Universal Audio Chandler Limited Zener Limiter by Diogo C
*Product: Chandler Limited Zener Limiter Plug-In
*Developers: Softube/Universal Audio
*Formats: AAX/AU/RTAS/VST for UAD2 Systems or Apollo Interfaces
*Price: $299 MSRP
*Demo: Fully-functional for 14 days
The scope: Softube arrives on the UAD platform once again to deliver another piece of Chandler Limited gear. After successfully developing the plug-in version of the classic Curve Bender equalizer, this time Softube brings the Chandler Limited Zener Limiter. This plug-in is basically a 1:1 recreation of the Chandler Limited TG12413 hardware, which was designed by Chandler Limited’s founder engineer Wade Goeke to continue the legacy of the EMI limiters used at venerable Abbey Road on many legendary albums from The Beatles, Pink Floyd and others. The Zener Limiter is actually a bit more than a limiter and to get things clear from the start it should not to be confused with contemporary “brickwall” limiters. This is in fact a compressor with two distinct modes and a limiter: first compressor mode has a 2:1 ratio with slower timings and it’s very close to the Abbey Road’s iconic RS124 unit in that aspect, while the limiter mode has faster timings and was designed to behave similarly to the Fairchild 660. The second compressor mode sits in between those two, with the ratio of the first compressor and the timings of the limiter. Chandler Limited took things a bit further with the TG12413, adding a variable attack setting which wasn’t present in the EMI designs, extending the release options and also placing a selectable sidechain filter in the detector path. Chandler Limited have also took advantage of the great sounding electronics of the unit and introduced a “THD only” mode, which disables the compressor/limiter action but still passes the signal through the unit, raising the total harmonic distortion and subtly saturating the signal.
Sound quality: This is arguably one of the very best compressor/limiter plug-ins out there, with a very round, realistic and thick sound. It’s gentle color is quite pleasing and the action of the limiter and both compressor modes are quite unique in how they react, it feels very smooth while also imparting its remarkable tone to the incoming material. Both compressor modes are interesting and the limiter is also very cool and works wonders on lead vocals and to glue mix groups together. The compressor does well on drums groups and on also on the master output. The internal sidechain on the detector path is particularly helpful on such tasks and helps a lot to keep everything under control. The THD mode is also very nice sounding, useful on basically any situation where some saturation is needed to spice things up. All around this is a gorgeous sounding plug-in and one of the most rewarding to use.
Ease of use: The Chandler Limited Zener Limiter plug-in is really easy to use, with no hidden menus or extra windows with complex settings. It’s really straightforward and all you need to do is get used to the action of the dynamic envelope and general tone of the device, which can be quite a fun discovery process as this plug-in reveals itself to be quite versatile and can be used successfully on many applications. Once that learning process is dealt with it’s quite easy to use and dialing great settings should be pretty much effortless. One neat trick in this plug-in is that by holding shift key it inversely links input and output controls, so you can crank up the input and apply more gain reduction while keeping levels in check. A good number of presets are provided and the 15-page (PDF) user manual is concise and well written, with good descriptions on what each control does and it also shares some bits on the history of Chandler Limited’s compressors/limiters, which is a cool touch. The only difficult thing here is that it bites 40% of a single UAD2 chip at a sample rate of 48kHz, so running many instances can be problematic and will demand some more cards/satellites.
Features: Softube has approached the TG12413 carefully when it comes to the feature set, keeping things as faithful as possible to the original hardware but they have also incorporated some new features to the plug-in, such as stereo-linked and mid-side functionalities. However, at this price point and with the current plug-in landscape in mind it can never hurt to offer a bit more, and for example the meters could go beyond gain reduction with options to display input/output levels, a dry/wet control would be nice to have and there could be a true mono version with a proper interface without the screen-wasteful and idle right side. Nevertheless, the great “feature” here is definitely the sound and there’s absolutely nothing to complain about that, quite the contrary!
Bang for buck: The Chandler Zener Limiter is priced the same as other UAD2 premium processors such as the SSL G-Series Bus Compressor, API 2500, Manley Vari-Mu and others, which makes it a matter of personal preferences above all else. Having said that, they’re all relatively expensive plug-ins by today’s standards - not to mention the hardware investment - but they surely deliver on what they promise and are certainly among the best plug-ins of our age.
Recommended for: mixing and mastering engineers looking for an unique sounding compressor/limiter, especially those not entirely satisfied with their current plug-ins.