6 of the Best: Compressors

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We’re pumping and levelling this month. No, we’re not working out in the local gymnasium, but revealing six of the best hardware and software compressors for levelling out your recordings to pumping your side-chains…

Best Unique: Audified U73b

Audified U73B

Price $149
Contact Audified | www.audified.com

With the U73b, Audified has modelled the circuitry of the rare and highly sought-after Telefunken U73b tube compressor, a German compressor from the 1950s used in FM broadcasting during the 60s, 70s and 80s but later as a favourite for vinyl mastering. As such it has a pretty unique sound…

We said “Just when you think you’ve heard every flavour of compressor possible, something different comes along. The U73b is everything you could ask for in a vintage analogue emulation… characterful, warm and sometimes unpredictable. Overall, this is a great compressor that doesn’t really sound like anything else out there. It’s not a tool you’d want to use for every application, but if you’re looking for a warm, punchy, thickening effect on individual tracks or your full mix, the U73b is ideal.”

Most Versatile: Great River PWM-501

Great River PWM-501

Price £874
Contact Great River | www.greweb.com

The PWM-501 uses a pulse width modulator (hence the PWM) as the gain control element, meaning it has a fast response characteristic similar to a FET and VCA design. It also has extra controls that make it highly flexible, capable of gentle levelling, peak limiting and full-on pump-action squashing.

We said “We had tremendous fun experimenting with the PWM-501 during our initial test, boldly tweaking the knobs to hear the vast array of compression and limiting effects on offer. This was useful to determine how far we could push the unit before we began using it in earnest, less aggressively, during recording and mixing sessions. Once we had got a handle on its capabilities, the unit became intuitive to use. It is wonderfully versatile and capable of everything from gentle levelling to hard limiting. Recommended.”

Best Teletronix: Warm Audio WA-2A

Warm Audio WA-2A

Price £799
Contact Nova Distribution | www.warmaudio.com

Warm Audio is very well regarded for its affordable hardware clones and this one is based on the legendary Teletronix LA-2A Leveling Amplifier, which first appeared in 1962 and is well known for its smooth response characteristics.

We said “The WA-2A offers classic signal levelling that sounds much better than it has any right to at the price. Just a few years ago, it would have been unthinkable to produce a quality valve LA-2A copy for a three-figure sum. Excelling with vocals and bass, the WA-2A performs superbly on all manner of audio. Not a first choice for extreme compression effects, but a linked pair is ideal for group and mix buss compression. This is a welcome addition to Warm Audio’s catalogue. With its classic style, performance and bang-for-buck, it re-levels the playing field for units of this kind.”

Best Beatles: Chandler Limited Opto 500

Chandler Limited Opto 500

Price £1,195
Contact Nova Distribution | www.chandlerlimited.com

This 5-series Opto compressor is designed to be used alongside Chandler’s TG2-500 preamp and the company’s TG12345 mkIV EQ. This gives you a complete Abbey Road EMi console strip of preamplifier, compressor and equalizer for the ultimate Beatles sound. Of course you can use it on its own but it’s really part of a team…

We said “Transient peaks are controlled while overall level is increased. Used with fast response times, the limiter can create explosive sounds – think Ringo Starr’s drum sound on Tomorrow Never Knows from The Beatles’ Revolver. Dramatic compression effects like this can be startling on first listen, however it doesn’t take too long to master with judicious use of the Input, Attack and Release settings. This is the sound of The Beatles’ Abbey Road album as well as classic, polished 1970s studio productions from Pink Floyd, Kate Bush and others. Along with Neve, the TG series of consoles represented the pinnacle of solid-state design until SSL arrived on the scene.”

Best Multiband: Leapwing Audio DynOne

Leapwing Audio DynOne

Price £179
Contact Leapwing Audio | www.leapwingaudio.com

DynOne is a five-band linear phase dynamics processor that aims to marry the arts of parallel and multiband compression; two types of very different compression, one powerful, one more subtle.

We said “If you are working on acoustic, orchestral, dialogue, or more nuanced and subtle music, then this is a superb and highly-flexible tool that has the ability to lift the quieter elements without destroying the overall dynamic. We really enjoyed our time using DynOne. One of the things that really stands out when using it is the speed at which you can get really great sounding results.”

Best Teletronix (Disguised): Golden Age Project Comp 2A

Golden Age Project Comp 2A

Price £560
Contact Golden Age Project | www.goldenageproject.com

Whereas Warm Audio’s WA-2A on the previous page is an out and out LA-2A copy, this Golden Age Project Comp-2A is a 2U, half-rack, single-channel compressor/limiter based on the electro-optical gain-reduction module, used in the original Teletronix LA-2A. We’re splitting hairs, really, as you’ll get the same characteristics from both units and a classic LA-2A sound…

We said “Sometimes simplicity is key to producing good results. While some units feature lots of user- adjustable controls, this program-dependent compressor levels audio signals smoothly, without introducing obvious compression artefacts. “GAP’s latest compressor is an authentic-sounding take on the classic LA-2A in a compact case. Its simple-yet-clever operation is ideal for vocals, bass instruments and most sources where transparent levelling is desired, rather than heavy compression effects. It does all the hard work so you don’t have to. Highly recommended.”

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About Author

Andy Jones

Andy Jones has an MA in Music Technology and has been writing about it for 25 years. He has launched and edited several magazines on the subject and was editor of MusicTech for the last four years. Naturally, he has far too many synthesisers...

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