Brainworx Millenia TCL-2 – Gearjunkies review

Today’s review is about the Millenia TCL -2 TWINCOM Twin topology Opto-Compressor/Limiter.

Brainworx is a company from Germany that has been making top quality plugins for many years now, under the name Plugin Alliance. They bring you not only Brainworx plugins, but also SPL, Elysia, Noveltech etc. In the future, we are going to review a lot more of their products, but for now, let’s kick off with the newest member of their plugin collection and see what’s what.

At first look, you are greeted by a very nice looking GUI. The plugin is derived from the hardware version and they have kept the GUI the same while adding some extra functionality to it, but more on that later.

All the usual knobs are there:
– THRESHOLD: variable from -20db to +20db.
– ATTACK: fully counterclockwise is the fasted 2mS and slowest is 100mS.
– RELEASE: fully counterclockwise is the fasted 100mS and slowest is 3 Seconds.
– RATIO: fully counterclockwise is the fasted & most gentle ratio 2:1, fully clockwise is the heaviest compression, reaching 30:1 from 10:1 and higher ratios bring you in the limiting stage.
– MIX: A plugin only feature on the TCL -2 that provides the option for Parallel Compression (aka New York compression).
– DYN IN: Switch that selects the channel status. With the switch depressed and the LED illuminated, it means that the audio signal will be processed by dynamic functions and when not depressed and the LED is not illuminated, the signal is not processed by dynamic functions.
– METER IN =GR/OUT=LEVEL: This switch lets you see the gain reduction (GR) on the corresponding VU Meters. When the LED is illuminated (and when not), it shows you the output level on the VU meters. The VU is calibrated to 0 VU = +4dBu.
– STEREO LINK: This switch (when depressed) will respond to the channel with the highest compression activity. When not depressed, each channel handles it’s own compression separately, making it possible to liven up the stereo image or adjust for problematic differences in the channels.
M/S Switch: for Mid/Side purposes, more info on that later.
– TT: Twin topology switch, more info on that in the next section.

Twin Topology what is that?
Twin topology stands for the 2 different Class-A amplifiers the unit has. One amplifier is based on Twin Triode Vacuum Tubes and the other is based on a J-FET Discrete servo amplifier, effectively giving the user 2 different compressors in one package. When the switch is depressed and illuminated, the unit acts as a Solid State Compressor and when not depressed, the unit is in Vacuum Tube mode. The TCL -2 is designed to be very transparant and it certainly is, but the option between the 2 different circuits can give a nice subtle difference, which is something you have to judge with careful listening. The Millenia TCL -2 is capable of very subtle compression, but can also give you balls to the wall heavy compression while still not destroying the signal. It’s uses can range from a bus compressor where IMHO, the vacuum tube sounds nicest and glues the bus together, till a unobtrusive mastering compressor where the needle is barely registering and in J-FET mode, for a very clean and subtle edge.

Brainworx is known for their Mid/Side (M/S) option that’s on a lot of their products. The Millenia TCL -2 is therefor also equipped with an M/S function. When the light is illuminated, the unit is in M/S mode. What is brilliant about that, is that you now have different compressors for both Mid and Side. Turning down the volume of the mid will let you dial in and hear the side signal and vise versa. Also you can separately decide per compressor section what Twin Topology setting you want, thus increasing the usability even further. Furthermore the people at Brainworx thought it might be handy to have a mix knob for New York compression effects (Parallel compression), but what I have not seen a lot of, is they have equipped both channels with that, so now you can even dial in different Parallel Compression settings on both the Mid and Side signal. This is pretty brilliant in my book and really can come in handy on difficult source signals.

Final thoughts: With the Millenia TCL -2 Brainworx have done a marvelous job and if you are in the market for a opto-compressor/limiter that is transparant you should definately check it out. The Opto-Compressor part however is not imparting a lot of character like for instance the LA2A because for the simple fact that their are no artifacts, but this is a deliberate design choice. Also it would have been nice if there was a possibility to switch the 2 different compressors in tandem one after the other. But that’s just a little nitpicking on a superb product. Brainworx always bring class products to the table and the Millenia TCL -2 is a worthy part of their collection.

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