LSR Audio has managed to emulate an authentic ‘70s American peak-detecting feed-back style console compressor circuit (the API 525) and bring it to the digital world with their VLB525 Classic FET compressor plug-in. At first glance, this plug-in may seem daunting due to all the switches and knobs, but it’s actually super simple. The VLB525’s GUI features an input control (which also acts as the compressor plug-in’s threshold), an output control, compression mode (2:1 ratio), limit mode (20:1), four selectable release times, and a built-in de-esser. A CEILING knob increases the threshold and adjusts the makeup gain accordingly to maintain a consistent output level. The VLB525 also offers an ATTACK knob as an extra feature; the original hardware unit (upon which this plug-in is based) had a fixed Attack at 15 ms.

The VLB525 is loaded with character. It can seem aggressive like a Universal Audio 1176, pumpy like a Chandler Limited TG1 [Tape Op #37], or a Q2 Audio Compex [#108]. On the other hand, you can back it off and use it for some color and subtle level control. Additionally, OFF mode allows the signal to pass through the VLB525’s emulated output op-amp and transformer without compression. This compressor plug-in has found a permanent place on my lead vocal bus. I enjoy using the compression mode with faster release times and the CEILING between 6 and 8. The built-in de-esser function is a handy extra feature when using this plug-in on an excessively sibilant vocalist, and also works well for taming a little bit of hi-hat bleed on a snare drum track. Even when “abusing” this compressor emulation, I love how the audio sounds like it’s fighting its way out of the plug-in while adding an element of excitement to the source. The VLB525 also performs well on bass, anything drum-related, and I’ve used it on a mix bus with success. I’m a big fan of how easy it is to dial in a decent tone. Most of the time, the default preset sounds fantastic right off the bat, and rarely is adjustment needed for any of the controls beyond the release time or CEILING parameter.

The VLB525 is an excellent workhorse plug-in that’s full of vibe – fun to use and perfect for anyone that’s looking for something a little different. It’s become a staple in my mix template on vocals and drums. The VLB525’s algorithm has been recently repurposed in the Lindell Audio 50 Series plug-in from Plugin Alliance that emulates a full API console. In addition to highly recommending the VLB525, I encourage you to check out LSR Audio’s other offerings – especially the VLB902 de-esser plug-in.

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

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