The n90-DRC is the type of compressor/gate that we'd love to see on every channel of a console - it's simple, musical, and easy to dial in! The compressor is quick enough to grab sharp transients but not so aggressive that it creates a lot of compression artifacts or sucks the life out of a track. It's an ideal unit for tracking sessions because you can land on great compressor settings without wasting time dialing it in and it's not likely to squash down on a transient in an audible way. It just does its job managing the volume of your track, and stays out of the way.
In a world now crowded with compressors—most of them emulating vintage designs, with the rest, it seems, dead set on destroying dynamics—the Phoenix Audio N90-DRC/500 stands out as a decidedly musical compressor with a refreshingly unique design. Phoenix Audio's lead designer Dave Rees (the "DR" in DRC) developed this circuit over 20 years ago, and his thoughtful design reflects the subtler, more tasteful approach to compression from that bygone era. Though the N90 can be pushed to offer up wonderful sonic artifacts, it truly excels at the delicate (and increasingly rare) craft of transparent, musical dynamic control and gating.
The N90's 100% Class-A circuit is built around our wide-open sounding transfomerless input stage and beloved DSOP-2 output amplifier with our custom-wound DB694 output transformer. While appearing quite elaborate, using the compressor/gate functions of the N90 is a forgiving and intuitive experience—especially given that this is a solid-state compressor. The ease of use is due to the gradual and progressive behavior of the N90's unique control circuit. Gain reduction begins well below, and continues beyond, the threshold, so you'll never hear a sudden "grabby" change in dynamics. Instead, you'll easily dial in fluid dynamic control while simultaneously picking up the rich, lush tone of the N90's discrete Class-A circuit.
With ratios ranging from 2:1 to 8:1, the N90 is clearly designed for mellow, transparent compression. However, the higher ratios do offer up a fair amount of "limiter style" artifacts, especially when you switch the attack to "fast" and begin to manually manipulate the compressor's release time. Further, by driving more signal into the N90, a wide range of tones can be derived from the DSOP-2 output stage—from crystal clean to warm, pure Class-A analog saturation. Perhaps most importantly, the N90 makes a smooth transition from transparent to more obvious compression andoutput stage saturation, meaning that it's never a fussy or sensitive task to dial in your desired sound. From the subtlest gain control to lush Class-A artifacts—not to mention the flexible gate circuit—the N90-DRC/500 is one of the most versatile dynamic control units ever produced.
With the advent of digital's nearly inaudible noise floor, gating is something of a lost art. However, having been designed just before the industry largely abandoned analog tape, the N90 houses one of the most advanced, musical analog gates ever conceived. Similar to the compressor section, the N90's gate is intended to be subtle and musical. Its release function is actually a combination of a "hold time" followed by a "fade time," making the N90's gate adept at everything from standard noise gating to even more subtle control of ambience levels relative to main signal. There is also an external key input, allowing you to trigger the gate with an external signal. With the N90's gate at your fingertips, you'll discover (or perhaps rediscover) the subtle art of analog gating.
Up to eight N90-DRC/500s can be linked together, allowing the compressor and gate functions to be controlled from just one of the units. This link functionality opens up a whole world of possibilities, from simpler stereo set-ups to far more elaborate scenarios where multiple channels are triggered by external key inputs. Almost anything you can dream up can be done with multiple N90s on hand.