Woooohoooooo! This compressor shines!!! But…not really. Sort of the opposite in a good way. Its nowhere near as exaggerated and in-your-face as the EL Arouser. If your’e used to using the Slate 1176 and Slate FG-stressor, you’ll probably open this up and be like…‘its not doing anything!’. First impressions here, it took me a moment to adjust to how analog this thing sounded. What I mean by that, is digital emulators (like the UAD neve 1073) tend to do what you IDEALIZE them doing, not what the hardware units ACTUALLY do. So I was caught off guard at first, on how long it took to re-evaluate the controls and re-adjust to what I’m used to making a distressor do in real life.
The UAD distressor is (as I thought it would be) a little more true to the hardware unit. But whats crazy is how clean this thing is. The UAD version does the best job I’ve ever seen at preserving the raw natural image under some pretty heavy compression settings.
I have it on a female vocal right now. For those of you who use other distressor emulators, the Dist 2 vs Dist 3 not only varies the amount of distortion, it changes the harmonic emphasis. I usually start at Dist 2 with the HP engaged, then ramp up from there only if there’s a need. I was reminded on the UAD version how the attack/release knobs are not as cut and dry as on a stock compressor. There is a lot of other stuff changing under the hood when you turn the release knob. Partly dependent on the GR, and the att/rel knobs also work differently as you change your ratio settings. Sort of like interactive EQ on a guitar amp or Pultec clone.
This is a really strait-forward plugin for anyone familiar with the hardware. The problem is that the hardware is not strait-forward. To really know a distressor, you need a LOT of time to experiment, and you DO need to read the manual.
I’ll mention one other thing I like about this UAD Distressor. They nailed the optical mode.
Input - Distressor (as a compressor) -> 2nd Distressor (as optical limiter).
The optical mode on the Distressor was really designed to emulate other optical limiters. Since we have a ton of optical limiter plugs, there’s really no reason to reach for a 2nd Disterssor when you can just reach into your plugin library and grab a Waves La-2A. There is a noticable audible difference between the UAD and the optical mode. Once I dialed in the UAD distressor, I then went back, muted it, and attempted to matched the Slate distressor as closely as possible. When the input was hitting at 4-6db in the softer parts of the verse, the Slate was pegging at almost 15-17db. I tried adjusting the gain on the Slate to where the output was cranked, and the gain input was backed off to 4-6db of GR. Doesn’t work. The harmonics and warmth disappear. Its not just a matter of the Slate meters calibrated inaccurately. The entire signal chain in the Slate unit is flawed to where the whole thing digs into the source too hard. I don’t think the Slate is capable of producing the same level of warmth and distortion as the UAD is while preserving the clarity. At that point, its somewhat debatable whether the Slate distressor is really a distressor on a functional level. Doesn’t make it a useless plugin, it just makes it not really a distressor.