical sound and breakthrough price gave it the edge.