September 14, 2006

The Aphex Dominator

I posted this at the NZ LPFM Forum today - and thought it worthy to post here for anyones reference/interest. It was part of a discussion about processing audio for radio broadcast:

A dominator is an excellent hardware brickwall limiter. You can drive it as hard as you want and it will be very transparent. If you like/prefer this hardware, I highly suggest using a dominator for peaking management, but a compellor (or even another Dominator) for compression (or AGC equivalent).

Based on my experience, your first line of processing should be about levelling the incoming audio. As a starting point, suss your starting gain on the Compellor (or Dominator) by playing a normalised music track feeding in. Start with your release time at halfway, compression at 2:1 (if applicable).

Your incoming audio will appear on the LED, adjust your gain till it 'just' appears. This is a fair indication that your input is coming in at 0db.

We are looking for levelling, so a thrust of 10 to 14db (or -10 to -14db if you're looking upside down) is about right for an AGC equivalent. Have your release at around 2-4 seconds. If your LED is fully lit, increase your compression ratio to between 2:1 and 2.5:1. If no visible reduction, reduce it back to 2:1 and decrease your gain.

After this, using a Dominator, you can either lean toward compressing a few more db, which you can do by setting release to slow and increase your gain somewhat - but not too much!. This will keep things dynamic. Or you can lean toward hardcore limiting which requires faster release, and push the gain to where you feel comfortable. Steer away from pumping it too much with fast release.

They are both robust pieces of hardware and may take a lot of fiddling to perfect - but remember to have fun if you plan on using them, as thats what they'll give you, and be patient. Exercise the "leave it a day" rule.

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