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Baby Audio I Heart NY

Parallel Compression Plug-in By Sam Inglis
Published March 2020

Baby Audio I Heart NY Parallel Compressor plug-in.

Many's the time I've set up parallel compression during a mix, thinking it might be just what was needed on a lifeless drum track or an apologetic vocal performance. And many's the time I've promptly switched it off. I know that in theory the results of blending dry and heavily compressed signals are supposed to be different from what you get by only compressing the signal a bit, but in practice, I haven't often preferred it.

So I'm surprised to find myself a complete convert to this Baby Audio plug-in. Available for Mac and Windows OS in all the usual native formats, and named I Heart NY to reflect the fact that parallel compression is also known as 'New York–style compression', it is loosely designed to recapture the experience of sending audio out to a UREI 1176 in 'all buttons in' mode, smashing the crap out of it and blending it back under the dry signal.

In this case, however, there are no patch cables or aux sends to contend with, and indeed no buttons: you just turn up the Spank knob to adjust the amount of compression, fade some of it into the dry signal and compensate for any level change using the output gain dial. Simple on the surface, but there's clearly some clever stuff going on internally, and the Spank control does way more than merely adjust the compressor threshold or ratio.

I'm surprised to find myself a complete convert to this Baby Audio plug-in...

Its endearing simplicity encouraged me to try I Heart NY on a wide variety of sources, from lead vocals and bass guitars to drum buses and entire mixes. And what I came to love about it is that you know within 30 seconds whether it's the right tool for the job. When it doesn't work, there's no temptation to think 'Wait, if I just adjust that and twiddle that...' because, well, there aren't any more parameters to adjust. And when it does work, it's really easy to find the sweet spot where the compression is adding something good to the sound without overwhelming the dry signal.

I was particularly impressed by what it can do to a lead vocal, somehow making it seem more up-front and present in the mix, with a mid-range bite that really cuts through. It is likewise very effective on drum rooms, kick and snare tracks, and even on the master bus.

At the derisory price of $29, I'd go so far as to say this is a must-have for anyone mixing rock or hard-hitting electronica.

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Published March 2020