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Shadow Hills Industries Mastering Compressor

Mastering-grade compressor/limiter for tracking and mixing with optical and discrete compressor sections, sidechain filter, and output transformer switching matrix - PSU not included

MFR# Mastering Compressor

Product Description

The Shadow Hills Industries Mastering Compressor is a mastering-grade compressor/limiter with two compressors (stereo or dual mono) in series and three different output transformer selections (Nickel, Iron, and Steel) to choose between clean, colored, and dirty textures. The optical section is entirely bypassable, and it’s possible to bypass both compression sections to use the transformer section alone. The metering can reflect optical gain reduction, discrete gain reduction, or output level. These versatile bypass and metering options make the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor suitable as both a tracking compressor and a bus compressor.


The input stage is transformer balanced, followed by an optical compressor section. This section utilizes the same T4B optical attenuator as the LA2A and LA3A, but is optimized for mastering. The second stage is a 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: 0.1, 0.5, 1, 5, 10, and 30 milliseconds. And there are six release times selectable: 0.1, 0.25, 0.5, 8, 1.2, and Auto. There is an insertable filter in the side chain to limit pumping with bass heavy material.

Both sections are hardwire bypassable allowing you to completely remove either 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 straight wire in and out of the box. So besides being a mastering grade, and highly functional buss compressor, it can also serve as an excellent tracking compressor.

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.


The Mastering Compressor features Shadow Hills' custom transformer switching network with three output transformers options. These selections allow you to choose between different output transformers that are in effect: clean, colored, and dirty. The first position is Nickel which is a custom version of a famous LA custom console. This setting provides a natural-sounding low end and enhanced high frequencies. With the Iron section, the signal goes through the op-amp and into a Class A output stage (which only passes even-ordered harmonics) then through a custom Iron transformer for a slight boost at 110 Hz. The last transformer position is Steel which features an open and detailed sound with a boost at approximately 40 Hz for big low end.


The Mastering Compressor features custom-designed, gold-plated attenuators for easy settings recall. All 17 of the rotary switches are detented. The front panel is engraved. The knobs are bake-lite.


  • Independent optical and VCA compression sections that can be used in series
  • Three selectable output transformers with distinct sonic qualities
  • Premium mastering-grade signal path throughout
  • Requires the Shadow Hills Power Supply for operation (not included)


"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." - Michael Brauer

"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." - Greg Wells

"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." - Doug McBride

Product Specifications

Condition New
Tube or Solid State Solid State
Channels Dual-Channel
Chassis 19-inch Rack-mount
Rack Spaces 5U
Digital I/O No
Input Connectors Analog XLR
Output Connectors Analog XLR
Analog or Digital Analog
Compression Type Optical, VCA

Product Reviews

5 out of 5 stars.
Review Count (5)

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I have been drawn to this beast since they first showed up on the scene ! Of course I have all the plugins . Just , nothing as good as the real thing This and a set of Pultec Mastering eqs strapped across the stereo bus = Pure joy

By Jack D on December 23, 2021

Thank you guys for this amazing mastering tool! Special thanks to Miles for help! This allowed us to take mastering on the Mojoheadz Records label to a new level! https://mojoheadzrecords.com/

By Aleksander K on December 7, 2020

Awesome equipment

By Keith S on November 22, 2020

The SHMC is obviously an incredible tool. I have use both hardware and software version extensively over the past 6 years as my main master bus compressor. Tho it is not limited to it, it never leaves it. Gain staging the optical section into the discrete is always an amazing sound both tonally and dynamically for mixing and mastering applications. I personally have used it more as a tone box and amplifier for stems and mixes in which the syrup, depth and richness few other compressors can match. Overall, to this day it remains one of my favorite pieces sonically for many studio applications. Small variations will occur unfortunately from unit to unit based on the speed of their optical cells but once you know that it’s easier to understand how to use it and how each unit is like an instrument. My only wish: more sidechain filter options. Other than that, it always sounds incredible and will always be worth the money. If you like the plugin; you’ll love the hardware.

By David K on March 24, 2019

I am not a rich man. Then why, you ask, would I buy a Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor? My answer won't help you understand I'm afraid.
I don't have a car.... yet I have this. I don't use my boiler, I use this. I have no wife. No friends. No kids. No pets. I have this though.
My fellow man. What Henry Reardon has accomplished here is one of the first major steps towards true singularity, synthesis between man and machine. This box is my friend, my lover, my car, my boiler, my shoulder to cry on and so on. They say money can't buy happiness. And it can't. But what the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor can do is put a big sad smile on your lonely gear obsessed face.
I'm not saying depression is healthy (although inevitable perhaps). I'm saying this compressor will give you those most complete and satisfying depression you could ever hope to attain. A kind of grim acceptance of the implications this unit will have on your love life. It will give you the resolve to say, "Ok, I can be alone for another 10 years." Again I will not condone the sort of lifestyle Mr. Reardon is making possible with these machines. But I will say your depression will not be as empty as it would with an SSL. So go ahead. Buy it. I dare you. Just expect to be pale.
Love MODE.

By MODE on November 16, 2015

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