In a world were everyone feeds forward, one plugin company decides to feedback. “No analog or circuit emulation!” they cry, “For we are digital!” And with their stuff being free, you should probably take a listen.
The TDR Feedback Compressor II by Tokyo Dawn Records is a feedback style compressor that is proudly digital. Sporting 64bit processing, oversampling, side-chain, high pass, and more threshold and envelope controls than you can shake a stick at. Truly the Feedback Compressor II offers a plethora of options for the tweak happy engineers. Tokyo Dawn’s goal for the Feedback Compressor II is for it to be the clean go-to compressor that will work on just about any source. But how well does this feedback style compressor hold up? In order to understand that question we need to know a little more about how it was designed.
Despite being proudly digital, the Feedback Compressor II is actually based off a common analog compressor design, at least in principle. Many analog compressors work by using what is known as a feedback design. For those unaware, a feedback style compressor works by compressing the signal, feeding the compressed signal back to the threshold, then compressing the next signal against the older compressed signal. In the digital world, this translates to compressing a single sample (or group of samples), feeding the compressed samples back to the threshold, seeing if the samples are still higher than the threshold, and if they are then compress the next sample (or group of samples) accordingly.
While there is the opposing feedforward design, you will not often see feedfoward outside of plugins. The reason being an analog feedforward design can be a pain to deal with in circuits due to the need for time delays. However, because a basic feedforward design is easy to recreate digitally, many plugin compressors are a feedforward type. With feedfoward being so common in the digital realm the Feedback Compressor II offers a breathe of fresh air.
All Those Controls
As we stated earlier, the Feedback Compressor II has a lot of controls that only the digital domain could afford. While the typical THRESHOLD, RATIO, ATTACK, HIGH PASS, STEREO/MONO, MAKEUP, and MIX controls are all present, there a few more unique controls to be had.
Starting off with the PEAK CREST control, we have a rather odd parameter at our disposal. The PEAK CREST control is essential a secondary threshold for the peak detection inside the compressor. Why do we need this? Because in actuality the Feedback Compressor II is both a RMS and Peak detector unit, with THRESHOLD controlling the compression point for RMS and the PEAK CREST controlling the amplitude detection for the peak approach. This combination approach allows for peak compression followed up by smooth RMS detection and helps with the compressors sensitive but smooth sound.
Next up, the SOFT KNEE control is a function typically found on limiters, but allows for more gentle or harsh transitions between compression and no compression when the signal crosses the threshold. Down the line we have the PEAK RATIO/LIM switch, which when turned to LIM effectively treats the peak detection part of the compressor as having a fixed 7:1 compression ratio. Below we have a multiple release time scheme comprised of the RELEASE PEAK and RELEASE RMS controls. All these controls do is offer varying release times depending on which compression detection scheme the Feedback Compressor II is currently using. To know which release time you are using, the corresponding LED images will change as the different compression releases change.
Finally below the compression meter and transfer function graph we have PRECISE, ECO, and DELTA. The PRECISE and ECO functions allow you to turn down the CPU load of the plugin in exchange for less resolution and vise versa. The DELTA toggle however is a rather interesting addition for compression monitoring. What this toggle allows you to do is listen to the difference between the original signal and the compressed signal, aka the actual compression that is taking place.
The Sound of Digital
Digital compressors often get ripped on for being too, well, digital. But is there a place for clean unsaturated processing? The only way to find out is to try it out!
As with all our compressor tests, each example will present the raw track followed up by a sensible compression. We will then follow up with heavy compression tweaked back to a 50/50 NY style parallel sound. In each case the compressed signals will be matched back to the raw signals peak level so you can really hear the sound of the compressor and not just more volume. Finally we will be keeping with our traditional compressor examples so that you can compare back and forth between plugins easily.
Clean Electric Guitar
Up first is a standard clean electric guitar sound. The first compressed example had a average of 3dbs of compression where as the second had 10dbs. With a moderately quick attack and average release times we were able to achieve clean leveling without obnoxious pumping. Listen closely to the pick noise and how it becomes more present but maintains a clear character.
Guitar with Reasonable Compression
Guitar with NY Compression
Next we have the typical snare drum sound via dynamic microphone on the batter head (A little lifeless and lacking in sustain and definition). The first compression example with the Feedback Compression II averages at 3dbs while the NY example hits between 8-10dbs of compression. In this case we used a very quick attack with a short release on the RELEASE PEAK and a long release under RELEASE RMS. Listen for a little more sustain and air to the snare as it comes to life with the compression. However also take note of the hi-hats increased presence as well.
Snare with Reasonable Compression
Snare with NY Compression
Now we get to contend with the bass range via our kick drum example. In this case we wanted to see how well the Feedback Compressor II would handle the low end so we dropped the high-pass to 40Hz. This allowed the tone of the kick to induce compression without the room shaking part of triggering the compressor. Using moderately fast attack and average release scheme we were able to bring the massive sustain under control without adding unwanted harmonics. While there is a subtle amount of more attack in the compressed examples, extra harmonics were not induced like with the Thrillseeker VBL we recently reviewed.
Kick with Reasonable Compression
Kick with NY Compression
The Drum Buss
Finally we come to the drum buss which introduces a wide range of frequencies and transients for the compressor to contend with. While the results are a little less dramatic, the Feedback Compressor II does induce subtly bring up the sustain and air in the track while at the same time taming the low end. 3dbs and 10dbs were the average compression levels respectively.
Raw Drum Buss
Drum Buss with Reasonable Compression
Drum Buss with NY Compression
As you heard Tokyo Dawn’s Feedback Compressor II is a lean clean compression machine (sorry that was too easy not to say). It offers a wide array of controls to dial the sound in just right and leaves you with the original sound, only louder. Where as the Thrillseeker VBL was dirty and full of harmonics (in a good way mind you) the Feedback Compressor II is like a dentists office. Clean, sterile, children don’t like it (Lean Audio does not conduct tests on animals or children), but man are the results good. When the sound is perfect and it just needs to be tamed or made a little louder, the Feedback Compressor II delivers in spades and should be the go to compressor.
Just how we need colorful plugins, we also NEED clean ones as well. TDR’s Feedback Compressor II easily competes the the big boys, but weighs in at free. So what are you waiting for? Go get it!
Oh you need the url? To download the Feedback Compressor II go visit Tokyo Dawn Labs.