I admit it, I don't always feel like creating a separate aux channel to add parallel compression on my drum tracks. Enter BABY Audio's I Heart NY parallel compressor plug-in, a bus compressor that allows you to mix a dry source signal with the compressed signal. Simply defined, parallel compression (also known as New York compression) is a dynamic range compression technique used in sound recording and mixing. It is achieved by mixing an unprocessed "dry" signal with a compressed version of the same signal. The I Heart NY compressor simplifies this technique with one plug-in that delivers what BABY Audio refers to as a "fat and punchy flavor."
I Heart NY has four simple controls: Spank, Parallel Signal, Output adjustments, and a Solo button. It's compatible with all major DAWs on Mac and PC. The Spank knob controls the compression algorithm – "a mix of high-ratio compression with a transient-friendly envelope – and a bit of EQ – combined with a low end preservation filter." I found that a little Spank goes a long way while adding a lot of vibe with a wide range of compression.
The Parallel Signal slider allows you to blend the dry and wet compressed signals to get a desired balance while the Output knob will either helps keep the plug-in from overloading the track or gives any desired make up gain. Lastly, the Solo button gives the option to use the plug-in as a traditional bus compressor with no parallel signal or to audition the sound of the compression alone.
I found I Heart NY to be a usable substitute for parallel busing in drum groups and very simple and easy to use. It was also handy to put on individual drum tracks – even when using traditional parallel busing – to beef up kick and snare or to control overhead mic transients. Using multiple instances of the plug-in did not seem to tax the CPU significantly, so it can be implemented liberally throughout a session.
An EQ bell curve before and after the parallel compression would be a welcome feature for use on bass tracks. This would enable the use of an old Motown trick of pumping up the low end to drive compression then taking it back out after without having to create an additional aux. Yes, I'm getting lazy and want I Heart NY to do more of the work!
In addition to drums, I found this plug-in also works well for adding punch to vocal tracks, guitars, and about anything you feel like throwing at it. The trick is to start subtle with the Spank knob, then add enough parallel signal to make sounds pop. The I Heart NY Parallel Compressor is an all-around useful plug-in for adding punch to any source while maintaining the original character. And for $29, there's little reason not to add it to your mixing toolkit. You can even try it for free!