Here’s an outrageous statement: the most full-featured compressor I own cost me less than a decent lunch. Here’s another: it also happens to have my favorite saturator built into it. It’s made by a one-man shop in Germany called Klanghelm, and it’s called DC8C. Here’s what I like about this plugin:
The saturation is GODLY.
The “SAT” button might as well be labeled “good.” When it’s engaged, everything just sounds better. I literally do not mix a single song any more without this plugin on the master bus, with this button set to yellow. (It also does red, for more extreme saturation, which I tend not to find myself using.) Even if I’m not using any of the compression features, this still adds some undefinable magic to a mix.
I always make sure to thoroughly A/B master bus treatments, given that they affect everything, and when I’m A/Bing this it’s always like “Why does everything sound so flat and lifeless?” when I bypass it. Then when I click it back on it’s “Ahhhh, there it is.” It makes the whole mix come forward a little bit, and it makes the soundstage wider. And it generally just makes everything a little better, in a way that nothing else I have does.
If you have a vocal that you want to add a little grit and strain to, you can back off the last couple of dB on whatever compressor you’re using and push the signal correspondingly into the DC8C saturation (again, I typically use yellow mode for this). The saturation has a compression characteristic that will take care of those last couple of dB, and it’ll crunch up a bit as it does it. Instant vibe.
Tilt EQ in the sidechain.
Or, to put it in English, there’s a knob you can turn either left or right to make the compressor respond more to the highs or the lows. Got a vocal that’s a little piercing at times? Turn the knob to the right, and the highs will trigger the compressor more. Got a bass guitar that gets a little bottom-heavy at times? Turn the knob to the left. It’s so simple, and so effective.
Channel separation control in the detection circuit.
Normally stereo compressors average out what’s happening on the left side and the right side and base the compression on that. This knob allows you to unlink the left and right channels, or to link them in any percentage from 0-100. Unlinking the left and right channels tends to make the stereo image more expansive, but sometimes at the expense of the center image starting to feel a little unstable and drifty. Most compressors that have a stereo detector control limit it to “linked” versus “unlinked.” Being able to dial in this behavior precisely anywhere in between fully off and fully on allows you to get to just the right place where your stereo signal will breathe more while still retaining a focused center.
What this means is that you can make the compressor stop compressing after it’s compressed a specified number of dB. So, say that you love the aggressive crack of the stick on the snare drum when you compress it 10dB—but it makes the tail end of the drum sound too small. Try setting this knob to somewhere between 2dB and 5dB. You’ll get all that great energy from the beginning of the compression curve—but it won’t suck the life out of the body of the drum.
Coolest bypass button ever.
Click anywhere on the VU meter and it bypasses the plugin—and the meter goes dark. Silly but very fun. Also, on a practical note, the huge target area makes it easy to look away from the screen when doing A/B testing.
There are about 10 other cool features I could get into, and which you should get into—but you get the idea. Price: €20. A ridiculously good deal.