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The mpressor is a new tool for creative dynamics processing. On top of the tried and tested standard features, this creative compressor provides several special functions that produce fat and freaky sounds by employing a punchy control behavior, colorations full of character and extreme settings. Besides classic tracking applications, its favorite domains are groovy effect compression and creative sound design.
Each of both linkable channels offers a switchable Auto Fast function that allows very fast yet distortion-free compression without any artifacts. The Anti Log circuit generates explicit compression effects such as pumping and breathing. As the mpressor is a true feed forward design, it also allows negative ratios which result in the most ex-treme over-compression effects. The Niveau Filters can change the character of a track from subtle to striking with the possibility of a continuous frequency shift. The Gain Reduction Limiter is a novel feature that lets the user choose the maximum amount of Gain Reduction he wants to draw from the unit, and this at the twist of a knob. The switchable external sidechain inputs make for further flexibility in terms of compression behavior.
The circuit design of the mpressor is completely based on discrete analog technology. The entire signal processing is implemented with single transistors in permanent class-A mode, and even the sidechain and power supply are composed of fully discrete circuits. An oversized power transformer, capsuled conductive plastic potentiometers, internal temper-ature stabilizers for critical components as well as special current feedback amplifiers are part of the technical finesse. The combination of these elements aims at the maximum reachable signal quality and guarantees clean and powerful sound characteristics even when extreme settings are used.
The creative compressor
Compressors are absolute standard tools in daily studio work, but depending on the specific task they need to be used in lots of different ways. The range goes from mild changes of level during mastering to limiting the dynamic range in recordings to extreme compression to shape sounds envelopes.
Hence the various topologies and large range of compressors in the market today. The mpressor is a typical recording and mixing compressor that can handle a wide array of jobs because of its premium audio quality and precise control characteristics. On top of that, it offers a number of special functions that enable the user to create completely new and very spacy sounds.
This makes the mpressor a truly creative compressor that especially convinces with its elaborate and practical innovations. Reducing options to the essential makes it possible to achieve outstanding results for any audio material at first go.
The control characteristics of the mpressor offer a great spectrum of settings without generating any unwanted artifacts or noises. Even very fast attack and release settings can be used without any problems. Already known from the alpha compressor, the Auto Fast feature is a guarantee for very fast but undistorted gain reduction processes: If this function is activated, the attack time will automatically become shorter on input signals with fastly rising levels and intense changes of dynamics.
The novel Anti Log function generates an anti-logarithmic progress of the release curve. The release time will at first become slower when there is an ample increase of compression. As soon as the input signal returns to a noticeably lower amount, the release time will be shortened automatically. Depending on the other settings, compression will become much more audible than before as a result. This feature can be used to achieve BPM-dependent dynamic effects, manipulate the ambience parts of a reverb effect return, or process single sources such as vocals or bass.
Gain Reduction Limiter
Another specialty of the mpressor is its limiter for the control voltage. With it, one can set the maximum amount of gain reduction that will not be exceeded as long as the function is active. Normally the threshold and ratio parameters determine the amount of gain reduction which is adapted to the input signal in order to reduce the loudest parts as desired.
If the limiter is set to a maximum reduction value, threshold and ratio can have completely different settings without changing the maximum gain reduction. In this manner, very special variations of control characteristics can be achieved, e.g. applying a strong amount of compression while preserving the dynamics of loud passages at the same time.
Combining the Gain Reduction Limiter with the external sidechain transforms the mpressor into a true ducker. In this application, the music will automatically be turned down when a voice sets in (or just the other way round). Another option is to apply upward compression that only raises the volume of the quieter parts without changing the actual dynamics at all.
The mpressor provides a switchable external sidechain input per channel. Once it is activated, the compressor reacts to the fed in signals and opens up an enormous variety of additional potentials. A typical application is frequency-dependent compression, where an additional equalizer is used to give certain frequencies a stronger or weaker influence on the overall compression.
True ducking effects are also possible as well as very cool groovy sounds, e.g. controlling a stable synth pad with a drum beat fed into the sidechain. The combination of the Anti Log and Gain Reduction Limiter functions result in very unusual effects that sound like an inverted gate: the loud signals are reduced intensely while the quieter parts come in front more obviously.
In order to add flexible sonic stamps to compressed signal, there is a Niveau Filter placed after the compressor section which has been designed in the style of the audio EQ of the alpha compressor.
It also boosts the high frequencies beyond a selectable center frequency and cuts the low frequencies at the same time (or, depending on the individual setting, just the other way round). But according to the intended use of the mpressor, we have made the possible settings more extreme for more striking and dramatic effects. Only two controllers produce a great variety of different sounds.
These kinds of settings could not be generated by using standard parametric equalizers. The combination of this filter and the special control characteristics enable the mpressor to give a totally new character to the original signal which can vitally enhance a whole production.
Here is an old elysia saying: If you want to make it right, make it discrete! Of course this is also true of the mpressor, as the combination of very extreme control characteristics and an absolutely convincing quality of sound can only be achieved by using discrete circuitry. Therefore all signal stages were designed to use single transistors, resistors and capacitors, so each of the stages could be perfectly matched to its specific task as an important side effect.
Many parts of the circuitry do without negative feedback, and the complete unit works in constant class-A mode in order to ensure the best audio quality in any situation. Even the sidechain and the power supply are built with the exclusive use of single transistors, resulting in considerably lower noise compared to conventional ICs.
A look inside
The choice of components for the mpressor did not leave the slightest room for compromise – a great part of components which are used in the alpha compressor can also be found in the mpressor. All controllers use high-grade conductive plastic potentiometers. All switching functions are coupled via capsuled relays which are placed at the ideal places in the circuitry in order to keep the signal path reduced to the max.
A special input stage was trimmed to show a similar behavior to that of an input transformer. Furthermore, this stage distinguishes itself by a very good common mode rejection and an extra low capacity, preventing unwanted changes of the input signal effectively. A high-grade class-A output stage delivers adequate current to drive even long cable lines smoothly.
The power supply also benefits from the discrete design, as the voltage regulators produce such a low amount of noise that it can hardly be measured at all. A generously dimensioned toroidal power transformer provides enough current to charge the great number of quality electrolytic capacitors very quickly.
Certain critical components of the discrete circuitry are surrounded by special heating elements made of copper. This keeps important parameters constant and makes them independent from changes in temperature and operating time.
Because of its special features and control characteristics, the mpressor is an ideal tool for creating new and interesting sounds. The high audio quality ensures that even the most extreme settings are really useful and that actually moderate signal sources can be enhanced with a fine expression. A very popular application is to process a drum track heavily:
According to the specific settings, the result will be very punchy and contains lots of assertive transients. Or in another case, the loud signals like bass drum and snare are almost completely turned down by the use of Auto Fast and negative ratios, thus only the hihat and the spatial parts stay audible.
The mpressor is a wonderful creative tool for electronic music as well. For example, it is very easy to achieve those characteristic pumping sounds by means of the external sidechain input. These can be used to spice up a track with very vivid grooves which are modulated by the timing of the bass drum. In doing so, a complete song can get a totally different character in no time and effort.
Recording & mixing
The mpressor can certainly also cover all standard duties during recording and mixing sessions with excellence. No matter if it is voice, brass, guitars, drums, bass, etc. – because of its ample control range and its superior audio quality it can always be utilized with great benefit.
In the mix, the processed signals are always present and assertive, standing their ground even in dense arrangements. No acoustic information gets lost, transients benefit from clean and fast projection, and instruments can even gain in dimension and expression. What you set with the controllers is what you hear in the mix!
Just hook up the mpressor to a buss and assign the desired channels to it. The different elements of a drum kit could easily be routed to the same buss, making for a more consistent and coherent drum sound.
If on top of that another mix buss or aux channel is used to trigger the sidechain separately, one can very easily assign the specific channels intended to influence the compression.
Summing it up
Depending on specific styles of music, the mpressor can also be an effective tool for processing the complete audio sum. Especially the more vehement genres like rock and electronic music can profit from this application notably.
If the mpressor is inserted into the sum, it is capable of producing a certain basic sound and groove which affect the complete mix. But of course it can also be used as a hard working brickwall limiter with a focus on increasing the overall loudness explicitly. If you really need to smash it, here you are ;-)
Another popular use of compression is ducking, which is also known as voice over. Radio DJs often use this technique to automatically turn down the volume when a title is announced via microphone.
It is very easy to create scenarios like these with the mpressor: The Gain Reduction Limiter controls the maximum amount of reduction, while the voice signal that is fed into the external sidechain input triggers the compression. The remaining parameters can be used to control the response behavior.
But of course other application areas are conceivable by all means, for example during a typical mixing situation. Here, a brass section can be reduced by 4 dB every time the singer sets in. Or a delay effect is turned down when the vocals start. Just start playing around with it and you will find your favorite scenario very soon...
The integrated Niveau Filter makes the mpressor an ideal tool for adding a characteristic sound shaping to single signal sources. Its easy operation with only two knobs ensures good results in no time at all.
And there are lots of opportunities to bring this feature into play: a slight cut of the low frequency area, easing nasty treble problems, quick changes of voices and harmonics or a better defined punch for bass signals.
The perfect creative compressor! The combination of tried and trusted features with innovative new and really innovative functions makes the mpressor a tool that can be used in an endless number of situations in ever novel ways. Just a few examples:
Because of the well-balanced adjustment of its parameters, the mpressor is suited perfectly for many applications in everyday studio business. The settings shown in the above figure provide a good starting position for ‘normal’ compression jobs like vocals, choirs, guitars, drums, keyboards and so on.
Moderate ratios from 1:2 to 1:5 and release times around 300 ms make a good basis for further parameter variations. The threshold controller can now be used to adjust the desired amount of gain reduction. Depending on the source material, the EQ section can be used additionally with great benefit.
It definitely pays off to spend some time on getting to know this interesting feature of the mpressor and what it can do for your sound. The Gain Reduction Limiters offer completely new possibilities, too, and therefore should be given a try soon by all means.
In this case, a complete drum mix is processed with the mpressor. The intensity of audible transients is determined by the attack time. If this parameter is very short, only the first milliseconds of the signal will be emphasized, whereas longer settings will come closer to its original structure.
The release controller can now be used to adjust the ‘loudness’ (shorter settings produce louder signals), at which longer settings will also give you an influence on the groove of a track. If high ratios are applied, this effect will become more and more extreme. You could also use the GR Limiter additionally in order to reduce the maximum amount of reduction for very energetic drums.
As a result, the drums become very punchy – with beautiful attacks that can really shine in a mix. An increased amount of ambience is generated on top of it, resulting in a loud and massive sound.
If the drums are supposed to sound extremely compressed and loud, this setting can be used to limit almost the entire signal so that there is nearly no dynamics remaining. The Auto Fast function for the attack parameter makes sure that the mpressor works fast but undistorted, and fast release times of about 50 ms are responsible for the loudness.
The ratio controller is set to 1:10 which makes the mpressor act like a kind of fast brickwall limiter. The drums now sound as if they had been recorded with a focus on the room microphones: little transients, lots of ambience and long sustaining toms and cymbals.
If this signal is now routed to a separate fader of a console and then mixed to the unprocessed original, the result will be the typical parallel compression which is very popular for this kind of application.
Because the mpressor also features negative ratios, you can perfectly use it to create weird really way-out effects: Signals sound like if they were played backwards and become louder in their progression. Very loud input signals are reduced by large amounts which creates the reverse effect.
The Auto Fast function for the attack parameter is used to perform the control process fast and free from distortion. The position of the release controller determines the traits the sound will get louder with. The Anti Log mode should also been tried on top of that, as it will even increase the intensity of the reverse effect.
A good balance of the threshold, release and ratio parameters is very important for this application. Settings like these result in the amount of gain reduction exceeding the 20 dB mark quite often, therefore adequate settings of the gain controller have to be made for compensation.
A special task is to emphasize the transients at the beginning of a tone, chord and so on. The Gain Reduction Limiter is of special importance in this scenario. The chosen parameters result in a rather strong compression with quite fast release times and even negative ratios.
Without the limiter the signal would be compressed much too strongly; 10 to 15 dB of gain reduction would occur quite regularly in this case. But now the limiter comes into play by reducing maximum amount of gain reduction to 6 dB. If now the gain controller is also set to 6 dB, the signal will be boosted by 6 dB at its beginning and will then be held at 0 dB in its further course.
If for example an organ is processed this way, it sounds firmer as its transients receive an accentuation. And no matter if a single note or a full chord is played – the output level will always stay the same, so that the result does not sound like typical compression.
The external sidechain input can be used to achieve specific groovy effects. Here the sidechain is triggered by a rhythmical signal like a 4 beat bass drum. The audio path can carry any desired sounds which are then reduced in the rhythm of the bass drum and therefore start to groove in sync with that beat.
Especially the release parameter can be used to adapt the timing of the effect to the tempo of the song, whereas the Anti Log mode offers interesting variations. If, for example, a 16 beat HiHat is processed in this way, it will benefit from a nice vivid groove it will now move in.
Bass sounds can now receive a stronger accentuation, as the ducking effect creates more space in the mix and the focus is shifted more onto the 4 beat bass drum. If the mpressor is inserted into the subgroup of a mixing console, you will also be able to trigger an arrangement of various instruments etc. via the external sidechain.
An interesting variant of the groove ducking technique is negative gating that is based on faster release times and uses the Anti Log mode. Higher ratios are also very typical for this process. If now a bass drum is fed into the external sidechain input as a trigger signal, for example, the compressor will reduce the audio signal by a significant amount, resulting in gain reduction values of 30 and 40 dB.
After the trigger signal has faded away, the gain reduction value is kept constant by the Anti Log function for a moment, after which it rebounds rapidly. This special envelope makes the effect almost sound like a gate – but with the difference that the signal is made quieter instead of being totally muted.
If you want the effect to be as stable as possible, please take care that the trigger signals have even attacks and levels.
Using the mpressor in combination with effect units like reverb, delay or chorus will result in fascinating results. The important point in this case is that compression is applied after the signal has passed the effects processor. The external sidechain input, however, is fed with the original dry signal that is also fed into the input of the FX unit.
If a drum track is processed with a reverb, for example, the reverberation can be compressed extremely strong so that it will almost vanish in very loud parts at first. It sounds different than only compressing the reverberation without using the external sidechain, because now it depends on the dynamics of the original signal.
An electric piano which is processed with chorus and delay effects can benefit from this technique, too, as the chorus/delay effect will become more and more prominent while the played note decreases in volume. Here it is important that all effect units only send the pure effect signal (100% wet) which is then mixed to the dry signal on a parallel track.