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Electro-Harmonix Black Finger Compressor and LPB 2UBE Preamp

Electro-Harmonix has been building some of the most interesting guitar effects since the late 1960s, and two of the company’s newest boxes, the Black Finger compressor and the LPB 2UBE preamp, rank among its best.

What first struck me about the Black Finger ($298 list) was that even with the hardest compression setting dialed in, I heard no “click” signifying that the effect is engaging. It was smooth from the strike of the string-apparently due to its employment of an optical circuit, plus the two 12AX7 tubes (one for compression, one for gain) that power it. What’s more, the tubes take on a full 300 volts-much more than most circuits deliver-thus producing a sound even richer and warmer than what I’ve come to expect from tube gear. When set to “Squash” mode, one of the Finger’s two compression settings, it effectively removes the jangle from the tone and gives comping-style chord-work a gliding feel, but the sound remains percussive.

Like the Black Finger, the LPB 2UBE preamp ($298 list) relies on two 12AX7 valves, but this box can also be run in stereo, making it a great unit for home-studio operators as well. You can feed the LPB any type of signal-it even has a switch to select a high or low input-but I tested it solely for guitar, on which it has an effect best described as “tightening.” The highs become less harsh and the lows don’t reveal as much flab. If focusing your tone to pop out a bit more in the mix is your goal, the LPB is up to the task. And it can work as a distortion pedal too. Crank the gain knob, and out comes a crunchy tone that should suit a Pete Cosey wanna-be just fine.

My sole gripe with these units is that they employ a proprietary wall-wart AC adaptor with a nonstandard input jack for power. And the cord itself isn’t exactly cut at a generous length. But that’s no reason to pass either of these stompboxes by. Finding a compressor better than the Black Finger in this price range is a fool’s game, and both units have numerous studio and performance applications. Compared to other effects units of this quality, these cost a pittance, and guitarists searching for a way to subtly enhance their sound couldn’t do any better than these.

Originally Published