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BAE 10DCF Compressor/Limiter

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Mix Magazine "Compression And Compressors"

BAE 10DCF Compressor/Limiter
 BAE 10DCF Compressor/Limiter 
BAE's 10DCF has its roots in the Neve console 2254 console compressor/limiter module. BAE first offered the 10DC compressor/limiter that features Carnhill and Jensen transformers, all discrete Class-A circuitry, high quality stepped Elma® switches, BAE's Marconi knobs, "gas gauge" style gain reduction meter and true bypass even when the unit is turned off.

The 10DCF model adds an inductor-based filter BAE calls a Bypass Filter. This uses the circuit of the low frequency section of a 1073 equalizer. It has the same, (and by now) familiar 50, 80, 160 and 300Hz frequencies and is switchable into a parallel path of the compressor section only.

Normally a side-chain filters removes most of the low frequencies out of the detector signal of the compressor causing the low frequencies of entire mixes, kicks, basses, drums, or even loud lead vocals to not "drive" the total amount of compression as much. This allows for deeper overall compression while leaving the lower frequencies relatively uncompressed or compressed less. This is especially important while recording low frequency instruments, for music mastering or stereo mix bus compression.

The 10DCF splits the audio signal into two paths. One path is high-passed through the inductor filter circuit and then recombined at the output with the full-range audio.

10DCF Compressor

I received two 10DCF units for review. These are one-space units with a remote power supply capable of running up two units. Two 10DCFs can be stereo-linked using the included short RCA cable. Front panel pushbuttons with LED indicators are provided for: Link on/off, Bypass, Compressor in/out, and Limiter in/out.

I connected the pair of 10DCFs to my Pro Tools 12 rig in a delay compensated I/O insert and I set the compression ratio to 1.5:1. The Bypass Filter frequency is set using a knurled aluminum knob that surrounds the Ratio control and I set it at its highest frequency: 300Hz. There are also 50, 80, and 160Hz positions. Attack was at 20ms and Recovery (release) was at the A1 position.

Besides the choice of 100, 200, 400, 800ms recovery times, the 10DCF has two more choices of preset program dependent recovery timings called A1 and A2. A1 releases in 100ms for momentary peaks and 2 seconds for sustaining signals--I discovered it to work well for a stereo electric guitar part and performance I was trying to get to "lay" into the mix. A2 has a 50ms recovery time for short signals and 5 seconds for sustaining sounds. Probably better for control of broadcast signals, I tried A2 but it softened the guitar's sound too much.

I got increased apparent loudness, density and brilliance with little increase in actual electrical level--Make Up gain was "5 clicks" or +5dBU as set using the red Marconi knob. Counting clicks is a good way to match settings for recalls--even in darken studio control rooms. Threshold was 3 clicks or +8dBu on the dial. The gain reduction meter never indicated more than about 3dB of GR. I liked that I could easily push the Bypass button and hear the 10DCF out of the circuit completely--I'm 'old school' that way.

The stereo guitar sounded more aggressive and interesting at the same time. Using such a low ratio, the overall effect was lively and active without squashing its enthusiasm! The guitar amp's tone was more present--I could hear it better within the mix.

Using 10DCF Limiter Section Only

You can use both the Compressor and Limiter together if you like or one at a time as I did above with the compressor. I wanted to experiment using the Limiter section only. It's too bad that the Limiter is not available separately from the Compressor section--with dedicated XLR input/output jacks. Of course, this would entailed more electronics and cost but it would double the capabilities of the unit--but one can only dream.

This time I set up a parallel processing path for limiting the same stereo guitar track recording--I wanted to compare the compressed sound versus the limited sound using the same source so I recorded both results for evaluation later.

This time I sent the stereo guitar track out of Pro Tools I/O and returned the two outputs of the 10DCF to a stereo Aux Input channel. I used a limiter Threshold set at the maximum +15dBU--here I should mention that I'd like to see the max limiter threshold should be increased to +24dBu to handle the kind of output level modern interfaces and outboard gear are capable of these days.

There is a toggle switch to set the Limiters attack time and I switched to Slow or 4ms--Fast is 2ms. The same two recovery time choices as the compressor section are available in the Limiter and I set it to the fastest position at 100ms. I put Make Up Gain at 0dBU.

The Make Up gain stage is BEFORE the Limiter stage in the circuitry--all in front of the output transformer so I had to make up about 2 to 3dB of gain back in Pro Tools. Increasing Make Up Gain on the 10DCF will only drive the limiter into more gain reduction.

I got about the same indicated gain reduction on the meter but the guitar track was even louder with better transparency than the compressed version. For processing stereo mixes, I would use this setup as a parallel processing patch to more precisely control the final printed level.

10DCF Compressor/Limiter Together

Next I tried the full 10DCF on the stereo mix bus for the Rock track I was mixing. I didn't record this song and, in a general sense, the overall sound and production was thin in the bass and trebly sounding.

For this track, my compressor settings were: Threshold at +4dBu, Ratio at 2:1, 300 Hz Bypass Filter, Attack at 80ms, Recovery at A2. The A2 setting worked well for this track whenever the five-string bass guitar played the low B string--the pre-processing by the compressor section helped the limiter to not distort using its fastest recovery time setting.

The Limiter was set with: +15dB Threshold, Slow Attack, 100ms recovery and Make Up gain at 0dBu. After matching gain, I was seeing about 1 to 2dB of gain reduction and the track was denser, more glued together and a little less transparent.

Hand-assembled in California, a single 10DCF come with separate 24-volt power supply sells for $2,100. The 10DCF is an awesome sounding compressor/limiter useful for any task; I especially thought it excelled at compressing individual guitar, drum and bass tracks. On vocals and full mixes, you'll have all the vintage color of yesteryear. Highly recommended!!

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