There's something very satisfying about getting a 'Recall Sheet' with a piece of equipment. It could be seen as a nod back to those days when everything was written down hardcopy and noted...or it could be seen as a gentle reminder that here is a real piece of audio equipment that is ready for your decisions with no option to go to a 'preset' from a drop down menu...
It's a nice touch from a company no stranger to the world of audio production, and after all these years DRAWMER still manages to create products that are relevant to the modern recording and mix engineer, but still with a solid no-nonsense style they've been known for.
Their latest product is the Drawmer 1978 Stereo Tone Shaping FET Compressor. It's not a valve based compressor like the 1968, rather a design that is under the '1970's grouping' - following on from their successful release of the Drawmer 1973 multi-band FET Compressor last year at MusikMesse. Drawmer used the show this year to preview the 1978 which created a lot of interest, and now they're available and starting to ship.
Firstly let's get the price out of the way : RRP £675 ex-vat - £810 inc vat. Yes really. Drawmer has gone and provided a high-quality product at a very competitive price, whilst still sticking to their Yorkshire heritage with the 1978 being Designed and Made in the UK.
Positioned predominately as a MixBuss Compressor there are many extra features that Drawmer have added to the 1978 that I think will lend itself to more than just the mix buss. I can hear it on Drum Overheads, Sub Groups, Guitars, Loop programming and many options as it's very flexible sounding.
Towards the right-hand side, there is a Mix dial next to the output Gain. This is where you can create 'parallel' type processing, but blending the % of the original signal in with the compressed signal. A simple but extremely useful addition when thinking of this working over ITB mixes where hardware i/o isn't available... and saves having to wonder about delay compensation working correctly on parallel tracks if the 1978 was used as a hardware insert. So a simple addition, but one that shows Drawmer understand what we need.
There are 4 switches next to the usual Ratio, Attack and Release controls that provide different types of compression characteristics :
- Smooth - slows the initial release to reduce distortion when using fast release times
- PGM - will add a 2nd slower release to anything over the threshold to reduce pumping
- Channel Link - has two modes : Normal and Wide, in Wide mode the channels are partially summed prior to the Side Chain to create a Wider Stereo Image
- Release Curve - also has two modes : Logarithmic / Linear. The Logarithmic is the most familiar release time on compressors, whilst the Linear isn't as initially as fast and is less aggressive sounding.
Coupled with the Saturation control Dial that sits next to these switches, the 1978 is a very capable compressor. Adding Harmonic Content** is something I'm a fan of and here you can add 2nd and 3rd harmonics to the signal. You'll know when you're doing it as the VU's start to glow red the more you drive it - again, a nice touch.
Shaping the Signal
Side Chaining on the 1978 can be achieved by connecting to the rear S/C insert points together or via the section called Shaping. This section is more designed for Low Frequency and High Frequency 'shaping' rather than a blanket HPF on the compression.
Taking some influence from their 1973 no doubt, there is the option to use Bell or Shelf EQ settings so you can sculpt your sound, and experiment with frequencies that require the focus and control. A little like the way a multi-band compressor works but obviously in a none multi-band way. I feel these controls can provide some definition and weight to a mix if required, and it may end up removing the desire (or need) to have a Mix Buss EQ strapped after the compressor over your mix if that's the way you work.
In use, I found it to be most flexible with the Smooth and the Wide settings as my favourites, and crushing loops, then using the Mix Blend to bring back some detail. The harmonic stage did get quite fizzy if driven in a ‘1970’s’ style, so having the Blend dial does work well to add some extra dirt or clean it up by adding some dry signal back to the path.
The Drawmer 1978 is a flexible, well thought out new product to hit the audio world including features that designs 2 or 3 times the price would love. The combination of the types of compression, harmonic distortion and EQ sculpting is going to make the Drawer 1978 very useful.
Ok, so it's fixed stereo only, but you could always run a mono source through one side and record the results when tracking should you want some of the character. If you're in the market for a mix buss compressor, or drum subgroup compressor regardless of style and genre of music, the Drawmer 1978 should be on your audition list.