Utilizing gain reduction ranges
Finding the sweet spot in a specific compression situation requires seeking the best gain reduction range in the context of the attack and release time behavior (which in return is gain reduction dependent). This opens a vast variety of applications ranging from gentle “fairchild style” bus compression with just 1-2dB of gain reduction up to drum smashing at extreme gain reductions.
As a rule of thumb one can use this basic pattern to perform some very different tasks quite easily:
- 0 – 2dB of gain reduction – the gentlemen compressor. Just polishing the peaks can already make an awesome shiny finish. Use faster attack times and slower release times to obtain a Fairchild sort of feel.
- 2 – 6dB of gain reduction - the typical working range for almost all kind of duties. Pacing this range the compressor is able to achieve both: longterm RMS level smoothing and fast short-term peak management w/o any obtrusive gain riding artifacts. This works on virtually any material and especially also on difficult to handle content: Whether it’s a vocal or brass take or even a slap bass with huge and fast dynamic changes – the program dependency is able to deal with all that without any intervention by hand.
- beyond 6dB of gain reduction – drum smashing and audio effect compression. One might be concerned with deeper gain riding affairs in other compressor devices and used to slow down release timings to avoid distortions. In ThrillseekerLA there is no need to worry about this. Just dial in a 30ms release time if the situation demands it and the compressor takes care of the rest.
Tracking and mixing
Tracking and mixing might benefit from the ridiculous fast timings which are offered for the envelope computation but special attention should be spent on the overall recovery behavior. Depending on the load in the circuit the recovery from gain reduction slows down the more it comes to zero GR. The effect is similar to optoelectronic panel based (vintage) gain reduction stages. Recovery can get really slow by this effect and getting the most out of such units requires to find their specific sweet spot for any particular audio material.
Tracking and mixing might also benefit to a large extent from additional harmonic distortions, especially the 2nd order one. For example, when managing rather difficult audio material such as acoustic bass or vocal recordings this can greatly improve definition.
On the stereo bus
A quick way to back up from too much compression amounts is the RANGE control option which can offer rather forgiving compression characteristics especially suitable but not limited to 2bus compression / program material. The compression capability approaches zero at settings of ca. 20-30dB, very typical for some retro compressors back in the past. In a modern compressor design a similar effect is achieved with dynamic range limiting which allows to apply this in a rather controlled fashion from 0 to 100%. The result is a very fancy compression experience and allows to recover quite easily from too much gain reduction amounts.
Adding color and texture
When using just the compressor engine alone for the very first time, it might appear rather dull compared to other devices and this is because of the absence of any HF hype caused by IM distortions. This is not a bug, its a feature. Instead, the saturation stage of ThrillseekerLA allows you to dial in additional content which is harmonically related in a controlled fashion. Depending on the ‘spectrum’ setting this not only adds some texture and grit to the audio but also allows to color the sound.
In general this might be very obvious with the exception of the ‘transformer’ option which is rather subtle. Using transformer based designs in an analog audio signal path typically leads to some effects where the coupling between the stages becomes frequency dependent, which is a work-load dependent effect in itself. This is exactly what this option does and as in an excellent analog signal path, this is not a very prominent effect but just ‘somehow there’.
Also, don’t forget the sidechain filtering options: ThrillseekerLA offers several features for sidechain signal path treatments. First of all it allows external sidechaining. Then, in the sidechain path two filters can be dialed in: A standard low-cut filter up to 500Hz and a custom sidechain filter which attenuates low frequencies while boosting the HF department at the same time. Linking both channels in the sidechain path is handled internally and there is no need for intervention by hand.
This is not an emulation
ThrillseekerLA does not intend to emulate any specific hardware device and so there is no reason to compare it to any of those or in other words: you might fail to use it as a substitute. However, if you are used to the sound of some of the older optoelectronic leveling devices, ThrillseekerLA might appear surprisingly smooth and even sounding and the difference to the rather modern ones might not be that large on the other hand.