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Author Topic: TFPRO p38v7 Stereo Mastering Compressor review  (Read 4710 times)

Joe_caithness

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TFPRO p38v7 Stereo Mastering Compressor review
« on: August 18, 2011, 03:15:40 pm »

repost from GS where it didn't get much of a response (yet)..


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Sorry if this is waffly or "train out thought" in style. I am essentially working stuff out as I go along, and this will be non technical plain pub talk style, please bare with me if I make any grammatical errors, I am painfully dyslexic, but will usually edit as I read back over..

P38v7 Ultimate mastering and effect compression by Ted Fletcher

So, very short back story to this one, this is designed by Ted Fletcher, who worked on the Alice broadcast range, the original Joemeek brand and various others, including his own line of solo designs TFPRO.

This is the latest version of his P38 "Edward the Compressor" range.

I have had this for three days and have been testing it extensively.

So here goes the review:

First Impressions:

It's very shallow physically, quite surprised for some reason, thought it would be huge for some reason, BIG detailed VUs, very clear layout, input on left, output on right, pretty much matches the circuit as it goes through.

Nice use of switching on the VU between L+R level and SUM input and SUM GR. BIG SILVER KNOBS, very tactile. Only input and output are de-tented, and there is blank markings on the controls, this annoys me a bit, because I don't want to have to do any maths while I'm jotting down settings.

It has a comp in (no auto makeup gain) and a hard bypass for checking the signal in and out, I can understand right away why people complained about the lack of this in earlier models.

Lots of different types of release styles and times, including a button which extends (not doubles) the release times.

OK SO PLUG IT IN...

Stick some signal through. Right, so why is my hard bypassed signal instantly quieter? Quick look in the manual tells me that unity input gain is actually 6 on the input gain. Take a quick look at the ouput gain, this is set in dBs plus and minus 0dB. Slightly confusing having to deal with the compressors own readings on the input and calibrated dBs on the output, again having to do a little bit of maths on the fly to get the level matched. Not the end of the world.

Let's compress something.


OK stick a signal through at 6 on the input, not hot enough to make the compressor kick in without the threshold all the way down, so I turn up a few more notches on the input, that's better. But then I hit a brick wall, I've now had to boost input to get compressor to react with room to move on the threshold, so my output is now hotter than my hard bypass. After scratching my head for a bit, I worked out that what I need to do is essentially MAKE DOWN GAIN to level match to hear the compressor in/out. Important to say after two days I totally got used to this.

OK, so I have a nice house tune, something I mastered recently and felt the source mixdown was nice as it was. Got it riding nicely at about 2-3 dBs GR throughout the track (rarely find my work involves compressing harder). How does it sound?

After running all kinds of program material I can confirm it sounds great, it definitely has a sound, this isn't a transparent compressor, if anything I would describe it as "musical" and is very much "glueing" the sound. But it's very hands off with the important transient stuff, it's making things sound thicker, warmer, slightly gooy, but it's not doing this by simply killing the top end, INFACT the top end gets a slight sheen, little fast hi hats are now shining as they bounce.

The bottom end is left in tact (perhaps due to the HPF sidechain he added on this model), in fact it sounds slightly extended, I'm not sure how it's happening, but it has an almost tape like effect on the bottom end, it seems to gel it together and present it to you in a punchy rounded way.

I ran this shoegaze/noisepop project I'm on through it and it applied some kind of magic to the mid range, it seemed to take the cold digital upper mids and, by some kind of witchcraft, make it sound much easier on the ears. I tried this on a few projects, ITB dance mixes, home recorded punk rock, same thing! Really useful, I found just at a tiny bit of GR gave this effect, almost like an auto EQ for digital nasty mids, lovely!

No audio yet, got a new AD on the way (Mytek) so I am going to wait until that's hooked up before I prepare some clips for y'all.

Will I be buying it? Yeah probably! I was unsure until I had this revelation about how it could provide me with a tone that smooths out an issue I have a lot of problems with. It couldn't sound anymore different to my GSSL, I tried to match the two in what they were doing on some material, and they ended up sounding wildly different, so it's a relevant new tool for my arsenal.

I was looking for a compressor I could use to give some colour to cold ITB mixes, but also get enough GR without impairing the mixdown to achieve the loudness my clients want, I think this could be it!
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Waltz Mastering

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Re: TFPRO p38v7 Stereo Mastering Compressor review
« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2011, 08:40:25 pm »

Does it have a wet/dry mix knob on it.  For some reason I thought Teds designs had parallel compression built in?

Joe_caithness

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Re: TFPRO p38v7 Stereo Mastering Compressor review
« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2011, 04:32:13 am »

No this one doesn't, here's a pic of the front panel:

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Waltz Mastering

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Re: TFPRO p38v7 Stereo Mastering Compressor review
« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2011, 04:33:28 pm »

Gotcha... just checking, it looks like the EX version has it.
http://www.tfpro.com/tfpro-p38ex-stereo-effects-compressor.html

Hermetech Mastering

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Re: TFPRO p38v7 Stereo Mastering Compressor review
« Reply #4 on: August 19, 2011, 04:38:11 pm »

Thanks for the review, I had been eyeing it recently...

Joe_caithness

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Re: TFPRO p38v7 Stereo Mastering Compressor review
« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2011, 11:30:23 am »

Found a problem, which I am currently awaiting on reply from Ted about getting fixed. I normally wouldn't post, but seeing as it's a problem other people reported with previous models, I thought I would share incase they could also chime in..

The input gain knob is drifting between L + R, enough for me to have been going mad over I'm losing stereo image on my demos I've done for myself.

So this morning I ran some tones though and tried different settings. Indeed it is drifting to the left. Not the end of the world, but not what I would expect seeing as it's been brought up before and I had an email from Ted explaining that was "impossible". It's a good 1.5 dB at some gains too.

So it has a stereo balance knob, which is unstepped but pretty good, which I used to calibrate the signal back in within a 0.01 of a dB pretty much. But then of course, as previously mentioned you had to change the input gain in every project to get the threshold to react in the way you need it depending on the source material. This means currently at the start of each project I am having to run tones through, and of course if I change the input gain at any point, I will have to do this again.

Don't get me wrong, I like this compressor and I have bought it and intend to keep it, I hope this is a defected model, as opposed to a "quirk" of the compressor in general, as it's just all a bit of a ballache if this is just the workflow to get the box working. I mean I'm all for the eccentricities of analogue gear, but when it just means the audio coming in and out are wrong it's not good.

I will update when I have his reply, I hope he doesn't claim this to be "impossible" like in our last email...
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Ruairi O Flaherty

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Re: TFPRO p38v7 Stereo Mastering Compressor review
« Reply #6 on: August 20, 2011, 01:53:15 pm »

Joe,

What you're experiencing is quite normal with pots.  This is just one of the reasons we all favour switches (at great expense) in most of our gear.  You can get away with pots in certain places like the attack on a compressor but for any gains switches are more or less a must.  Either that or you find a setting that works, lock it off and adjust gain from elsewhere (and wear short sleeves).

Good luck.
Ruairi
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Joe_caithness

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Re: TFPRO p38v7 Stereo Mastering Compressor review
« Reply #7 on: August 29, 2011, 12:42:53 pm »

I found a pretty easy way to match the stereo at the beginning of each capture, so it's not the end of the world.. to be honest the compressor sounds so great I'm over it anyway.

Had a discussion with Ted about the sound of the unit after noticing some subtle but very nice colouration when you run the box hotter, turns out he'd chosen some transformer that have some nice musical saturation when run hotter on purpose, it's a really nice addition as I'm finding what I can do is hit the front end a bit harder to get more of a gel.

It's a really nice character this thing has, it's very much justify-able as an analogue Compressor in the age of good digital plugin compression, as it really has it's unique vibe going on, and this vibe just happens to be perfect for smoothing out the nastyness and coldness of ITB mixing and poor digital tracking over the 2 bus.

The auto release mode he calls the "trans release" is great, the release reacts differently with louder transients (faster action) and coupled with the non linear release characteristics of the optical compression circuit, this thing is proving to be very friendly to drums indeed.
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