Extensive compressor reviews and FAQ

Audio Arts 1200: This is an older mono line-level rackmount unit. It reminds me of the Ashly SC50 in many ways, both functionally and tonally. At some settings it has a furry sound, a subtle mild clipping that is very musical, like an old tube amp, but not transparent or hi-fi. I don't know if this fur is a result of old components decaying, or if it sounded the same way when it was new. At other settings it can be more neutral and colorless. It has a good range of controls. I found that it did take a while to find the least colored settings, and that many of the other settings were very weird and extra-squashed sounding, good only for lo-fi vintage tone. But once I managed to dial in the more natural and neutral-sounding settings, it opened up nicely. It handles spikes from the low end very smoothly and naturally, with minimal artifacts. It does not seem to roll off the lows or highs much.
 
I A/B'ed it against a dbx 160XT: the dbx was much punchier, with crisper brighter highs, but more processed sounding; while the Audio Arts was much smoother and more natural. I would choose the dbx for aggressive rock music, but I would choose the Audio Arts for jazz, blues, anything mellower and more toneful. I picked this unit up because I read somebody's comment that it was "much better than the Symetrix 501 for bass". I sort of disagree with that statement, as they sound fairly different. The Symetrix is more aggressive, and has a wider range of usable settings, while the Audio Arts has that smoothness and fur. So they are equally good, but for different tones.
 
The in/out switch on this unit just turns off the compression stage, your signal still passes through the gain stage--so there is not really any usable bypass.
 
Price in USD: used $100 to $200, no longer available new.
 

 

 
 
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