The clas­sic Ger­man com­pres­sor has been re-em­u­lated, adding sidechain­ing, over­sam­pling and – help­fully – the English lan­guage!

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A cou­ple of years back, Aud­i­fied re­leased an em­u­la­tion of Tele­funken’s U73b valve com­pres­sor, and they’re now back with ver­sion 2 (AU, VST, VST3, AAX). The U73b was a vari-mu style valve com­pres­sor/lim­iter, and despite be­ing a lit­tle sim­pler than its US con­tem­po­raries – the Fairchild 660 and 670 – it had a char­ac­ter all its own. The plugin recre­ates said sim­plic­ity, giv­ing you just four main con­trols: In­put (thresh­old), Out­put, Re­lease and a choice of op­er­a­tional modes: Com­press, Limit or By­pass.

Fur­ther op­tions in­clude me­ter­ing for In­put, Out­put or Gain Re­duc­tion; op­er­at­ing level Cal­i­bra­tion (0 to -24dB); and sidechain. New in ver­sion 2.0, there’s also Over­sam­pling (On/Off), bet­ter-qual­ity re­designed graph­ics, and in­ter­face set­tings for lan­guage (English/ Ger­man) and menu bar colour.

The sidechain in­cludes both in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal op­tions, and with four in­ter­nal stereo set­tings in­clud­ing summed (Left+Right) and com­pletely in­de­pen­dent (In­di­vid­ual), pro­cess­ing stereo sig­nals is pretty flex­i­ble. The ex­ter­nal op­tion, which is new to ver­sion 2.0, is AU, VST3 and AAX only. As ever with ex­ter­nal sidechain­ing, you’ll need to check how your DAW han­dles this, as meth­ods vary. Fi­nally, U73b v2.0 also re­tains a cou­ple of vis­ual de­tails based on the hard­ware (Sym and Ext. Volt­age) that serve no pur­pose on the plugin, and this may be slightly con­fus­ing to new users.

Noth­ing com­pares to mu

Us­ing valve bi­as­ing in gain re­duc­tion cir­cuits cre­ates some quite in­ter­est­ing be­haviours, which U73b 2 cap­tures well. In Com­pres­sion mode, for ex­am­ple, the ra­tio grad­u­ally in­creases with level. Cou­pled with a low on­set thresh­old with soft knee, we found some gen­tle glue-like be­hav­iour at lower In­put lev­els (good for mixes and sub­mixes) giv­ing way to more ag­gres­sive ra­tios at higher lev­els.

There’s also much in­ter­ac­tion with the Re­lease set­tings, which in­clude three fixed tim­ings (0.3, 0.6 and 1.2 secs), and three pro­gram-de­pen­dent set­tings. All told, the two con­trols can con­jure a host of com­pres­sion out­comes, most im­pres­sive on elec­tric bass, which could be gen­tly squashed, and snare drum, which ben­e­fited from a more ag­gres­sive, snappy at­tack ef­fect.

The U73b also gen­er­ates odd and even har­mon­ics even at min­i­mal gain re­duc­tion, adding pres­ence and bring­ing sounds for­ward, and this is cer­tainly part of its charm. In Lim­iter mode, the gain struc­ture is dif­fer­ent, and the Cal­i­bra­tion set­ting pro­vides a quick way to ad­just lev­els if you’re switch­ing be­tween modes. The Lim­iter set­ting de­liv­ers a more sud­den com­pres­sion on­set, mak­ing it trick­ier to han­dle but ca­pa­ble of ag­gres­sive ef­fects.

In both modes, we found the U73b could re­spond sur­pris­ingly quickly, and this may in part be down to the feed­for­ward com­pres­sion topol­ogy it uses. Even so, at times it seemed quite tran­sient-sen­si­tive, mak­ing set­ting the lev­els tricky on some sound sources – and it has to be said, although the U73b can be ex­cel­lent on some sounds, it can also be frus­trat­ingly un­suit­able. Over­all, Aud­i­fied have done a good job, suc­cess­fully cap­tur­ing the in­di­vid­u­al­ity of the orig­i­nal hard­ware. Nev­er­the­less, that in­di­vid­u­al­ity makes this a sec­ondary rather than pri­mary pro­ces­sor.

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