Lindell Audio seeks to further its reputation in the compression/limiting fields with a new model. John Pickford puts it to the test in this review of Lindell Audio’s 17XS MkII Compressor/Limiter.
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Back in February we tested a trio of Lindell 500-Series modules, awarding them a coveted MusicTech Excellence Award. As impressed as we were with the mic preamp and EQ units, it was the little FET compressor that really blew us away. With that in mind, we couldn’t wait to get our hands on Lindell’s latest incarnation of its full-size flagship compressor/limiter. The 17XS MkII is a single-channel, 2U 19-inch rackmount unit based on, but not an exact copy of, arguably the most celebrated solid-state compressor of all time – the Urei 1176 (see Studio Icons in MusicTech Magazine issue 111 for the full 1176 story).
Like its little brother and legendary forefather, the 17XS is a Field Effect Transistor design offering five selectable compression ratios; however, this new model incorporates some useful features not found on original 1176s. Firstly, there are two push-buttons that activate gentle high-pass and low-pass filters on the input signal, operating at 80Hz and 8kHz respectively and useful for taming unwanted noise at both ends of the frequency spectrum. A separate high-pass sidechain filter is available on a stepped switch that operates at 100Hz, 200Hz, 300Hz and 600Hz. This can be very useful when dealing with audio that features lots of low-end information, allowing a healthy dose of compression to be applied to the midrange and top end without introducing negative pumping effects that bass-heavy signals can induce.
Another feature absent from the classic Urei 1176 but, we are pleased to say, becoming increasingly popular on modern compressors is the variable wet/dry mix pot that enables parallel compression effects to be performed in-the-box. This pot, like the Input and Output pots, is a high-quality Alps unit and designer Tobias Lindell has chosen first-class components throughout, including superb-sounding bespoke hand-wound transformers, which are responsible for much of the unit’s sonic character. This is a very well-built and neatly laid-out piece of kit that looks very smart in its black brushed-aluminium casing.
Attack and release times, along with compression ratio, are selectable via five-step switches with response times between 20–800 microseconds for attack and 50–800 milliseconds for release. The 17XS offers the same compression ratios found on the 1176 (4:1, 8:1, 12:1 and 20:1) but adds an additional setting of 100:1 to emulate the ‘all-in’ method that engineers discovered long ago by engaging all four ratios on the 1176 at once. Incidentally, the Mk1 17XS employed toggle-style Fender Super Switches for these functions instead of the rotary switches found here. XLR connectors on the rear panel give the option of two outputs, either pre or post the wet/dry mix pot.
We began our listening tests by strapping the 17XS MkII across a highly dynamic male rock vocal track. Even without applying any compression we could hear the sonic signature of the unit, which seemed to flesh-out the signal, adding a very pleasing amount of body to the voice – this is not one of those ultra-transparent units that adds nothing to the sound: this compressor demands to be heard.
FET compressors such as this often sound great on drum mixes and we couldn’t resist sending a mono drum mix through the 17XS. By making use of the high-pass sidechain filters and wet/dry mix pot we created a variety of sounds ranging from fat and punchy at lower compression ratios to full-on sucking and pumping in 100:1 ‘all-in’ mode. Of course, the majority of drum mixes are created in stereo, which would require two of these units; however, we noted that there is no facility to link another 17XS for stereo operation (two units would have to be very carefully set up in order to work successfully in stereo).
The new Lindell 17XS MkII is an excellent compressor/limiter. It offers the classic sound of the legendary Urei 1176 but with the addition of some very useful features. The wet/dry control in particular is a very welcome feature, making parallel compression effects easy to dial in and compare without the hassle of setting up extra channels. On top of that the unit is very attractive in its elegant, classic styling, with a funky retro-looking VU meter and decent-size pots and switches that feel really nice in use. We are sure the 17XS will win many friends in top studios worldwide.
+ Classic FET sound
+ Parallel compression
+ Useful filters
+ Excellent build and finish
– No stereo linking
The 17XS MkII is a thoroughly modern take on the classic Urei 1176 compressor with several useful features that make it an extremely versatile single-channel dynamics controller. This is a seriously good compressor at a very reasonable price.