Dave Hall Amps: VT-1 Bass Compressor

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Dave Hall Amps: VT-1 Bass Compressor

Post by BigBoris » Thu Aug 14, 2008 8:30 am

Dave Hall Amps: VT-1 Bass Compressor

First Impressions:

Dave Hall is a well known figure on the U.K. music scene. He has been making custom, and dare I say boutique, pedals and effects for some years now and most guitar/bass players are aware of his products and outstanding reputation. Dave is most famous for his expertise with valves and his valve-based pedals. One of Dave's latest creations is the VT-1 Bass Compressor an example of which I have recently been lucky enough to acquire. I should emphasise that I purchased this pedal from DHA with cold, hard cash and the following review is entirely independent.

What it Says on the Tin:
The VT-1 is a bass compressor using a single 12AX7 (ECC83) valve and two optical LED/LDR circuits to generate classic, pure valve-tone compression. The foot switch provides a true by-pass and the LED indicates if the effect is on or off. The blue backlit doubles up as a power-on indicator. The VT-1 requires an external 9-12V 600mA power supply which generally is supplied with the unit.

DHA stomp boxes have a.....errm.... unique appearance which I can only describe as 'Marmite', you either like it or you hate it. As they say, ' A picture paints a thousand words' so rather than try and describe the appearance of the VT-1 I have added some pictures of my own pedal:

Picture 1:

Picture 2:


To be honest, I used to hate the appearance of these pedals and steered clear of them for that very reason. Stupid, I know, but sometimes things just look so subjectively awful that even if Dave had released a 'Chris Squire Pedal', absolutely guaranteed to make you sound indistinguishable from the legendary Yes batsman himself..I would probably have stayed away. Constant exposure however, has diminished my hatred of the lurid green/yellow/orange boxes and now I find myself almost liking them. Almost. I'm colour blind...Christ knows what they must look like to people with normal vision...

Paint job aside...the first thing that strikes you about this pedal is it's solidity and the quality of it's construction. It's quite obvious from the outset that this thing has been hand-assembled by somebody who clearly knows what they are doing (in all likelihood Dave himself) and takes a pride in their work. Everything is 'done up tight', aligned correctly and works smoothly. Always a good start in my opinion.

A really nice feature is the drilled case which lets the baleful blue light from the valve shine through.

Let me show you:
Picture 4:

Luvverly...and much better than an LED as an indication of the power being on although you do get that too. It's not a dazzling display, like some panel effects I've seen lately, and I presume, has the secondary effect of letting hot air from the valve exit the case. A nice touch I feel.

All standard switches and knobs seem high quality and sensibly placed. There are two pots on the I/O side of the case that control the level of boost when activated by the boost switch (see picture 3) and an I/P or pad control that allows you to compensate for active/passive basses.

Have a look for yourself...

Picture 5:

Note the two-tier PCB with some of the finest quality hand-soldering I have seen on a product of this nature. Look at that great big valve..brings a warm glow in more ways than one

Straightforward, one sheet of A4. Tells you everything you need to know in order to pilot a VT-1 compressor. A really useful thing is that Dave's website has a manual section so should you ever * cough * lose the instructions that came with your pedal *cough * you can easily download a new set from the DHA site. Great for morons like me.

The VT-1 comes with an appropriately hunky power supply. All the extras you need really. Because of their valvey nature, DHA pedals need fairly robust power supplies and, as I now have two of Dave's stomp boxes I think I am going to invest in a really big power supply that will happily feed them both just to reduce the number of items that require their own three-pin socket.

Although not a major problem, potential buyers need to be aware that these beasties do require a mains supply...

This section is always going to be very subjective but here goes...Firstly:

'Hands up' admission section. I am not an expert in this area. I do like playing with pedals and effects but in the happy, ignorant way a puppy plays with the contents of the laundry basket. I don't know or understand and I don't want to know or understand...you get my drift...? If I can step on a button and make my bass sound better...then that's it as far as I am concerned. Given that caveat:

In order to be as fair as possible I have used the VT-1 compressor using a number of 'vanilla' basses such as: Fender 62 Re-issue Jazz bass MIJ, Fender Aerodyne, Cort GB74 and my trusty old Warwick Thumb. Amplification was provided initially by the Line 6 LD150 that sits in my living room and subsequently through a vintage HH Bass amp powering the OMNI 15 I built myself. Obviously all settings were neutralised as much as possible to prevent colouration. The response from the OMNI15 is about as transparent as it gets and shows up any and all faults in the signal sent to it.

Initially, had a 'twiddle' using no effects whatsoever, then I added my Akai Hexacomp compressor which I have been 'over the moon' with since I bought it in about 2004. I then replaced that with the VT-1 compressor. The Hexacomp is a hard act to follow in my opinion.

Right! The VT-1 Compressor is a beautifully designed and constructed pedal that appears to offer a whole palette of compressory goodness. For a philistine like me it almost offers too much, there are almost too many variables to play with. But, to valve-tone officianados, this pedal will push all the right buttons. The sounds are great, but you really need to spend quite a while adjusting the various controls to suit your own particular bass and rig.

The VT-1 beats my Akai in several respects...Firstly the VT-1 allows a nicely distorted valve-tone to be produced, which obviously a SS pedal can't do. In fact, the sound can be quite significantly distorted...using my Thumb bass and the OMNI15 I could get serious distortion by turning the Compress and Decay knobs to their minimum setting. This didn't seem logical to me but I am sure Dave could explain.

After a bit of knob-twiddling I found I could get some really nice tones out of the VT-1 and 'stomping on the box' produced a 10/10 'Grin-factor' as far as I was concerned at my favoured settings. I suspect that if I were using this box on a regular basis to gig with I would mark my preferred settings on the box with a Sharpie marker. Once you have found your own particular 'zone' I don't see too many reasons why people would want to fiddle too much with the controls unless they changed their set-up.

The VT-1 is a very quiet pedal IMO and only produces noise if you turn everything up to eleven. Even then, the noise produced is a quiet, almost reassuring industrial hum. But who turns everything up to eleven anyway?

The LEDs are really useful. Firstly because the valve is always 'on' and is therefore no indicator of whether the effect is 'on'. The red LED does this job nicely. The blue LED is possibly the key to success with this pedal however as there is definitely a relationship between the activity of the blue LED and the degree of 'Grin-factor' induced.

There is only one thing I have reservations about concerning this pedal and that is the degree of volume change which occurs when switching from 'Hard' to 'Soft' compression. This is definitely not something you would want to do mid-set....But, as I said, this is not a pedal anyone would want to be fiddling about with mid-set anyway. Dial-in the tones you want, mark them and you're away!

Things I like: (In no particular order).
Bombproof construction.
After-sales service.Having something handmade, by an expert in their field, at a very reasonable price.
The uniqueness/exclusivity.
Sound investment..pardon the pun. DHA pedals hold their value really well.
True by-pass.
Really complicated...a treat for the gadget freak, but see my comment in the next section.
It's got a valve in it

Things I'd change: (In no particular order).
That bloody colour scheme...
I think Dave could make more of his 'hand-made' exclusive, reputation. I know it's a bit of nonsense but, if I were he, I'd include a signed, numbered certificate of authenticity or some such other fluff. Or even just paint a number on it...? e.g. “#37 of a strictly limited edition of as many as I can sell”.
The knobs...a bit too agricultural for my liking. I don't know what I'd replace them with, but I would replace them.<LI value=1>Too complicated, for a bear of small brain like me. I want 'compression on' and 'compression off' to be honest. But there again I am a bit of a dunce.
The volume change which occurs between switching between 'Hard' and 'Soft' compression appears to be a bit fierce to my ears.

On a Scale of One to Ten:
An easy 8. (I only give tens if something is so spectacularly good I have to change my underwear).

Would I buy it/buy it again?:

A very reasonable £119.99.

Cheap as chips for a hand-made unique pedal.

Dave guarantees his products for 12 months parts and labour and will happily provide subsequent service and back-up at cost. You can't really ask for much fairer than that!

Dave Hall at:


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Re: Dave Hall Amps: VT-1 Bass Compressor

Post by Dan » Thu Aug 14, 2008 11:08 am

Brilliant review mate, cheers!

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Re: Dave Hall Amps: VT-1 Bass Compressor

Post by Crazykiwi » Fri Aug 22, 2008 8:58 am

I have one of the prototypes at home. It looks a bit like this:

Nice pedal, Dave will do custom colours in his finishes if you ask nicely ;)
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Re: Dave Hall Amps: VT-1 Bass Compressor

Post by binnface » Fri Aug 22, 2008 9:03 am

They do look rather cool unpainted. I would like to try some of his creations some day but as I've never used any effects etc. I cannot really compare.

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Re: Dave Hall Amps: VT-1 Bass Compressor

Post by Randomplay » Fri Aug 22, 2008 11:24 am

Id love too hear what they sound like... i dont suppose yah can get a recording posted of it? :roll:

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Re: Dave Hall Amps: VT-1 Bass Compressor

Post by BigBoris » Mon Sep 01, 2008 8:10 am

Randomplay wrote:Id love too hear what they sound like... i dont suppose yah can get a recording posted of it? :roll:
Dave has some clips posted on his own site...check these out:


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