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Wes Audio ngBusComp

Digitally Controlled Analogue Compressor By Matt Houghton
Published November 2021

Wes Audio ngBusComp

Want the sound and tactile experience of hardware but the convenience of plug‑ins? Wes Audio have the answer...

Regular readers will know that I’ve been smitten with Wes Audio’s digitally controlled analogue gear and that I’ve evaluated various devices inspired by the SSL 4k bus compressor. The ngBusComp brings these worlds together in the most impressive reimagining of the SSL design I’ve yet encountered. As with the other ng (‘next generation’) products, this analogue compressor can be controlled using front‑panel buttons and encoders, a dedicated DAW plug‑in, or both. The communication between them is bidirectional and they never feel out of sync.

Overview

The build quality is flawless, inside and out. A black, 3U chassis is adorned with a substantial, brushed‑finish, metal panel which sports many controls, all a pleasing size and generously spaced. The encoders’ knurled knobs have just enough ‘stiffness’ to provide useful tactile feedback and several are touch‑sensitive, their LED indicator rings becoming brighter the instant you lay fingers on them. That’s a nice touch, which means the rest of the front‑panel ‘light show’ can be left tastefully dulled. Speaking of light shows, the metering sections comprise not only the expected moving‑coil gain‑reduction meter but, either side, 10‑LED input and output level meters too, each ranging from 0 to the maximum 26dBu.

On the back, male and female XLR connectors cater for the balanced line‑level I/O and two TRS jack sockets for the external side‑chain inputs. An IEC inlet is switchable for 115V or 230V mains, and USB Type B and RJ45 Ethernet ports allow communication with the plug‑in.

Lifting the lid requires reveals neat PCBs, populated by a combination of SMDs and through‑hole components. The business end of the compression circuitry is classic SSL, with THAT Corporation’s THAT2181 chips used for the gain reduction and in the detector circuit. These chips aren’t inexpensive, and some ‘SSLish’ designs cut costs here: the better designs, including ngBusComp, use four in parallel in the signal path, helping to keep the noise floor low.

The ngBusComp has two separate analogue channels, which can be configured as L‑R, M‑S or dual mono, and the digital controls can be linked and unlinked at the push of a button.The ngBusComp has two separate analogue channels, which can be configured as L‑R, M‑S or dual mono, and the digital controls can be linked and unlinked at the push of a button.

The front‑panel’s biggest giveaway that this is more than a clone is not the additional functions, but that there’s a separate control set for each channel, with each laid out identically from left to right. Between the two sit some backlit buttons, some of which have a secondary press‑and‑hold action. Uppermost is the Parameter Link button, with three more beneath to configure the compressor as a Dual (mono), (L‑R) Stereo or M‑S (stereo) device.

When Parameter Link is engaged, each control operates on both channels, LEDs lighting on both accordingly. Linked changes are relative to the existing settings, rather than one channel forcing the other to its position. You can also copy one channel’s settings to the other: press and hold the Dual button, wait for it to blink, and press the M‑S button to copy from channel 1 to 2, and vice versa for 2...

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