Let’s get one thing out of the way for this OTO BOUM review: I’m a bit of an OTO fanboy. I used to own the infamous OTO Biscuit, an excellent analog bit crusher, which is discontinued and fetches crazy prices on the secondary market. I also added the OTO BIM delay to my setup a few years ago. But deep inside I always longed for their compressor – the OTO BOUM. Over the past years it was mostly sold out and the few times when they had it back in stock, I didn’t have the spare change. Then a month ago the stars finally aligned and I finally ordered and received my own OTO BOUM! So what exactly is this small box and why is everyone raving about it?
BOUM shakes the room
The boutique audio hardware manufacturer OTO Machines describes the BOUM as an ‘analogue stereo warming unit’, but technically it is a great combination of hardware compressor / saturator / filter that promises to have something to offer for every producer out there.
- Compression, distortion, and filtering in one box
- Designed to ‘thicken’ your sound, as well as distorting it
- Sidechain compressor via the 3.5mm input jack
- MIDI DIN input for control via external controllers
- 36 user preset slots available, 12 factory presets supplied
Unboxing and setting up just takes a couple minutes. Besides the device itself, the package contains main power supply, a printed manual and a couple of stickers. As soon as you pick it up, you will appreciate the solid metal housing with four rubber feet and a ventilation port underneath. Looking at the top of the unit you will have six large knobs, eight buttons and a small display. On first use the interface seems a little cryptic, but once you skimmed through the concise manual, you will be flying on this device. On the rear you find connections for power, a MIDI in port, stereo inputs and outputs as well as a sidechain input. The super simple design and compact size actually reminds me more of a guitar pedal!
The first thing I did for this OTO BOUM review is hooking it up as the stereo warming unit it is advertised at. I connected the main out of my Octatrack to the BOUM and went from the BOUM to my audio interface. One thing that annoys me on some hardware devices is the lack of an On switch. Same here, as soon as you plug in the power, the BOUM starts working its magic. Good that they added the Active button which toggles the bypass. Once you hook it up I suggest you cycle through the 12 factory presets by pressing the Preset button, then one of the lower buttons to choose a preset. As I am playing a stereo mix from the Octatrack, I can get a good idea of what this little powerhouse is capable of. After fiddling around with one of the first presets, I definitely notice decent boost and added warmth!
I find it refreshing to only get little visual feedback from the LED display. That means you have to rely on your ears instead of dialing numbers on the screen. On the flip side, there’s one minor thing about the BOUM which I don’t understand at all. How can write red text on a dark green background. It doesn’t look great and is a pain to read, especially in not well lit settings. I guess this will also make you look less and listen more, but it’s a really odd choice from OTO.
The BOUM can be used as a set-and-forget box at the end of the chain, simply to tighten and warm up the stereo buss. It’s totally worth it for this use case. Here’s a good video to explain the usage as a master processor:
For the price – it is certainly a great stereo compressor. Just keep in mind, that the distortion options are not going to be for everyone. It not really the kind of box one can run a signal through with minimal processing for just a little extra something. It doesn’t mean that you won’t like it, but it is very much its own thing.
No I do appreciate that’s also able to do the more extreme distortions if needed. And I do like some not subtle at all processing in my mix bus sometimes. I can see throwing out quite a few pieces of hardware, because I can achieve something similar with the BOUM in a small form factor.
Compressors and ‘warming’ products devices aren’t magic boxes, but this device has a lot of sweet spots. If you are working completely in the box, you might not necessarily need it, but for hybrid setups, the OTO BOUM is a killer addition!
Do I really need this?
To close out this OTO BOUM review I can say, that the BOUM is an excellent processing device equivalent to what you usually put on the master channel in your DAW. Especially for live use I find the BOUM to be a no brainer. It’s great to have some compression and another level of gain staging with hands on control. I wouldn’t play live without a device of this kind on the master. If you are working in the box, you might prefer plugins but a little bit of analog hardware will add some more flavour to your tracks. Instead of buying a bunch of rack gear, the OTO BOUM is a stereo Swiss army knife which offers analogue compression, distortion, filtering and side-chaining in a handy little box that doesn’t clutter up your workspace. I would whole heartedly recommend picking one up!