Q: "Have you got a favourite piece of outboard you can't do without?"
Tom Elmhirst: "I find I use less and less outboard gear as I've gone on. When I first started engineering I probably plugged every single bit in! The Manley (Variable Mu) compressor over the mix, I'd struggle without that. Manleys make a mix sound like those old records -- when the vocal goes away -- back comes the music, and I love that. You can tuck the vocal in the track a bit more."
from Resolution Magazine May/June 2006
I really like my mu. I got it with a 100Hz HPass on the sidechain. I've used for the past 6 months and for me it's best on Lead vocal and bass. Some of my clients love it on the 2 buss but I don't do that anymore. I've heard the word "glue" from totally untechnical people who didn't even know I plugged it in on the 2 bus and I think that's a good description. I adore pop drums through it. It's kind of elastic. I like it so much on one specific voice that I haul it along to live gigs. Overkill but worth it. BTW no plug in comes near and I hope I won't be around when they do.
I'm not bothered about the low end distortion. I don't know what all the fuss is about. It's not crystal clean and that's why I like it. It's got character. I haven't found much use for other applications though but I've only had it for a year. Whatever others say, it's a cool weapon and it always gets used somewhere.
(from GearSlutz.com thread)
AAAAAAARRRRRRGH!!!!!!! I now own a VARIBLE MU compressor once again at Al Priest's urging and now I NEED to try some more stuff. The MU lives on my mix buss (except when tracking drum over-heads, female vocals, acoustic guitars or anything that needs to be compressed but not crunched) and is always used in series with the Massive Passive. I Iiterally can't mix without them anymore and I've been trying to find a way to do it because sometimes I've had to re-record some stuff thru them to correct tracking mistakes on stuff that's been sent to my studio to mix, hence adding another generation to the material when I'd rather just insert the unit, correct the problem and keep mixing. (Not that it really seems to matter as every thing that goes thru them sounds better on the way out!) The funny thing is that when I first received the Vari-Mu I was a little frustrated with it because it wasn't the obvious compression I was used to hearing . The more I used it however the more I began to miss the particular color it added when it wasn't there . It also seems to do something to the low end that somehow makes it tighter and cleaner in a way that EQ can't. So once again I'm stuck with severe gear lust and not enough money to GET MORE!!!!!!!! Anyway just writing this to say that you are making some truly amazing stuff which makes my job a whole lot more fun. (re: I sometimes turn into a giggling idiot when I hear how good my work is sounding)
Sound Junkie Recording
This morning, I took delivery of my first Manley product - a Vari-Mu.
Hooked it up, let the tubes warm, and ran some unmastered mixes through
it.... I am completely BLOWN AWAY! That wasn't my first comment (it was
this thing FU*&%N ROCKS!!!! - as I fell out of my chair). Hit the
"bypass" and it's instant letdown! Worth every penny! I used to have to
use a ton of DSP to get this kind of sound. Can't wait for my clients to
hear this. Keep up the great work!
F7 Sound and Vision
I just wanted to drop you a note to let you know how much I love the Manley Vari Mu I just bought! I own a medium size studio with some nice high end stuff and when I was first told about the Mu I didnt know what to expect only that it had a pretty high price tag. I never used one but after reading reviews and so on I finally said "what the heck spend the money worst case scenerio you can bring it back". After 2 weeks of use this is what I find. On the mix buss I find it to be great at controlling the dynamics! But the harder you hit it the more it smiles at you. If I could describe the sound I would say its sort of like a sexy female licking the side of your face! yes its that good! The silk is unbelievable. I havent even used it for tracking thus far only for mixing and polishing tracks. It truly is the polished sound I have always been looking for no wonder all the big studios have them. Thanks for this wonderful product! I am going to be grabbing the ELOP next ha ha!
EveAnna, I'm a pianist living in Baltimore MD. I've been playing for 46
years and toured and recorded with a host of major acts. When I decided
to start mastering a few years ago and step up to high end recording I
bought your Vari-Mu compressor, and quickly followed with the Massive
and the SLAM. Just a note, I own tons of computer gear with all kinds
of plug-ins...but nothing, I repeat nothing works or sounds like your
stuff. So for all the folks out there who think goofy products like
W***s bundles and the like are going to do the job like your gear for a
lot less money...guess again. It's not even close, and it's worth every
penny. I know you're tired of the compliments but I just had to send
A VERY satisfied and LOYAL customer,
dear eveanna,.. i love the vari-mu,...it has true musical soul!!!!!!,. and
the strenght on ten men,.........is there a setting on it that doesn't sound
spectacular,. if there is i can't find it,. it pumps,.it cruises,.it
bubbles,it smoothes,.. it just make everything sound right,.. what a piece
of gear,.......you guys have got the
voodoo!!!!!!!!!!!............................... thanks for the super fat
mixes,...... will you adopt me,...??????
best regards,. and
cheers!!!!!!,... devin powers/ blind date
Hello Eveanna -
I just got a Vari Mu and it is SO FUCKING GREAT SOUNDING that I just had to drop you an e-mail.
Just wanted to give you a (probably typical) note as a new-to-the-ranks Manley owner. Last week, I took delivery of a gently-used Manley Variable Mu (mastering edition).
In short, it's everything I've heard it to be and more. I'm generally what you would consider a "mid-level" place - A lot of independent artists and some VERY small labels. So, a lot of the projects I work on sadly wouldn't know the difference between the Variable Mu and an Alesis 3630. That might be exaggerating a bit, but I'm sure you get the idea...
Luckily for me, the morning the Variable Mu came in, a client showed up with a bunch of well-recorded mixes of an independent (country) artist. Nothing spectacular, but clean, clear and dynamic. I asked him if he wouldn't mind me taking an extra day to "experiment" with his mixes to get the feel of the new compressor.
To make a long story short (if it's not too late already), I quickly found out that the VM is clearly the coolest, most "forgiving" compressor I've ever used. While most compressors ask the engineer "which setting will work properly," the VM asks "which flavor of 'wonderful' would you like to use?"
And the "simple" things - The mirror-positioned controls, clear & clean easy-to-read control panel, gently lit meters, no-nonsense heavy-duty construction... I'm in love with a steel box. So, feel free to put another checkmark in the "Happy" column.
On a related note - I'm planning on upgrading my EQ soon... With a name like MASSIVE Mastering, people are already surprised to see that I don't have a Massive Passive. I'm actually in the middle of a mental struggle between a MP and a [something else].
However, the MP goes a bit over my ($3,000-ish) budget. So, if anyone there knows of someone with a good deal on a used unit, please look me up!
Thanks for reading -
John Scrip :-)
MASSIVE Mastering / Audiographics Unlimited
Hoffman Estates / Schaumburg, IL -- U.S.A.
Reply by EveAnna:
Damn straight with a name like yours you need a MASSIVE!!!!!!!!!!!
Keep an eye on eBay... they do come up here and there.
Enjoy and thanks for your super-cool comments.......
Maybe its my slow learning curve but after few days of toying with the VariMu, the outstanding nature of it comes to light. It is really outstanding for mix program compression with light 2-4dB of gain reduction and medium slow attack/release type compression.
It has its mark on track recording as well were I've scored nice results doing vocals.
The main thing to learn and master, IMO, is how to handle the in/out pots, hence level driving, to create the color you are after. Then get the compression going. This one is a heavy hitter.
Other users may have other opinions.
Desert Island Group *** Tel: 972 3 5626006
PO Box 23234 Tel Aviv, Israel *** Fax: 972 3 5614044
The new web page looks great - I went to the Mausoleum right away! Shows you where my head is at these days.
In the latest Boisen Audio Recording Arts Newsletter I wrote, "We are particularly proud to have some new goodies from Manley Labs, the world's top manufacturer of modern tube gear." But that is really a brief understatement at best. I have to tell you that I've bought, sold, and reviewed a lot of stuff over the last couple of years, and every piece of Manley gear I've acquired stands out as a new treasure and a quantum leap in the sound of my studio.
Bass tracks recorded with the Tube DI box often win out over a miked cabinet, or contribute the majority of the bass sound in a mix with little or no added eq. This simply does not happen with a solid state DI.
The Reference Cardioid Mic is simply unreal for acoustic guitar, drum overhead or room miking, percussion, and of course on vocals it has a stunning, million-dollar sound. You gave me some tips on how to deal with its inherent brightness, and I've found that a thick U-87 type foam windscreen is helpful to tone down the highs on some sources. For the analog recording that I do it's often just great as is. The Ref Card is also one of the hottest and quietest mics I have, and its probably the closest I'll ever get to owning something like an AKG C-12. My only regret is that this mic came along too late to make my "Top 10 Mics" list.
I don't even know where to start with the Stereo Vari-Mu... I'll tell you what I tell everyone else, "After hearing what the Variable-Mu can do for a mix, I want to remix every record I've ever done." It also makes a wonderful single channel compressor for vocals, especially with the Ref Card mic, and my new 40 dB Manley mic pre!
Thank you for making my ears happier than they've ever been!
Best regards, Myles Boisen
Boisen Audio Recording Arts
Electronic Musician magazine reviewer
I just thought I'd drop you a note after buying your Variable Mu compressor. Also, I probably don't fit the normal customer profile. Let me explain...
First of all, I was glad to see you folks expanding your dealership network. It can be so frustrating not being able to "oogle the knobs" on high-end equipment at the local music store. I shop at Grandma's Music here in New Mexico and they recently started carrying your products. Special kudos to Baird Banner there for turning me on to your stuff. He is by far the most experienced and honest salesperson I have dealt with yet and has the good gear to back it up with. Send him a bonus! He recommended the MU and set me up with the right solution for getting it to work correctly with my Roland VS-1680.
I used to do business with [a big mail-order outlet]...they have standard lines for any gear they don't carry. "I've heard Manley gear is pretty noisy," is their standard line for your stuff. They did, however, turn me on to John Oram, whom I have spoken with at length. I ended up purchasing his MWS mic-pre/EQ and Octasonics units and I am very pleased with both..
Kudos also to Paul from your shop. Through more than four phone calls, he helped me work though all my questions before buying the MU. This level of support clinched it for me, since I was trying to decide between the Mu and another competitors piece.
So, I love the MU!! It is so quiet and smooth. I'm hooked. And it is popular as well. Everyone who hears and sees it wants me to re-master their masters with it and the MWS EQ. I just finished a re-mastering project this weekend, using the MU to work the levels on a tune recorded at a local studio. I pushed the MU to add some bottom meat to the track and I pulled in a little Finalizer Plus to deal with the stereo image. And now it rocks! Makes me want to go back and redo everything I've already recorded!
So, why do I say I probably don't fit your normal customer profile? I am not a mastering house. I'm not even a real business. I do this music stuff as a hobby...I don't charge folks, except for transportation and diet-Pepsi costs. This way, I can choose who I want to work with (I've found that the most musically interesting people are usually the ones who can't afford to record). Right now I do all my recording remote (I specialize in living room recordings!) For me, portability and versatility (for tracking AND mixdown) are essential...I need an overall configuration that I can get unpacked and setup in 15 minutes or less. Of course, this also means I will now have to get the Mu powered up first so it can warm up - (This also means the Vox box is too big for me at this time...it being a single channel 3 space unit). I tend towards small eclectic projects, instrumental stuff like flamenco, and acoustic things. I am looking forward to using your MU on an upcoming Celtic project. Having only "hobby" time to put towards this, I need equipment that works great right out of the box...I don't have time to spend trying to eek out great performance from mediocre equipment.
So what do I have? :
- Roland VS1680 digital recorder
- Oram MWS Stereo Mic-pre/EQ - love it!
- Oram Octasonics 8 channel mic-pre (left at home for some projects)
- DBX-1066 Solid State stereo compressor - works well for many things!
- The MU ! - Ready for tracking and mixing on the road!
- Neumann KM-184s Mic (pair)
- Rode NT-2 large condenser Mic - surprising results from this one!
- Various standard dynamic and drum mics
- Genelec powered 1029 monitors (they are small and have metal grills to keep my 5 cats from clawing the speaker cones!)
- TC Finalizer Plus ... try the MU as an analog insert!
- Sony PCM R500 DAT (usually left at home)
I'm about to pick up a Lawson L47MP tube mic as well...(Can't afford the Manley Gold Reference...unless you want to send me loaner for a few years!) I am considering trying out a single channel Manley mic-pre as well. Baird will let me borrow one for a weekend (one of the benefits of doing business with him) when I get a chance.
So, that's it....just a quick customer profile and a note of appreciation for your MU! Now, all I've got to do is figure out how to transport it. A 4 space rack by itself is too much with everything else...maybe a small foam lined travel case :-) Probably the cardboard box for now :-(
Keep up the great work,
Fred Des Chenes
I recently sent in our Variable Mu comp/limiter for repair. I'd like to thank you and your crew - especially Paul - for the ultra-prompt attention and real quick turnaround. I hate to be w/o this unit (please don't tell anybody else about the M/S option. It is my secret tool; everybody is amazed) and you guys came through for us.
David Glasser - AIRSHOW Mastering
www.airshowmastering,com (under construction)
1998 Grammy winner - Best Historical Album
Dear EveAnna and team,
I received my new Variable Mu compressor from Sweetwater last saturday, 4/30/2010. I just wanted to let you folks at Manley know that, as a craftsman, I have a real appreciation for exceptional workmanship. It always shows. The product is beautiful. And wouldn't you know, what it does is exactly what I had hoped for. It is amazing !!
Thanks to everyone involved in building this fine product. You are a treasure.
PS: Now I have to start saving for a Referrence microphone and a Massive Passive. Whew.
In response to your very nice message... thank YOU for your follow-up when I
initially inquired about the VOXBOX, and for forwarding my needs to Ryan at
Vintage King Audio in Detroit!
As I remodel the Greensboro studio, your VOXBOX will be the backbone of what
we are doing, so YOU deserve the credit and MY note of appreciation! You
can rest assured as the studio gets up and running, the VOXBOX and your kind
and considerate response will be remembered! I am leaving the door open on
adding even more Manley products to the equipment inventory as we expand in
We have been a devoted customer of Full Compass since the 1990s. Several
years ago, during the building of our Virginia facility, we were their #1
customer for the year. Although spending at that level is prohibited in
this economy, when you forwarded my interest to Ryan at Vintage King, your
combined considerations and helpful natures, along with the exceptional
personal service from you both, will now cause me to direct our future
business towards Manley products and to Ryan at Vintage King. Execeptional
service and exceptional products are not forgotten.
Your personal note is much appreciated! I will join Manly Labs on Facebook.
Creative Audio Concepts
I Love My Manley!
My name is Bud Bremner and I own and operate 'Coastal Mastering' in Vancouver, B.C. I am the proud owner of one of only two Manley Stereo Compressor/Limiters in all of Vancouver. Anyway, I love it! I've never owned a tube device before so I truly feel spoiled with this being my first. ("Yes Virginia, there is a God.") The quality, depth and tone of my work has improved so much since getting this compressor, I simply will not work without it, period.
Even when I go back to my old compressor and attempt to replicate the Manley settings on it, forget it! My old compressor simply cannot do what this one does. That old one by the way is two Valley Gain Brain II modules stapped in stereo. I can't believe I actually used them for mastering! Yechhh! Thank you for building such a wonderful device for us to use.
Thanks so much!
Bud Bremner President Coastal Mastering
Fri, 12 Sep 1997
Variable-mu on r.a.p.
Mar 30, 1998
About a month ago, I was looking into buying a top-shelf compressor, to be used primarily on the 2-mix. I was going through the Deja News archives and read many of your posts regarding the Manley Var-mu. I had basically narrowed it down to the Crane Song STC-8 and Var-mu. After reading what a lot of people had to say about the Manley, it seemed like it was what I was looking for. Well, I've had the thing for a nearly a month now and I must say that your review is dead-on. I LOVE THIS THING!!! It has such a nice way of gluing the mix together, even with just 2 or 3 dB of gain reduction. This is my first piece of Manley gear and I'm hooked. I've never seen anything so nicely put together and sonically, it makes me smile every time. I emailed EveAnna recently and I said that it looks like a piece of gear someone built for themself. I'm seriously thinking about picking up the dual mono 40 dB mic pre soon. It's between that and the Avalon VT-737SP. By any chance have you had the opportunity to compare those two? I'd like to get the Avalon since I heard the preamp is nice and the EQ is REALLY nice, but after my experience with the Var-mu, it's very tempting to get the Manley preamp.
I'm anxious to try cascading the two channels of the Var-mu as you mentioned in one of your posts. I haven't had much opportunity to try it in a tracking situation yet, so far just on the mix bus. Anyhow, thanks for taking the time to post your experiences with the Var-mu, it definitely helped in my decision.
I'm glad you like the Variable-MU as much as I do. It is a nice piece and I haven't printed a mix without it in more than two years (which includes at least one platinum album). I also own the dual 40 dB mic amp and use it a lot. I think you will like it as much as your limiter. While tracking an extremely LOUD singer last year, I kept getting some obnoxious crunch. I blamed the mic amp, even though I new the gain controls are actually input trims before the gain stage. The Manley folks were mystified, I was freaking, and they responded with a remarkable bench test of the 40 dB mic amp under various loads. In nearly thirty years of this work, I've never had any manufacturer do more than blow me off, much less put their box through the wringer and send me the results! To make a long story short(er), the mic amp is capable of huge output levels into most loads and I figured out finally that the C12-VR mic was actually blowing up and needed a full 20dB pad switched in for this vocalist (a first for me). Get your hands on one of those Manley mic amps, you'll like it.
Regards, Mark Williams
I picked up a VarMu about 2 months ago. Compression is smooth....limiting is exceptionally smooth. Tone is warm and at the same time clear. The best way I can describe it, is like someone poured a bowl of cream over the top of my mixes. It sounds great. There is a definite difference. The point is...to me....to compress channels individually while tracking/mixing. That way you have control on each instrument ( that NEEDS it...or that you WANT to compress), in place of multiband processing. While I would sometimes like to have a multiband compressor, treating each channel separately works in a similar way. Adding the VarMu on top just pulls it all together. Then you leave the squashing to those dynamic range-less radio stations.. :-)
Just my thoughts.....
Mike Rivers wrote;
The few times I've played with the Manley variable-mu compressor, I've been impressed with the fact that I can compress whatever happens to be lying around by a good solid average 10 dB and, although it changes for sure, it doesn't sound any worse, and sometimes sounds better. But trying the same thing with my dbx 166 almost always makes things sound worse beyond maybe 3dB of compression. 1996/12/03
Subject: Re: Compressor for full mix ?
Tom Pagan wrote on rec.audio.pro:
Also, don't the big rooms have compressors on every channel, so the aggregate mix is somewhat 'leveled' without the need for overall buss compression
I think that you'll find that many, if not most, of the records that hit the charts have had the entire mix compressed prior to mastering. Most engineers that I know will either rent or use the studio's Manley or Fairchild 670. If mixing on an SSL many will use the on-board stereo buss compressor. Just a few dB seems to make the mix sit a bit better, especially with the Fairchild.
I've had one since they first came out. I use it on virtually every session. Everything sounds beautiful through it. When I mix it's always on the stereo buss. My friends always bother me to tighten-up and thicken their tracks and mixes with it. The "MU" makes everything seem like a toy. One very important thing, Manley's product service is exceptional, even if you just think something might be off. I also own their 2ch. 40db mic pre. They're making a new stereo Eq so there goes another 3/4G's.
Mine gets constant use. It is quite transparent and so it works well when you dont want a lot of compression artifacts. If I am going for a more obviously compressed sound, on an electric guitar for instance, I will sometimes use the ART PRO VLA.
The Manley is a beautiful thing!
Yep, this thing is the real deal. It's very unobtrusive. You can pour on the compression without hearing any ill effects. If you want it to be in your face and obvious, however, you can make it do it. Use the limit mode and crank that input level. The tubes will get hot and give you some nice warm fuzzies while squashing it to hell. (you can't really get this thing to go into any serious distortion, but you can get those tubes to be quite noticeable).
-Jay Atlanta Digital www.promastering.com
Mark Williams writes on rec.audio.pro:
I have nothing negative to say about ADL, but I use my Manley 10dB limiter and 40dB mic amp almost daily. While I am unsure what operating principal the ADL relies on, many classic leveling amps used the optical (light bulb and photo cell) approach. The Manley uses a variable gain tube much like the venerable Fairchild limiters. In the couple of months I have had this thing, it has been used for vocal limiting on Rock records, Gospel records, a Folk/Rock album and been used as a mix compressor. It hardly has a chance to cool off. On a location Gospel session in Chicago, I watched in amusement as the lead vocalist drove the gain reduction meter nearly to the bottom of the scale while the sonics remained just fine. Bass sounds wonderful through it (keep the release time in the medium range for those five-strings) and for singers and instruments that need some heroic leveling, I have been cascading the channels with the first knocking off the peaks and the second pumping it all up with compression.. As much as I can love a metal box full of tubes, I love this Manley limiter. If you have a chance to make comparisons, let me know what you find out. Regards, Mark
Mark Williams 1996/04/22
Subject: Which is the best compressor to compress full mix?
Manley Variable-mu - perhaps the most transparent compressor on a full mix that I've ever (not) heard. Crank it up and the musicality barely changes as the meters stop swinging and hang around the 0 VU mark.
Next question - can you afford its $4,000 price?
I'm really Mike Rivers
Subject: Re: Manley or Tubetech or Summit?
Date: Sat, 19 Oct 1996
Go with the Manley or the Tube Tech (which model Tube Tech did you test, by the way?). The DI is also excellent. I use it for bass all the time. Someone (Fletcher?) mentioned the mono unit's very nice, too, so you might consider getting two of those.
Subject: Re: Manley or Tubetech or Summit?
Date: Sat, 19 Oct 1996
We tape a/b'd the Manley Variable Mu vs 4 or 5 other high end pieces, and in our opinion the Manley won. This was on vocals. On a mix, it's no question that the Manley wins. It is unbelievably transparent and clean, and warm on just about anything, unlike most of the other units. However, I still miss the very appropriate vocal compression of the LA-2,3,4 electro-op's. I probably wouldn't have bought the Manley if all I had to do were vocals, and as more of my mixes get processed in the digital domain, the Variable Mu gets used less and less.
Mark Williams writes:
I have both the Manley 40dB two channel mic amp and the Manley 10dB Stereo Limiter as part of my personal gear. Our rooms have a Neve V3, and a couple of Sony MXP-3000 desks with John Hardy pres, etc. all of which are fine. But the Manley pre absolutely swings. We also have some excellent Tube Tech gear, including the CL-1a optical compressor. It's a nice piece, but since getting my Manley early this year, I've hardly turned it on! The Manley 10dB limiter handles vocal limiting tasks that I used to do exclusively with UREI 1176LN units, and the compressor setting is complete magic across a mix. I stay busy and that limiter damn near never cools off. Also, my experience dealing with the Manley people has been all pleasure and no hassle. They really give a shit and turned some recent repairs and mods around in a hurry. Hope this helps you make a decision. regards, Mark
Brian Lucey and Magic Garden Studio Sweetens CGT Release With Manley
The international release date of a new live CD from California Guitar Trio,
titled "Rocks The West" was April 25th. The album was produced by Magic
Garden's Brian Lucey. This new CD from CGT features Tony Levin on bass and
stick, and Bill Jansen on sax. This is CGT's fifth release on Discipline
Global Mobile, (DGM) and is distributed in the US by Ryko.
First-time producer Lucey, assembled the Magic Garden Studio after massive
frustration on the first two NUdE records, and has quickly accumulated a
collection of gear which is both "warm and clear while serving the needs of
music", he says.
The tracks for Rocks were recorded live by CGT
using DI's going to a digital mixer and then to a 20 bit
ADAT. "My job", said Lucey, "was to turn three DI guitars (4
with T. Levin) plus two Audix 101 room mics into something musical. And I
wanted to represent the amazing tone and power of the CGT live, having heard
them in venues of all sizes for many years, it was quite a challenge".
According to Lucey, "I use the Vari-MU on the 2 buss for EVERYTHING!" It
adds 3-D depth and tube sparkle and a hint of metal on the low end. And
everything that goes in ti comes out sounding 'ploished' in a rock kinda
The Manley Pultec is my best single channel EQ, so I put it on Tony Levins
DI. Amazing improvement on a harsh source."
"Thanks to a analog tape dump of the ADAT's and all the
outboard gear, including the Manley, this record
is one of the more musical sounding live guitar records I've
ever heard, and I'm relieved that the DI tone is
almost impossible to hear in the final master."
The Magic Garden's new project is a rock band called NUdE. Look for them on
the west coast this fall!
Man, this thing sounds un-fucking-believable. So smooth and warm, yet
so transparent. I love it. It's exactly what I needed.
I gotta get more of your gear. ;^)
David Bryce, ADAM Speakers
Wednesday's Fan Mail tells us how musical the Manley Variable Mu is for jazz and classical use. "A fine piece of audio art." Thank you Jennifer!
Greetings NW studio List.
I just wanted to bend your ears a little bit about the Manley Vari-Mu that Nick has for sale....
I have the potentiometer version of the VariMu...and absolutely love it. [ mastering version being offered uses rotary switches] I even use it out of the mastering chain, for general pleasure listening, just about 100% of the time!!!
It is not a "super compressor" that will clamp the level at the max and keep the needle kissing the red. Rather, it is wonderfully musical, and adds a nice touch whether in LIMIT or COMPRESS modes, a richness that is just so comfortable on the ears. I have used mine, almost always in COMPRESS, in mastering full-on classical orchestra, bluegrass, solo pop and classical piano, and even jazz...It can bring up the lower level details for enjoyment without stress, or loss of dimensional ques, and it never gets edgy or dirty if you keep it in the envelope.
If I never mastered another recording in my life, I would absolutely keep it "till the end", just for its fine listening pleasure. Even with really textured electric sounds like Lauri Anderson recordings, it does its magic....taking away no sense of energy, and no loss of detail...and adding a sense of even deeper involvement and emotional connection. Along with my preamp of my own design, it is one of the only 2 pieces of gear that I consider 'forever' pieces. Everything else I own is subject to upgrade...
So....just tossing my endorsement in for this fine piece of audio art. It is the ONLY piece of gear in my collection that has not received extensive modifications...It is that good out of the box.
If you are not familiar with the sound of this piece, I suggest contacting Nick and giving it a whirl...You will likely want to keep it.
JENA LABS, DreamDancer Music