Dangerous Music has released the new “Dangerous Compressor,” a dual-mono/stereo compressor for tracking, mixing and mastering designed by mastering gear guru Chris Muth.
The new compressor achieves musical yet transparent results. Producer and mixer Michael James (New Radicals, Hole, Robben Ford, L7, Edwin McCain, The Coronas) notes, “The new Dangerous Compressor is a ‘must have’ in my world. It’s a refreshing complement to the currently fashionable boxes that indiscriminately add color to your sound-whether you want it or not.”
The Dangerous Compressor was field-tested and tweaked for almost two years before being previewed at the 2013 New York AES show. For example, Sterling Sound mastering engineer, Greg Calbi, (Tame Impala, The National, Sara Bareilles) states, “From simple dynamics control to complete mix balance transformation, the Dangerous Compressor does both and everything in between.”
The “Smart Dynamics” feature of the compressor employs two independent slopes in the detection circuit. One stage of the detector controls the average level, and the other handles only rapid transients. Normally a spike would shove down the entire track, creating an audible “faux-pas” moment.
Instead, with the Dangerous Compressor, the normal slope stage handles the smoothing of the entire content and the other deals with the spikes. This results in a higher average level relative to peak, without the stereo image collapsing. “The ‘smart dynamics’ feature helps address the level issue in a really great way that let’s me use less of—or even turn off—my digital limiter,” says mastering engineer Jonathan Wyner (Javier Limon, Josh Groban, Nirvana, David Bowie).
By default, the unit is set to “Auto Attack/Release” mode, which uses time constants carefully selected for versatility. Engaging the “Manual Attack/Release” button allows the manual use of the attack and release knobs. James says, “I was shocked to find that the Dangerous Compressor’s auto attack/release preset always sounded ‘just right’-so good, in fact, that I found myself trying to match it manually.”
The Dangerous Compressor may be operated in either Stereo or Dual Mono mode. Dual Mono has two completely independent paths; for example, kick drum in one channel and snare in the other.
Stereo Mode may be applied to stereo instruments, stems or complete mixes. Many stereo compressors sum the left and right channel audio and feed that signal to one detector, resulting in any out of phase material will either not get compressed or will be under compressed. This will over-represent mono (content in the middle of the mix) and under represent panned instruments to the VCAs, making normal single-detector compressors potentially overreact to kicks, snares, and the lead vocal while ignoring the panned toms, guitars and keys.
The stereo button on the Dangerous Compressor still uses both its detector circuits to drive each channel’s VCA for a more musical result. James states, “The Stereo button is not an image killer! So many compressors collapse when you push the Link button, but the Dangerous Compressor stays wide open.”
The ‘Sidechain’ circuit offers both Bass Cut—sensitivity reduction to low frequency energy to keep the compressor from “dunking” with loud bass or kick drum levels—and Sibilance Boost, which increases sensitivity to high frequency energy causing the compressor to react more to the top end, taming the harshness without resorting to EQ changes.
Users can control sibilance by reducing “S” sounds from a singer or gently tame the harshness from cymbals recorded with cheap condenser mics or poorly sampled loops. “This stuff remains natural sounding while doing heavy gain reduction. And it manages to not duck down the mix when the kick shows up. Is it really made by humans?” notes mastering engineer Alex Saroudakis (Sony music, Universal music, Virgin).
Mastering engineer Mike Wells tried the Dangerous Compressor and saus, “With multiple sidechain options, the innovative ‘Smart Dynamics’ feature, and the signature transparent musicality Dangerous Music brings to all their products-we have a winner.” Wells has mastered projects for Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers, Tony Sly, and STS9 among many others.
Chris Muth has spent over 20 years working in top studios as a chief technician, and designed custom gear for them, including Sterling Sound, The Hit Factory and Masterdisk, and has worked as a recording, mixing and mastering engineer himself.
The new Dangerous Compressor is available through dealers worldwide and has a street price of $2,799 USD.