There are compressors. And then there's the Phoenix Audio N90-DRC/500, a compressor/gate with uniquely musical sonics and behavior. With many of today's offerings emulating coveted vintage designs (certainly not a bad thing), it's refreshing to come across a decidedly different approach to compressor circuit design that honors the sheer musicality of the best compressors of yore while giving recording engineers a high degree of tonal and operational latitude. Developed in the 1990s by noted electronics guru Dave Rees (Phoenix Audio's lead designer and the "DR" in DRC), the N90 circuit does just that. Though you can push the N90-DRC/500 to elicit colorful sonic artifacts, its native wheelhouse is transparent, eminently musical-sounding dynamics control and gating.
Forgiving Class A circuit with impeccable manners
The N90 features a 100% Class A circuit built around Phoenix Audio's transparent- and open-sounding transfomerless input stage and acclaimed DSOP-2 output amplifier coupled to a custom-wound DB694 transformer. While the circuit schematics may appear quite elaborate, the experience of using the compressor/gate functions is anything but. Operating the N90-DRC/500 is highly intuitive and its behavior is delightfully forgiving — an impressive feat, in light of the fact that this is a solid-state compressor.
Ease of use is fostered by the progressive nature of the N90's unique control circuit. With gain reduction beginning well below (and continuing beyond) the threshold, the circuit never triggers sudden changes in dynamics. What you're treated to instead, as you dial in the N90's smooth dynamics control, is the gradual enhancement of your signal with the lushness of the N90's discrete Class A circuit. Bottom line: it's hard to make the N90-DRC/500 sound bad.
With conservative ratios ranging from 2:1 to 8:1, the N90-DRC/500 is obviously designed for transparent, workmanlike dynamics control. But upon exploration of the higher ratios, you find they are indeed capable of limiter-like behavior and artifact generation, particularly when the attack is set to Fast and you're manually manipulating the release time. What's more, by driving hotter signal into the N90, a broad range of tones can be cultivated in the DSOP-2 output stage, from sparkling cleans to warm, punchy Class A analog saturation.
Controlling all this is a breeze, too. The N90 is never fussy or twiddly; transitions from transparent to more obvious compression and output-stage saturation are smooth as silk, so dialing in your target sound is effortless. From subtle level control to rich Class A saturation — not to mention its highly useful gate circuit — the N90-DRC/500 is one of the more versatile dynamic control units we've encountered. You will be impressed.
A sophisticated gate you'll actually want to use
With digital audio's practically inaudible noise floor, gating has become somewhat of a lost art. Designed right before the industry largely discarded analog tape, the N90 incorporates one of the most advanced, musical-sounding analog gates ever developed. In keeping with the compressor section's impeccable behavior, the N90's gate is both subtle and musical. Thanks to a release function that consists of a hold time followed by a fade time, the N90 gate is proficient at everything from routine noise gating to more exacting control of ambience relative to main signal levels. As you would expect, the N90 is spec'd with an external key input that lets you trip the gate with an external signal. With the N90-DRC/500's sophisticated gating functionality, you'll discover (or rediscover) the fine art of gating.
Link up to eight units
With the ability to link up to eight N90-DRC/500s together, you can pack your rack with them and control the compressor and gate functions from just one of the units. This linking functionality opens up a universe of possibilities, from simple stereo to more elaborate configurations with multiple channels being triggered by external key inputs. Just about anything you can dream up can be achieved with multiple N90s.
Onboard power supply for uncompromised performance
With the inclusion of a 24V power supply onboard the N90-DRC/500, which avoids the limitations of running at the standard 16V 500 Series voltage and guarantees optimal Class A operation. Featuring low current draw from your 500 Series chassis power rail, Phoenix Audio's 24V PSU implementation in their 500 Series modules is approved by the API VPR Alliance, giving you peace of mind — and 500 Series convenience without compromise.
Phoenix Audio N90-DRC/500 Features:
STL PRO AUDIO is the Authorised NZ Distributor for Phoenix Audio.