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Foote Control Systems P3S Mastering Edition Compressor Review Dynamics Processors (HW)
Old 8th January 2011
  #1
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Foote Control Systems P3S Mastering Edition Compressor Review

Hi everyone. I have had quite a few people PM me asking for opinions on my new Foote Control Systems P3S Mastering Edition Compressor. There are not many of these out there yet (I'm serial #008) so I wanted to take the time to write a review.

The FCS P3S ME is a VCA based mastering compressor. Like the API 2500 it can operate in either feed forward or feed backward modes. Along with your standard attack and release controls which you will find on most compressors, the P3S offers 2 additional "time constant" modes of operation.

A/R enables the manual attack and release controls, I think this mode is self explanatory to everyone reading this. N/L mode enables the "non linear capacitor". This is described as "automatic adaptive compression" in the manual. Essentially the attack and release adapts to the incoming audio, very fast attack and release for short transients and longer attack and release for slower waveforms. This function is great. While it can get a little grabby, on the right material that can be exactly what you need. I find it very useful for tracks where drums are too up front in the mix. RMS mode is truly a thing of beauty and getting the most overall use from me out of the 3 time constant modes. I am not entirely sure how it works but essentially the compression is again adaptive like the N/L mode but in an overall smoother and more subtle way. It works extremely well on nearly everything I have tried it on. Roger (of FCS) told me this mode is "worthy of the decades of research David Blackmer did to get it where it is".

The compressor features 24 step Elma/Goldpoint controls throughout with the exception of the attack and release controls which are high quality conductive plastic pots. The Elma's feel really nice, solid and sturdy. The ratio range offers an unbelievably precise level of control. The entire ratio range is 1:1 to 4:1 with 17 of those 24 steps being between a ratio of 1:1 to 2:1. That should paint a pretty good picture of how much control you have over these low ratios we all so often use in mastering. The gain makeup range is 11.5dB in .5dB steps. Plenty of makeup gain and it is nice to have it in .5dB increments. I personally picked the threshold range on my unit. It is -8dBu to +15dBu in 1dB steps. I settled on this range do to the fact that I am running my outboard chain at 0dBFS = +19dBu. Seeing as I run stuff out of the DAW with peaks around -5dBFS to -3dBFS or so -8dBu to +15dBu seemed like a perfect choice. Roger is now implementing this threshold range on all stock ME versions of the P3S. The 1dB steps for threshold are great, tie that together with the finely stepped ratio range control and you get the idea of how meticulous you can be in your settings with this unit.

The gain reduction meter is really cool. It's a 5dB reduction meter and the LED's are in .25dB increments. It looks super neat and displays a perfect range of gain reduction for mastering in my opinion. The HPF button engages a 100hz high pass filter into the sidechain. Not positive but I believe it is 12dB per octave. There are also external sidechain inputs on the rear of the unit should you find yourself wanting more control. The O/T button engages or disengages the Carnhill output transformers. These transformers are also a thing of beauty. When engaged you will hear a very nice vibe happening to the audio. It can be heard as a sort of subtle, elegant saturation, most notable in the low mids and low end. These transformers sound awesome on just about everything! With the transformers disengaged the compressor operates in a more "clean" way with less overall saturation and low mid/low end "vibe". I absolutely love having a compressor with the capability to operate with or without its output transformers engaged. For example; if the output transformers were always engaged with no option to disengage them I'd probably find myself wanting a second more "clean" analog compressor for material that does not call for the character of the output transformers. However with this O/T switch on the front panel I can simply disengage them and be on my way. It is like having two different compressor tonalities in one! The bypass is a true full hardwire bypass meaning no circuitry in the P3S in imparted on your signal when it is bypassed.

So yeah, I love this thing. It is my first and only analog compressor and it kind of feels like I have 5! Prior to buying the P3S ME I was working completely digitally in the box. After getting the P3S and messing around with it for an hour or so familiarizing myself with its controls and sound I decided to open up a track that I had mastered only a week prior. I was particularly fond of this mix and the clients were ecstatic about the master I delivered them. I began getting down to business remastering the track with my new P3S. I referenced my prior master only to reach the same RMS level (which I did within 0.1dB). This was before I got my Sontec MEP-250ex so I used the same digital EQ as well as the same digital limiter that I had used on the first master, the only difference was the P3S instead of the digital compressor. I dialed everything in for awhile and got things sounding absolutely great. Captured, lined up my old master with the new one and took a listen. Well, what I heard from my P3S version was a more exciting, open and overall "better" sounding master. A huge smile came to my face; that was just the result I was looking for!

I really could not be happier with this compressor. It sounds amazing, is extremely versatile, has an incredible amount of precision and is built like a tank. Oh yeah, the price is great too! Big thanks to Roger Foote as well as a few fellow Gear Slutz members who helped to steer me towards this purchase and answer my questions before I pulled the trigger. thumbsup

Last edited by Grahamdwc; 16th September 2013 at 01:34 PM..
Old 8th January 2011
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Looks like you beat Dietrich to the review! I'll be curious to hear his thoughts as well. How are the noise levels and what do you think of the overall tone of the unit in clean mode?

The King
Old 8th January 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by William Bowden View Post
Looks like you beat Dietrich to the review! I'll be curious to hear his thoughts as well. How are the noise levels and what do you think of the overall tone of the unit in clean mode?

The King
Oh cool, I did not know Dietrich got one too, nice! Noise levels are great, I have not measured it yet but it's spec'd at -102dB. It is certainly much lower than my Sontec's noise floor which becomes somewhat audible if I really crank my monitoring DAC, the P3S does not. As far as overall tone with the output transformers disengaged, I'd say it is very clean sounding. Not clinical or boring, just super pristine, very low level distortion, smooth sounding analog compression. That being said this is the first analog compressor I have owned so perhaps someone who has been through a few would be more equipped to answer in better detail. For example I don't know how "clean" it is compared to an STC-8 or whatever because I have never used an STC-8 in my room. jdg has a P3S ME too, maybe he'll chime in with his opinion!
Old 8th January 2011
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jdg
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hate to say it.
but.....


told you so
heh


proud owner of P3S ME serial number 001
Old 8th January 2011
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jdg View Post
hate to say it.
but.....


told you so
heh


proud owner of P3S ME serial number 001
LOL. You're the man. heh
Old 8th January 2011
  #6
jdg
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my review:

best compressor i've ever used.

the new mods (that i dont even have) would make this thing even more rickdickulous.

im trying to schedule time to send mine back to roger to get updated
Old 8th January 2011
  #7
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Originally Posted by jdg View Post
my review:

best compressor i've ever used.
I should have taken your simplistic route to writing a review......it would have saved me about an hour of typing...heh
Old 8th January 2011
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Originally Posted by jdg View Post
my review:

best compressor i've ever used.
Wow! That's saying a lot coming from you considering all the comps that have been featured in the racks at Panic but then sent packing over the past years. You definitely have my interest ummm, "pico-ed" on this one!

Best regards,
Steve Berson
Old 8th January 2011
  #9
jdg
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Foote Control Systems P3S Mastering Edition Compressor Review

worth an audition steve, I'll even ship you mine to play with.

only thing I hate about it is the brown color
Old 8th January 2011
  #10
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I don't have the ME but have s/n 002 of the regular P3S - it's been on the 2-bus of every mix I've done since receiving it. Roger, besides being a gentleman of the highest standingheh, truly knows what he's doing with these boxes.

I feel slightly responsible for this thread's existence because I let John check out my P3S in his room after I couldn't stop raving about it.
Old 8th January 2011
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I've had a FCS prototype for a year, and haven't used it much because of the pots. I really need to install stepped attenuators (and change the front panel for new indexing) because from what I tried, this was an excellent compressor.
Old 8th January 2011
  #12
Foote Control Systems P3S Mastering Edition Compressor Review

Best compressor I've ever used. Ive got the me version as well.
Old 8th January 2011
  #13
Mark,
Thank you for your review! Made my day!

And to all the folks chiming in here!thumbsup

Roger
Old 8th January 2011
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Been considering this after reading jdg's thoughts about it a while back, but I have to say the pots put me off... Having said that I just bought an API2500, which probably makes me a massive hypocrite heh Had to have one once I tried it in person.

Anyway - thanks for the review... what was the 'price point' again?
Old 8th January 2011
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jdg
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thats why there are no pots in the mastering version..
i never ever ever ever ever use the A/R section.

if you do some mixing/tracking, you might, but YMMV ETC ETC BBQ OMFG

and yes, bleen is to blame.

its a great box that does compression.
can sound sweet/thick/heavy, or sound like nothing (which is how i usually use it)

edit: costs less then an api 2500
Old 8th January 2011
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Originally Posted by macc View Post
what was the 'price point' again?
$2,150.00 USD with free ground shipping in the US.
Old 8th January 2011
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Originally Posted by jdg View Post
thats why there are no pots in the mastering version..
i never ever ever ever ever use the A/R section.
Same. I've messed with A/R mode a bunch but always get better results with RMS or N/L modes. The Elma's feel great.
Old 8th January 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aleatoric View Post
Same. I've messed with A/R mode a bunch but always get better results with RMS or N/L modes. The Elma's feel great.
Which is interesting because when mixing (I'm NOT an ME), I tend to stay in A/R mode so I can adjust the attack and release based on the song. Different strokes!
Old 8th January 2011
  #19
jdg
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you wanna hear your compression, i often do not.

see, its a totally versatile boxen!
Old 8th January 2011
  #20
The pots on the AR could be replaced with Goldpoints if we put it into a larger case, defeating some of the pricepoint advantage of the P3S ME...That said, we only use top shelf components, Clarostat conductive plastic where conventional pots are used. SSL uses the same product after trying all the other brands like I did... The earlier units used PEC pots, also top shelf.Not really sure why anyone would be "put off" by them, but it's cool nonetheless.We are trying very hard to deliver top quality at affiordable prices here, and the pots keep the P3S ME in a 1u case, helping to reach that goal.BestRoger
Old 8th January 2011
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Big 'hmmm's here. I'll certainly bear it in mind in the ever-continuing gear safari.

Anyway - I meant to PM you Mark but I'm well pleased for you with the fancy new chain!
Old 8th January 2011
  #22
At the risk of a slight side-topic, have any of you smitten folks compared the 2500 to the FCS?
Old 8th January 2011
  #23
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^ That dovetails nicely with the post I was about to make...

I'd love to try it alongside the 2500 (which just left UK customs at last).

So *cough*, Mr Foote, are there any demo/review units floating about Europe? Say, the UK? Maybe the East Anglia region, perchance?
Old 8th January 2011
  #24
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Anyway - I meant to PM you Mark but I'm well pleased for you with the fancy new chain!
Thanks man! thumbsup
Old 8th January 2011
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The Pico compressor, which is (was) a more simple version that was offered DIY by Roger is fantastic. I haven't heard the P3S but I'm sure it sounds every bit as wonderful. Maybe even more so if Roger was keeping a trick or two up his sleeve.
Old 8th January 2011
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Originally Posted by Paul Gold View Post
The Pico compressor, which is (was) a more simple version that was offered DIY by Roger is fantastic. I haven't heard the P3S but I'm sure it sounds every bit as wonderful. Maybe even more so if Roger was keeping a trick or two up his sleeve.

Paul, isnt the PS3 a pico with all the "mods"? AR, SC, FF/FB?

Anyway i love my pico (ps3), i´ve never heard anything like it
Old 8th January 2011
  #27
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I don't remember a FF/FB mode for the Pico. Was there one?

I have mine set up with just basic controls. Variable attack/release mode only with just Attack, Release, Ratio and Threshold controls. No RMS, sidechain, NLC or makeup gain. I can get everything I want out of it like this.

I assume Roger did a new PCB layout to integrate all of the functions. He does beautiful layouts. There may be some subtle improvements. I dunno.
Old 8th January 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by William Bowden View Post
Looks like you beat Dietrich to the review! I'll be curious to hear his thoughts as well. How are the noise levels and what do you think of the overall tone of the unit in clean mode?

The King
I dont have on yet....

taking to roger about 4 channel version for the lathe. just been too wrapped in work to finish that conversation
Old 8th January 2011
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Originally Posted by macc View Post
I'd love to try it alongside the 2500
Yes, if anyone has both, please reply. I'm very happy with my 2500 but have been totally neglecting my Chandler LTD-2s. Maybe they need a new home and I need a new comp


GR
Old 8th January 2011
  #30
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Originally Posted by Paul Gold View Post
I don't remember a FF/FB mode for the Pico. Was there one?

I just remember a discussion on the forum about making a mod on the pico, i think the FF/FB came from this.
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