When considering the optical based, tube studio compressor, there have been some fantastic examples produced over the years. Typically these compressors have fallen into the “tried and true” category, desiring to stick to one or two main applications. However, what if an optical tube compressor could break through the historical model, incorporating a whole host of “crazy” ideas that incorporated some of the past, but merged it into something that embodied true versatility and pure tone?
Well, you would have the Hendyamps Van Gogh, and it is not for the feint of heart!
Tube Optical Compressor
Housed in a 2U rack unit, the Van Gogh employs 12au7‘s for the makeup gain portion of the unit. The signal first enters the Van Gogh by passing through an ultra high fidelity Jensen transformer, and from there moves to the 12au7 gain stages. The signal exits the Van Gogh by passing through another ultra high fidelity Jensen output transformer. The entire compressor is completely hand-built, all tube, discrete, single ended, and Class A in design, causing it to handle transients and the full range of frequencies in a way that few compressors are able to accomplish.
The compression is handled by three different circuits that all feed in together, allowing for the user to engage and manipulate any combination of the compressors at the same time.
Regarding the control features, the Van Gogh offers a unique and extraordinarily versatile set of tools at the user’s disposal:
- The GAIN control allows the user to increase the gain after the compression has been added to the signal.
- The RATIO control allows the compression to affect the signal more as the knob is turned clockwise.
- The COMP switches allow the user to switch the gain reduction for that particular compressor in and out of the circuit for immediate analysis regarding the compression vs bypassed signal.
- The GLOBAL THRESHOLD knob controls the overall gain reduction circuit for all compressors at the same time. Using this control in conjunction with the Threshold controls for each compressor allows for an incredible amount of versatility and options.
- The DISTORTION SHAPE switch changes the shape and character of the third compressor. In the down position the compressor acts as a hard limiter that produces a large amount of distortion and fuzz. In the up position, the distortion becomes much more sharp and aggressive. The down position is very nice on bass guitars while the up position is perfect for snares.
The first compressor is an optical circuit that is incredibly smooth. Often this circuit can be dropping a large number of DB’s and the user barely notices - It is that smooth! It is perfect for vocals, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, basses, etc.
The second compressor is extremely aggressive and quick. This circuit is very noticeable when under moderate to heavy compression in order to really shape a source that needs a lot of dynamic control. Drums and other high transient sources sound fantastic with this compressor.
The third compressor is something completely different and unexpected. Whereas most compressors attempt to make a signal clean and smooth, this compressor attempts to destroy a signal as much as possible! As this compressor is pushed, it responds by adding a significant amount of unique distortion/fuzz as well as near brickwall limiting. What this compressor does in moderate settings to sources like a snare drum is fantastic!
If it were not enough to have three unique and amazing compressors in one unit, there is still another option that allows for even more creativity - All compressors are able to be used at the same time! This not only provides for an infinite amount of different combinations of compression, but as you turn up and down the different controls, each compressor’s response curves change as they all draw off of the same triggering circuit. What that means is that turning up the threshold of one compressor affects all the others...even when they are not engaged! The possibilities are absolutely endless, making this unit one of the most interesting compressors on the market today.
- Makeup Gain
- Two separate compressors with their own controls
- Distortion generator/Limiter with its own control
- Control to set the global threshold of all three compressors at once
- Switch to engage each compressor individually or in any combination
- All tube signal path
- Two Channels
- Jensen Transformers in and out
- Line level in and out
- Hand-wired construction
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