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Gainlab Audio Dictator

Stereo Valve Compressor By Neil Rogers
Published December 2021

Gainlab Audio Dictator

This keenly-priced device offers a bit more control than most valve compressors.

I don’t need much persuading to review a nice‑looking valve compressor — I invariably end up liking such things a lot. But good examples can have very hefty price tags and it’s almost painful to have to return them after only a few weeks of play, while I find myself contemplating another reckless financial decision! The more accessible price tag of Gainlab Audio’s Dictator, then, was intriguing but it wasn’t just the price that caught my attention: it ticked all the boxes from a feature point of view too.

Named after their studio in Budapest, Gainlab started out repairing and modifying their own studio’s equipment, but almost inevitably this work led to them developing their own designs. The Dictator, reviewed here, is one of their first two releases, the other being a valve EQ. It is a stereo compressor based around traditional valve technology but, while Gainlab say that its sound is inspired by heavyweight compressors such as the Fairchild 660 and The Gates STA level, it offers some more modern features and controls too.

Command & Control

With its pale‑grey military styling, I like the look of the Dictator a great deal: it’s both aesthetically tasteful and nicely laid out in an ergonomic sense. It’s very much designed with stereo rather than dual mono applications in mind, since both channels share the same control set. That said, there is the option for unlinking the left and right channels, allowing each channel to compress independently of the other according to what signal is going through it, so you could use it on mono sources too.

The Dictator is relatively rich in features for this style of compressor. The large threshold control is front and centre, and it’s the perfect size and weight for when you want to lean over and give it a little nudge mid‑session. There are also controls for both input...

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