Quick Review: UAD Manley Variable Mu Limiter Compressor

Wind it up


I had a bit of an epiphany just now.

My glory years of audio engineering were right at that transition between analogue and digital formats. My battles seemed to be between the harsh discipline of digital and the casual looseness of analogue. I became a bit of a cultist in league of getting that “analogue sound” on digital gear. And the trouble with cults, of course, is that you stop questioning things.

In my case I became so fixated upon just keeping my recording levels down (firm look/which is generally a good thing by the way! /firm look), that I forgot that with analogue-modeled plugins, overloading the input is the same as overloading the analogue unit itself. That means if you drive it hard, that instead of the usual shitty digital clipping events, you get a nice analogue harmonic-related distortion. Which means “musically-related” and pleasant. Anyone who’s ever seen a true analogue-based recording session (ie on actual tape) knows that those tape-recorder VU meters are usually pinned to the top. For some reason, our ears love the sound of harmonic distortion added to the original signal. It sounds more exciting and vibrant, while at the same time smooth and mellow. I think we will all agree that this can only be the perfect combination of anything.

So, as you’ve probably guessed, I was holding back from driving the inputs of my “analogue” digital plug-ins, as I had trained myself to avoid digital clipping. And this led to a pretty average impression of many of the cool UAD analogue-modeled plugins I had. Sure, they still  sounded better than the average “digital” plug-in – but it was often subtle – just a hint of smooth silky velvet and random pleasant “character”.

Then I tried out the new Manley Variable Mu Limiter Compressor. I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but feel that there’s something inherently cool about the word “Mu”. Especially “Variable Mu”. Brrrr.

So I dialled up a few Manley (Variable Mu – sorry just had to say it again) patches here and there – “yeah I can hear it working – nice… nice”. Dialled up the patch “GG-The Fast Tickle”. Yeah beauty… nice. Then out of some crazy impulse (yeah I’m like that – completely unpredictable), I wind the HELL out of that input knob. I know – radical right? But, you know, I finally got the hug (well the song did) that EveAnna Manley promised us with this unit. It really does just grab everything and bring it together like a big group hug. I don’t know about you, but that sounds… awesome.


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