There is something quite special about stereo bus compressors. They are not just powerful tools that help mixing engineers control, glue, or add punch. Bus compressors have a big responsibility since all tracks funnel through them. They need to sound amazing, solve whatever you throw at them, and be easy to operate. When the dust settles, there are only a few bus compressors that we keep around and return to mix after mix.
Over the years, many users have asked us to develop a dedicated bus compressor. We knew, when the time was right, we would need to bring something extra to the table. It would have to have "that sound,” of course, but also an “it factor.” Creating digital models of analog hardware can get difficult at times, but this is our expertise, and it is not always the most time-consuming part. A driving design principle is to always build a product that we want to use ourselves and that will stand out on the market. These things take time to develop, and they need to for the right reasons.
Our Bus Processor includes continuous controls, two different saturation modes, stereo field processing, independent sidechain filters for both processors, and DAW tempo-synced release times. This makes it a perfect fit for both the stereo bus and instrument groups. We are confident that Bus Processor will become your new go-to and sit firmly in your mix template.
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Bus Processor has three different processing sections. The Compressor is the hero in the middle, with its extra sidechain capabilities to the left, the Saturator to the right, and a Spatial section at the bottom. These sections all have dedicated bypass buttons which makes it extremely easy to A/B test the different processors one at a time.
The compressor section of Bus Processor draws on a classic, large-format console bus compressor from the 1980s. We also added DAW tempo sync, continuous parameters, and full control of the Knee. You can click on any parameter values printed on the user-interface to quickly jump between different settings.
The saturation section of Bus Processor is based on our long tradition of modelling non-linear systems. The saturation adds a combination of odd and even harmonics but is mostly focused on odd order like that of tape distortion. You have a lot of colors to play with as we added Harmonic Enhancement, a second saturation type producing smooth tapering overtones. Tone Enhance adds carefully crafted emphasis/deemphasis filters and can be used with both saturation types. Saturation Tone shifts saturation tonality with a tilt filter. Turning clockwise favors high frequencies before saturation, while turning counter-clockwise favors low frequencies before saturation.
The spatial section of Bus Processor is a helpful addition to any subgroup mixing. Focus the signal more towards mid or add gain to the side information by adjusting Width. Air increases high frequency content to both mid and side channels and Mono Bass lets you control the sub and bass frequency content.
Tip! If you have a particular preference for the Threshold parameter, just use Extended Features Headroom to adjust it. You have 48 dB to play with! Bus Processor is also easy to resize via the resize handle at the bottom right. See the Extended Features user manual for more information.
Start by adjusting Threshold so that you get a few dB of gain reduction. If you want a punchy sound, keep Attack slow and Release quick. For a more grabby and transparent sound, go with Lower ratios and a softer Knee. The Compressor also shines with fast Attack and Release in Auto when the situation calls for a smoother compression character. Be mindful of the dynamic profile of the audio you are processing. What are you trying to enhance or control?
Tip! If you intend to limit the amount of gain reduction, you can use the Range parameter.
Adjust Compressor Sidechain filters slightly and listen to how the compression tone changes. A cool trick is to dial the Low Cut all the way up to 500 Hz and then use the Tone Shift all the way down to Bass. This combination will make the compressor react more to lower mid frequencies, but there are plenty of tone variations with these two parameters only. Another great alternative is to dial Tone Shift clockwise towards max Treble. This will get you that famous thrust compressor tone found in an American stereo bus compressor.
Tip! If you have a stereo track where you really want to keep the left and right channels dynamically independent, set the Stereo Link all the way to dual mono. It is advised to use compressors configured like this with a low amount of gain reduction. If not, there could be situations with extreme shifts in the left and right channel balance. Remember, you can always experiment with a blend of fully linked and dual mono.
Dial in Saturation around mid-point. Use the Enhance buttons and evaluate if one or both works best. Again, use the Tone Shift to shape the characteristics. Bass will give you a more audible saturation whereas Treble smooths high-frequency content and has a tape-like quality. Audition Saturator Position (Pre-Comp) and choose the one you like the best. A broad description would be Sat. Pos: Pre has a vibey, vintage quality whereas Sat. Pos: Post sounds more modern.
Tip! Do you need to control the stereo image a bit? Do not forget to turn down the Width knob in these cases. Most of the time, a little dab of Air and Width will add mastering grade shine and polish.
Audition the different sections On and Off. By directly comparing Wet and Dry signals you will get back to a bird's eye view of the mix.
When you have done this a few times, you realize that you can adjust these parameters in any order you like. The overarching principle of Bus Processor, which holds true no matter how you use it, is that you get an amazing sound with a parameter set that is enough to do exactly what you need it to without diving into sub-menus.
Tip! Another way to use both Compressor and Saturator is to exaggerate the processing and use the Wet/Dry parameters to blend in how much of the effect you want.
When purchasing this product, you automatically gain access to run the plugin as a module in the Console 1 platform. You can use the compressor of Bus Processor in the compressor section of Console 1 as well as the saturator in the output drive section. The saturator is configured with both Tone and Harmonic Enhance engaged and the Console 1 character knob lets you control the saturation tone parameter.
Threshold: Sets the level at which the Compressor will begin to compress.
Attack: Sets the attack time of the Compressor. Continuous control is added for increased flexibility.
Release: Sets the release time of the Compressor. The Auto mode uses two release times and automatically adjusts which one to use based on the incoming signal. Continuous control is added for increased flexibility.
Ratio: Sets the ratio of the Compressor.
Knee: Sets the knee of the Compressor.
Make-Up Gain: Adds gain back to the signal which compensates for the gain reduction applied by the Compressor.
Comp. Wet/Dry: Adjusts the balance between Wet and Dry signals of the Compressor section.
Sat. Amount: Controls the amount of saturation applied by the Saturator.
Tone Enhance: Adds emphasis/deemphasis equalizer filters to the Saturator. Tailor-made to add density while keeping signal integrity.
Harmonic Enhance: Changes the type of saturation character to a more subtle one with overtones trailing smoothly in amplitude.
Sat. Tone: Shifts saturation tonality with a tilt filter. Turning clockwise favors high frequencies before saturation, while turning counter-clockwise favors low frequencies before saturation.
Sat. Position: Controls Saturator processing order, either before (PRE) or after (OFF) the Compressor.
Sat. Wet/Dry: Adjusts the balance between Wet and Dry signals of the Saturator section.
S/C Link: Turn counter-clockwise to gradually shift the Sidechain detection from fully linked channels to Dual Mono.
S/C Low Cut: Controls the Low Cut frequency of the Sidechain.
S/C Tone: Shifts Compressor tonality with a tilt filter. Turning clockwise favors high frequencies before compression, while turning counter-clockwise favors low frequencies before compression.
Tempo Sync: Links Release time of the compressor to DAW Tempo.
Sync Release: Controls Release time as note values when Tempo Sync is set to On. It is possible to increase the duration ever so slightly (in percent) with parameter values between note values.
Air: Increase high frequencies with mid/side processing. This can be particularly useful when a slight tonal rebalance is needed.
Width: Turn right to add gain to the side signal while keeping mid signal integrity. Turn left to lower gain of side information.
Mono Bass: Turns low frequencies to mono below the cut-off frequency.
Compressor: Turns the Compressor section On or Off.
Saturator: Turns the Saturator section On or Off.
Spatial: Turns the Spatial section On or Off.
Output: Clean output gain control without any coloration.
Ext S/C: Sets Compressor detection to external sidechain.
A whole range of added control can be accessed with Extended Features. Please see the separate "Extended Features" manual for more information.
Fredrik Jansson, Niklas Odelholm, and Arvid Rosén – DSP programming
Niklas Odelholm, Maxus Widarsson and Johan Bremin – Product concept
Fredrik Jansson – Lead developer
Niklas Odelholm, Maxus Widarsson, Johan Bremin and Markus Krona – Graphic Design
Maxus Widarsson, and Johan Bremin – Product owners
Andreas Mood – Sound design
Johan Bremin – User manual
Patrik Holmström – UI programming
Markus Krona – Quality Assurance
Johan Bremin, Markus Krona and Fredrik Jansson – Presets
Ulf Ekelöf – 3D rendering