It's no secret, a plug-in I absolutely adore is the Maag EQ4 from Plugin Alliance. I put my hand on my heart when I say this: I use it all the time when I'm producing music in Pro Tools. The EQ4 plug-in is a very musical sounding EQ that adds beautiful shimmer and shape to any track in a mix. I could say the Maag EQ4 is one of my top "go to" plug-ins, but to me, it's so much more than that, I consider it a hero plug-in. Over the years I have not had an opportunity to try any Maag hardware, unit recently... I had to meet one of my heroes.
Thanks to our friends at KMR Audio for kindly lending Pro Tools Expert a Maag Magnum-K for this review.
Before I took delivery of the unit I did a fair amount of research to find out what the Magnum-K is all about. I honestly thought I had a good understanding of its functionality up until the moment when I screwed it into my rack. It was at this point I realised that this unit is so much more than just a compressor/EQ unit. For instance, the EQ section on the far right of the unit isn't fed from the compressor on the left, it works in parallel and there is an input attenuator knob and FF & FB settings... This struck me as a very different piece of gear to what I'm used to. I wasn't quite sure what was I looking at, I struggled to think of what type of tracks to run through it for testing.
What Is The Magnum-K?
Put simply, the Magnum-K is a single channel (mono) 1u dynamics rack unit that features two types of compressors and one Maag EQ2 section.
- A unique input section that features two knobs:
- Input Attenuator: If an incoming signal is too hot or hasn't got a lot of headroom this control can be used to back off the signal before processing through the Magnum-K.
- Input Gain: Use this to make up any signal and/or drive signal into the compressor.
- Magnum Comp - Optical Compressor
- Comp Range: 4dB, 8dB, 12dB, 16dB
- Ratio: Max to Minimum
- Sidechain: Off, 40Hz, 80Hz, 120Hz, 220Hz, External
- Attack & Release
- FB Feed-Back
- FF Feed-Forward
- K Comp - Fixed 3kHz compressor that helps reduce harshness in sound. Think of this as a DeEsser with one control - Threshold
- Parallel EQ2:
- Air Band
- Makeup Gain
- Soft Limiter
- Link: For using two Magnum-K units in stereo
- Engage: Bypass
Using The Maag Magnum-K
Below is a typical Maag Magnum-K workflow I used for processing female vocal tracks in Pro Tools:
- Create a single mono hardware insert on track in Pro Tools
- On the Magnum-K, lower the Input Attenuator knob if there's not a lot of headroom
- Increase the Input Gain to drive the Magnum Compressor
- Set Comp Range - Out of the four choices I found either 4dB or 8dB range to be very nice on vocals
- Set Ratio, Threshold, Attack & Release controls to taste
- Sidechain off. The compressor Sidechain is a very useful control that focuses the compressor. Great for mastering applications if low-end pumps a compressor but not so useful for female vocal compression.
- Select FF Feed Forward. FF and FB change the attitude of the compressor. Watch our supporting review video below to hear the differences in behaviour on a snare drum track.
- Engage the K Comp DeEsser module and lower the Threshold if sibilance is an issue
- Shape the tone with the Parallel EQ section. The Air Band is particularly powerful on vocals and sounds better through the Magnum-K hardware than any Maag Emulation plug-in.
The Maag Magnum-K is certainly a different take on the combi Compressor/EQ category. Was it wise for me to finally meet an audio processing hero of mine? Yes, I love the familiarity of the Maag EQ and the very useful K Comp deharsher compressor does a great job of taking the edge of out harsh audio. The main compressor is also very versatile. It can be as aggressive or as subtle as you want. I just wish this was a stereo device. There's nothing wrong with single channel dynamic processors, I just feel that the Magnum-K compressors and EQ components are too good for just mono track processing, this would be a very powerful mastering tool. A second Magnum-K unit can be linked giving users stereo processing but that pushes the price up to around £4,600. For that level of investment, I would look for a stereo compressor EQ unit with stereo as standard.
For processing vocals, bass guitar, solo instruments the Magnum-K is definitely worth looking into, for mastering though, as good as this sounds, I would look at alternatives that are better value for money.
Visit the KMR Audio website for more information about the Maag Magnum-K compressor.