A problem I find with many plug-ins is either a lack or overabundance of controls. I’m either one parameter short of accomplishing a goal, or I tweak functions just because they are available rather than needed. The greatest strength of Mia Laboratories 409 Opto Compressor plug-in is in its ease of use, while still offering some advanced features not commonly found in other software compressors.

As described by the developer, MIA Laboratories, “The 409 is a powerful and versatile plugin with highly optimized dynamic response, based on the design and principles of analog Opto Compressors” All the major players/parameters are there, such as Threshold, Ratio, Attack, and Release, but the supporting cast of features (where this plug-in shines) include a wet/dry mix, lookahead, plus high-pass and low-pass sidechain filters, support for external sidechains, and a sidechain monitor button.

The Damping and Skew sections, while hard to understand at first, are also extremely useful. Damping, as described in the manual, “Effectively damps any high frequency oscillations to the VCA, and reduces harmonic distortion. Increasing this control gradually thickens up and ‘sets’ together the compression process, also changing the timbre and character of the actual content.” In practice, I found this feature helps return some of the fullness that can be lost when compressing dynamics, and I recommend using it when compressing bass and drums. The Skew “Function allows for the tweaking of the detector response and can drastically change the ‘phrasing’ of the compressed audio...” You will be amazed at what this one knob can do for your drums and loops!

I would describe this compressor as creamy and transparent. It can do “aggressive,” but I think other compressors can do it better. My favorite application was definitely bass guitar. The ability to set the detect circuit to RMS rather than Peak while controlling the lows with Damping makes this plug-in a standout for this application. I also found success on kick, drum bus, and mix bus applications.

Drawbacks are that the 409’s Input is only subtractive and the Output only additive. It would’ve been nice to have more versatility to push the compressor harder at the input because many of the tracks I used this compressor on would only tickle the gain reduction meter – even with the threshold completely lowered. I often had to gain stage before the 409 to achieve the compression that I wanted. This won’t be an issue if you primarily use loops and samples, that have been normalized, but for recorded tracks, the sweet spot for this plug-in can be difficult to find. Also, I would’ve liked to see some presets; that can be helpful for getting in the ballpark quickly. These small quibbles aside, the 409 is an excellent-sounding compressor, that is generous in its versatility while still being easy to use.

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