If you own a radio station and you need to control the dynamics of your broadcast before it goes over the airwaves, this is what you need. Wait, what?
That is how the Neve 33609 was first marketed. It basically was an evolution of the Neve 2254 made into a rack model. No doubt, it did a fine job controlling the signal without sounding like it was doing anything (i.e. no pumping, distortion, etc.) Hey, that sounds like a pretty good thing to use on a mix buss doesn’t it! And the Neve 33609 does a great job there. Transparent (for the time) and mostly unnoticeable while leveling the output.
However, it is not very transparent compared to modern compressors, but as we all know that is what makes it desirable—the sacred “analogue” sound. I think a big part of why vintage gear and emulation is so popular is not just the sound, but the slight randomness it introduces into the sound. Creating music with immaculate samples arranged with precision on a grid doesn’t always feel right. We can tell when something isn’t organic. We like the digital to be scuffed up a bit to sound more human to us.
Whatever may be the truth of that, the Neve 33609 has a flat audible frequency response, and (of course) modeled analogue harmonics. A lot of them! Like the 2254, notice the sound when the limiter and compressor are turned off (see below).
- On the mix bus turn off the limiter, set the compressor ratio to 1.5, the attack to slow, the release to a1, and set the threshold so you get no more than 1dB reduction. Then click the ratio up to 2dB, turn on and adjust the limiter. I’m not saying this is THE way, but it is a helpful technique. (Especially for learning.)
- Use the 33609 to slam the drum and bass. Like really slam them. Use just the compressor with fast attack on drums, slow attack on bass and let it rip. Then turn the the threshold down just a little. You will get a huge room sound. To really get fancy send your drums and bass to a bus and use the limiter of the 33609 and just take off the tops. With a little eq they can sound like one beautiful wall of rhythm. (Extra hint: don’t do this on folk music.)
- Because we are used to left to right, it looks like the limiter comes first in the processing chain. It doesn’t. Compressor first, then limiter.
- Turn the limiter and compressor off and get a clean analog sound with a few added harmonics. (See the chart.)