This characterful compressor offers a little more control than most ‘vibe machines’.
Black Rooster have collaborated with multiple award‑winning mix engineer, producer and sound enthusiast Koen Heldens to create a signature series of processors. The first of them is the KH‑COMP1 studio compressor, which comes in AAX, VST and AU formats and works on Mac OS and Windows computers. Koen wanted a very specific type of compressor, and this plug‑in incorporates his ideas relating to process timing, channel linking and side‑chain filtering. KH‑COMP1 is a zero‑latency compressor, and as it doesn’t require your DAW to perform any sample‑delay compensation it can be used equally well for tracking or live performance.
Although many of the controls will be familiar to anyone who’s used a compressor before, there are four detector modes that affect this processor’s attack and release envelopes, as well as its reaction to transients. The modes are: RMS, Vintage, Peak and Hilbert. The last of these employs a 90‑degree phase shifter that’s designed to follow the signal’s exact envelope, without distortion or overshoots, so is a kind of ‘super peak’ mode.
When it comes to stereo linking, most compressors simply have a link on/off switch, if anything. Here, though, you’ll find a continuously variable Link control that moves between dual mono and stereo, allowing you to combine elements of both. Also adjusted using a variable control is the compressor’s knee, which can go from hard to soft.
Ratio (2:1 to limiting), Attack, Release, Threshold, Make‑up gain and Dry/Wet mix work much as you’d expect, but the side‑chain is more interesting, as this has a two‑band invertible filter. Separate low and high filters, each with adjustable Q, allow for more control when setting up ducking, pumping effects and de‑essing. The F Inv button also makes it possible to dial down the mids in between the filter settings in a very controlled way. A Listen button allows for auditioning the SC filter settings, and a moving‑coil‑style meter can follow the input, the output or the gain reduction.
This is a compressor that really wants to be heard doing its thing.
As with most compressors, the KH‑COMP1 can be used on most sound sources for general dynamic range control if it’s used in moderation, in which case it behaves predictably, without making itself too obvious (especially if you mix in some dry sound). But apply it more assertively and you get the distinct impression that this is a compressor that really wants to be heard doing its thing — it can sound really nice and vibey when applied heavily to bass or drums in particular. It can also work well as a parallel compressor/saturator for injecting a little more energy and urgency into vocals. Dialling up the ratio and taking down the attack and release times can make the KH‑COMP1 squash and pump in an unashamedly obvious way, and this ‘attitude’ is clearly one of the aspects that Koen wanted in this plug‑in.
The side‑chain filtering allows this compressor to be used in a number of frequency‑conscious ways, from reducing popping to de‑essing, but it can also be used more surgically, and that can be particularly helpful if you want to fine‑tune the gain reduction when you’re smashing the bejeezus out of things! So too can that dry/wet blend control.
Overall, then, this plug‑in works particularly well as a drum bus/loop compressor and bass firmer‑upper, as you might expect given the Koen Heldens association. But it also offers enough control range that it can meet most day‑to‑day compression needs too. The price isn’t in impulse‑purchase territory, but given the quality on offer here it’s not bad value for money either.