I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel that we mix engineers have more than enough compressor emulation plug-ins to choose from. When a new one comes out, it really has to blow me away in order to add it to my arsenal. In this case, the McDSP 6030 Ultimate Compressor packs a real punch by offering TEN different compressors in one plug-in. I’ve spent some time with the plugin and am sharing my findings.
THE BEST COMPRESSOR PLUGIN? Maybe…
I honestly wish I had this compressor sooner due to the simple fact it would have possibly saved me from collecting single emulation plug-ins from various other developers over time. You’ve got plenty of classic emulations here such as the Fairchild 670, Urei 1176, DBX 160, Manley Vari-Mu, Teletronix LA-2A, and the Neve 33609- what a bundle! In addition, you get three new unique compressors by McDSP. To be fair, Colin does state that while the compressors are based off their analog counterparts, many traits were tweaked to stray from the original and have a unique twist.
One need not spend an extraordinary amount of time picking the right compressor. I usually have a compressor in mind along with specific compressor goals before reaching for a plug-in, however, there is no simpler way to audition multiple compressor styles on a source. If one module proves too fast or slow, too pumpy, or to smooth, the next compression style is a click away, no need to load and bypass other plug-ins. The basic settings stay the same whilst switching, keeping in mind module specific differences.
Settings Made Simple
Similar to their hardware modules, setting a compressor can simply be a one or two knob ordeal. Whether it is setting a ratio, threshold, attack and release, or using modules with fixed ratios and speeds, the interface makes dialing in good sounding compressor settings a quick and easy process.
Obviously getting ten compressors for the price of one makes great financial sense if you haven’t already got a plethora of plug-ins, and the 6030 provides an excellent array of compressors which should give any mixer plenty of choice. The plug-in sells for $199, but sales exist and you may find it for the half the price.
So how does it sound? It definitely gets the job done in a high-class fashion (as you would expect from McDSP). The modules give a good range of styles from smooth, slower vocal compression (U670, LA-2A, Vari-Mu), snappy drum compression (1176, DBX 160, 444), in your face vocal sound (1176, iComp), bass (nearly any of them!) guitars and piano (33609, La-2A) and aggressive, pumping style great for parallel compression (D357, 444). It is easy and fun to experiment with the different options, especially slapping on a compressor you might not normally reach for on a specific instrument.
Based on the infamous Fairchild 670 compressor, this module works well on vocals, bass, keyboards, drum overheads and more. The time constants seem quicker than other emulations (which can be a good thing), and there is less ‘mojo’ in this emulation than some others, but a solid module.
Based on the Manley Variable Mu compressor, this has got a great, smooth and silky sound. Loving it on sources that need a more pillowy sound including vocals, strings, and slower moving instruments.
Colin states this compressor is suited for anything headed to iTunes. A simple, yet effective, semi-aggressive compressor which controls sounds and gives it an in-your-face feeling. Cool on rock and pop vocals especially.
An LA-2A opto style compressor which does the job well. Easy to get a good sound. Nice on vocals, bass, keys, and backgrounds.
Essentially the limiter section of the LA-2A with a set high ratio. Still suits bass, keys, and backgrounds and I find myself using this more for parallel compression.
Based on the Never 33609, this is a nice and flexible workhorse compressor that can go from transparent to slightly more aggressive. I dig it on keys, acoustic guitars, and some instrument busses.
The McDSP version of the DBX 160. Some great snap and quickness to this compressor. Does bass and drums mighty justice.
Another 1776 style compressor with its quick attack and release, great for bringing things forward in the mix. Hits bass, vocals, drums, rooms, and guitars just right.
An original compressor, ‘the frog’ has a nice aggressive and punchy sound for times when you want compression as an effect. Smashes rooms, drums, and bass in a really cool fashion.
The D357 is another custom compressor for the series and can achieve slightly transparent to aggressive digital compression sound. Wasn’t fully what I was hoping for (desiring something to a distressor model), but still a nice option on some sources.
What It Is Missing
Hardly any plug-in is perfect and there are a few aspects I feel are lacking. The gain-reduction metering is not very accurate and remains quite small, of course, the best remedy for this is simply ‘use your ears.’ A wet/dry mix knob which allows one to blend the dry signal with the compressed signal in parallel would be handy (I’m using Reaper which automatically adds this feature to all plugins, which is great!). While everything sounds good and can absolutely get the job done, I do find myself using specific emulation plug-ins from other developers that seem to fully capture the essence of a unit, complete with harmonic distortion and saturation characteristics. Additionally, while some of the originals analog pieces are well-suited for the mix bus, I don’t find this plug-in making its way on to my master bus processing chain.
Overall, the McDSP 6030 Ultimate Compressor truly is just that – ultimate. An extremely flexible, unique, and easy to use compressor that any mix engineer or music producer should add to their plugin arsenal early on.
Have you tried the 6030 plugin? What did you think? Have another favorite compressor? Share your thoughts in the comments.