Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Softube Valley People Dyna-mite Plug-In

When I started my career working at a big NYC recording studio, I – like all of the other interns and assistants – just wanted to look at, play and experiment with all of the high-end and unattainable classic gear decking out each room. Although most of us had very little experience with the piles of gear we were exposed to, we all had strong opinions about each piece based on hearsay and watching experienced engineers work with the stuff. The debates never ended and conclusions were rarely reached.
Digital Dyna-Mite by Softube
One piece of gear that had a presence in most of the rooms at the studio where I got my start (Chung King) was the Valley People Dyna-mite.
It didn’t hold a place of honor in the producer’s desk, and it always seemed to be racked in the back of the room next to the timelynx and clock generators. Because of its dubious placement in the control room, we tended to treat it as a 2nd or 3rd class piece of equipment, often overlooking it altogether.
Most engineers tended to ignore it, always picking something more tried and true…and if they did go outside of the console for a gate, the Drawmer always seemed to be the first and only choice. After all, that’s what the Dyna-mite is… a gate, right?
When I left Chung King, I have to admit that I don’t recall seeing the Dyna-mite in any of the other studios I frequented, and hence, it slid out of my consciousness. That is, until I was made aware of Softube’s new emulation of this mysterious processor.  My first thought was “who needs another gate?” especially in the DAW world where that specific tool was even less necessary than ever before.
My second thought was that there must be something “special” about it that I had overlooked over the years while gleefully being blinded by 1176’s, Fairchild’s, and the rest of the superstars of the outboard world.
As it turns out, the Dyna-mite is much more than a gate, and can be configured to be used as many different things:
  1. A fast attack limiter.
  2. A slower attack limiter.
  3. A gate.
  4. An expander.
  5. A de-esser.
  6. Any combination of the above.
Softube's Dyna-mite interface
Admittedly, I initially had to reference the manual quite a few times to keep track of what exactly it was doing and how to set it. Luckily however, Softube has had the forethought to add a window to the interface that explains each mode as you toggle the switches, so it’s quite easy to get moving quickly.
For the most immediate gratification it is best to start working with the limiter.  The basic mode is achieved by setting the detector source switch to INT (internal), the mode switch to limit, and the detector type to either AVG (slower attack) or PK (fast attack). The threshold, release, and range control are all typical in function in this mode.
Classic threshold control: determines the signal level above which limiting, or below which expanding action begins.
Using this on a snare drum will make you smile: instant smashing and pumping that sounds very good right away. In the sheer aggression department, this limiter is a force to be contended with. While it is supposedly more transparent in the AVG mode, it is actually anything but. The minute I heard this thing doing its work I was able to get awesome drum sounds out of it, and quickly too. I almost felt guilty about neglecting some of my other more refined compressors for this work. Almost. The overt character of the Dyna-mite’s limiter screams at the listener: “I used aggressive compression on this track!” and thus, should be used accordingly!
For additional functionality, you can toggle the detector source switch to DS-FM, which adds a high-emphasis filter into the detector circuit.  This makes the limiter more sensitive to higher frequencies, allowing for double duty use as a de-esser or simply a way to tame source material with a lot of high end, like cymbals in the overheads for instance.  Ultimately, however, I found this functionality better suited to making alterations in the character of the source material, as the limiting functionality is a bit to brutish for fine de-essing.
Although earlier I noted that there is some redundancy in using a gate in conjunction with the editing power of the modern DAW, I’m afraid I may have been a bit glib, as I actually use gates all the time.  With the right source material they are very quick to solve problems, and also have a distinct sound to them that can add a cool character to different sources.
Set the detector source to Internal or External
The Dyna-mite’s gate is no slouch and works very well. The detector source can be set to int (internal) or ext (external) if you’d like to trigger the gate open with another track/sound source. This is perfect for the old hip-hop kick drum trick of triggering (keying) open a gated 60 Hz (or lower) sine wave in conjunction with a regular kick sound. The gate is keyed to open by the original kick source, and then blended with the sine tone: instant low end.
As a matter of fact, after I remembered this trick, I actually incorporated it into a rock track where the kick was only miked on the inside of the drum. I was instantly able to capture some of that bottom end I needed.
Setting the detector source switch to INT, the mode switch to EXP, and the detector type to GATE creates a scenario in which the Dyna-mite behaves like a traditional gate.  Any signal that is below the set threshold is reduced by a 20:1 ratio in gain directly proportional to the value set on the range control. Adjusting the detector type to either PK or AVG results in a kindler, gentler gating scenario with longer attack times. The gate exhibits little/no chatter and does what it should well.
I rarely, if ever, use an expander in my work, and experimenting with this aspect of the Dyna-mite made me a believer almost instantly. I had a set of drum tracks that had a lot of room in the overheads, definitely more than I wanted. As I played around with the expander settings I was thrilled to find that I could keep all the space I wanted around the snare/hat/tom attacks but greatly reduce the apparent level of room decay.  Awesome!
In this case I had the Dyna-mite set to EXP mode with the detector type on peak.  Essentially, any transients above the set threshold are allowed through with the preferred amount of decay, and any transients below the threshold are gently reduced by a 1:2 ratio.
In the Dyna-mite manual, Softube makes specific mention of “Weird Limiting” mode. Although I have not yet found a use for this, it is an interesting, odd side-effect that may not have been intended in the original Dyna-mite’s design phase.
Detector Mode
True to form, the Softube engineers have faithfully modeled this functionality (or lack thereof) into their emulation.  If the detector mode is set to LIMIT and the detector type is set to GATE, you end up with a scenario in which any signal above a certain threshold is hard limited. The range and release controls really come into play here. If the range is set too high, you end up hearing nothing except clicking, presumably the attack time of the limiter as it is engaged.
Similarly, if the release time is set too long, you also end up with silence, as the compression takes to much time to be released.  However, if your range is set to around 5-6 dB, and the release time around a few ms, you’ll hear some interesting pumping and modulation effects on your source.  A fascinating idiosyncrasy that I expect may end up saving the day once or twice over the coming years…
As I have duly noted above, the Dyna-mite is far from a simple gate, in fact it may have more surprises for me still lying in wait. You may ask yourself whether it’s worth the $279.00 price tag, and I would have to answer yes. Although it is not the most romantic of emulations, the fact is that it is now on so many of the sessions that I am working on that it must be worth the price of admission.
At any rate, it is definitely worth checking out the demo available on Softube’s website, you’ll definitely be thrilled the first time you hear that limiter obliterating everything in its path…
Softube’s Valley People Dyna-mite is a plug-in that will work with VST, AudioUnits or RTAS compatible host applications. Click for more information and sound samples. And to purchase the Softube Valley People Dyna-mite plug-in, visit Softube’s U.S. distributor, MV Pro Audio. Visit for more information.
Bo Boddie is a Grammy winning engineer/producer and composer who has worked with Santana, Everlast, Korn, Reni Lane, and many others. He is currently beginning work on Imperial Teen’s second release on Merge Records. Also check out Psychic Friend, his new band with Will Schwartz(Imperial Teen) and Patty Schemel (Hole).


  • External Firewire 800 and 400 DSP accelerator unit, compatible with select Intel-based iMacs, MacBook Pros and Mac minis
  • Access the complete UAD Powered Plug-Ins library, including: Studer, SSL, Manley, Empirical Labs, Neve, Roland, BOSS, EMT, Fairchild, Harrison, Helios, Little Labs, Pultec, SPL, and more (sold separately)
  • Includes UA’s most complete bundle: 50 plug-ins from UAD software releases up to and including v5.7, plus SSL plug-ins (v.5.8)
  • Run complex, professional mixes in Pro Tools, Logic Pro, Cubase, Nuendo, Digital Performer and more — without taxing host computer CPU
  • VST, AU, RTAS support; Mac OS X Snow Leopard compatible
  • Combine UAD-2 Satellite devices with UAD-1 and UAD-2 PCI/PCIx/PCIe cards in a single system
  • High-bandwidth Firewire DSP Accelerator with four Analog Devices SHARC processors
  • Includes $100 voucher for plug-in purchases via UA’s Online Store
  • 1-year Limited Warranty
  • Firewire 800/400 external enclosure w/ power supply
  • Desktop dimensions: 6” wide x 8” long x 1” high (weight: 2 lbs)
  • Four Analog Devices SHARC floating-point processors
  • Supports Mac OS X 10.6.4 Snow Leopard or higher (32-bit or 64-bit mode)
  • Supports VST, RTAS, and Audio Units plug-in formats
  • 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192 kHz sample rate support for all UAD plug-ins
  • Drivers optimized for modern multi-thread and multi-processor architectures
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  • LoadLock™ ensures resource availability on loaded plug-ins
  • 14-day full function demo for all plug-ins; try before you buy
  • UAD Powered Plug-Ins™ available 24/7 from UA’s Online Store
Minimum System Requirements (as of v5.8.1):
  • Mac OS X version 10.6.4 “Snow Leopard” or higher (32-bit or 64-bit mode)
  • Available Firewire 800 or 400 port
  • 512MB RAM (1GB strongly recommended)
  • 200MB available hard drive space (400MB for UAD-1 & UAD-2 combined installation)
  • Internet connection for registration, plug-in authorization, software updates
  • Audio host application (DAW) w/ VST, RTAS, or Audio Units plug-in compatibility

Phoenix Audio DRS-1R 500-Series Microphone Preamp

The Phoenix Audio DRS-1R is a 500-Series version of the Phoenix Audio DRS-1. The DRS-1R makes no compromises sonically, or in terms of features compared to its rackmount brother. The DSR-1R uses on-board electronics to boost the +/- 16V rail of the 500 series to +24V to properly power the unit. This preamp features 70 dB of gain, a high-pass filter, and a DI input.

Phoenix Audio DRS-1 Microphone Preamp Features

  • With 240V/110V mains voltage input selector switch
  • Class A Output specs. See our TF1 Specifications!!
  • Output: XLR and TSR 1/4" Jack on rear
  • Phoenix Audio's unique Class A, transformerless, True balanced Mic input stage.
  • Microphone inputs: XLR's on Front and Rear Panels
  • Individual Earth Lift: Push-button switch

Phoenix Audio DRS-1 Microphone Preamp Specifications

  • 1U half rack space unit: With 240V/110V mains voltage input selector switch
  • Class A (TF1) Output specs. Frequency response: 20Hz to 20kHz +- 0.5dB, Maximum Output = +26dBu @ 1kHz, Noise = -90dB @ 20Hz to 20kHz.
  • Output connections: XLR's and TSR 1/4" Jack on rear
  • Phoenix Audio's unique Class A, transformerless, True balanced Mic input stage.
  • Microphone inputs: XLR's on Front and Rear Panels
  • Individual Earth Lift: Push-button Switches
  • Gain Range (Mic input): -30 to -70 in 5dB steps With 10dB more available on the fader.
  • Gain reduction: -20dB pad push-button switch (Mic input)
  • High Input Impedance DI: Mono 1/4" Jack on front panel
  • Gain Meter: LED Metering. (Green = 0dB, Red= +8dB, corresponding to "4" and "6" on a PPM Meter).
  • Phantom Power: Switchable phantom on Push-button Switch
  • High Pass Filter: on Push-button Switch
  • Phase Reverse: on Push-button Switch
  • Frequency Response Mic Input Stage: -0.4dB @ 40Hz, -0.3dB @ 25kHz
  • Frequency Response: DI Input Stage: -0.3dB @ 40Hz, - 0.5dB @ 25kHz
  • Typical Headroom: +24dB on Mic-Pre stage
  • DI Stage gain: Maximum of 20dB

The Blender / MMC (Mini Mastering Console) by TK Pro Audio

The Blender is a mini mastering console with two stereo inserts for parallel / serial processing and a perfect tool for mixing and mastering. The five-step mode control changes the signal path, and numerous combinations can be tested without reconnecting any outboard. The first insert has a semi-fixed position and the second insert can be positioned at four different points in the signal path. At the push of a button the two inserts swap position and by using the mute buttons previewing can be done without altering the level controls. For easy integration the Blender has a separate monitor section with volume control and mono switch. It's the optimal unit for two-stage compression combining parallel and serial compression in a clean and simple way.
Mastering-grade circuits and a switch matrix with gold plated relays guarantees maximum performance.
The goal has been to make the perfect tool for parallel and serial processing. With two outboard processors connected, for example two compressors, or a compressor and an EQ, numerous combinations can be achieved at a twist of a knob. Interfaced with a DAW and a monitoring system the Blender can be used for both processing and monitor control.
FunctionThe input signal is split into three separate channels:
Channel 1 is the unprocessed sound. Channel 2 has the Insert 1 inserted. Channel 3 is only active in Mode 5, and otherwise muted. Insert 2 moves around in the signal path depending on the mode setting. It's also possible to swap the position of the two inserts by pressing the swap button.
The three channels are followed by a mix point with a blend control for channel 1 and 2. When Mode 5 is enabled Channel 3 can be mixed into the signal with a separate volume control. The channel mute buttons cuts the signal without affecting the other channels making it possible to preview channels without altering any level controls.
ModesInsert 1 is always inserted into channel 2 for parallel processing.
Insert 2 can be placed at four different points in the signal path.
Mode 1 - Insert 1 active on channel 2 for parallel processing.
Mode 2 - Insert 2 is placed before the split point.
Mode 3 - Insert 2 is placed in series with Insert 1.
Mode 4 - Insert 2 is placed after the mix point.
Mode 5 - Insert 2 is active on channel 3 for parallel processing.
A green LED shows the position of Insert 1 and a red LED shows position of Insert 2.
SwapThe swap switch change places of the two inserts.
Main levelThe main level is placed right before the main output.
Monitor levelThe monitor signal is fed directly from the output connectors through its own dedicated level control. A mono switch is also provided for checking mono compatibility. The mono switch does not affect the main signal.
BypassThe unit is aslo provided with a true bypass switch for A/B comparison
The picture below is showing mode 4 which is the optimal mode for two stage compression. Insert1 (green LED) on Ch2 is in parallel with Ch1 (straight signal), insert2 (red LED) is placed after the mix point.
If you like try the inserts the other way around just push the swap-switch and the two inserts will switch place with each other.
The diagram below shows the internal signalpath.
Key Features:

Unique parallel and serial processing
Gold plated relays
Monitor section with volume control and mono switch


Noise floor: below 104dBm
Frequency response:  10Hz to 100kHz,  less than -0.1dB
Distortion: less than 0.003% THD+N, @ +8dBm
Balanced XLR main/insert inputs: 24kohm impedance
Balanced XLR main/insert outputs: 100ohm impedance
Balanced TRS  for monitor outputs. 100ohm impedance
Max output: +26dBm @ 600ohms load
Internal, regulated powersupply with a toroidal transformer
115 or 230V selectable inside.

A Guitarist's dream - Kemper Profiling Amplifier

Kemper has unveiled their new Profiling Amplifier, a new concept for guitar amplification in the digital domain. The Kemper Profiling Amplifier claims to learn the sonic behavior of any guitar amplifier and offers exactly the tone and feel the player knows from his real amp.
Now a profile can be available at an instant of any sonic condition a tube amp setup can provide. The times of struggling to “re-find” that magic mic position in front of the speaker are over. Of course not every guitar player owns a perfect studio environment or owns a number of classic tube amps. That is why the Kemper Profiling Amplifier comes stacked full with profiles of classic tube amps from the States, UK, Germany and more.
The Kemper Profiling Amplifier comes as a lunchbox size device with all the connections for home, studio and on stage use. It is completed with a stomp box section, a master FX section and a set of unique parameters for shaping the amp profiles further from classic architecture to modern. Of course a realistic power amp sagging which is normally only available at very high volume is also a part of the stack.
Kemper will unleash their Profiling Amp at the NAMM show in January. They will have a profiling setup consisting of a tube amplifier with various classic tube amp architectures, connected to an isolation cab with a celestion vintage 30 speaker that is miked up with the standard SM 57. The guitar is connected to the tube amp via the Kemper Profiling Amplifier and the mic signal goes back into the mic input of the Profiling Amplifier. By the hit of a single button the profiling process starts and after 10- 20 seconds the guitar player can compare the profiled sound with the sound of the real tube amp.

A fight starts over spaghetti on NYC subway

MarsEdit Makes Blogging Super-Simple [50 Mac Essentials #34]

MarsEdit icon
MarsEdit is the best blogging tool for OS X, bar none. If you do blogging for money or just for the love of it, MarsEdit is a dream come true for you. It will save you lots of hassle and hours of time.
To start with, MarsEdit frees you from the tyranny of the browser interface. WordPress, Blogger, and all the others are wonderful online publishing systems, but sometimes you just wanna be offline. Or you have to be, because there’s no handy internet connection.
And even when you’re online, web hosts aren’t always as responsive as you might like. Sometimes you want to combine the convenience of instant web publishing with the speed of a local application, and that’s what MarsEdit gives you.
Once your blogs are set up, you can create your drafts as and when. You can upload images just by dragging them into place – even when you’re offline (MarsEdit has an ingenious “pending” feature for image uploads, by which it inserts placeholder code for an image which gets uploaded later).
MarsEdit is fast, easy to use, and it handles multiple blogs with ease, remembering your different settings for each one. No Mac-using blogger should be without it.