All Tube, All Sounds
Based out of Los Angeles, California, Bryce Gonzales and his company, Highland Dynamics, have created a masterclass approach to the vari-mu compressor. The BG2 boasts an all-tube design that features like-minded elements of many classic compressors, including the front-end style of the Altec 436 and a twin 6V6 output amp that brings to mind the RCA BA6A and Gates. With this design, the Highland Dynamics BG2 offers an airy, tube-heavy sound, which can be transformed via different compression modes.
British or American? The Choice is Yours!
Highland Dynamics’ BG2 offers something unique to the world of compressors that will give your studio space the advantage of more feedback options. How does Highland Dynamics do it? The BG2 features two different feedback modes, British and American, essentially giving you two different compressors to work with.
In British mode, the BG2 reflects the design of a modified Altec436 with plate-to-plate style feedback. The result is a pristine high-end sound, which offers smooth operation and an end result that is much cleaner overall. We’re talking about that classic compressor voicing that only can come from big old tubes.
Flip the switch and you’re instantly hit with the rich harmonics of the BG2’s American mode. Coming correct with just the right amount of color and a lively, robust sound, the BG2 in this setting will offer a powerful tool for creating tracks full of character.
Turn Off The Compression And Turn on The Distortion
When you aren’t using the impressive compression features of the Highland Dynamics BG2, the compressor features an on/off switch that eliminates the side-chain tube and turns the compressor into a line amp. By driving the unit and using the feedback and input selection switches, you can create a variety of distortion sounds that will add highly stylized elements to your latest work.
The BG2 has standard 600 Ohm input, or 150 ohm for more gain and transformer color. It's also useful when running a microphone directly in with no preamp.
Two BG2s can be linked with a single instrument cable via a 1/4” jack on each rear panel and the link switch on the front panel.
The BG2 build quality is impressive with a rugged chassis, custom oversized transformers, US and European capacitors and a striking US-made Simpson panel meter. It’s built by hand, for people that truly appreciate thoughtful design and construction.
- Input and output controls
- Switchable feedback settings
- Fast and slow attack
- 6 release positions
- Link switch for stereo use
- 600 and 150 ohm input impedance taps
Reviews and Testimonials
"I’m not sure I've ever been as quickly and favorably impressed with a piece sent to me for review."- Brad Allen Williams, TapeOp. Read the full review.
"We have a BG1 and a BG2 in both rooms. They are very important to us at Tiny Telephone."- John Vanderslice, Owner, Tiny Telephone
"I use them for all sorts of stuff - running through them in non compression mode to give a digital bright track the analog haircut…for classy distortion, to bring a snare to life. I love having the feedback switch as it lets you change the character and behavior of the amp. Kinda takes you from black face to tweed, but in the limiter. And the impedance select is really handy when dialing in a tone. It truly sounds like it is built, robust and with character."- Rob Schnapf, Engineer/Producer
"I felt like when using the BG2 on vocals, the unit knows what the singer is singing before the signal even hits the unit. When I got my first BG2, my only problem with the unit was that I didn't know whether to put it on bass guitar or lead vocal in every mix because it did both so well... which is why I'm getting a second one." - Robert Cheek, Engineer/Producer
"The BG2 has a tone that’s instantly familiar, classic, and adds much needed vibe to so many of my recordings. It’s so easy to use; it’s almost hard to make this compressor sound bad! When used more aggressively, it's become an essential part of so many great records I've made over the last five years."- Scott McDowell, Engineer/Producer, Hyde Street Studios
“I met Bryce after very recently relocating to Los Angeles from 10 years in NYC. We had friends in common and when my buddy told me he had a friend that was making hand-wired tube comps, I knew I had to hear them. I had blown through all my savings (and gone wildly into debt) moving out here and buying a house, but when I put ears on these things, I knew they would never leave my rack until someone pried them out of my lifeless claws. Like it was literally buy these compressors and sit on the floor or buy kitchen chairs and some aerons... I mixed on a folding Ikea chair for about four months and we were eating cereal on a rug.
We all know how futile it is to try to describe the visceral reaction you get from hearing equipment you love, but that's what I'm here to do, so here goes. When I heard the BG2 for the first time, I was immediately connected to whole diaspora of incredible Abbey Road recordings that (for many of us) are the reason we do what we do. However, there are a number of things in Bryce's design that move the bar a little higher too. The impedance and feedback options allow for a much wider range of textures than many of the highly prized vintage vari-mu boxes these connect to. Moreover, because this is a modern comp, it's much better behaved than the vintage options in terms of noise floor, replicability of settings for recalls, and stability. The fucking thing is built like a tank. Also, once you add the time constant options to the aforementioned unique sets of impedance and feedback controls, you can create a pretty limitless set of great sounding curves for a widely varied set of input sources. I've gotten incredible lead vocal sounds, incredible guitar and bass sounds, incredible piano sounds, it's even awesome for destroying drum room mics. This is an area where the BG2 particularly excels, in my opinion, as so many of the colorful vintage options I've messed with have one stellar application and several kinds of okay applications. Also, because Bryce is himself a stellar engineer in addition to being a killer designer, there's that perfect confluence of a highly useful box that was purpose built by someone who has sensibilities honed on both sides of the glass. Buy several of them and use them liberally.”- Brian Bender, Engineer/Producer
“I first met Bryce Gonzales through our mutual friend Scott McChane, who was renting an office in my studio building at The Hangar in Sacramento, CA. Scott wanted to have Bryce share the space with him to cut his rent in half. Bryce needed space to fix guitar amps.
I asked Bryce if he ever worked on audio gear and if so, maybe we could take some money off the rent in exchange for him doing some work on our piles of busted gear. Bryce said he'd give it a shot. Well, I probably lost thousands of dollars in rent money over the next few years, but I gained a good friend and all of our gear worked great after that, so I definitely came out ahead in the deal. After Bryce had everything that was broken working, he got bored. He started suggesting that I buy broken down tube-based audio relics on eBay and he would then fix them.
One of the coolest projects to come out of this phase was our RCA tube console. This is the same console that Sam Phillips used at the original Sun Studios. This thing showed up in two crates and clearly hadn't been turned on in at least a decade. I recall that we found old newspapers and rat poop inside it and the wiring looked ready to crumble if we blew on it. I could tell that Bryce was wondering if he was crazy wanting to dig into this beast, but he acted cool and nonchalant about it and read up on the massive and ancient service manual and schematics we tracked down on the internet. He finished up the console the night before we had to take it out on a remote gig recording Devendra Banhart's 'What Will We Be' LP. He later built a second portable 4-channel cut down version of this console from more parts salvaged on eBay, coupled with a more modern and significantly lighter power supply.
Next up, Bryce started building compressors. One of the first was a copy of the UA 175 vari-mu compressor. I hesitate to use the word "copy" here, as Bryce seems to always interpret and riff on the classic designs a bit. When I say "copy," keep in mind it's a linguistic crutch on my part. After the 175 came an RCA BA6A made from some NOS parts a studio client had laying around offered to trade against their bill. Bryce added some extra release times to the original design on this one.
The real 'aha' moment was when Bryce built us a British-modified-style Altec 436 compressor from an old Altec 438. I was in the middle of mixing the track 'Sidepain' on the first Sea of Bees LP and having a hard time getting the vocal to sit right in the track. Bryce brought the compressor into the control room and said, "I think this thing is sounding pretty good!" We put it on the lead vocal and it was one of those all to rare 'presto!' moments, when the mix went from not really working to 'it's done!' We used the compressor on the lead vocal for the rest of the album. He later built a second unit fom scratch with the Sowter trannies from the UK and added a unique feature: The British-style feedback circuit was now an option via a front panel switch.
One of the last compressors Bryce built for us was a clone of the infamous Fairchild 660. We bought a Fairchild Conax 602 de-esser on eBay, as it has the same transformers as the 660 and the cool embossed red lettering. We bought some weird, old Fairchild signal generator because the panel and meter looked cool. Bryce took them both apart and used the 602 for the power supply and the signal generator for the audio signal path. Instead of the all-too-rare 6386 tubes, he used eight tubes for the compression circuit. There's some magic in this unit. For myself and most of the engineers at the studio, this one is a first choice on vocals or whatever else seems mission critical.
Somewhere amidst all this, Bryce started building his own compressors. We still have the first two BG2 comps in use at the studio and all the engineers hold them up as one of the best in the room. I see elements of Bryce's earlier builds in these units. The feedback switch is there and from what Bryce explained to me, the output section has something to do with the RCA circuit.
Now several years later, this circuit has been fine tuned, tested and debugged put onto a high quality circuit board and is ready for breakfast tables across the United States. So here's to the new era of Highland Dynamics. May they bring perfect mixes to the masses!”- John Baccigaluppi, Tape Op Magazine publisher; Owner, Panoramic Studio