The "Fat Man" compressor features stereo 1/4" balanced inputs and outputs, 15 presets and manual operation, an affordable price ($460 list) and is housed in an unusual 1/2 rack width, wedge-shaped package (with an angled top that you can't set a beer on). The "tube" is a single 12AX7A running stereo secondary gain on the input (making this a hybrid solid- state/tube device) but the crunch you can get by driving the input knob hard can be interesting and rich - good for fucking up drum sounds! The presets are serviceable, doing a decent job on the tracks they're recommended for (like vocal, bass, guitar, keyboard, etc.), and also fun to spin through randomly to try on the "wrong" settings. Despite this, I mostly enjoyed clicking the box into manual mode and getting more control over the sound. In this mode you can access variable ratio and threshold knobs, but attack and release controls are "fast/slow" pushbutton switches instead of potentiometers, with a hard/soft knee switch as well. The compression circuit itself works pretty well, nothing mind-blowing like an 1176 or a Distressor (not that I was expecting that), but certainly good enough to get the job done without undue coloration (it doesn't affect the signal adversely like some cheap compressors), and easy to use for the recording novice. There are also a lot of bonus features that add to its versatility, like a pair of line-level 1/4" inputs on the front panel (great for synth/drum machine inputs), a +4/-10 switchable operating level and a cute little VU meter that can show both output and compression levels. Unfortunately, my unit had a slight output drop on the left channel when fed a mono signal into both front inputs, something that I hope other units don't suffer from, plus I was continually baffled by the presence of both output level and gain make up level knobs. If I can't really see the need for two knobs here, why would an entry level engineer? Also, any buyer should be aware that the stereo channels are permanently linked together and that there are no sidechain inserts available for frequency-dependent compression. But for the price and given all the features, ease of use, and excellent sound quality, this is an great deal for a "first" compressor or as an extra box to have around the studio. (www.hhbusa.com)
Dynamics, EQs, Mic Preamps | No. 22
by Larry Crane
This is a one rack-space device that, as its name suggests, operates as a complete input channel, featuring a mic pre, high and low pass shelving, EQ and compression. And since it was designed by Mr....