Dramastic Audio Obsidian
I'm not going to kid you--I love the Obsidian more than any other stereo compressor, and I've used a few in my day ranging from countless hours in front of a SSL G+ Quad, Smart C2, Cranesong STC-8, Summit DCL-200 and others. Granted, certain ones rock over others in different applications or when looking for different sounds, but when it comes to the mix buss the Obsidian more often than not wins the prize. Unfortunately these are expensive and rare devices, despite being in production, and difficult to track down. We had one here in Cleveland, at Ante Up, and when I came onboard as a new producer/engineer was told that I "HAVE" to check it out. So I did, and almost drug-like, I was hooked after just a few tries.
This device is clearly influenced by the SSL QuadComp known and loved by many... and why not? It's still a pretty clever circuit for controlling gain and gets plenty of use despite its minor flaws. Like the Alan Smart C1 and C2 before it, the Obsidian builds on this hallowed platform of "intelligent" detection and simple, powerful design and drag it kicking and screaming into the next century. If you like the SSL buss compressor you're going to LOVE the Obsidian! First off, let's survey the device which is pretty featured without overloading your options: it's a feed-forward VCA style compressor, has a simple on/off high pass filter routed to the detection circuit, sensible attack, release and ratio controls, up to 12db of makeup gain (quieter than the SSL by the way) as well as an external sidechain that also routes to the detection circuit. As I said--everything you need and nothing you don't. If you know how to use the SSL or Smart you'll be at home on the Obsidian.
So how's it sound? A few ideas come to mind: near transparent, slightly aggressive, full bodied, expansive and wide. The most readily apparent attribute of the Obsidian is not "messing" with your stereo image compared to other mix buss compressors, which is a major plus if you didn't mix "through" the Obsidian and decided to strap it on towards the end of your work. The HPF and side chain allow you to perform fairly intricate setups such as 'chaining your lead vocal to the compressor for a ducking effect, or leaving the 808 bah-boom of a hip hop track intact.... or both at once. At the end of the day it truly is a hot-rodded SSL Quad with a better detection circuit, with the kinds of high tech features you'd find on an API 2500 (but easier to use). Inspiring sonics, options and flexibility.
But don't think of the Obsidian as merely a mix buss compressor because it can do much more. Sure, it may lack "character" even when compared to a Manley ELOP due to its subtleness but when you need fairly surgical, clean gain reduction with no fuss the Obsidian is a great place to start. Especially for complex signals like room mics or drum overheads where the detection circuit's sophistication and operating principles can shine. Unlike many other compressors which operate on an almost "caveman principle" of pure amplitude, SSL-styled compressors make decisions based on incoming phase angles, anticipating that sharply increasing ones are going to be louder; consequently they make their decision on what to do based on a moment-to-moment basis. The end result is pretty transparent, even with fair amounts of gain reduction, that can be eminently suitable for certain things. Drum overheads in particular are a prime target for the Obsidian; thanks to the HPF they can also do a really clean, pop/country style production number on room mics as well. Due to its superior handling of stereo images the Obsidian is awesome to toss on any stereo pair of mics used, for example, in a Bruce Swedien style production where every element has both close and distant room mics.
Bottom Line: the Dramastic Audio Obsidian is an awe-inspiring compressor with a ton of tricks up its sleeves. Yes, it's expensive but rest assured you're not paying for a name or marketing hype--all that money went into the design, manufacture and components of the Obsidian. Chances are you may never see one in the wild to demo, but if you love the SSL compressor style you owe it to yourself to check out. A perfect design and fusion of old and new.