Phoenix Audio N90-DRC/500 Compressor and Gate
VCA style Compressor/Gate designed by the legendary David Rees. This compressor/gate is the definition of a flexible dynamics processor - excellent on virtually every studio application, from vocals to guitars, to drums and bass.
What we think:
"Ultra-flexible" and "Workhorse" are thrown around a lot nowadays when describing versatile recording equipment, though typically that comes along with some corners cut along the way. The N90-DRC is proof that you no longer need to compromise at all on sound quality for a multi-source, workhorse compressor that'll perform incredibly well on just about any studio application you throw its way.
Think of it as a warm channel compressor you'd find on a quality recording console. It features just enough control flexibility to push out both smoother leveling and more aggressive compression, while still remaining very intuitive and easy to use. It is absolutely perfect for tracking. It's forgiving enough that you don't have to tweak for long to get compression that manages the channel without feeling clamped down on, but it's still fast enough to react to quick transients from drums or erradic singers. It's easy to dial in, and you can count on it doing the job and staying out of the way.
The Gate section really impressed me upon first use. Normally I try and avoid gating, especially plugin gating, as I find there's almost always some "life" pulled out of the signal in the process. That said, the N90 is proof that a quality analog gate can really enhance and isolate an instrument without any degradation. On kick and snare, the N90's gate preserved every nuance of the drum while removing bleed and additional noise - it truly was incredible, and definitely caused me to rethink what a quality gate is capable of.
The final element of the N90-DRC's circuitry is Phoenix's unique transformer-balanced Class A output stage, which can provide a wonderful gloss of saturation and warmth, and even a little grit if driven hard enough. Identical to all Phoenix Audio gear, we've been hard-pressed to find a single application where the additional warmth didn't enhance the source material in a positive way. Even genre-wise, from modern metal to vintage soul, indie-folk to jazz, the Phoenix output stage adds depth and excitement that simply makes things "pop".
The Phoenix N90-DRC/500 compressor/gate is designed around a VCA control with Class A discrete input and Class A transformer balanced output. The N90-DRC/500 is intended to be driven ‘by ear' .There are no optimum settings that would cover all situations. It is intended to be very musical and smooth and has quite a wide ranging effect. Musically the progressive curves are very kind - there is no sudden change on passing the threshold and audio processing is virtually "seamless". Technically the progressive curves are achieved using linear detection combined with logarithmic attenuation inside a closed control loop. "Limiter sound" is still provided by the higher ratios and there is a choice of attack times. The gate is more conventional but it's release time is composite with a hold time followed by a fade time. This makes the gate very versatile in that as well as basic noise reduction it can also provide quite subtle changes to ambience or background.