Korneff Audio Pawn Shop Comp by Sound-Guy
Pawn Shop Compressor 2.1
Here is another great Korneff Audio product that you really must try if you are doing any creative mixing. As with other products from Dan Korneff, it provides a wide range of results from subtle to definitely not subtle. And it includes adjustments you don’t often get with a compressor, such as two different FET types in the gain control circuit, a selection of three preamp tube types and three output transformers. I’ve never bought a compressor from a pawn shop, but doubt I’d ever find anything as fun as this one!
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The Pawn Shop Compressor (PSC) is a virtual FET compressor with a tube preamp and transformers in the output section. It has the usual basic controls on the front panel: threshold, ratio, attack and release, although someone had to add Dymo labels for the latter two controls! Near the top center are the preset controls with a window looking like a piece of masking tape (Dan uses a lot of masking tape and Dymo labels!). There is also a rather scratched-up gain reduction meter (well, this compressor had been banged around in a pawn shop!), a power-on switch and an Auto makeup gain button. The signal flow can be seen in the block diagram below.
If that were all the controls available it might be a good little compressor, but as always, clicking the Korneff logo at the top opens the “back panel” where the real magic is.
The back panel enables access to the preamp circuitry, with three different tube sets available (12AX7, ECC83 or 5751), and choice of iron, steel or nickel core output transformers. Nickel provides the flattest frequency response while iron, as you might expect, is the least linear. You can also tweak the preamp tube bias and gain – higher levels add harmonics that can provide from mild warmth right on up to true grit. I found odd harmonics are predominant and THD could be ranged from essentially none to very audible (over 35% THD).
In the lower mid-section of the rear panel are tone controls for “weight” and “focus”, weight being the low end with a switchable center frequency of 63 Hz or 171 Hz and focus being mid range with center frequencies of 1.6 kHz or 2.4 Khz. One odd thing here is that the “flat” settings of 0 dB actually create a +2 dB peak at the “weight” frequency and a +1 dB peak at the “focus” frequency. So if you want truly flat, set these to -2 dB and -1 dB respectively, but at any rate, use your ears! To the right of this panel are two controls, a wet/dry adjustment for parallel processing and an “Operating Level” control that emulates mismatched gear levels, and can increase punch and attitude.
And at the far right of the back panel is a circuit board where you can select resistor types between carbon and metal film designs – if you were designing real audio hardware back in the 70’s you’d always want metal film in any audio path circuit because carbon resistors were less precise and much noisier. You can also choose between two different types of FETs that create different compression curves (this is a FET compressor after all). The 2N5486 FETs provide a predictable, stable response while the 2N3820 FETs can yield unpredictable behavior . . . which may sound better in some cases! Again, use your ears to select which you like.
And at the very bottom of the GUI, always visible, is the standard Korneff utility panel with input and output level meters, input and output trim controls, a window that shows the tool description when tool tips are enabled using the usual Korneff buttons, a control to open the user manual, A/B comparisons, and undo/redo buttons. The undo/redo has “infinite” levels so you can step back and forth all day if you wish.
How Does It Sound?
As with other Korneff processors, PSC sounds about any way you want it to sound! Although “just” a single compressor (unlike the Korneff Amplified Instrument Processor), along with its preamp section it is extremely flexible. It can provide gentle leveling without adding much color, heavy pumping action for those EDM tracks, and out and out screaming distortion for your trash metal productions As I’ve said about other Korneff audio processors, I found it very addictive, testing many kinds of tracks and mixes for far longer than I had planned.
I was happily impressed that even when pushed, it can leave more gentle sounds open – I found on a rock mix with a female lead vocal I could punch it up and get guitars and drums really roaring, yet the lead vocal still cut though clearly and essentially undistorted. As a number of successful and well-know engineers attest on the Korneff website, Dan’s plug-ins provide totally different flavors than other audio emulations and can really provide a “wow!” factor.
The PSC uses the iLok/Pace authorization system, and it turns out as I write this, the Pace system is being updated and you might run into issues especially if you don’t have the latest version of PACE. Best to go to iLok.com and download the newest version before trying to use PSC. And be sure to be online when you first open PSC in a DAW because you will get an activation screen that needs to connect to iLok. Enter your activation code and then go to your iLok account to select the activation mode. If you try to run PSC the first time without an Internet connection, you will likely find it blacklisted in your DAW which could provide you with some fun time to clear.
Available for Intel Mac 64bit: VST3, AU, AAX (Mac OS X 10.7 or higher, 10.14 or higher recommended) and Windows 64bit: VST3, AAX (Windows 7 & above). 64 bit DAW support only. Requires either an iLok dongle, iLok Cloud, or iLOK System/Machine Authorization (Cloud and Machine activation are free).
In my test system (PC Audio Labs Rok Box PC with Windows 7, 64 Bit, 4-Core Intel i7-4770K, 3.5 GHz, and 16 GB RAM) Pawn Shop Compressor used about 0.12% CPU resources with any settings if oversampling was off, and about three as much with oversampling on. Latency is also low at 8 samples, which is only a 166 microsecond delay at a 48 kHz sample rate. You can record through it and easily use a dozen or more in a project without any taxing of your CPU.
Definitely not a stock compressor! And another great product from Korneff Audio! They have a real “magic” touch that shows (sounds) with all their gear – I can see I’ll be using the PSC in a lot of projects.
A real “Wow Factor” compressor with a very flexible preamp section.
Very low CPU requirements, so you could use dozens in a project – and very low latency so you can track through it.
Can use DAW automation to control every parameter.
Korneff Audio (and Dan) listen to users for improvement ideas and provide great support.
The 2.1 upgrade adds iLok System/Machine authorization. You can now license your plugin via iLOK dongle, or an iLOK cloud account, or via my preferred mode, System/Machine authorization.
Great value for money.
Free seven day demo is available to check it out.
User manual is informative, and a fun read, with all controls clearly described plus about fives pages of useful suggestions for both use of the compression functions and for the various “back panel” selections.
Nothing at all to complain about!