The Vertigo VSC-2 is one of my favorite compressors. It has four discrete 1979 VCAs two per channel, one in the audio path and another in the sidechain. It’s meant for mastering and the mix bus, but works well on individual tracks as well. While I find it to be a fairly transparent compressor that doesn’t add a lot of coloration, it does produce 2nd order harmonics if you crank the make-up gain.
The controls are pretty straight forward. Threshold has a range of 48db, this determines when the compressor kicks in. Ratio has 2:1, 4:1, 8:1, 10:1 and Brick, which is limiting mode. The Soft mode is a bit unique, something called Tip Toe Mode, because it tip-toes into compression. It starts with low compression ratios and automatically increases with higher input levels, so that you don’t hear the compression kick in. It’s been compared to the sound of an opto-compressor.
The attack settings are 0.1 ms, 0.3 ms, 1ms, 3ms, 10ms, and 30ms. Release settings are 0.1 s, 0.3 s, 0.6 s, 0.9 s, 1.2 s, Auto. The Makeup Gain goes to +22 db and has something called a “zoom in” where half the knob goes to +5 so you can fine tune 0 to +6db, it’s almost like the knob is logarithmic.
The SC filter allows you to treat the Kick like a sidechain, and ignore frequencies below 60 or 90HZ (with a gentle curve) to reduce pumping. You can also choose to link or unlink stereo.
Let’s look at this song clip that needs a few tweaks. Since we are reviewing the Vertigo VSC-2 plugin, we’ll try and use that to solve all the problems rather than turning to other methods like EQ. I’ll also try and use presets when I can as that is not only time efficient, but takes away any variables like my mixing skills (or lack thereof.)
The first thing I notice is that the bass is just too overpowering. If I turn the fader down though, it loses too much power, and you just can’t hear it well within the rest of the mix. Let’s try the “Bass Compression” preset.
The Vertigo with the default Bass Compression setting is actually pretty good. I think I’d probably play with the SC Filter and perhaps the threshold, but let’s just keep the preset settings.
The next thing I notice is the lead synth is a bit harsh. I could probably put a high shelf on it, but let’s see what the Vertigo can do. It doesn’t need a ton of work, so a bit of compression might be just fine.
The first thing I’ll do is set the Ratio to 2. Then I start with the Threshold on “Hi” (so that there’s no compression) and turn it down until the harshness starts to go away. I don’t want a super fast attack, 10 sounds good so that it doesn’t take away from the attack, and .6 for release seems to work.
That tamped it down nicely. Now let’s turn to the drums. There’s actually an acoustic set mixed in with the electronic set. I’m going to punch up the snare on the acoustic set to give it a bit more oomph using the Snare Punch preset.
I could play with the Kick here, but I think I might see if I can get the whole song pumping on the mix bus.
Just to see what it can do on the electronic drums, I’ll treat it more like a leveler. I started with the Kick Drum Fat preset, but ended up wetting it to Brick wall, with attack all the way up and release all the way down, it brings out the pump a little more, but not overly so. This thing is set to Brick wall and it sounds better, not crushed!
The next thing I notice is that the piano is totally buried now. The Vertigo has a preset called Piano Compression, and it was meant for this demo. Not a better preset could I ask for. It brings the piano through the mix now, but not overbearing, and I didn’t have to tweak the knobs at all.
The mix is now clipping, so I’ll put the Vertigo on the mix bus and use the Mix Bus Limiting preset.
That did a fine job, but let’s see what else we can do. The mix bus tight preset really brings out the drums. I don’t think it’s right for this track, but I can see how it would work well on some tracks.
Here I was able to get it to pump a little more.
I ended up doing something that would cost you a fortune if you were using hardware, I put two Vertigo VSC-2s on the mix bus. The first I set the SideChain to 90 HZ so that the low end wouldn’t effect the compressor. I then treated it like a leveler, and put the attack all the way up and the release all the way down, with the ratio set to Soft.
I then put on another instance with a ratio of 2, but a very low threshold. The attack set to 3 and the release to .3 with the Make-up gain turned down just so it wouldn’t clip.
Brainworx created this plugin for UAD and it’s available from Plugin Alliance as well if you don’t have a UAD Apollo . I highly recommend it as it’s fairly transparent and works well on multiple source materials. Even when you set it to extreme ratios, it doesn’t quite have the same crushing sound that other compressors have. Additionally, the real thing would cost you $5k.
Check out our other reviews of Plugin Alliance plugins.