Gainlab Audio GLA-TC2 The Dictator by Graham~
I am very happy to have another Gainlab Audio product in for review…this time around it’s the Dictator GLA-TC2, the Dual Mono Version of their Dictator GLA-TC1 Vari-μ Compressor. If you haven't heard of them yet, Gainlab Audio was founded by the people of Gainlab Studios in Budapest, Hungary. Having spent years servicing and modding the studio’s own equipment, they decided to use all that experience and create their own products. Their philosophy isn't just to create products based on iconic studio gear of yesteryear, but to also equip them with additional features that enable them to be used more effectively in the modern studio. From the examples I have seen so far it is clear to see that a lot of thought and design goes into a Gainlab product.
After the release of the original Dictator they received many inquiries from potential customers asking whether it was possible to use it in dual mono mode, but due to its design it could not. Gainlab listened and as such, the Dictator GLA-TC2 was born. I respect it when companies take general inquiries and user feedback on board. Kudos to them for that! In my Gainlab Empress review I mentioned a positive note about the packaging. In similar fashion everything was boxed perfectly again here (including the stickers, “do not disturb” type door hanger and the extra fuse). All nice touches and to say it again, this level of attention to detail is very much appreciated by myself.
In a similar manner to the Empress equalizer the GLA-TC2 is laid out in a mirrored fashion and is neatly housed in a 2U rack. It has fully stepped knobs for threshold, input and output that each have a satisfying click to them. There are switches for attack, release, side-chain filter, mode, meter, link and power. They have indicator lights to mark each selection point. The backlit VU meters can be switched between reduction and output level and have a warm glow that looks great. Both the meter and indicator lights aren't uncomfortably bright so the sensitive ones among us should be quite comfortable with them even in dimly lit studios. It may be worth noting that the available attack and sidechain options on this model Dictator varies slightly compared to what's on offer on the previous GLA-TC1. See the full comparison chart below for more info.
According to Gainlab, they used the legendary Fairchild 670 and Gates STA-Level variable-mu compressors as inspiration for the Dictators sound though the addition of the sidechain and mode (hi-comp/lo-comp) options are some of the modern features that the team have included. The sidechain filter has settings at 80Hz & 120Hz and are a welcome inclusion on a unit of this type. When working on bass heavy material, having the ability to prevent the compressor from reacting to the low end can be a real saver.
When the mode switch is set in the lo-comp position the aim is for the Dictator to perform and sound like that of a classic vari-mu compressor. In use it sounds wonderful and it takes no length to dial in a classy sounding setting. With the mode switch set in the hi-comp position you can accomplish a higher rate of compression. I’d describe it as a more coarse/aggressive sound. It's a clever implementation and it came into its own on kick, snare and drum bus. When you drive the input a little harder you can add a nice bit of saturation to the sound that may come in handy for when you want to warm up some sterile sounding loops.
In a nutshell the Dictator GLA-TC2 is a great sounding vari-mu compressor that is built to last. At its current price it's a proper bargain considering what’s on offer. Like the other model Dictator, the GLA-TC1, it is able to handle most material that passes through it effortlessly and make it sound…well...classy…and suffice it to say, it should satisfy all those that were enquiring to use the original Dictator in dual mono mode. The inclusion of the side chain filter and the hi-comp/lo-comp ratio modes allows you to push the compressor in a way that allows you to achieve flavours of compression you might not at first expect to achieve. I highly recommend you test one out for yourself.
Despite being a relatively new kid on the block Gainlab Audio has come out of the gate very strong. As someone who either owns or has reviewed all three of their products to date I can confidently say that each of them has been top notch, designed well and priced attractively. I really look forward to seeing and hearing what they come out with next.
If you're on the hunt for a vari-mu compressor then you should do yourself a favour and start your quest here, you might find your hunt ends up at the same place you started!