pro-audio products

mid side optical compressor

mix buss compression

product review

by Thom McIntosh

I work mainly with electronic music. Mixing in-the-box for years I wanted to find a compressor which had the sonic depth and texture I was missing from plug-ins. I knew vintage hardware units I liked the sound of, but was wary of unreliability and the repair costs of maintaining aged gear at top performance. Enter the SOC20. That was two years ago. Since then I've been using my SOC20 non-stop across my mix buss and it has become a trusted and reliable creative tool. It has deeper features than I initially realised, and with it's thoughtful design plus superb sound is a real pleasure to work with.

This compressor has something of the lone ranger character. Quietly self assured, he appears in the studio one day, gathers all the parts of your mix and gets them working together and sounding better than they ever have before. At the end everybody is left wondering, how did he do that?? Well, he does it like this...

The SOC20 excels at adding gravity and sheen, gluing mixes together with a pleasing weight while creating a sense of improved coherence and front-to-back depth. This delivers a tangible "sum of the whole is greater than the parts" effect to mixes and imparts warmth and presence. For softer compression the Auto release mode is magic, a very transparent way of adding glue and finish to a mix. For a more pronounced compression I go for one of the fixed release times, matching release with the track's tempo can really add weight to a groove and give it lift. The range of attack times, drive and compression ratios offer loads of scope for subtle transient shaping through to deeply muscular contortions.

All this is accomplished with a smooth sense of precision and analogue power.

Special features which I've also grown to greatly appreciate in this compressor are the sidechain and the mid-side mode. I tend to run a graphic eq patched into the SOC20's switchable sidechain circuit. This enables fine tuning of the compression drive signal - especially useful when shaping problematic material that can't be remixed, or creating dynamic effects like pumping compression via kick drum sidechaining.

I'm also a big fan of the switchable 'mid/side' mode. This gives the unusual ability to manipulate depth and focus in a mix by letting you bring forward or push back stereo ambience relative to the mono centre signal. An impressive tool for subtle through to explicit effect.The SOC20 is powerful, flexible and a joy to use. It brings out the best in a mix and sounds amazing.
June 2015

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