The Elysia Alpha Compressor Plugin, developed by Brainworx, is available from both Plugin Alliance and as a UAD plugin. The actual hardware goes for about $10,000 so few people will have the experience of actually using one, but this rendition of the Elysia Alpha Compressor VST gives you the experience for about 2.5% of the cost. So when someone asks silly questions like “Does it sound like the real thing?” contemplate the cost difference!
The Alpha Compressor supports Mid/Side and Stereo as well as Feedback and Feed Forward. There is a mix version as well so that you can put this on individual tracks.
If you used the “link” button, the knobs on the left will also control the knobs on the right, otherwise they are independent. The left controls the mid and the right controls the side, if you want stereo operation, then disengage this button.
The compressor has the normal Threshold, Attack, Release, Ratio knobs. Threshold is when the compressor “kicks in” or starts applying compression. Ratio is how much compression should be applied. Attack is how fast the compressor should take to reach full compression and Release is how long is should take to return to normal.
If you aren’t familiar with compressors, you should probably start with a higher ratio, and turn the threshold until you can hear the effect being applied. Then adjust the attack and release so that the audio sounds natural, unless you are going for a more pumping sound for a dance track, in which case adjust them so that the compressor is triggered and released in time to the audio track. Then adjust down the Ratio until it sounds natural, unless you want it to be a “crushed” sound.
The LEDS around the circular logo will light up to indicate Gain Reduction. If they aren’t lighting up, you either have the module “inactive” in which case you need to hit the activate button, or you have the Threshold set too low. An orange light will light up if Soft Clip is engaged.
Many of the knobs also has an accompanying button. The Attack and Release have Auto Fast buttons. These cause the attack and release times to be faster. The Feed Forward button next to the Threshold knob controls if the compressor is in feed forward or feed back mode. This just changes the side chain filter to be in front of or in back of the compressor.
The next row of knobs are for EQ and SideChain. The EQ Gain is turned on my engaging the On button next to the knob. This is called a Niveau Filter, and seems to act like a tilt. To the right, it boosts treble and cuts bass, and to the left it boosts bass and cuts treble. When on, this filter is put after the compressor.
The EQ Freq picks the center frequency for the Niveau filter, from 20Hz to 2kHz. The x10 button just multiplies the frequencies by a factor of 10, making the knob 200Hz to 20,000 kHz. I think the only reason they did this was so you can have finer control of the knob, or they just wanted another button 🙂
Use the On button next to the SC Gain knob to turn on the sidechain filter. The SC Freq knob sets the center frequency of the sidechain filter and the SC Gain knob sets it to high pass, low pass or any range in between.
To emulate parallel compression, the Mix knob can be used to blend the compressed signal with the original signal . The Gain knob is for compensation for any loss in volume reductions. The Warm button adds saturation. The Soft Clip knob acts as a limiter and is turned on by the button next to i.
This Jazzy clip is put into Mid/Side mode to pull out a little bit of the cymbals, and the kick is a just a tad bit more pronounced. It’s subtle, which is what you’d normally want for mastering.
Here we’ll play with the Feed Forward mode so that you can hear the effect. What this does is put the sidechain in front of the compressor. This should make a a bit harder or punchier. First with it on the Mid, then with it on the Side.
Now let’s try it on a Hip Hop track with some bass to see if that affects the side chain. I’m hitting -6db before the plugin, and about -6db after.
Although I like the first clip more, the Elysia does tame the kick a bit to make it sound more like the radio.
I’m not sure where I stand with the Alpha Compressor. I don’t think I could recommend the hardware unit for the cost. The plugin is OK, but sometimes less is more. The knobs are fairly symmetrical, but I feel as though the Shadow Hills is much easier to user. While this does add EQ tweaking for the sidechain, I think you get much more control with a dedicated EQ unit. I would only get this plugin if you already have several other compressors.
Be sure to check out our other Elysia Plugin reviews.