Designed by Brad Avenson of Austin, Texas-based Avenson Audio, the
BAC (short for Brad Avenson Compressor) is a feedback-style FET
compressor built around two discrete op amps and a custom wound output
"We are thrilled to finally be collaborating with Brad on this
project," says Pete's Place Audio President Lisa Montessi. "His
experience, knowledge and passion reaflly shine through in everything
he creates and the BAC certainly is no exception. It's a fantastic
compressor and it's going to make a lot of 500 Series fans very happy."
From the top down, the BAC's faceplate features a large silver rotary
input knob, smaller pots for attack, release and ratio, and a large
output knob at the bottom. Additional features include a three-position
sidechain contour switch, eight-LED gain reduction meter, and
pushbuttons for distortion and bypass.
The module's attack control runs from fast to quite fast, while the
release control exhibits a fairly wide range, enabling the compressor
to go from "pumping, breathing fast" up to approximately a second and a
half. This allows sounds to "hang" a bit when using the device purely
as a leveler or limiter.
The ratio control features five positions ranging from 2:1 to 20:1,
with a sixth position marked as "∞!".
According to Avenson,
"The infinity control has a little exclamation point next to it
because, not only is it really flat, but it also puts you in that spot
where you can do some over-compression and other interesting things. It
changes where the threshold starts to compress as well, so it gives you
different varieties of tonal characteristics to play with."
The BAC's sidechain toggle switch offers a choice of three possible
settings: flat, high-pass filter (cut off around 70 to 100 Hz), and an
option that somewhat exaggerates the high end while simultaneously
cutting the low end. "The overall effect of this third setting is
somewhat like a de-esser fed into the sidechain, but it's a little
wider than that and quite good for taming a variety of things that are
overly bright," Avenson notes.
With all of the controls essentially cranked between the input and
output knobs, the BAC is capable of delivering nearly 50 dB of gain,
which can be very helpful in compensating for serious gain reduction
issues caused by greatly compressing dynamic range.
The bypass button found below the output knob is a true relay bypass,
while the adjacent distortion button allows the user to achieve a true
bench FET compression sound. "A lot of FET compressors use tricks to
linearize the FET as a compression element and make it sound cleaner
because if they're used solely by themselves, they're really pretty
raunchy sounding," says the designer. "So this switch allows you to
play with how much of the frequency response and distortion
characteristics of the FET you get. By engaging it, you're getting a
lot more second harmonic distortion and aggressive sounds because we're
taking away some of the linearizing elements. It's basically a way to
kick in a more aggressive sounding compressor without changing any of
the other settings. You can dial in the amount of dirt you want."
Avenson sums the BAC up by adding, "Although this product is largely
designed to provide a bit of color and flavor-and not be too heavy
handed-it really does possess that nice ‘bite' that is characteristic
of FET compressors and perfect for cranking down on things like drum
room mics when you need it."