Gearjunkies review – Tegeler Audio Schwerkraftmaschine

The market for mastering compressors is a niche market and typically has a rather conservative approach to technology. In that regard Tegeler Audio has been highly innovative by combining the new with the old.

Classic Digital
Tegeler Audio took a classic vari-mu design combined with input and output transformers and exchanged the analogue detector circuit with a DSP driven digital one. This in itself is not unique since other examples are the Really Nice Compressor or Cranesong Titan. But Tegeler Audio went one step further by adding 11 different modes in the digital detector section so the compressor will behave differently for every mode. This is basically fine tuning the behaviour of the vari-mu circuit to the incoming audio. To that extend I wondered why there wasn’t a dedicated side-chain hardware input. This may be because of a technical nature or reduction of production costs. Maybe that they can add an external side-chain input in a variant? The onboard side chain filter is unique since you have both a high-pass filter and a tilt filter integrated in one knob and makes it easy to use. It sums up the design strategy of Tegeler Audio as well. Only the controls that you need and all the rest is happing under the hood.

Adding the remote controlling option using a network connector that talks via TCP/IP to a plugin opens op a lot of options. There are other hardware devices that support similar functionality but not in this straightforward way. This makes you hardware behaves like an audio plugin and makes it fit right in an environment where instant recall is a must. Of course, there is a catch and that is that you cannot use the network connection for audio and need to connect the inputs and outputs in your audio chain. You may use busses on your mixer or use an external effects connection in your DAW (which I did). Either way you can save your favourite presets in your DAW and freeze/bounce the audio track and thus use the single hardware unit for multiple tracks. Which is a likely scenario since the Schwerkraftmaschine works very well on many audio tracks. But still I wondered that if you don’t need the remote option that badly there would be a variant that was more basic without the remote option and a better price point.

One of the modes is a ‘multi-band complex’ mode which means the detector circuit splits up the audio in separate bands. This does not mean there are multiple vari-mu circuits available for each band. In this case the detector circuit mitigates all bands and controls the vari-mu accordingly. Since the controls of the Schwerkraftmaschine are very straightforward there are no fine-tuning options for adjusting the details for each compressor mode. With the remote mode you could incorporate this option so that users can tweak their own preferences. Tegeler Audio indicates that they spend a lot of time themselves of getting each mode sound just right. It boils down to personal preference if you would control the details yourself or use the carefully curated default settings. When it comes to true multi-band compression. Would Tegeler Audio contemplate making a 3-band variant of this unit as well? That would be most interesting.

For the big majority of all mastering plugin’s the mix option is rather common. On hardware mastering compressors this is unfortunately not a common option. There are people adding mix options to popular mastering compressors anyway but with the Schwerkraftmaschine you don’t need to since it’s already there. The ability to blend the original with the compressed sound is simply brilliant and makes things so much easier. Even when you don’t engage the compressor and just use the transformers as a pre-amp type combined with the mix option you can in a very subtle way add a different colour to the audio.

Explaining sound in written text is rather moot. So, let me explain my own experiences with the Schwerkraftmaschine and how I used it on my own tracks. Since I have all my outboard gear hooked up as external FX units in my DAW, I can route every effect to every channel/bus/send I want to. So, slapping on the Schwerkraftmaschine on a single channel or bus is done with 2 mouse clicks and restore a preset with a 3rd one. On separate channels to tame the dynamics or use the tube distortion to emphasize the mids and use the mix option to balance the colouring works like charm. Freeze/render the track and you a ready for another track. When you use a plugin instrument and you have this nasty digital edge to the sound you can use just the transformers of the Schwerkraftmaschine to warm up the sound and mask that digital edge sound. Brilliant on a drum bus when you want to shape the transients and give the sound some more edgy feel. Mind you that the pushing the inputs hard doesn’t seem to work for me because the distortion doesn’t sound pleasant to me. This is more about the subtle 3r harmonic tube distorting that adds that more warmth to the sound. A gluing compressor on the master bus especially with the mix option is rather useful.

In my mastering chain it was replacing my Ted Fletcher Pro P38 which emulates 4 compressor types in analogue circuitry. The Schwerkraftmaschine emulates 11 types. And its role as a soft limiter or subtle optical type compressor simply works better since you have the tube distortion and you can use the mix option.

The Schwerkraftmaschine acts pretty much like a plugin itself. But what if Tegeler Audio worked with a plugin designer and they would come up with a plugin version of the Schwerkraftmaschine? It’s commonly known that sales from hardware manufactures went up when they released plugin versions of their hardware. Basically, when people like the plugin that much they still want to own the hardware since it sounds that much better. For the Schwerkraftmaschine it wouldn’t be any different since it uses a vari-mu tube circuit which sounds still better in hardware than in software emulation.

Swiss army knife
The Tegeler Audio Schwerkraftmaschine is a straightforward true multi-purpose compressor that works very well for both mixing and mastering. It is a true Swiss army knife type of compressor that easily can replace the one-trick pony’s out there. The biggest problem is when you try this model out for a couple of weeks you don’t want to give it back.

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