Glenn Rosenstein on FET Compressor: I love it, I absolutely love it
Stefan Hedengren, December 2009

Born and raised in New York City, Glenn Rosenstein began his music career at the legendary Power Station recording studio, assisting alongside some of the best and brightest producers, engineers and artists in the business. Honing his craft at New York's historic Sigma Sound, Glenn became a highly sought-after mixer and remix engineer, creating work for such artists as U2, Madonna, Talking Heads, The Ramones, Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam and many others. We mananged to get a moment of Glenn's time and asked him about his work and what he thinks about our FET Compressor.

In regards to the FET: you guys got it right. It just sounds right.

Could you start by tell me a little bit about your background?
I was always interested in music when I was young, always interested in the recording process. When I was getting started, there weren't a lot of recording schools or the kind of technology that is available today - certainly there weren't any computers. Mainly just 4-track and 8-track recorders.

In my very early years, I took a job at a recording studio (Power Station in New York, now Avatar). I answered phones, cleaned bathrooms, just to be able to learn about recording. My first job in recording was being a runner and a go-fer. I worked my way up to making tape copies, from making tape copies to being assistant engineer, then to engineering & mixing, and then to being a producer.

Like you say, back in the day you worked your way up, but it appears to me that it's not the case anymore.
I agree. Sadly the whole studio mentoring system doesn't exist much anymore. Back in those days, there were many fine commercial facilities with a staff of engineers and assistants. It was not freelance the way it ultimately became.

With the change in technology and the music economy, there aren't nearly as many recording facilities and full time staff engineers - unless, of course, the engineer owns the studio. But back in the day, artists went to a particular studio for the studio sound, they weren't necessarily hiring a specific engineer.

Your credits are impressive. What would you say are some of the highlights in your career?
I've enjoyed working with most of the artists I've had the privilege to interact with. It's always been fascinating to me to hear their stories, and how they made their way through. I'm not known for any particular style of music - thankfully my career has been very diverse. I've worked with all kinds of artists and everyone's story is very, very different. If a project wasn't insanely fun, at least it was interesting.

Ziggy Marley, I did three albums with him. When do you do three albums with anyone these days? So many of today's records have one producer doing just one song - so many artists have an album with six or eight different producers. Back in the day, you would do one or two albums with an artist and in my particular case I ended up doing three albums with Ziggy. I learned a lot from working with him and being in that environment.

Going back to today, and not back in the day, we talked about your ICON setup before so you obviously use a lot of plug-ins. Well, I know you use the Softube plug-ins but...
I use a lot of plug-ins but I'm favoring the Softube FET. I love it, I absolutely love it. Whoever wrote the code for that plug-in did an outstanding job.

So what do you like about it in particular?
It doesn't sound like it emulates any one particular compressor. It sounds to me like what compression should sound like - whether that's hardware or software, regardless. It just sounds right to me. If you look at my site (www.glennr.com/Home.html), you'll see I have quite a few compressor emulations and a lot of hardware as well.

One of the things I like best about the Softube FET is - if there's such a term as "natural" sounding compression - how natural it sounds and how easy it is to dial in a bunch of different settings. It's very intuitive. At this stage of the game, I don't care if something is software based or hardware based, I just want something that sounds great, and this sounds great to me.

So what would you typically use it on?
I started off just playing around with it. I recently did a record for an artist named Johnny Cooper and we recorded drums in a very kind of old fashioned way. We put some microphones up a stairwell, we tried doing stuff we might have done in the old days.

I took the tracks back to my own studio and even though we used all these old microphones and mic'ing techniques, it didn't sound quite like I wanted it to sound. So I compressed the microphones we had put up the stairs and it sounded incredible, really breathed life into the drum tracks. That's always a good thing, when the first thing you try with a plugin sounds really good. "OK so this sounds cool, lets see what it sounds like on a piano" so of course I squashed the piano and I was "oh, this sounds..." (laughter) "this sounds really good! lets try it on an acoustic guitar" and it sounded really good "lets try it on a vocal!" (laughter).

Everything we tried the Softube FET on sounded just right. I found myself using it on more and more tracks. Initially we were trying it on drums, then got over to trying it on the piano and it had a nice kind of traditional... how you would normally use compression on a piano kind of feel. And I started playing around with the detection and thought it was cool how it could play with the transients.

The FET is based on the 76 series of compressors. Have you compared it to the original?
I have a pair of 6176's. The tough thing about comparing hardware with software, especially vintage hardware - you can have two different pieces of hardware and they don't sound the same. It's true with Neve emulations, whether it's hardware or software. What console did you base the emulation on? What year was it made? So when I sit and listen to a piece of software, I tend to judge it on its own merits.

As software designers, you're obviously trying to get into the ballpark of something close to an 1176 and I'd say the Softube FET does that very well. But I also think, in a very good way, it does its own thing. And this is much to your credit. I think it's also very useful in places I wouldn't have normally used an 1176.

That's something I wanted to ask you about. We added a couple of controls. have you found any use for those?
The parallel compression knob is great. If nothing else, it certainly saves you time. Besides setting up all the routing, if you do parallel compression on a native digital workstation, you have to make sure you have the delay compensation tweaked, and all that. So, to have parallel compression inside the plug is a tremendous asset. And yes, when we're doing stuff with the drum room mics, we'll tweak around to see how much dry and wet we're wanting to use.

Anything else you'd like to add?
In regards to the FET: you guys got it right. It just sounds right. It does all the things I expect a compressor to do and a couple of things more.

Freelance Writer