The Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor has extraordinary functionality, and also provides mastering grade compression and limiting for tracking and mixing. Essentially it is two compressors in series, per channel, that can act in stereo, or dual mono. First comes our mastering grade electro optical compressor, followed by our discrete Class-A compressor/limiter. Both feed our switchable custom output transformers, Nickel, Iron, and Steel. There is enough gain in each section to overdrive the hottest tape, or clip your converters, if you're into that sort of thing.
The input stage is transformer balanced, followed by our fully discrete optical compressor. This section utilizes the same T4B optical attenuator as the LA2A and LA3A, but is optimized for mastering. The second stage is our discrete Class-A VCA compressor. There are no electrolytic caps or IC chips in the audio path. There are six ratios: 1.2 to 1, 2 to 1, 3 to 1, 4 to 1, 6 to 1, and 10 to 1. There is six attack settings: .1, .5, 1, 5, 10, and 30 milliseconds. And there are six release times selectable: .1, .25, .5,8, 1.2, and Auto. There is an insertable filter in the side chain to limit pumping with bass heavy material. Lastly the signal goes through our new Shadow Hills custom transformer-switching network.
The first position is Nickel, which is our custom version of a famous L. A. custom console. Next is Iron. In this mode the signal goes through our op-amp and into a Class-A output stage then to our custom Iron transformers, the last transformer position is Steel. These selections allow you to choose between different output transformers that are in effect: clean, colored, and dirty, respectively.
The optical section has a hard-wired bypass that completely removes it from the signal path, and the Class-A VCA compressor is also hardwire bypassable, completely removing it from the chain. It is possible to independently bypass both compression sections and have your signal go through the input transformer and transformer selector only. There is also a hardwire bypass for the entire compressor, effectively a strait wire in and out of the box. So besides being a mastering grade, and highly functional buss compressor, it serves as an excellent tracking compressor.
For instance, you might call up the chain of the optical compressor, then to the Class-A output and Iron transformer, for vocals, or select just the Class-A VCA compressor with a 10:1 plus the Steel transformer for crushing some room mics, and on and on.
The metering can reflect, optical gain reduction, discrete gain reduction, or output level. The Magic eye tube follows the output meter to act as a peak meter.
All 17 of the rotary switches are detented. The front panel is engraved. The knobs are bake-lite.
"The Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor is a very versatile and unique sounding unit, capable of transforming a quite ordinary sounding mix into something warmer, richer and more musically glued together. It has a completely natural, smooth sound, which perfectly compliments mixes which have been done primarily in the box by smoothing many of the harsh overtones. By linking the opto and discreet compressors, it is possible to nearly re-balance a mix by making the ambient elements and musical hooks move forward in a subtle and non-hyped way. The choice of iron/nickel/steel for the compressor is an ultra fine-tuning control which is the most fun part of working with the unit, as it affords a surprise in the special enhancement it provides and keeps the user from “settling” on a setting which is almost, but not quite, right. The ergonomics for the Shadow Hills are the best I ever encountered in a mastering compressor by a wide margin. Easy to read, easy to recall. Of course, the ultra-large knobs are the wow factor which all visitors to the studio have immediately remarked about.
No one piece of gear is ever good for every project, but the Shadow Hills has, in two months use, become an essential part of my mastering set-up, affording me a perfect solution to many of the problems we encounter in the post recording studio era."
Greg Calbi, Sterling Sound
"Nobody buy the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor! Please return yours now. I'm willing to suffer the consequence of being the only one to own that anchor. Yah, it adds a shimmering excitement to multi buss compression by not getting in the way of the internal dynamics I've created... and I do love putting my hands on those big black knobs...but who cares? Just once, I want a great compressor that nobody else can have."
"The Shadow Hills mastering compressor is something I've avoided since it came out because, cynical Canadian that I am, I figured something that looked that good couldn't sound amazing. I was so wrong.
It's an instant game changer... put it on the mix bus with a tiny bit of optical compression and more liberal VCA compression with the sidechain engaged keeping all the low end and BLOODY HELL IT'S AMAZING. I'm mixing at least twice as fast as I ever have, and the mixes sound completely on par with the best mixers out there. I know how that reads in text form, but it's really something else. Sorry for the unfiltered gearsluttiness but I can't contain myself. They should rename it the Game Changer."
"Forget the aesthetics of the unit - it's the most versatile comp ever. The discrete comp is a cross between a G384 and a 33609. The opto side is fast as hell. I'd love to take it off the 2mix but that won't happen."