compressor aficionados (3) – Tony from Klanghelm

Tony, your DC8C compressor release has caused quite a stir last year. What’s that magic formula behind it?

Wow, you’re getting straight to the point🙂
I think, people appreciate, that DC8C doesn’t try to emulate an analogue design. I wanted to create a kind of compression chameleon, that get’s every job done. There are not that many compressors available, that do not create any harmonics at all and are able to work completely clean even at extreme settings. The way, this was achieved leads to DC8C’s unique sound, which might be another plus. Also, I believe, that the interface is playing a big part here, since it looks quite simple to use despite the huge amount of control it offers.

Could you explain a little bit about your technical design process? Is it rather analytical, empirical or are there even modelling techniques involved?

I love experimenting with lots of different stuff all the time. It’s often quite chaotic but leads to surprising and sometimes even good results:-). Coding plugins is actually comparable to how I approached songwriting: just try to tune each string of your guitar to a timbre you like, then trying to get all strings to give a nice melody when strummed even without using the left hand and finally “invent” new chords and built your song upon that.

For my upcoming saturation plugins, though, it was a bit different: I’ve started with creating some rough models of actual analogue designs also using circuit modeling techniques. But I only wanted to have rough models to get an idea how and why the different parts of the circuit are working and what exactly they are doing. Then I extracted the things I don’t like about these designs and exchanged them with more theoretically ideal (at least for my personal taste) options (digital?). So for the final result the analogue models only served as starting points and have not much in common with the outcome.

But I think about 60% of what I’m doing is listening to the stuff to get every possible nuance of the sound for fine-tuning purposes. This is all very time-consuming. In the beginning I really hoped to be able to release a plugin every 3 months but it just doesn’t seem to be possible with how I approach all this stuff.

Thanks for the insights and yeah – perception and careful listening can’t be rated high enough! When designing a digital compressor today, what are the most difficult challenges to deal with from your point of view?

Getting the attack right, get rid of the need to oversample, preserving the nature of the input signal. There’s still a certain typical clickyness in almost all digital compressors, that just doesn’t feel right. OTOH, if a digital compressor doesn’t have this click-click-click, it often blurs the transients too much and destroys the original character of your input signal.

Can you give a glimpse for the reader at how to get rid of oversampling – just if it’s not a secret of course? Also I would like to know if you are still using hardware based effects in the studio? From a quality perspective, is there still a difference? In which regard is the software already superior today?

Well, without revealing too much: I try to smooth out everything, that every transition between processes runs smoothly, so no sharp edges, no abrupt changes. Also I’m constantly trying to collect data about the behavior of the signal, level, loudness, transients etc. and let this data influence the behavior of the applied effect.

I use very few studio hardware these days but I do plan get some more analogue stuff again soon. Hardware is still a great reality check when coding plugins There are already great plugins available, but I really can’t imagine, how a plugin could replace my beloved space echo or my 70’s Marshall or my old fuzz boxes. I mean, these are real instruments!! I don’t think, that plugins are THAT much inferior sound wise, though. Maybe it still takes another 2 or 3 years to get there. Digital is already great for all precise, surgical stuff. But, frankly, I never really thought about digital replacing analogue for me. They’re two different things, each with its strengths. I think, they can coexist peacefully until the end of time, when people stop accepting digital only, if it mimics analogue stuff.

So, what do you think could be the next step or to be improved in the upcoming generation of digital dynamic processors?

Getting the attack right is still the biggest problem IMO. I think it might need a completely different approach, because it seems, that there is almost no sweet spot between clicking and blurring.

One last question: You are a musician, have toured and worked as a producer and now you are the man behind Klanghelm. What finally made this decision? And btw. what is the story behind the company’s name?

I’ve always been very interested in the technical side. And I’ve always wanted to get to the source of sound. So coding plugins gets me quite close. It wasn’t really a decision, more of a smooth transition. PlugIn coding almost replaced writing songs for me. It’s an equally great way to express myself and to create something, that might be enjoyable for others too. A nickname of mine has always been “tonhelm”. So I just made a “sound helmet” (Klanghelm) out of the “tone helmet”. That’s all🙂 Nothing I really thought about.

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Comments

  1. Very good. Can’t wait to try anything Tony releases in the future.

  2. “I’ve started with creating some rough models of actual analogue designs also using circuit modeling techniques. But I only wanted to have rough models to get an idea how and why the different parts of the circuit are working and what exactly they are doing. Then I extracted the things I don’t like about these designs and exchanged them with more theoretically ideal (at least for my personal taste) options (digital?). So for the final result the analogue models only served as starting points and have not much in common with the outcome.”

    I am thinking about this kind of process nearly the same though I am more a consumer than a coder. In the analogue domain everything has been tried to reduce the noisefloor and the distortion. In the digital domain everybody wants back the good old warmth. Tony is so true about this. Everything you need is a rough overview about what´s going on inside the hardware, eliminate the bad things and add the cool gadgets that are not available in the analogue domain. Being creative helps a lot and thinking outside the box is nearly mandatory. I think putting all those things together is the real art. All those nifty functions that happen simultaneously and in realtime and doing all those tricky things. I am aware that it is not that easy as it sounds. But it´s similar to modular sounddesign. It´s not the basic model of something that will take the most time, it´s always the fine tuning of the envelopes, making the right decisions at the right time and always keeping an eye on the global modulation. Creating an oldschool brass patch is a matter of seconds but bringing life into such a simple patch is more than difficult. Otherwise everyone else would have skills like Jean M. Jarre or B. Eno.

    Regards,
    Sebastian

  3. Congratulations Tony on the DC8c !! Keep up the good work!

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