Sent @bozmillar PM asking if it was ok to make this a thread and he said yes…
…I’m a big fan of his +10 DB Compressor, modeled on the ADR Compex. It’s cool on lots of things but I particularly like it on drum and mix bus, vocals and bass guitar. It’s a bit of a conundrum because it somehow manages to be punchy but presents the resulting sound in quite a smooth way; I’ve seen it described as creamy, which is a terribly ambiguous word in the describe-sound-in-metaphors genre… but I think it kinda fits. To put it in more technical language, you can put it on drums and get 4dB+ gain reduction with the associated punch on the transients and release-time-breathing but without the negative side effects you normally get from compressing so hard.
So, that got me thinking. How does a plugin developer actually go about turning a real analogue piece of gear into plugin form, and capture the sound/ character? What’s the actual process?
Here are the questions as I put them to Boz;
"How much technical measuring goes on, how much listening you do etc. Also, what are the principles behind modelling a real piece of gear - for example, do you treat the hardware like a “black box”, measure inputs and outputs, then devise and algorithm that behaves in the same way? Or do you deconstruct how it works into components - detector circuit, op amps, whatever - and model them?
Also, we often talk when modelling the more well-known compressors about idiosyncrasies in their operation; for example, the fast attack of the 1176 not preventing it from being punchy thanks to the ratio overshoot over time, the “all buttons in mode”, the way an La2a has a program dependent release, frequency dependent behavior etc. Are there any such behaviors that the Compex has that you had to model?
Two things about its operation I think are interesting from my use of it; It’s clearly designed to work around a sensible signal level - if you’re the kind of mixer who cranks everything up to 0dbfs+, you might struggle to use this comp effectively. Was that level calibration a deliberate choice? And the GR meter - it seems to respond much more quickly than most other plugin comp VU meters I’ve seen. On some signals I can get 4dB or more GR without really hearing many signs of compression. Is this a consequence of the behavior of the compressor, or was it a choice about how the meter would actually operate?"