Though it has a control panel that looks like a Klingon's duvet cover and an introduction that suggests it was inspired by an alien abduction, the aptly named Pusher is at heart a rather elegant enhancement device. It is based around a parallel signal chain involving transformer/tape-head saturation modelling and dynamic processing. The incoming signal is first split into wet and dry paths, with a wet/dry blend control recombining them. The wet path has a master Flux Drive control feeding into a bank of four saturation 'cores' arranged in parallel, each with its own drive control. The four sections emulate the saturation characteristics of iron, steel, cobalt and nickel. A master bias control also affects the behaviour of the four emulations, making the core overdrive character more gritty as you turn it clockwise. At moderate settings this section injects a distinctive tape‑like warmth, but if you push hard it can get pretty crunchy‑sounding.
This blended signal is then split three ways, driving both the input and side‑chain of a diode limiter emulation that the designer compares, in concept at least, to the Neve 2254. In turn this feeds a final Blend slider prior to the master output gain adjustment knob, where the signal is mixed with the output from the saturation section's Blend control. Three knobs control the limiter's threshold, attack and release, with a moving‑coil‑style meter indicating the amount of gain reduction. There's also a single‑knob low‑cut EQ control in the side‑chain path. When pushed hard this compressor can pump quite dramatically. While the panel layout seems to use alien symbols for many of the functions, in a more lucid moment, Kush Audio have also added a 'cheat' mode which, when switched on, adds text labels that give a much clearer idea of what is going on. Also helpful is a useful selection of factory presets to get you started.
Parallel compression and indeed parallel distortion are commonly used techniques in modern music production, and Pusher packs them both into a single plug‑in with the added benefit that the distortion can take on different sonic characteristics depending on the 'mix of metals' you choose. Used sparingly it does really nice things to delicate guitar parts, lifting out detail and somehow adding a sense of density and air at the same time. Its grittier nature can be helpful in adding attitude to timid snare drums, electric guitar, bass guitar and the like, and it also works perfectly well on complete mixes for that 'more of everything' treatment. Thanks to the parallel signal paths, transient definition never seems to get lost no matter how excessive you get. Pusher is actually much easier to set up than you might at first imagine and you'll probably be surprised at how effective it can be where you just want to make something sound that bit larger than life — though it can also get seriously dirty and nasty if that's what you need. Paul White