The Variable Mu Mastering Version
There is a subtle audible improvement with stepped switches as well. Audiophile HI-FI often uses that technique to wring the last drop of performance out of a preamplifier. And I bet you wanted stepped switches mostly for resets.
The INPUT LEVEL is a five position switch with a generic optimum setting of “0” in the 12:00 position. Each step in either direction is 2 dB. For reference, Unity Gain is “0”.
The OUTPUT Attenuators are in half dB steps. Reference Unity is -11.5 or fully counter-clockwise. You might think of these as “gain makeup”. They are marked technically, in that “0” or fully clockwise has zero attenuation in the circuit. The tube circuit actually has 15.5 dB of gain. The Input attenuator at “0” removes 4 dB and the Output attenuator removes the last 11.5 producing “unity”. With a little compression the “gain make-up” available with the Output Attenuator is very handy.
The Threshold is in half dB steps calibrated to LIMIT mode. In Compress the steps are approximately 1/4 dB. There are 24 steps so LIMIT gets a 12 dB range and Compress has a 6 dB range of adjustment. In some cases it is common to use the Input Attenuator to find a good starting point. Some Mastering engineers find using the combination of Input, Output and Threshold to achieve a little different “drive”. Another good reason for stepped gains.
The Attack Time has been slightly extended in both directions compared to a regular Variable Mu and divided into 11 steps.
The Recovery 5 position switch is exactly the same as a regular Variable Mu.
The switches specifically are like this:
Input: -4 to +4 in 2 dB steps
Output: -11 to 0 in 1/2 dB steps (24 detents)
Threshold: -11 to +1 in 1/2 dB steps LIMIT(24 detents) and 24 x 1/4 dB steps in COMPRESS
Attack: 11 positions CW (fast) 15mS, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90mS (slow) CCW
Release: 5 positions CW (fast) 200mS, 400mS, 600mS, 4S, 8 Seconds (slow) CCW
This modification comes stock on all Manley Variable Mu Limiter Compressors since 12/2009, on both regular and mastering versions.
This mod adds two switches to the front panel, one for each channel, so that when engaged, the side chain will not respond to frequencies lower than 100Hz. (We standardly use 100Hz as the -3dB point. Other frequencies can be custom ordered.) This HP SC Mod can be used with music with heavy bass lines or bass-heavy mixes where you don’t want the bass driving the whole action of the compressor.
The filter is a very gentle 6db per octave 1 pole filter, and will typically be down 1-3db at 100 Hz, and down 4-6db at 50Hz. As you decrease the frequency the amount of limiting will decrease also. At the extreme LF (<20Hz) there should be very little gain reduction going on. The whole intent of the filter is to keep very LF stuff (like a heavy kick drum) from activating the compression/limiting so that the overall level doesn’t duck with every drumbeat. We can add the High Pass Side Chain option stock boards to older Manley Variable Mu limiters –
MID/SIDE (a.k.a. Vertical/Lateral, or Sum/Difference)
This modification opens the door to stereo encoding and decoding as well as exciting image enhancement processing capabilities. For instance, setting to compress only the in-phase information allows the augmentation of the stereo image as the out-of-phase content is left untouched. Or, conversely, if you need a “more-mono” mix for broadcast, or vinyl-cutting for instance, you can set it to kill off more of the out-of-phase info which leaves more in-phase material in the final result. Read more about the MS Mod on page 12 of the Owner’s Manual.
In order to add both M-S and the HP SC mods, we move the power switch to the rear panel and install both channels’ HP SC switch to the center hole where the power switch was. The M-S switches then flank this switch.