A Truly Musical Compressor/Gate
In a world now crowded with compressors—most of them emulating vintage designs, with the rest, it seems, dead set on destroying dynamics—the Phoenix Audio N90-DRC/500 stands out as a decidedly musical compressor with a refreshingly unique design. Phoenix Audio’s lead designer Dave Rees (the “DR” in DRC) developed this circuit over 20 years ago, and his thoughtful design reflects the subtler, more tasteful approach to compression from that bygone era. Though the N90 can be pushed to offer up wonderful sonic artifacts, it truly excels at the delicate (and increasingly rare) craft of transparent, musical dynamic control and gating.
A Forgiving and Intuitive Class-A Circuit
The N90’s 100% Class-A circuit is built around our wide-open sounding transfomerless input stage and beloved DSOP-2 output amplifier with our custom-wound DB694 output transformer. While appearing quite elaborate, using the compressor/gate functions of the N90 is a forgiving and intuitive experience—especially given that this is a solid-state compressor. The ease of use is due to the gradual and progressive behavior of the N90’s unique control circuit. Gain reduction begins well below, and continues beyond, the threshold, so you’ll never hear a sudden “grabby” change in dynamics. Instead, you’ll easily dial in fluid dynamic control while simultaneously picking up the rich, lush tone of the N90’s discrete Class-A circuit.
But You Can Still Push It
With ratios ranging from 2:1 to 8:1, the N90 is clearly designed for mellow, transparent compression. However, the higher ratios do offer up a fair amount of “limiter style” artifacts, especially when you switch the attack to “fast” and begin to manually manipulate the compressor’s release time. Further, by driving more signal into the N90, a wide range of tones can be derived from the DSOP-2 output stage—from crystal clean to warm, pure Class-A analog saturation. Perhaps most importantly, the N90 makes a smooth transition from transparent to more obvious compression andoutput stage saturation, meaning that it’s never a fussy or sensitive task to dial in your desired sound. From the subtlest gain control to lush Class-A artifacts—not to mention the flexible gate circuit—the N90-DRC/500 is one of the most versatile dynamic control units ever produced.
A Gate You’ll Actually Use
With the advent of digital’s nearly inaudible noise floor, gating is something of a lost art. However, having been designed just before the industry largely abandoned analog tape, the N90 houses one of the most advanced, musical analog gates ever conceived. Similar to the compressor section, the N90’s gate is intended to be subtle and musical. Its release function is actually a combination of a “hold time” followed by a “fade time,” making the N90’s gate adept at everything from standard noise gating to even more subtle control of ambience levels relative to main signal. There is also an external key input, allowing you to trigger the gate with an external signal. With the N90’s gate at your fingertips, you’ll discover (or perhaps rediscover) the subtle art of analog gating.
Link Up To 8 Units
Up to eight N90-DRC/500s can be linked together, allowing the compressor and gate functions to be controlled from just one of the units. This link functionality opens up a whole world of possibilities, from simpler stereo set-ups to far more elaborate scenarios where multiple channels are triggered by external key inputs. Almost anything you can dream up can be done with multiple N90s on hand.
Compressor Functions at a Glance
- Threshold — from +10 to -30, this is an intuitive and predictable threshold setting that never grabs your signal suddenly
- Ratio — from a mere 1.5:1 up to 8:1, the ratios are mellow and widely variable.
- Release — either gain-dependent auto setting or variable release from ultra-fast 0.1 sec up to 3 sec.
- Fast — toggles the attack time from normal (15ms) to fast (1ms)
- Make-Up Gain — up to +15dB of make-up gain is available (post-gate)
Gate Functions at a Glance
- Threshold — from +10 to -40
- Key: switches between input signal and an external “key” signal to trigger the gate detector
- Release: from 0.1 seconds to 2 seconds with unique hold-then-fade topology
- 24v built PSU so you can feel the sound of the ‘true’ unit and not be limited by the limitions of running at 16v which is the standard Lunchbox voltage.
- Unique design allows unit to run at 24v for true-to-form Class-A operation.
- Phoenix Audio’s unique Class A, transformerless, electronically balanced buffer amp input stage.
- Class-A, DSOP-2 output stage with custom-wound transformer. Frequency response: 20Hz to 20kHz +- 0.5dB.
- Maximum Output gain = +15dBu @ 1kHz, Noise = -90dB @ 20Hz to 20kHz, maximum
- Typical Max Headroom: +26dB on output stage
- Input connections: XLR input on rear of API compatible rack
- Ability to link multiple modules (up to 8)
- External input for gate section on TT Bantam connector
- Compression Meter: LED Metering. (Green = -3dbu, -6dbu -10dbu & -14dBu, Red= -20dBu and doubles as the Gate Active LED)
- 24v built PSU