The German Elysia company is known for their high-end compressors which they have been building for several years now. They have teamed up with the designers of Brainworx and used their vast knowledge of discrete components and translate them to the digital path. The result Mpressor plugin is available as VST, RTAS, TDM and AU. I’ve tested the VST version in Cubase 5.1.1. To get it right I’ve taken longer than the standard 14 day trial period you can get provided that you have an iLok dongle.
The manual itself is well written and explaining the functions simple and easy. They even added a few tips how to use the compressor for various roles. Even as a distortion unit.
More than a compressor?
At first glance you can see the Threshold, Attack, Release and Ratio knobs which are quite common on modern day compressors. Even the Side Chain Extern button is quite common. Next to the Attack knob is an AutoFast knob which effectively makes this one of the fastest plugin compressors on the market.
The AntiLog button enables a more musical sounding release of the compressed signal and the Ratio knob even has a negative ratio enabling heavy pumping effects.
The second row of knobs features an EQ Gain which I would like to call an enhanced bass/trebble knob. The EQ Frequency knob next can be used for the crossover frequency for the EQ Gain knob. It even can be extended ten time with the X10 knob. The GR Limit knob is rather unique because it isn’t a limiter in the audio path but at control path limiting the gain reduction of the compressor. Since the compressor is of the hard-knee kind the GR Limit function can be used in several ways to keep the dynamic sound of the compressor.
The Gain knob is simple yet never to be underestimated and goes up to 20dB. There are 2 extra buttons for unlinking L and R and activate the compressor. At inactivated state you can’t see the compressor functioning which isn’t the case with the hardware unit.
The layout of the knobs and buttons is the same of the hardware version of the unit. I personally would prefer to have the extra information on the exact values of the knobs anyway because the accuracy of the knobs is limited (and I’m a control freak). You still can use the mouse wheel to control the knobs resembling the de tended version or holding the shift button for a more fine grained option.
When you unlink the L and R of the compressor you still have the same values for both L and R. Unlinking can have benefits sonically but it’s debatable if the unlinked signals should be able to control differently as well. Since I’m using a high-resolution monitor (1920×1200) I would like the graphics a bit larger.
As a compressor it sounds extremely clean but yet smooth and stunningly fast. You can get some coloring out of it using the EQ Gain but that’s limited. When pushed harder it tends to discard the transients a bit so you have to either use the EQ gain and/or the GR Limit to keep it sound musically.
The extra options compared to the odd compressor also enables you to use it for various roles. Vocals, drums, busses and even on the master mix. For the latter I personally prefer coloring hardware units though. Also the fact that the low-end and high-end slightly suffer a bit during compression would make it less suitable as a mastering compressor. Fair enough I haven’t found any plugins up for that job anyway.
Of course I tried the side chaining option and soon discovered that with Cubase the first instance of Mpressor wouldn’t enable me to use the side chain input. On a second instance of the plugin I could route the side chain. This problem doesn’t occur in Live or Samplitude so this is a pure Cubase problem. I guess that needs to be addressed but can be worked around and after that it just works how it should. Side chaining can be used to expand the broad applications of this plugin even more. Especially as a pumping compressor it performs admirably. I do miss the auditioning the side chain input a little though.
Compared to other software plugin compressors it’s rather clear that this one is at the top of the league and even will compete heavily with the mid-end hardware compressors. If you like the Empirical Labs sound (soft- or hardware) you really should check out this one. During my testing I ended up with putting a lot of Mpressor plugins on various tracks in favor to other plugins. Only when it came to the coloring types I chose for others like the UAD types or the Tube tech CL1b. Chaining the CL1b and Mpressor worked wonders for me.
Since the Mpressor uses over sampling at lower sampling rates it consumes more CPU power. Competitive products have the ability to reduce CPU power at cost of sonic quality. Another improvement could be a mix button to mix the original audio with the compressed one which could be of great use when used as a bus compressor.
The Mpressor is an extremely versatile compressor. Even when the price is rather high on this plugin I still would claim it is very cost effective because of its quality and versatility. Keep in mind you have to spend some time with it to get the most out of it.
Sound wise it’s not 100% transparent and even can sound a tad sterile. The GUI combined with unlinked mode is unlike the hardware unit. The side chain issue needs to be fixed still.