Golden Age Project Comp-54 by Darth Preamp
(In case you don't want to read the full review)
This is a world class compressor. The price snobs be damned!
Look: Inside Out
The inside of the unit is very well made and is actually quite beautiful to look at. It is an amazing circuit, and the parts are high quality; even though they are not made in Europe or America. It is discrete, without any IC's.
The outside is red with white lettering and boasts a usable, albeit not optimum, VU meter which can show compression or output. The knobs of the variable Threshold, Ratio, Attack, Release, High Pass Filter, and Gain all feel very good and solid when turned. The Power, Link, IN/OUT, Meter, and bypass buttons are not quite as solid feeling but nevertheless are reliable.
I bought two of these to use on the L/R of my most recent CD (entirely acoustic music). So I only have experience using this as a buss compressor.
It is an extremely versatile piece of equipment in this context. You can apply gobs of compression without an artifact, very little compression with artifacts, or the opposite, depending on what it is you would like to do. I used it mainly to do about 1 - 4 db's of compression on the CD. It brought a cohesion and clarity to my music. It also added a slightly accent in the lower regions. It is very quiet, and can be run with a minimum of make up gain if you don't want to impart a bigger sound. By tweaking the gain reduction with the gain structure both coming in and out of the Comp 54, you really can achieve a good variety of aural coloration or not. The input and output transformers sound slightly different depending on how you set the levels that come in and/or out. Like I said before it is VERY versatile, and for any engineer used to using compression, it can really work wonders. I particularly liked the High Pass Filter and how it interacted with the other parameters of the Comp 54.
I love this compressor for the mix buss. It literally blows away in terms of both capabilities and sound, my previous buss compressor, the Avalon VT 747sp. My advice is to go out and buy two, and spend time tweaking your reference CD's/Material in order to get to know what the Comp 54 is capable of, and then use it for real! You won't be disappointed. The only caveat is that the power supplies are complete rubbish, and must be placed just ever so, in order that they don't give off an annoying hum!!!
However, if you can work with that, which I did, and find the right place to put them so they didn't interfere with the signal, this compressor is worth at least 10 times what it goes for on the market, in terms of sound and functionality.
BTW - if you doubt me, shoot me a pm and I would be HAPPY to do a shoot out with any high end compressor.
Here are some examples from the CD
Hava Nagila, For Real — Daniel Gil