Test Reviews of Pro Audio Gear and Mixing Consoles

Analog Stereo Mastering Processing Gear
adt-audio ToolMod MS and BM

Translation of a test review from German Studio-Magazin by
Dieter Kahlen

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Toolmod BM

The first module in the ToolMod BM set is the stereo eq TM205, which is identical to the eq that is installed in the ToolMod MS. The next module is the stereo mastering compressor TM222. This unit has an unusual and very extensive function set that offers amazing sound design options, far beyond of the possibilities of a standard compressor.

Stereo Mastering Processor ToolMod BM

The manufacturer claims, that the target of the development of this vca compressor was to accomplish a clear enhancement of loudness together with high possible compression rates with mixing and mastering, while the well known negative side effects of such settings like pumping and low frequency distortion should be minimized by a set of additional tools that are added to the standard controls threshold, ratio, attack and release. Three of these special tools are the crest switch, the knee control and the envelope control that allow to optimize the behavior of the rms converter to the structure of the treated signal precisely. The Crest selector with its six positions controls the reaction of the ac/dc converter from RMS to peak characteristics and offers important creative options. The knee control modifies the characteristics around the threshold level; higher values result in a soft transition between the linear range below threshold and the begin of the regulation. The envelope control modifies the way the rectifier responds to low frequency signal components and makes possible to use lower release time settings with clearly reduced distortion. The fill function maintains the low-level signal components that are battered by high compression ratios and lead to a sound impression that is fallen apart. This is achieved by a moderate addition of the uncompressed input signal to the compressed output signal, adjusted by the fill control. The low level parts of the signal structure become ‚filled’ with this process. The LT-Int function (long time integration) processes an additional control voltage that is generated by averaging the envelope of the input signal over a longer period. The attack time of this control voltage is equal to the response of a VU meter while the release time depends on the setting of the LT-Int control. The result of using this control is similar to the function a leveler or of an auto release function. With an appropriate setting it is possible to add some variety to a strong compression that results in a more natural compression without loosing too much loudness.

An important feature of all adt-audio master compressors ever since is the very useful autogain function that compensates the loss of level caused by the regulation of the compressor automatically. The signal compression of the unit becomes independent of the output level that has to be manually adjusted if autogain would not exist. Autogain can be disabled; a manual gain control also exists.

The side chain insert of the TM222 is connected to the TRS jacks on the connector panel of the frame. Connecting the side chain insert input to the TRS jacks of the stereo equalizer slots that are in parallel to the eq inputs, the ac/dc converter of the compressor is switched pre the equalizer, which is equal with an exchange of order of eq and compressor. Another switch routs the side chain input signal to the compressor’s output; this is equal to a ‚key listen’ switch to control the side chain signal and is a useful addition when using equalizers in the side chain.

The function set of the compressor is completed by a LED display with 10 LED’s that shows the gain reduction.

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