SECRETS OF COMPRESSION

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SECRETS OF COMPRESSION Powered By Docstoc
					                                                                                                  PRODUCTION TECHNIQUE




SECRETS OF
COMPRESSION
The compressor has become a studio stalwart, but all too often its
true capabilities are overlooked. Mark Cousins is on the level...




W
                         ho would have thought that an            Exploring an expanded set of compression
                         automatic sound-levelling           techniques involves looking at your compressor and
                         device – in other words, a          how you apply compression in a different way. This
                         compressor – could play such an     can be as straightforward as working differently with
                         important and compelling role       the parameters of compression, using lighter, over-easy
                         in the recording and mixing         techniques, for example, or manipulating parameters
processes? In truth, though, compression is one of the       such as attack and release to change the dynamic
most versatile and essential tools an engineer has at        properties of an instrument. You could also look at
their disposal, offering control over fluctuating            different ways of routing and applying compression,
dynamic movements that can make a mix seem                   moving away from inserts, for example, and using aux
uncoordinated and unlistenable, as well as the ability       sends to create parallel compression or using an EQ
to give a perception of loudness and intensity to your       unit patched into the sidechain input of the compressor
music. However, achieving such a wide variety of             to make it respond differently to the input.
sonic objectives requires considerably more than just a
‘tweak and go’ approach to using compression.                Curve ball
     In this feature we’re taking a look at some of the      Most compression applications tend to centre around
techniques used by the pros to exploit the sound and         the ‘knee’ of the compressor – the ‘kink’ in its dynamic
effect of compression in their productions. Whether it’s     response (defined by the threshold) between no
exploring ways of extracting every last decibel of           compression being applied and gain reduction kicking
dynamic range or making your instrumentation seem            in. This tends to produce an audible, two-stage
larger than life, there’s little doubt that modern           approach to dynamic control, with quieter elements of
production styles demand more than one approach to           the signal remaining uncompressed and louder
compression – or, indeed, one type of compressor. So, if     elements appearing deliberately squashed. On the
you were beginning to think that your compressor is          whole, this technique seems to work effectively, with
just a one-trick pony or that your music is missing          the compressor probably spending half of its time out
some dynamic punch, then read on...                          of compression and the other half squashing the input.
                                                             But what would happen if the compressor’s threshold
Compression norms                                            was lowered and the ratio softened to somewhere in
Let’s start by taking a look at the conventional             the region of 1.1:1 to 2:1?
approach to compression and the principal interaction             By lowering both the threshold and ratio a
of its two main parameters – threshold and ratio.            compressor spends more time in gain reduction,
Threshold is the point at which compression begins –         producing a compression more suited to gentle gain
in other words, the level at which you think the input       control than the heavy-handed approach of a high
signal’s amplitude becomes too loud. When the input          threshold and stronger ratio (2:1 or more). For tougher
crosses the threshold a certain amount of gain               applications (like bass compression, for example) this
reduction is applied, with its strength determined by        approach isn’t so useful, particularly as peak elements
the ratio (the harder the ratio, the more aggressive the     can easily slip through the net, but in situations where
gain reduction). The effect of compression is a ‘louder’     you want the compression to be more subtle, the low-
output with a more consistent average level, giving
your mix more impact, for example, or enabling vocals
                                                             ratio approach can deliver the transparent gain control
                                                             lost by a compressor jumping in and out of gain
                                                                                                                            BIOGRAPHY
to sit more comfortably in a dense mix. As simple and        reduction. There’s also no reason why you can’t follow         Mark Cousins works as a
                                                                                                                            composer of production music
effective as this approach is, however, it doesn’t give      a low-ratio/threshold compressor spending most of its          for BMG Zomba. His work has
us the full picture – and, therefore, the true diversity –   time in gain reduction with a more aggressive peak             been used on BBC, ITV,
                                                                                                                            Channel 4 and Five.
of what a compressor can achieve.                            limiter, thereby gaining the best of both worlds.



                                                                                                                        MusicTech MAGAZINE July 2007 23
PRODUCTION TECHNIQUE

OPTICAL                                  Another good method of extracting softer                                 Tough approach: hard ratio,                  Soft approach: low ratio,
COMPRESSORS                         compression is to use a soft-knee compressor (or a                            high threshold                               low threshold
An optical compressor (like the
                                    compressor with a soft-knee function). A soft-knee




                                                                                                         Output




                                                                                                                                                      Output
LA-2A) uses a small
                                                                                                                   Threshold
photoelectric cell to control its   compressor will actually start applying gain reduction
gain-reduction circuitry – as
the bulb glows brighter in          before the threshold value is breached, although
response to the amplitude,          initially at a lower ratio than the value it’s set to. As the                                                                                Gain
                                                                                                                                                                                 makeup
more gain reduction is applied.                                                                                                 Ratio
                                    signal moves over and above the threshold the ratio
An optical compressor,
therefore, has a certain degree     becomes sharper, eventually reaching its set amount.
of lag to its reaction time. Fast
transients can slip through, and
after prolonged periods of
                                    Knees up                                                                                            Input                                     Input
loudness the bulb can take time     A good example of an extremely wide-knee                                                                    Area of compressed signal
to dissipate its light. As flawed   compressor is SSL’s Bus Compressor, as included in the
as optical compression sounds,
it actually produces an             Duende package. At the lowest ratio (2:1), with its
immensely musical gain              threshold set at maximum, the Bus Compressor still
reduction – great for vocal and     registers gain reduction. While some users assume this
bass, but less useful on
transient-intensive tasks such      behaviour to be a fault with the plug-in (most                      A comparative look at two different compression approaches. The
as drum compression.                compressors will have to have their threshold                       first approach uses a high threshold and hard ratio to aggressively
                                                                                                        respond to peak signals, while the low threshold/low ratio approach


THERE’S LITTLE DOUBT THAT MODERN                                                                        on the right enables the compressor to spend more time in gain
                                                                                                        reduction and produces a more transparent result.


PRODUCTION STYLES DEMAND MORE                                                                                Given their graduated move into gain reduction,

THAN ONE APPROACH TO COMPRESSION.                                                                       soft-knee compressors are a great way of knitting
                                                                                                        sounds together – hence their aforementioned
                                                                                                        application as buss compressors. Another variation on
                                    parameter brought down considerably to register even                the soft-knee theme is the variable MU compressor –
                                    the smallest amount of reduction) it is, in fact, a                 Manley Labs’ Variable Mu or Universal Audio’s
                                    particularly good example of a wide- and soft-knee                  Fairchild 670 plug-in, for example – whereby the ratio
                                    compressor in operation.                                            is continually variable in relation to the level of input



                   technique Parallel compression
                   Beef up your compression without losing those transients...
  Whether you’re using a hardware or software compressor, there       the dry, unprocessed version.
  are two principal ways of applying parallel compression. The        If you get the balance right
  first is to use a post-fade aux send patched to the input of your   the material should sound
  compressor (in software you’ll need to send the aux to a            slightly larger, but without it
  buss/FX master and insert your compressor plug-in across it).       appearing deliberately
  To achieve a noticeable, body-enhancing effect, try using a         compressed. As you’re using
  hard 6:1 ratio combined with a relatively high threshold,           aux sends you could have any
  resulting in the compressor pumping in and out about 10dB of        number of sounds accessing
  gain reduction. To get this effect right you’ll need to carefully   the compressor, and the
  tune the attack and release settings – keep them fast (20ms         harder you push the
  attack, 100–150ms release), but with enough room to breathe.        respective elements will alter
        Return the compression into your mix either via a spare       how the compressor behaves.
                                                                                                                                                       As an alternative to using
  return channel in hardware or by routing the FX/buss master         For example, try using gentle parallel compression across
                                                                                                                                                       auxiliary sends you can
  to the main outputs, then blend the compressed version with         some drum overheads, but also bleed in the individual kick
                                                                      and snare mics at a relatively hotter level. The intensity of all                double up the track on an
                                                                      the elements will be lifted, although the effect and ‘breathing’                 adjacent fader and then
                                                                      will be more pronounced towards the close mics.                                  apply the compression
                                                                           As an alternative to the auxiliary approach you can always                  using a conventional insert
                                                                      try splitting the track out to two channels. In hardware this                    path. In this example, EQ
                                                                      requires splitting out to two mixer channels; in software you                    has been added to the
                                                                      can copy the audio onto an adjacent track. Now insert the                        compressed track to further
                                                                      compressor on an insert on the parallel channel/track and set                    ‘hype’ the sound.
                                                                      the compressor up as before, with the level of the fader setting
                                                                      the relative wetness of compression. As a useful addition to
                                                                      either approach, try using some EQ patched across the parallel
                                                                      compressor to further ‘hype’ the sound. Use an equalizer with
  Using an aux send is the usual way of applying parallel             lots of character, and have either end of the sound spectrum
  compression, having the advantage that any number of different      (80Hz and 12kHz) pushed up by as much as 8dB. This should
  channels can also make use of the body-enhancing results.
                                                                      help bring out the parallel compression, as well as provide
                                                                      extra depth and sizzle to the overall sound.




24 July 2007 MusicTech MAGAZINE
                                                                                                                     PRODUCTION TECHNIQUE



                  technique Compression as an equalizer
                  Using a compressor to dynamically modify timbre.
                                                                      sibilance turned down whenever
                                                                      it occurs. But there’s more to
                                                                      dynamic EQ than de-essing…
                                                                            If you’re compressing
                                                                      broad-spectrum material you’ll
                                                                      often find the bass end of the
                                                                      mix dictating much of the
                                                                      compression. The result can be
                                                                      nasty pumping across cymbals,
                                                                      or a bottom end that sounds
                                                                      squashy and lacks definition. In
                                                                      these situations try rolling off
  If your compressor has a sidechain input, try using an                                                                                        Using an EQ’ed sidechain
                                                                      the 300–500Hz region in your compressor’s sidechain input.
  alternative EQ’ed version of your main signal as the key for the                                                                              on a compressor can be an
                                                                      Now the compressor’s output has more room to breathe; the
  gain reduction. Rolling off bass, for example, can help avoid                                                                                 effective technique for
                                                                      top end is still being compressed, but the compression is
  excessive squashing when compressing full-spectrum material.                                                                                  solving timbral issues. In
                                                                      dictated more by its corresponding peak energy (which your
                                                                                                                                                this example, some boomy
                                                                      ear is more sensitive to) than the kick drum. You should also
                                                                                                                                                acoustic guitar notes
 One of the more interesting twists on conventional                   notice the bottom end opening up slightly, and the kick drum
 compression is to use an equalizer patched into the sidechain        sounding decidedly less squashy.                                          have been tamed by the
 input of a compressor as a form of dynamic equalizer. As the               Boosting the sidechain EQ can also help attenuate                   compressor, which is set
 sidechain input is used to control the compressor’s gain-            problematic mix elements – a snare that is too aggressive, for            up to be ‘frequency-
 reduction circuitry (but is not present in the final audio output)   example, or a ‘boomy’ resonance on acoustic guitar. In these              sensitive’ to notes in the
 the equalisation will have a direct impact on the resulting          situations you’ll need to boost the problematic frequency and             region of 150–200Hz.
 compression. A good example of this is de-essing, whereby a          attenuate surrounding frequencies using low-pass and high-
 compressor attenuates excessive vocal sibilance. In this case,       pass filters. Position the threshold so that the compressor is
 the compressor is made ‘frequency-sensitive’ by emphasising          triggered only by the problematic notes/frequencies and adjust
 the 5-8kHz region in the sidechain input, with the resulting         the ratio to achieve the desired amount of reduction.


the compressor’s gain-reduction circuitry is presented                will often be a deliberate manipulation of a sound’s                      FET COMPRESSORS
with. As with the soft-knee design, a variable MU                     attack and sustain characteristics (for more                              FET compressors are another
                                                                                                                                                good example of vintage
compressor is a good choice for buss compression,                     information on this, see the Transient-shaping                            compression, probably best
and is often the preferred option for gelling a mix                   Compression box on page 26).                                              exemplified by the classic UREI
                                                                                                                                                1176LN (now being produced
together and increasing loudness as part of the                            Ultimately, the trick with attack and release times
                                                                                                                                                by Universal Audio). A FET
mastering process.                                                    is to listen carefully to the music you’re trying to                      compressor uses a field-effect
                                                                      compress, then experiment with different attack and                       transistor as its gain control
                                                                                                                                                element, and was designed as a
On the attack                                                         release settings to enhance appropriate qualities. For                    faster solution to the optical
If you’re new to compression, one of the trickiest                    example, if your material is gentle and not too                           compressor. Not surprisingly,
aspects to grasp is a compressor’s attack and release                 rhythmic, some slow settings often offer the best                         therefore, FET compressors are
                                                                                                                                                renowned for their super-fast
times. As a result, most users initially tend to leave                solution. More aggressive music, on the other hand,                       attack times, although the FETs
these controls alone or engage the compressor’s auto                  might require a pumpier form of compression, with                         themselves do offer some
                                                                                                                                                ‘negative’ side effects in
attack/release mode to have the gain-reduction                        fast attack and release times and a noticeable
                                                                                                                                                comparison to more modern
circuit ‘intelligently’ set these times in accordance                 movement in and out of compression, all combining                         designs. Over time, though, the
with the programme material. However, if you really                   to create the required intensity. You’ll also notice that                 quirkier elements of these
                                                                                                                                                compressors became highly
want to get a better grip on what your compressor                     different compressors have their own attack and                           desirable and a musically
can achieve, these relatively innocuous controls can                  release characteristics, from the slow-and-easy                           useful feature.
open up a whole new realm of opportunities for                        response of compressors such as the LA-2A
dynamic control.
     Adapting the attack and release times can have as
much impact on the character of the compression as
threshold and ratio. For example, by using slow
settings on both the attack and release times you can
create a suitably gentle, refined gain control, which
can be a great solution when paired with the low-
threshold/low-ratio techniques previously discussed.
Using faster attack and release times produces a
notably edgier and more aggressive gain reduction, as
the compressor quickly responds to any movement
above the threshold. You can also combine slow
                                                                      Parallel compression combines both an uncompressed version of the signal with a compressed version.
attack settings, for example, with a fast release time,
                                                                      As a result, parallel compression preserves transient details much better than traditional compression.
or a fast attack with slow release, the effect of which



                                                                                                                                            MusicTech MAGAZINE July 2007 25
PRODUCTION TECHNIQUE

VCA COMPRESSORS                         t"#o%&"'to'()ste#',C. )n0'123'0es4&ns5')66
                                                                                                                 Low threshold – gentle compression
VCA compressors represent the           7ont#48%t4n&'to')'%n49%e'(6):o%#')n0'#es%6t'0e;en04n&
pinnacle of evolution in the
world of analogue compression.          on'<o%#';)#t47%6)#'7o=;#ess4on'sett4n&>
Capable of lightning-fast                                                                                                                                            Soft-knee compressor
reaction times, low distortion
and noise figures alongside
                                        The aux approach
detailed ‘tweakability’, these are      .not"e#'o('t"e')77e;te0'no#=s'o('7o=;#ess4on'4s'to
the perfect compressors on              );;6<'t"e'7o=;#esso#')7#oss')n'4nse#t';)t"5'e4t"e#'8<
paper. Many of the pro-end VCA
compressors – Empirical Labs’           ;"<s47)66<';)t7"4n&'t"e'7o=;#esso#'4nto')'7")nne6?s
                                                                                                                 High threshold – hard compression
Distressor or Focurite’s Red 3,         4nse#t';)t"'o#'8<'%s4n&')'s;)#e'4nse#t's6ot'4n'<o%#                                                                                 Graduated knee
for example – have gained an            @.A?s')%04o'=4Be#>'3"e')ss%=;t4on'4s't")t't"e
enviable reputation for
transparent and highly efficient        7o=;#esso#'s"o%60'8e'7o=;6ete6<'=o04(<4n&'t"e
gain reduction, although similar        4n;%t'C'4n'ot"e#'Do#0s5't"e'o%t;%t'4s'EFFG                                Some engineers employ a two-stage approach to compression, with
VCA circuitry in cheaper entry-
                                        7o=;#esse0>'HoDe:e#5'8<'8e4n&');;64e0'EFFG'Det'C                          a low-threshold compressor massaging the body of the sound and
level compressors has
conversely attained a bad               es;e74)66<')t'"e):4e#'#)t4o'sett4n&s'C't"e'7o=;#esso#                     a harder peak limiter catching problem transients. Alternatively,
reputation. Compared to optical         D466'o(ten'ten0'to'7o=;#o=4se'4=;o#t)nt't#)ns4ent                         you can achieve a similar result using a soft-knee compressor.
and FET compressors, a VCA
compressor is far more flexible,        0et)46s5'o(ten's%7I4n&'t"e'64(e')n0'ene#&<'o%t'o('t"e
but they can lack some of that          o#4&4n)6's4&n)6'#)t"e#'t")n'4n7#e)s4n&'4ts'0ens4t<>'''                   to';%s"'t"e'7#e)t4:e'eBt#e=es'o('7o=;#ess4on5'D4t"
all-important ‘flavour’.                    J)#)66e6'7o=;#ess4on5'on't"e'ot"e#'")n05's;64ts't"e                  "e):<'#)t4os5'M;%=;4n&?')tt)7I')n0'#e6e)se't4=es5')n0
                                        7o=;#ess4on'4nto'tDo';)t"s'C')'7o=;#esse0':e#s4on                        &)4n'#e0%7t4on'o('EF0N'o#'=o#e'D4t"o%t'6os4n&'t"e
                                        )n0')'0#<5'%n;#o7esse0':e#s4on>'3"4s'4s'%s%)66<                          4nte&#4t<'o('t"e'o#4&4n)6';e#(o#=)n7e>'''''
                                        )7"4e:e0'8<'sen04n&')';#o;o#t4on'o('t"e's4&n)6'to')
                                        7o=;#esso#':4)')n')%B464)#<'sen05'D4t"'t"e'en0'#es%6t                    Low-level lift
                                        8e4n&')'86en0'o('8ot"'t"e'7o=;#esse0')n0                                 .not"e#'%se(%6');;647)t4on'(o#';)#)66e6'7o=;#ess4on'4s
                                        %n7o=;#esse0's4&n)6s>'.s't"e'o#4&4n)6'K%n7o=;#esse0L                     )s')'6oDO6e:e6'en")n7e#5'D"47"'<4e60s'eB7e66ent'#es%6ts
                                        s4&n)6'4s'st466';#esent'4n't"e'=4B5't"ose'4=;o#t)nt                      on'=)te#4)6'D4t"')'D40e'0<n)=47'#)n&e')n0'6ess
                                        t#)ns4ents'#e=)4n')%0486e5'<et'8<')004n&')'7o=;#esse0                    t#)ns4ent'0et)46'K)'st#4n&'se7t4on5'(o#'eB)=;6eL>'.&)4n5
                                        :e#s4on'o('t"e's)=e's4&n)6'<o%'7)n'st466'en")n7e't"e                     t"e's)=e'DetP0#<';#4n74;6e'4s'e=;6o<e05')6t"o%&"'t"e
                                        o:e#)66'8o0<')n0'0ens4t<'o('t"e'so%n0>'1o#'=)n<                          )4='4s'to'ens%#e't")t't"e'7o=;#esse0's4&n)6'7ont#48%tes
                                        en&4nee#s5';)#)66e6'7o=;#ess4on'o((e#s')n'o;;o#t%n4t<                    on6<'to't"e'9%4ete#';)#ts'o('t"e'=4B')n0't")t't"e



                    technique Transient-shaping compression
                    Using attack and release times to enhance an instrument’s impact.
                                                                            slower. What you should notice is that attack transients –
    Enhanced attack transients
                                      Slow attack (1)                       especially on instruments such as kicks, snares or picked
                                                                            acoustic guitar – becoming more noticeable. The next step is
                                                                            to find the correct release time. Ideally, the compressor
                                                                            should have some time to release between notes, so that it
                                                                            moves somewhere near 0dB of gain reduction before the
                                      Quick release (7)
                                                                            start of the next note (as a guide, aim for around 100ms).
                          First few milliseconds preserved by slow attack
                                                                                  Another way of modifying an instrument’s envelope is to
                                                                            use the compressor to increase its sustain. Again, you’ll need
                                                                            to set up a relatively heavy-handed compression, but this
                                                                            time with a fast enough attack to grab both the transient and
                                                                            the initial loud components
                        Gain reduction applied after attack
                                                                            of the note. Adjust the          Added sustain
                                                                                                                                               Quick attack (7)
                                                                            release time, but try to
   Using slow attack times coupled with a relatively hard                   make it move out of gain
   compression and a quick release can actually increase the                reduction more slowly
   prominence of attack transients in your original material.               than typical applications
                                                                            of compression. What
                                                                                                                                              Slow release (1)
  Manipulating a compressor’s attack and release times can                  you’re aiming for is to find
  be a great of way of shaping the attack transients and                    a release that’s slightly
  sustain of an instrument, and forms part of the science                   longer than the envelope
  behind specific transient-shaping products like SPL’s                     of the note, so that the                                                                Gain reduction
  Transient Designer.                                                       compressor effectively
                                                                                                             Quick attack
       To start with, you need to set up your compressor with a             turns up the output as the
  relatively hard ratio (4:1 or above), yielding about 6–8dB of             note decays. This could
                                                                                                                                    Slow release over duration of note
  gain reduction. At this point, aim for relatively fast attack and         range from anywhere
  release times – in the realms of about 1ms and 50ms                       between 300ms and 2             To increase the sustain of an input try using a fast attack time
  respectively – so that the compressor is moving, but not so               seconds depending on
                                                                                                            coupled with a gentle release setting that matches the decay of
  fast that the input distorts. Now start backing off the attack            the instrument and part
                                                                                                            the original sound.
  time (to around 15ms), making the compressor’s reaction                   in question.




26 July 2007 MusicTech MAGAZINE
PRODUCTION TECHNIQUE

LOOKAHEAD                            gain reduction (applied as the mix gets louder)                    path. This is particularly evident when sounds have
COMPRESSION                          prevents it from having any significant input during               been compressed individually (on a channel<by<
One of the advantages of digital
compression is its ability to        the louder sections. For this kind of low<level                    channel basis) rather than a group (such as a drum
hold data, analyse it, then apply    enhancement you need to be working with a low                      submix or, indeed, the whole stereo mix). Lompressing
the appropriate amount of gain
                                     threshold (in the region of <>?d@ or below), with a                sounds individually offers the most control and, to
reduction – a technique known
as lookahead compression. In         medium to low ratio (no more than B.CD1). Fsing the                some extent, greater transparency, even though you
comparison, analogue                 fastest possible attack time will ensure that the                  might be applying relatively extreme gain<reduction
compression is always reactive
– monitoring the signal and          compressor reacts quickly, while a slow release                    settings. Lompressing sounds en masse, however – in
then applying gain reduction,        (around H??ms) will keep its return to a neutral state             effect, Nmixing through’ a select number of compressors
invariably creating a small delay    suitably discrete and transparent.                                 inserted across buss faders – can be great way of
between peaks and the
compressor’s response. A                                                                                exploiting the character of compression. Oven more
lookahead compressor,                Where and when to compress                                         importantly, though, by putting compression in such a
therefore, has the benefit of an
                                     As well as understanding the various flavours of                   prominent position you’ll be able to make just B–Hd@ of
infinitely fast attack time, which
is why so many of the best           compression you can exploit, it’s also worth                       gain reduction, which will have a significant effect on
limiters (which need to react        remembering the different effects that compression can             the musicality and impact of your track. Qess, as they
quickly) are often digital.
                                     produce when placed at different points in the signal              say, can be moreR




!u#e%&'()ui+e Hardware compressors

                                                                   Focusrite Compounder.
FOCUSRITE COMPOUNDER (£360)
Focusrite’s Compounder is an excellent entry-level
compression solution, with a range of features including
compression, noise gating and limiting. Although the
Compounder lacks some of the character of more expensive
compressors, it provides plenty of detailed control over the
compression (by virtue of its VCA-based design) and can be         Ted Fletcher P38.
used in a wide array of applications, from aggressive drum
squashing to gentle over-easy compression with low
thresholds. The limiter is also a useful feature, especially for
catching stray transients that a softer compression setting
might miss.

TED FLETCHER P38 (£1,099)
A professional compressor like Ted Fletcher’s P38 is never         Universal Audio 2-LA-2.
going to be cheap, but to our minds an analogue compressor
produces results far superior to those of even the best
software compressors. What’s particularly great about the
P38 are the different models, which seek to emulate some of
the finer details of compressors such as the UREI 1176,            Empirical Labs Distressor.
LA-2A and the Joemeek SC2. Although not exact replicas as
such, the P38 models do a good job of approximating these          2-LA-2 is steeped in character, and even in comparison to         ,-./0,/1
compressors’ variable attack and release times, as well as         Universal Audio’s own LA-2A plug-in, nothing beats the power      I Focusrite
ratios that adapt in response to signal level.                     something like this can provide.                                  01494 462246
                                                                                                                                     www.focusrite.com
                                                                                                                                     I Ted Fletcher
UNIVERSAL AUDIO 2-LA-2 (£2,936)                                    EMPIRICAL LABS DISTRESSOR (£1,199)
                                                                                                                                     Unity Audio
Universal Audio’s latest hardware compressor is the 2-LA-2,        Despite the abundance of compressors employing vintage            01440 785843
which, much like the 2-1176, is essentially a stereo version of    gain-reduction circuitry, it’s always pleasing to see a product   www.tfpro.info
one of the company’s existing classic compressors – the            pushing current technology to the peak of its effectiveness.      I Universal Audio
                                                                                                                                     Source Distribution
LA-2A. Much like the original, the 2-LA-2 is simplicity itself,    The Distressor utilises digital control circuitry, making it a    020 8962 5080
with just two modes of compression (Limit and Compress)            tremendously flexible compressor, but equally, its designers      www.uaudio.com
and a Peak Reduction control to vary the strength of the           have kept a firm eye on what makes a ‘classic’ compressor.        I Empirical Labs
                                                                                                                                     Unity Audio
compression. The only minor departure is the variable              The Distressor has two Distortion modes, making it capable        01440 785843
recovery times (slow and fast), offering a great range of          of generating subtle amounts of additional harmonic material       www.empiricallabs.com
compression sounds and applications. Ultimately, though, the       in much the same way as classic valve compressors.




28 July 2007 MusicTech MAGAZINE
                                                                                                               PRODUCTION TECHNIQUE

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    !"#e%&' )"*+e Software compressors
                                  SSL DUENDE BUS COMPRESSOR              design and operation of the
                                  (£999 AS PART OF THE                   plug-in is decidedly retro,
                                  DUENDE SYSTEM)                         but delve a bit deeper and
                                  In our opinion, one of the best        you’ll find a number of
                                  features of SSL’s Duende is the        functions dedicated to
                                  fantastic Bus Compressor.              modern compression
                                  Modelled on the same compressor        techniques. The best of
                                  found in SSL’s G-Series consoles,      these is the sidechain EQ,
                                  its unique ‘massaging’ effect can      which enables you to quickly
                                  be heard on countless records.         roll off treble or boost the
                                  Part of this effectiveness has to be   mids to tailor the compression. Waves L316 Multimaximizer.
                                  down to the ultra-wide knee on
                                  the lowest ratio (detailed in the      SONNOX OXFORD DYNAMICS (£235)
                                  main part of the article), which       Although it’s great to have plenty of ‘character’
                                  provides an almost continuous but      compressors to hand, you can’t beat having a
      Duende Bus Compressor.      gentle gain reduction. As you’d        compressor that delivers precision and
                                  expect, this is a compressor that      flexibility when you need it. Sonnox’s Oxford
     really helps to knit a mix together, as well as squeezing out a     Dynamics is just that, providing a one-stop-
     few important dBs of dynamic range.                                 shop for dynamics processing, including
                                                                         compression, limiting and gating all in the one
     DIGIDESIGN SMACK! (£295 AS PART OF                                  plug-in. One of the Oxford Dynamics’ real
     THE MUSIC PRODUCTION TOOLKIT)                                       strengths is handling ultra-low ratio settings
     Included with the Music Production Toolkit for Pro Tools LE,        combined with suitably low thresholds to
     Digidesign’s Smack! strikes a good balance between vintage-         produce a transparent and light gain control.       Sonnox Oxford Dynamics.
     style processing and modern features and functionality. The         This kind of precision is hard to achieve with
                                                                         many vintage plug-ins, which often have ratio settings
                                                                         starting in the 2:1 region.
                                                                                                                                              ,-./0,/1
                                                                                                                                              I SSL
                                                                                                                                              Sound Technology
                                                                         WAVES L316 MULTIMAXIMIZER ($900)                                     01462 480000
                                                                         Waves’ limiters have really set the standard as far as               www.solid-state-
                                                                         software limiting is concerned, becoming essential tools for         logic.com
                                                                         creating an impressive sense of loudness in mastered                 I Digidesign
                                                                                                                                              01753 655999
                                                                         recordings. The L316 is the latest in the company’s Maximizer        www.digidesign.com
                                                                         series, providing an astonishing amount of transparent gain          I Sonnox
                                                                         reduction through the use of multi-band limiting technology.         Source Distribution
                                                                                                                                              020 8962 5080
                                                                         By using a total of 16 bands, the L316 can respond to                www.sonnoxplugins.com
                                                                         dynamic issues specific to certain frequencies, and thanks to        I Waves
                                                                         its unique Priority feature (making the limiter more sensitive       Sonic Distribution
                                                                                                                                               01582 470260
                                                                         to certain frequency bands) and a paragraphic EQ you can                www.waves.com
      Digidesign Smack!                                                  further shape the timbre as well as the dynamics.




                                                                                                                                      MusicTech MAGAZINE July 2007 29