"Why did the producer cross the road? Because that's how The Beatles did it!" I forget who first told me that joke, but if you can relate to it the way I do, you're going to want to check out the new Kush AR-1 Vintage Mu compressor plug-in. The Kush AR-1 is modeled after the Lisson Grove AR-1 compressor, which counts Michael Brauer [Tape Op #131] and Nigel Godrich as megafans. I've never used the Lisson Grove hardware, but I'm familiar with the Highland Dynamics BG2 [#113] and BG1 compressors, which share a lot in common. They're all based on the legendary British-modified Altec 436 variable-mu compressors used all over the place on The Beatles' records.

I've been fortunate over the past decade to work primarily out of studios that have Highland Dynamics compressors wired into the patchbay. The "secret" trick I've learned is to use them often on everything and my final mixes end up sounding better. The problem for me is my personal studio has only one BG2, plus I prefer to mix primarily in the box. Enter the AR-1. The moment I inserted this plug-in I felt an instant of familiar joy. It feels like Kush Audio has figured out how to replicate the magic sauce that only my BG2 had been able to deliver before. It's a combination of harmonic richness and weight that I've never felt from a plug-in before. It packs a perfect wallop when used on a mono drum mic and fat attack when used on bass guitar. Vocals come out sounding buttery smooth, and it's found a home on the drum bus on most of my mixes since this plug-in was released.

These kinds of compressors are nearly idiot proof in that it's hard to make any track sound bad. The compression feels gentle and even with large amounts of gain reduction with result that always sound flattering in a classic "records I grew up loving" way. The plug-in is much more flexible to configure. The high-pass filter on the sidechain and the wet/dry knob are welcomed additions, plus the attack/release times actually feel considerably more useful than the hardware (thank you!).

I'm a Kush subscriber, so I got the plug-in the day it came out, but at $99 it feels like a no-brainer for an analog-sounding compressor plug-in that brings the same smile to my face that my BG2 does every time I insert it on a track.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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