Following its well-received “sneak-peak” preview at the NAMM Show earlier this year, the new HM2 NAIL Compressor from A-Designs Audio is now shipping. Featuring a hybrid topology combining a feedback diode-based design with a 12AT7 tube output section, the dual mono-channel NAIL offers practically endless possibilities in terms of compression control and envelope shaping. Engineers will quickly discover that a number of unique features, including Hard Threshold, Filter and Mix, set the NAIL apart from other more traditional compressors on the market.
One of the NAIL’s most valuable functions is its Mix feature, which allows users to dial any desired amount of compression (Comp) into the dry signal (Direct). For example, drums can processed with maximum compression and then judiciously blended into the audio path eliminating the “fight” often experienced on other compressors. The Mix feature is also a handy tool for engineers working “in the box” that want to bring in some aggressive parallel compression that is truly phase coherent.
Although the lack of a dedicated control for ratio might seem unusual, A-Designs has opted to implement a variable ratio concept instead. In essence, the ratio will change as the settings of the NAIL’s Threshold and Hard Threshold controls are adjusted along with the amount of gain reduction. The Hard Threshold, in particular, is an effective device for handling peak overages and can be used as a hard and fast limiter. The Attack and Release rotaries, which can be swept from extremely fast to ultra-slow, can offer additional tone shaping as desired.
Another key feature of the new HM2 is the Filter, which is a variable high-pass filter (up to 250Hz) on the sidechain that allows audio material below a selected frequency to pass through the unit without triggering compression on the entire signal. This feature is particularly helpful when working with hip-hop, R&B, dance or heavy rock recordings that are bass- or kick drum-forward in that it prevents the low frequency energy from “pumping” and dragging down the rest of the signal’s volume. The result is that tracks run through the NAIL sound more even and open without compromise to a big low end that sits really well in the mix. It should be noted that the Filter will not isolate the assigned frequency like a multi-band unit, but it will offer considerably flexibility without fully compressing the lower frequencies.
Designed with the two-buss in mind, the NAIL offers a stereo link switch that, when engaged, allows all of the functions on both channels to be controlled via Channel 1, with the exception of the Gain and Mix controls. Other switches on the milled-aluminum faceplate include two gain reduction/output level switches (one per channel) to adjust metering, and two in/out switches that allow the user to hard bypass the compressor channel if necessary. A power switch is also positioned below a bright red jewel light on the far right side of the faceplate.
The NAIL sports twin 19-light LED arrays instead of traditional backlit VU meters for maximum visibility and readability in low-light studio situations. The potentiometers under the custom-milled aluminum knobs are of conductive plastic, which has proven to provide the longest reliability and lifespan. The conductive plastic also greatly reduces the “scratchiness” common to carbon-based pots. Housed in a standard 2U chassis, the NAIL has four XLR connectors on the rear panel–two male balanced and two female balanced–for easy standard integration for any studio.
List price on the NAIL has been set at $2,850.00 (USD) and units are shipping now.