When it comes to compression in pedal form, Ken McKim at Retrospec Audio
truly nailed it with his classic Squeeze Box
. This high quality tube compressor and limiter keeps tones intact while smoothing out your sound, in addition to offering a classic warm feel.
The history of the Squeeze Box dates back to Ken McKim's days as a maintenance engineer at Albert Grossman's Bearsville Studios. Affording the tech a chance to build some of his own gear for studio use, the idea for the pedal came about after Ken created his signature DI box, the Juice Box.
"I had developed the Juice Box first and, on the strength of that, someone came into the shop one day and said ‘Why don’t you make a tube limiter,’” McKim says of the Squeeze Box’s birth. “We decided it should be a stomp box for musicians on the road so that they could always have studio quality compression and limiting.”
McKim set about building a prototype in 1993 and, eventually, allowed King Crimson bassist Tony Levin the first chance to use it. "I said, 'Why don't you try it out and see what you think,'" McKim recalls. "I went to pick it up after two weeks and Tony had taken it with him. By the time I saw Tony again, he had used it on a few albums and took it on the road for a year."
After launching Retrospec with the Juice Box and Squeeze Box, McKim found great success with both pieces of gear. Yet, the true impact of McKin's work wasn't realized until after a period of time when he stopped manufacturing product. "A friend called me and said 'I just found a used Squeeze Box on Ebay. Do you know what they are going for,'" McKim states. "That particular Squeeze Box sold for $1745.'"
Deciding to get back to business, Ken recreated the Squeeze Box in a 8" x 6" stompbox, built with tubes and both 1/"4 and XLR outputs, allowing you to connect in your preferred method. While the unit would find a nice home in the studio, it's built sturdily enough to remain true to the pedal's original intentions - a road dog's best compression option.
When it comes to the actual sound of the pedal itself, it's extremely versatile. Whether as a preamp or a pedal, the Squeeze Box can be used in various form to achieve your needs. The basic controls of the unit feature a threshold control, ratio control, EQ and a sensitivity control that allows for 20dB of gain. While there is no bypass, you will always get that warm, vintage sound associated with tube preamps.
Retrospec's Squeeze Box puts a lot of incredible studio elements into one small package. With the ability to have a readily available tube pre, DI and line-level signal processer, all hidden in a gig bag, musicians who own a Squeeze Box will always have a consistent, warm tone, no matter where you are.
Pete Thorn, Vintage King's resident guitar guru, recently took the Retrospec Squeeze Box for a spin and made a killer demo video. Check out Pete's original composition in the video, which uses the Squeeze Box on nearly every instrument that was tracked.