By now, you'll be aware that FXpansion are enjoying being able to dissipate the vast amount of R&D which went into developing the DCam Synth Squad by breaking out the assorted modules from that bundle into dedicated plug-ins. We've already seen the release of the filter plug-in, Etch, and now a new title is upon us, borrowing the compression processors from the DCam system to provide a suite of plug-ins entitled DCam Dynamics.
This comprises four separate plug-ins, to tackle a range of dynamically-related tasks. The first of these is the (green) channel compressor which offers input and output dials at the top, separated by a pane to show level or gain reduction. Five ratios are offered—4, 8, 12, 20 and Nuke!—while attack and release times are offered from 0.02 to 1.2 milliseconds and 50 to 1200 milliseconds respectively. To the right, a Hi Def button shifts the standard "two times" over-sampling to "four times" providing a cleaner, higher-quality result (albeit at some cost to your CPU). There are also "bypass" and "learn" buttons. The latter of these provides the option to assign hardware controllers of your choice to dials, buttons and sliders and this functionality is replicated through the other DCam Dynamics modules too.
Below these are bias and mix dials, the former of which gets to the very heart of the units on which these processors were modeled. Bias continuously varies the values of the capacitors used on the hardware units modeled, meaning you can achieve anything from subtle to hard dynamics control, all of which adds substantial sonic colour. The mix dial is a welcome addition, as it blends compressed signals with their uncompressed originals, achieving parallel processing effects without having to set up a dedicated compression bus on one hand, and allowing for quasi-intermediate ratio control on another.
The (light brown) bus compressor features a side-chain input on the left-hand side, which can receive signals via internal channels 3 and 4. This features a 20Hz to 5kHz high-pass filter, allowing you to compress only frequencies above a user-defined threshold which is extremely useful when trying to dynamically control signals which are bass-heavy. The attack envelope here features "fixed" positions at 0.1, 0.3, 1, 3, 10 and 30 milliseconds, while release values are also detented at 0.1, 0.3, 0.6, 1.2 and "auto" values. Three ratio values are offered at 2, 4 and 10:1, with variable threshold and gain make-up dials providing adequate control over subtle or brutal dynamics reduction. A saturate button allows you to drive the internally-modeled circuit hard, while there are dials to control input and output levels, alongside a mix dial.
Multi-band compression is popular in mastering circles in particular, allowing you to make frequency-sensitive decisions about dynamics control, applying different strengths of reduction across discrete bands from bass to treble. The (black) CrossComp(pressor) allows a useful degree of this but applied to a bus compressor architecture rather than specifically with mastering in mind. Frequency-sensitive operation is handled on the left-hand side, with a high-pass filter-based side-chain detector at the top and an X-Over panel below. This is where the magic happens, with separate "pass-thru" and "process" sections allied to a user-defined frequency dial allowing you to decide first where you want the threshold for frequency-sensitive compressor to begin and then whether you want to prioritize frequencies above or below this point for compression.
This processor also features a more detailed graphical read-out of its assorted goings-on than the others in the suite, with an active volume graph showing knee, threshold, gain reduction and more besides. Both the pass-thru and processor levels can be adjusted on the right, with saturation buttons on the left. A range of listening options allow you to monitor exactly what's being used, detected, heard, compressed and ignored. Ratio is offered on a continuously variable dial from 1:1 (no compression) to a whopping 60:1. It's a hugely flexible processor.
The final plug-in is an envelope shaper, much like the "transient designers" offered by companies like SPL. Rather than a traditional set of dynamics parameters, the envelope shaper's most important controls are attack and sustain, which offset the natural starts and decays of incoming signals to allow you to modify the "behaviour" of signals—creating snappier or more sustained results, in other words. Tools like this are great, in particular, for elongating percussive sounds which are too short and they do this by fighting the natural decay of a sound, effectively lengthening a sound by adding progressive amounts of gain to decay periods to "sustain" them instead. The opposite is also possible if you want a punchier sound to be created from one which sticks around too long, while additional controls are offered besides. Again, these include a side-chaining option and bias control, which in this context controls the sensitivity of the attack and sustain dials. This is a great, neat and tidy processor which provides an unusual spin on the more "expected" processors in a dynamics bundle and it's very welcome.
As a suite, DCam Dynamics is comprehensive. Each processor has been designed to tackle a specific task, but there's plenty of room for creative abuse with the "wrong" processor often sounding great when used in a less expected context. Also pleasing is the scale over which these processors can make their presence felt. You can, for instance, just tickle a signal with a mix dial prioritized at the original dry signal, a low ratio and a high threshold to catch and process some subtle peaks, or you can let hell break loose by selecting extreme settings and running all four plug-ins on the same input channel. As we've come to expect from FXpansion, both approaches enhance the quality of your mixes. But don't take my word for it, download the free bus compressor the company has made available from its website, which will give you way more than a taste of what the full bundle can offer.