the beauty of opto-electrical compression – volume 2

When I was looking for a sophisticated stereo compressor for the outboard studio rack a year ago, I was surprised to see how many of the more interesting models now use opto-electric compression technology. Whether transparent or coloring, tube or solid-state amplifiers, transformer or transformerless, even two-channel layouts in mid/side encoding: far advanced compared to all the classic mono replicas.

Optical compressors are usually characterized by their distinct program-dependent compression behavior, mainly based on a physical memory effect in the detector itself. Other subtle nuances are found across the frequency spectrum that affect timing and curve characteristics, creating a complexity that cannot be reduced to simple two-stage controlled release curves, and which is the beauty of opto-electrical compression in its entirety.

Significant audio signal colorations, however, are shaped not by the gain reduction circuitry but by the make-up gain amplifier, whether it is tube or solid-state. Here, the audio transformer also plays an important role in polishing the transients and creating a cohesive sound.

ThrillseekerLA was designed from the beginning in 2012 as a modern stereo compressor with exciting sound coloring possibilities. It is a compressor with authentic opto-electric control behavior in feed-forward circuit topology.

The upcoming mkII update is a technical redesign dedicated solely to improving the sound. It delivers a unique box tone with thrilling bass and elegant top end void of any harshness in the mids. The compression not only glues everything together effortlessly, but also enhances the stereo image by adding depth and dimension.

The release is scheduled for mid-December.

compressor gain control principles

A short compendium on digital audio compression techniques.

Basic compressor configurations

Compression vs. limiting

Technically speaking the same principles are used in audio signal limiting and compression processors but just the transfer curves and envelope follower settings are different. Ultra fast attack rates and high ratio amounts are used for limiting purposes which causes just very few peaks to pass on a certain threshold.

In digital implementations limiting processors can be more strict due to look-ahead and clever gain prediction functions which guarantees that no peak information passes the threshold. That is called brickwall limiting then.

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