One of the first things I learned when I started recording live concerts is the importance of a compressor/limiter right before going to tape/hard drive. All it takes is one little nasty "snap" of a digital overload to ruin everything. When there's no chance for a second take-and quite often no sound check-a compressor/limiter is your safety net. In the olden days, the Behringer MDX2400, a four-channel, single-rackspace compressor was the perfect solution. It gave you control over threshold, ratio, output gain, and you could choose between soft and hard-knee curves. The new version, the MDX4600, has several added and wonderful features that make it even more perfect for live sound applications- and just all around.
First and foremost, an "enhancer" circuit can bring back high frequency aspects of heavily compressed material. The dulling effect you can get with compression vanishes, and what you hear is an incredibly smooth and even sound, even when it's effectively limited. (I hear myself saying "even" a lot this review.) And the peak limiting has a very clever feature; if it has to limit the audio for more than 20 ms, it lets go slowly, not instantly. Again, the result is compression that does its damndest to be truly invisible.
There's even a gate on each channel, and control over the gate's release-all these tricked out features are available in more detail and with more control on the two-channel versions of this new generation of Behringer processors. A chatty manual is also included, with fairly sophisticated discussions of the issues that the machine addresses and the theory and practice behind the concepts-in eleven languages. Sure, Behringer boxes as a rule run hot, and there's some kind of aura of "cheapness" to their products, but I'm not sure where this comes from. The three MDX4600s that I've bought in the last month have performed flawlessly-magnificently even. Stop me before I buy another one. ($130 street; www.behringer.com)