Can an easy to use compressor / limiter retain flexibility?
By Phil O'Keefe
Radial Engineering enjoys an enviable reputation for making high-quality, reasonably priced yet fully professional tools, with an emphasis on clever real-world problem-solvers, so it's no wonder that you'll find their products in wide use throughout the pro audio industry; in touring racks, professional and project studios, and countless musician's and engineer's personal rigs. They're really been a strong supporter of the 500-series rack format, and today, we're having a look at their Komit Compressor Limiter, which is designed for use with any 500-series rack / power supply, although it has added features when used with one of Radial's racks. Let's take a look at the details…
What You Need To Know
- Installation into my 500-series rack (a Radial SixPack) was quick and trouble-free. Current draw of the Komit is a reasonable 72mA, so it isn't going to put an unreasonable drain on your power supply.
- The Komit features a relatively limited amount of knobs and controls, but don't let that fool you - it is more versatile than it appears at first glance, with a clean sounding "single knob" compressor, as well as a diode bridge based clipping limiter for more flavorful tones.
- The compressor is a 100\% discrete, feed-forward VCA type design, with a single ratio knob that goes from 1:1 to 10:1. A Fast / Medium / Slow three-way toggle switch sets the response times - Slow works great on vocals, Medium is usually better suited for instruments, while the Fast setting is designed for taming percussion parts.
- A large Gain knob controls the output / makeup gain, and is continuously variable from unity gain to +22dB. This comes immediately after the compression circuit in the signal path, and immediately before the limiter, allowing you to use it for compression make-up gain, as well as to drive the clipping limiter harder for creative purposes.
- Speaking of the Limiter, the Limiter knob is a stepped control, with twelve positions. There is an Off position for bypassing the Limiter completely, as well as a setting marked BW. This bypasses the diode bridge clipping and doubles the Komit's ratio from 10:1 to 20:1, and makes it function as a brick wall limiter. This is useful for preventing digital overs at your converters when tracking, and as long as you maintain fairly reasonable levels, the sound remains relatively free of artifacts, although whenever there is audio running through the Komit there is always some pleasant yet subtle coloration from the Hammond transformers. The remaining switch positions are ten presets for the Diode Bridge Clipping Limiter, which give you a range of distortion, from subtle to in-your-face. It sounds great on drums, vocals, bass - all kinds of things - and it lets the Komit give you a lot of character whenever you want it.
- There are two recessed pushbutton switches on the front - one for Sync, and the second for selecting +4 or -10dB input levels. While I only had one Komit here for review, two Komits can be linked together for stereo operation if the rack unit has a Link function, which all of the Radial Engineering 500-series host units do. When using a pair for stereo, engage the rack unit's Link switch and turn the Sync button "on" for the slave Komit.
- A larger pushbutton switch is labeled On, and acts as a bypass switch, allowing you to quickly compare the processed and unprocessed signals. The unit is in the signal path when this button is depressed.
- When used with a Radial Engineering rack, such as the SixPack that I use, the rack's Omniport jack is supported by the Komit and provides a Key input, allowing you to use an external sidechain signal to trigger the Komit. This is ideal for applications such as ducking, where you want the presence of one signal to automatically lower the volume of another - in this case, whatever you are processing with the Komit.
- The metering on the Komit is much better than I was expecting, What appears to be a single meter is actually two meters in one. It's divided in half, with the half to the left showing gain reduction via five green LEDs, and the half to the right showing output levels with yellow, orange and red LEDs. I really like this approach since it allows you to see everything at a glance, and unlike some compressors with dual-function meters, no switching of meter function is required.
- The Komit's front panel is laid out very ergonomically, with plenty of space to allow for easy manipulation of all controls - and with the limited space provided by the format, this is definitely not the case with all 500-series units.
- User control of the threshold is limited to the +4 / -10dB recessed switch. In practice this provides sufficient range to allow you to use the Komit with a wide variety of line level sound sources.
- If you want manual control over every conceivable compression parameter, then you may want to look elsewhere since the Komit lacks individual and fully user-adjustable attack and release time controls. Further, the choice of hard or soft knee compression is also made for you by the compressor's FlexKnee (™) circuit, which adjusts the knee depending on the level of the signal it is processing, how high the ratio knob is set, and how much the signal is being compressed. However, all of these parameters are handled extremely musically by the Komit, and it's really not intended as a knob tweaker's delight - rather, it's designed to be quick and easy to use on a variety of sound sources and still sound great in the process - which it does admirably.
I was initially concerned that a three-position switch would not allow me sufficient control over the time constants for attack and release, but in actual practice, the three switch settings worked great on a wide variety of sound sources, and I found myself spending less time fiddling around with the knobs and was able to get a sound I was happy with much faster than if I had to adjust all the parameters myself.
The Radial Engineering Komit Compressor Limiter was designed to be an easy to use and highly effective compressor that can be set up with a minimum of fuss, and it excels at it. But unlike some auto-compressors that leave you no room for creative sound manipulation, the Komit's Diode Bridge Clipping Limiter allows you to have a little fun and munch things up - a little, or a lot, depending on your creative needs at the moment, or it can be used as an effective non-clipping 20:1 brick wall type limiter to prevent digital clipping further down the signal chain when waxing tracks. It all sounds terrific, and is drop-dead easy to use, which lets you spend more time focusing on the music and much less time on setup - and that's always a good thing. The Komit is fast, fun, versatile, and musical - what more could you ask for?
Musician's Friend's Radial Engineering Komit Compressor Limiter online catalog page ($600.00 MSRP, $499.99 "street")
Radial Engineering's Komit Compressor Limiter web page
Radial Engineering Komit video:
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.