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I leave this strapped to my master bus inserts. It sounds great.
I have 2 small gripes. only 1 gain reduction meter that only shows reduction and can't monitor input and output. I would like to see what's going in and out in stereo sometimes. Gripe 2, its always linked. This is mostly good but sometimes I want unlinked stereo bus compression. I know this isn't very SSL and this is a budget SSL copy mainly, but as they've tweaked the feature set why not give me unlink, 2 meters and make them assignable?
For all that whinging I love this compressor. It sounds pretty SSLish and has that glue everyone (myself included) has a h@rd on for. It has all the attack and release constants I could ask for. It has a very responsive threshold control allowing me to just tickle the meter in 1.5:1 ratio as I like to, no plugin jackassery where subtle settings produce SLAM for the meathead market. Slam if you must, but it does so much more in capable hands. Finally it has all the ratios one might need as well as a very well implemented sidechain high pass for those club pounders that just pump the thing way too hard. I know this was built to a price point but it outperforms the G bus in many ways thanks to the augmented feature set while maintaining those non-linear feeling envelope curves and the mysterious knee that never does ya dirty. Knobs are mainly detented, other pots are smooth and of good quality. The meter they DID give you is super fast and accurate. XLR and TRS connectors feel solid.
Heres the real jam on this guy though. Its switchable from an electronically balanced IC outut stage in true SSL spirit OR a discrete transistor transformer balanced stage with cinemags. They're heavy, use all 4 rack screws, okay? I gave this thing a bit of a workout day 1 with the IC stage and was dead pleased. Then I took a mix I finished with ITB compression and looped it through. I tried it with the VST buscomp with Warm comp in bypass with the transformers off, then the transformers on, then bypassed the VST and did comp with IC output and then switched to transformers. In both transformer use cases the cinemags added an audible sheen to the top, weight to the bottom and a depth to reverbs and delays as well as pushing the stereo field outside the speakers a bit. Headphone width was really noticeable as was kick punch wether the comp was in or out.... without the transformers the mix of DI synths and chopped samples with a bit of guitar became less interesting and the song's balls shrunk from elephantitis size to "I just took a dip in freezing water". To be sure I wasn't having a honeymoon reaction I also recorded a pass of every combination I mentioned and waited a few days, then sat down and lipped between them on my favorite tannoys. No change in my perception! I didn't label the tracks and when I looked at the file names, lo and behold the compressor-in, transformer-in tracks were my hands down favorite. Its not science exactly, but its rock n roll science, which is good enough for Uncle Jim.
You have to look at the equally wonderful API 2500 or their JDK audio budget version to touch this performance. This is one of my 3 favorite API designs of all time the others being the 512 and the 560 (the only graphic I know fit for use by humans) so I'm shooting high here. On sale on amazon of all places this compressor was very affordable at $600 and tax.... a used JDK is $800 all day. Its also 2u and I have rack woes all the time. Every big gadget I get could overturn the balance and force me to disconnect a 1u or two for space or buy yet another rack and that makes a 2u even more expensive. Especially if I get another rack and then get depressed at how empty it looks and wanna fill it. OH THE HUMANITY! Hardware is a cruel mistress, ain't it?
This has not come off my master bus. It moved from one console to the next this week. It is not in the patch bay, its just hardwired as I don't want to be tempted to experiment. I think it would be a waste of time. Nothing I own will outperform this unit in this roll. For weeks I've been tempted to pull it from the rack and give it a big hug. This has made my desert island island list.
I give this 5 stars as my complaints are far outweighed by the responsive controls, familiar interface, predictable performance and superlative sound quality. The metering and unlink will not be a problem for most folks, only serious compression connoisseurs and control freaks. Buy one. If you can mess up your music with this thing you should stop mixing and just hire me. I'm home all the time these days and I'll fix you up right.
EDIT: be sure to read ALL my compressor reviews
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