After 15 years of outstanding sales, Focusrite are finally to discontinue the legendary Red 3 Dual Compressor / Limiter. The Red 3 was launched in 1994, secured a TEC award in 1995, and went on to become an industry standard worldwide. Almost every major studio owns, or has at some time hosted, a Focusrite Red 3, famous for its ability to retain a natural, unobtrusive sound even when significant compression is being applied. Red 3s are frequently placed over the mix bus, applying an effect that Tom Lord-Alge describes as, ‘kissing the Focusrite’.
It could be said that Focusrite invented ‘boutique’ rack-mount hardware. The Red range brought ‘sex appeal’ to the racks of professional recording studios. All Reds boast 1/2’ thick burgundy red anodised aluminum fascias. The front panel features engraved section grooves and styling motifs, (sculpted with diamond-tipped cutters), porthole meter windows, anoprinted silver control text, silver-anodised, custom-designed, turned rotary switch knobs and firm-response illuminated push-button switches.
The Red 3, as with all of the Red range modules, is hand-built, using the same circuit topology as the original ISA130 module from the Focusrite Forté console. All Red products feature relays using gold-plated silver contacts, sealed in an inert gas. The precious metal means that all contacts are low resistance and the gas prevents any kind of corrosion of the surface of the contacts, creating the most pristine audio switching device ever designed – utterly passive, zero-distortion caused and no FETs required.
The Red 3 features a proprietary Class A VCA design, fully discrete and balanced, offering musical harmonic characteristics. In order to separate compression and limiting, the side-chain electronics contain three VCAs in series to generate compression and limiting control voltages, which drive the main VCA. The result is true compression followed by limiting, rather than the more common characteristic of compression that turns into limiting. The side-chain electronics are a feed-forward design ensuring superb transient response without ringing or modulation. This allows effects such as ‘over-compression’ to be achieved; what Focusrite have described as ‘infinity and beyond’.
Phil Dudderidge, Focusrite’s chairman, comments:
“The Red range radicalised the world of outboard signal processing with the novel use of sculpted, extruded red-anodised metal work, encasing classic Rupert Neve-designed microphone pre-amplifiers, Equalisers and Compressors, bringing colour not only to the racks of elite studios around the world, but more importantly to their musical output. It will be a sad day to see the last of these classics leaving the factory, but it can be safely said that the Red 3 will continue to play a vital role in elite studios for decades to come.”
The last few remaining Red 3 units are available from authorised Focusrite Pro dealerships across the globe.
Classic Focusrite VCA- based compression is still available in the form of the ISA 430 MkII and ISA 220 mono channel strips, both of which can operate as stereo pairs. Red 1, 7 and 8 units will be discontinued in 2010.