During my time as an engineer I have used some of the world's finest compressors, and at the same time, I've heard some of the worst. Having grown up in a studio, pretty much my whole life, I've been afforded the ability to become discriminating about gear, especially compressors. With that said, I first heard about the C2s at this year's Winter NAMM show when a good friend dragged me over to the STUDIO ELECTRONICS booth. He said, 'check this out' as he pointed to the C2s. So, I ran some signal through it (at an unbelievably noisy show) and I was truly shocked by what came out of this finely crafted 1 RU stereo unit.

It was as if somebody had taken the electronics design time machine, assembled a no sonic compromise, ruggedly built, classic compressor and whisked it back to the present. I asked the designer, Tim Caswell, if I could get hold of a demo unit to try it in a real-world recording situation. He obliged my request and three weeks later a unit arrived at the studio where I was doing the sessions. As I unpacked it I was somewhat dumbfounded. Actually, I'd thought they'd sent me the wrong piece, because it was surprisingly heavy. But once the packaging was removed, there indeed was the C2s. This unit certainly feels like $2495 MSRP, and at 17 lbs I suspected there must be a lot going on under the hood. When I popped the cover, it was confirmed, I realized this is a piece manufactured with zero sacrifice in terms of craftsmanship and sonic integrity.

The input and output section use Jenson and Sowter transformers, respectively (hence, part of the unit's weight), with precision relays to perform the hardwire bypass. A true Class-A design, the C2s' discrete components are all housed in a rugged steel chassis. It looks and feels like you could drop it off a building, plug it in, and have it still work for your session. Anyway enough with the specs, let's get to the sound.

Curious to see how the C2s would hold up to my good old standards, I usually print to tape on my room mics, I began preparation for drum tracking in a 40' x 38' room with 16' ceilings. Two U47s were placed about 12' high and 20' away from the kit on opposite sides of the room, and after my trusty old 1176s were patched in, with the 4 buttons pressed, (my long running standbys for this application), the drummer started groovin' and that classic rockin' room sound I love was there. I decided to try a different flavor by setting up my ADR Compex in heavy limiting mode, again a sound I love that has stood the test of time. Now it came time to put the C2s to the test, I set the unit on slow attack and fast release, in squash mode (of course) and 'oh my god' I was blown away! This thing not only sounded great, but even in heavy squash mode it retained all the original low end punch while at the same time not making the top end washy. The best way to describe this compressor's function is that it actually enhances the transient response of what ever you put into it, with equal ability to provide accurate gain reduction to place your sounds in a mix without making them obtrusive. Tone wise, it sounds like Neve and Urei had a child and named it the C2s.

The next test I decided to run the C2s through was the classic clean compressed strat sound. I went through many of my classic units, a Fairchild, DBX 165, 1176, LA3 to a/b this, and while I have used all of these on this type of sound for years, I was won over by the C2s. It provided such clarity and distinction between every note played that I could have told you what type of strings and pick that the player had used. In the same mix I had a female vocal that needed only the slightest amount of reduction to keep it in line, and yet again the C2s delivered. A setting with a 4:1 ratio, medium attack and fast release with about 2 db of reduction was all it needed.

To sum up, this unit has quickly become my favorite new compressor made to date, and I wish I had four more of them, which in all probability, I will eventually get. The unit is well built and incorporates two dual rainbow PPM LED meters for very accurate metering and possesses a ton of headroom. It sounds amazing, and for a list price of $2495 I think it's worth every penny spent to own one of these handmade beauties, given its superior sonic performance and impeccable craftsmanship. The STUDIO ELECTRONICS C2s is destined to become a classic.

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

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