Review: Baby Audio I Heart NY

Baby Audio's first plug-in goes straight for the modern classic that has become a staple across genres – New York style parallel compression, with an emphasis on the Spank.

Baby Audio I Heart NY

Price $29
Contact Baby Audio

Parallel compression, or the ‘New York style’, has become a widely used practice, and has found favour with many. Numerous plugin compressors offer parallel functionality via Mix or separate Wet/Dry controls, but as anyone who has mixed into compression will know, the type of compressor you select presents a whole series of decisions that can seriously slow a session. I Heart NY from Baby Audio takes away most of the adjustment part by offering the user a simple two knob, one fader parallel compressor that is about as ‘set and forget’ as you could imagine.

The plug-in interface is a little less ‘set and forget’ as it does take up a lot of screen real estate. The knobs (Spank and Output) and fader (Spank compressor level) are accompanied by a Solo switch and two bar meters: gain reduction and output. The metering, along with the controls, is free/bereft of numerical data. It’s not a problem considering DAWs are never short of level data, and there is a good argument for using your eyes as little as possible. The output meter does turn red as 0dBFS is reached, so setting a nominal ceiling isn’t a problem.

The simplicity of the control set meant that I Heart NY is in place and working within seconds and the results were, and remain, highly addictive. The immediate tendency to overuse reminds us of the Kush Audio Clariphonic EQ, and similarly, with time, a more subtle deployment makes short work in a mix.

The lack of Attack, Release, and Ratio controls might seem limiting, but the adaptive nature of the compression, or ‘Spank’, allows I Heart NY to find work all across a mix, from the master bus to individual tracks to creative FX channels. Calling the compression Spank may not persuade you to wave it near a delicate source (e.g. bowed strings), but you’d be surprised what it can enhance; on acoustic guitar it can add weight without losing articulation or amping up body resonance.

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With the Solo switch engaged the plugin works as a straight compressor with Spank acting as threshold and the parallel signal fader as the make-up gain. This is a hard and relatively fast compressor that suits dynamic sources such as snare drums and choppy guitars with a behaviour that is in the Eventide Omnipressor or dbx160A ballpark: strident, punchy and clearly audible as an effect. It certainly spanks.

Heart surgery

Though I Heart NY is capable of a large amount of artefact free gain reduction, it does seem to work best with a healthy constant low(ish) level of GR with enough parallel gain to hear a real change when bypassed, but without audibly pumping and sucking. That said, over a drum bus it can work well pushed just a little too far, especially if automated in a chorus for extra lift. Spending time with I Heart NY made it easy to quickly dial in the right amount, made all the more easy by a quality adaptive behaviour that does not buckle on bass heavy sources and doesn’t completely trash transients until you’re well into heavy gain reduction. It’s nice not knowing how fast or slow the attack and release are, or quite how high the ratio is, and just letting your ears judge the results, though they do need training out of saying ‘yes’ all the time.

For $29 there is a lot of quality and a utility range that isn’t obvious from a cursory glance at the control set. As a New York style parallel compressor it is well worth the small outlay, but in Solo mode you also get a properly spanky dynamics controller. Definitely try the demo and expect to end up buying I Heart NY.

Key features

  • ‘New York Style’ Parallel Compression plug-in
  • VST, VST3, AU, AAX formats
  • Mac OS 10.7 and up, PC Windows 7 and up, 64-bit and 32-bit compatible

Alternatives

PSP Busspressor

PSP
Busspressor $99

A comprehensive parallel compressor with individual dry and wet gain knobs for getting the balance just where you want it. Loads of range in parallel and standard modes and definitely a good work horse compressor/limiter.

Eventide

Eventide
Omnipressor $149

An emulation of a rare Eventide classic and thanks to a recent update has become an easy candidate for parallel compression via a Mix control. The Omnipressor is infamous for extreme and creative dynamics manipulation, but can also be dialled in for more subtle use to great effect, with some familiarity.

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