The Aria has several features. The Compressor is the best I have used so
far, and Robert Keeley is well known for this technology and for good
reason. The Blend knob allows you to add
Compression, yet maintain as much dynamics in your tone as you like. With the Blend turned low (9-oâ€™clock) there
is obvious compression, but with some difference in notes played softly or aggressively. Most importantly, harmonics and dynamics
shine through. Even at 12-noon
compression rounds out the tone very well, but dynamics still pop and you donâ€™t
get that flat squishy effect. Turned up
full and there is some squishiness, yet it sounds more natural and authentic
than what Iâ€™ve experienced with other compressors (you donâ€™t get that massive
tone suck common in other compressors).
The Sustain knob works well, and I tend to like it around 12-noon â€“ that
setting does not produce too much background hiss and allows you to play some
slow lead lines without the signal dropping quickly. And thereâ€™s a Level and Tone knob on the
Compressor side for some final tweaking.
There also are Level and Tone controls on
the Drive side. The Drive knob produces
a modest effect around 9-oâ€™clock and hits a sweet spot around 1-oâ€™clock
(presuming youâ€™re running through a clean amp).
Beyond 1-oâ€™clock and the tone becomes more saturated, which is fine if
thatâ€™s what you want, but note definition coupled with maximum gain (while maintaining
note definition) seems to be around 1-oâ€™clock.
If added to a higher-gain amp channel, then obviously the Drive needs to
be tamed if used as a boost. The Drive side also offers two settings â€“
low-gain and high-gain. The low-gain
setting produces far more dynamics and headroom, and has an excellent clean-to-rock
sound (more appropriate for rhythm, but sounds good with lead as well). The high-gain setting seems to sit best for
lead playing, as it has a smoother and more saturated attribute. That quality is even more apparent
(regardless of low-gain or high-gain) if you toggle switch the Drive before the
Compressor (since the compressor smoothes out the drive); conversely, placing
the Compressor before the Drive maintains more of the toneâ€™s original
characteristics and push in the mix.
Aria offers a few different options for hook-up. Typically, you would place the Aria at the
front of the pedal chain, as would be expected with a compressor and drive, but
you also can use Stereo TSR cables so that you can fit other pedals between the
compressor and the drive, such as a wah, distortion, flange/phaser, etc. In a sense, think of it as an effects loop. From there, and at the flip of a toggle, you
can decide if you want the Compressor first (more dynamics and headroom) or the
Drive first (a smoother, rounder and warmer tone).