Get the Glue: Focus on the TK Audio BC1-S Stereo Bus Compressor
BB4 Studios is one of many that have eschewed the traditional recording desk in favor of a more streamlined kind of console. We detailed our decision in depth with this article, citing the size of the sweet spot, the pursuant critical listening lift, and workflow wins as primary reasons behind that choice.
That said, we’re acutely aware that recording consoles have provided the studio world with numerous landmark devices over the decades. Much like military research gave rise to microwave ovens, modern computers and—our fave— cargo pants, mainframe desks have had their own trickle-down effect. Meters, mic pres, compressors and more that were borne from consoles have foreshadowed scores of 1RU and plugin classics later on.
We’ve got a few of these analog and digital descendants at BB4, but this month we train our focus on the TK Audio BC1-S stereo bus compressor. Designed for both mixing and tracking, this smooth unit is unabashedly inspired by the main Quad output compressor of the vaunted SSL G-Series, a console that mixed and tracked countless hits spanning hip hop, pop and rock. Its bus compressor played no small role in the sound of the SSL G-Series, providing that elusive “glue” that makes a great mix even better.
TK Audio’s eponymous founder, Thomas Kristiansson, made several refinements to SSL’s original design, making it significantly more versatile—both operationally and musically—in the process. It can be kind and gentle or hard-hitting, all the better manipulated with thoughtful features that include stepped controls, a high-pass-filter on the sidechain, an external sidechain input and—most welcome of all–a wet/dry blend control for the easiest path to parallel compression that we’ve encountered.
For Kiara Mudd, Studio Manager/House Engineer at BB4, the BCS-1 is a go-to when mixing the rhythm section. “I use it mostly for bass as well as drums—snares, claps, high hats and other percussion,” she says. “It gives those instruments a punch that they wouldn’t have otherwise, and it glues together the drum components very nicely. The genres we like it best for are hip hop and electronic music, where the drums and bass are really prominent.”
Like shiraz + smoked gouda, the TK Audio BCS-1 pairs especially well with another console-crafted component, our Great River Harrison 32 EQ’s modeled after the EQs from the Harrison 32C desk that made Thriller a thrill. “If there’s a frequency that’s bothering me, I’ll put the Harrison 32’s after the compressor to cut or boost it,” notes Mudd. “The BCS-1 has a pretty clear signal on its own, but sometimes you need a little extra.”
Mudd takes advantage of the sidechain filter primarily for snares, claps and other percussion. “Applying sidechain helps when you don’t want to affect the low frequencies in the signal,” she explains. “It’s similar to how multiband compression can work, where you’re only compressing part of the signal.”
Like many other mixers, Mudd gives the BCS-1 especial props for that aforementioned wet/dry control, which cancels the complexity accompanying parallel compression, that technique where an audio signal is split in two, with some of the sound running through dynamics or effects before it’s blended back into the mix underneath the dry sound. “We don’t have any other compressors with a wet/dry control—that makes it unique in our studio,” Mudd says. “With most other compressors, you have to take extra steps to be able to achieve parallel processing.”
Just as with every tool we wield at BB4, the TK Audio BCS-1 has its own particular sonic purpose. “If you’re looking for an ideal way to make drums and bass pop in the mix,” Kiara concludes, “this is the compressor that will give it to you.”
Tickle our TK and much more when you track and mix at BB4!