Hello Gearheads! Coming in shortly after my review and demo of the Xact Tone Solution's Shapecharger Boost, I’ve got another incredible pedal for your tone hungry appetites! The Fermata Optical Compressor from XTS is without hyperbole, one of the best sounding, feeling and usable compressor pedals I’ve come across to date. XTS are well known for taking the utilitarian aspects of music equipment and merging the artistic… not an easy feat especially when done to perfection. The Fermata is exactly that - a merger of utility and art - giving the player the ability to finely craft their needs in a way that I’ve honestly never seen before in this type of pedal.
XTS have given the pedal an interesting name for starters…
A fermata is a symbol of musical notation indicating that the note should be prolonged beyond the normal duration its note value would indicate. Exactly how much longer it is held is up to the discretion of the performer or conductor, but twice as long is common.
The Fermata is an Optical Compressor, using a light source and a photosensitive cell to generate the effect. Often, whether in pedal or studio style rack format, an Optical Compressor is useful as it allows for greater transparency and transient clarity.
Using the Fermata, firstly, is incredibly easy and intuitive to adjust and set. The controls have been extremely well thought out and engineered. The brilliant minds at XTS took essentially 7 years to hone in on what they wanted out of the Fermata and man, have they killed it here!
Using just 5 knobs and one 3 way mini switch, the Fermata is capable of everything from slight transparent boost to Nashville Chicken Picking, all the way to 80’s style rack compression. Every control is musically minded. You can hear the years of effort here. The “throw” of each control is perfect… all sweet spots and nothing unusable. Even at the highest points of compression and limiting, you get a very musical squash that is most certainly usable. If ever there were an “All In One” type of compressor pedal… this is it folks.
A surprising element in design for me, was how the “Contour” and “Tone” knobs functioned. Contour allows for the Low End and Bass frequencies to be controlled in a way that usually is impossible on other pedals of the like. Essentially you dial in the amount of Sustain and Attack you’d like which sets the compression of the circuit, you can then bring back in the amount of low end you desire into the signal path. This allows for the perfect amount of compression without ruining your whole dynamics. Normally, the low end is something you just have to sacrifice… not any more!
The “Tone” knob is one of the most usable controls of it’s kind that I’ve found on any pedal. Even at the highest setting it’s not too bright and not too dull at the lowest. Great care has been taken to make sure this pedal will work with whatever rig you put it in. I found setting the Tone higher was addicting, as it really gave me those 80’s compressed clear tones we all love. Running a brighter amplifier or guitar would benefit from running the Tone control in it’s darker settings. I LOVE pedals that offer useful scalpel-esque type EQ’s, and the Fermata is top of the heap.
The 3 way mini switch controls “Ratio” which is the amount of compression you’re looking to add to the signal. Low allows for the mildest compression which is suitable for any Boosting you’d like to do, offering a more transparent tone and lots of output. High is where you’ll get the Chicken Picking and 80’s rack style effects, heavy compression and thick syrupy tones. The Medium setting offers what you’d expect, somewhere in between the two, offering greater versatility and control.
In XTS’s own words, I feel this truly describes the usefulness and originality of the design of the Fermata…
For as much as the Fermata offers in terms of compression, it may be the ways in which it can be made to NOT compress that set it apart from other devices in the market. Even those players who have struggled to find a compressor that works for them will be able to easily dial in natural sounding compression that enhances your guitar playing without overpowering it.
In the demo below, I’ve used the Fermata on all the guitars including the bass guitar. I chose to use the Fermata equally as traditional compressor, booster and a super fat limiter. The pedal truly shines in these situations and I highly recommend it for guitar and bass players alike.
To learn more about the Fermata Optical Compressor and other fantastic pedals from Xact Tone Solutions, click here: https://www.xacttone.com/winford-drive-23.html