Mike Berry got in touch to tell us about his Find Of The Week and it is Blue Cat Audio Dynamics Plug-in because he can get the same sound as the old school broadcast style compressors. We covered it briefly in Podcast 180 but felt it was worthy of an article on its own. Over to you Mike....
Here is what I like about Blue Cat Audio Dynamics plug-in. It makes it easy to obtain broadcast style compression with expansion that allows fast release times without aggravating noise & leakage......long story. I started out in broadcasting in the 1960s. At that time there were several broadcast compression units that had compression and expansion both built into them. The most famous of these was probably the CBS Audimax. There were similar units from other manufacturers. RCA had the BA45 and Gates had the 'Level Devil' & 'Solid Statesman' compressors.
The first product that Mike Dorrough made was the DAP (Discriminate Audio Processor) which was a 3 band parallel compressor with the compression/expansion characteristic. My favorite was the EMT 256.
All of these units had one thing in common. When resting, the gain went to a midpoint, not to full. If the level rose, they compressed (took out gain), if the level fell, they expanded (added gain). When presented with silence, they floated back to the mid-point, not to maximum gain. The idea here was not to 'suck up' noise during periods of silence.
There was a joke at the time. "Station **** has a safety problem and they put seat belts on the presenter’s chair. That's because they use so much compression that if the presenter ever stops talking, he will be sucked right into the microphone!"
So that's still a problem today with large values of fast release compression sucking up room leakage. We usually solve it by using an expander plug-in along with the compressor. The problem is that it is very difficult to obtain a smooth agreement between the compressor and the expander. If the source has a fairly wide dynamic range, it can sound bad when it goes from loud to soft passages and obviously reverb tails can be compromised.
I have been looking for a long time for a plug-in that would have the characteristics of my old EMT 256. My best shot was to use two instances of the Eventide Omnipressor. That worked but it was very touchy to adjust and obviously awkward.
The Blue Cat Dynamics plug-in has 2 sets of threshold/knee/ratio/depth controls. It is easy to set it up as both a compressor & expander to achieve the broadcast-style action. Also note that depth control. I find that very useful. I first encountered a depth control on an API 235L. You can live without it but it makes expander adjustment much easier. I have become a big fan of Blue Cat. First because they give away a bundle of excellent plug-ins. Also because they take great pains to provide midi control over almost every parameter. The dynamics plug-in is unique in that it is the only way that I know of to achieve this broadcast style action with a single plug. It is relatively easy to achieve smooth adjustments with it.