Dave Pensado has been recognized as a top level mixing engineer since the ‘70s, and over forty years into his career he has his workflow down to a science. “Some of you have heard me say I don’t need another reverb, I don’t need another EQ, I don’t need another delay, and I sure don’t need another compressor,” he says in a nod to the many viewers who tune into his popular weekly YouTube series “Pensado’s Place,” where he talks gear and practice with industry-leading producers, engineers, and mixers. But recently, the BAE Audio 10DCF compressor has caused a reversal in Pensado’s sentiment. “I couldn’t have been more wrong.”
To test its mettle, Pensado tried the 10DCF in a battery of applications. He found the compressor both versatile and musical. First, he applied its compression to vocal takes by some of his well-known clients. “I tried it on T-Pain’s vocal, I tried it on a Nelly vocal, and it gave them character,” he says. “With a hip-hop song you want things to jump out at you but you still want to understand the lyrics, and I could get that sound with the 10DCF.” The compressor’s natural peak taming on sources as delicate as a vocal is attributable to its classic circuit design and all discrete wiring.
Drums with Authority, Guitars with Bite
Aside from a forward, yet intelligible vocal, Pensado says that low end is also key to hip-hop music. For him, the 10DCF’s inductor-based hi-pass filter makes it the perfect tool for processing drums. “The power comes from the low end, from the 808 and the drums,” he says. “With the 10DCF’s filter, you can determine how much low end comes through uncompressed and when you do that you can keep all that power but you can affect the more audible part of the spectrum in that drum. It just pushes the sound right in your face.”
For rock music, Pensado abides by a clear ethos to ensure the right energy in the mix. “To me, in a rock song, the guitars are where the power is at,” he explains. “If you’ve got wimpy guitars then you’ve got a wimpy song.” He obtains powerful results by placing the 10DCF on a single auxiliary channel to which he sends all of his guitar tracks. Utilizing the compressors intuitive attack, recovery, threshold, and ratio controls, he is able to easily dial in a sound that meets his exacting standards. “The 10DCF is like money. You almost don’t need any EQ at all when you’re using it.”
Roughness Transformed to Silk
Another useful application Pensado discovered is using the 10DCF to imbue keyboards with an anaIog smoothness that helps them sit well in the mix thanks to the compressor featuring both Carnhill and Jensen transformers in the path. “Keyboards or synthesizers—they’ve got a bit of a harsh sound to them because it’s a reconstructed waveform,” he says. “It has to be smoothed out, and going through the 10DCF really smooths over those little artifacts that don’t sound good.”
The transformer-based path also helped salvage a home vocal recording by a newer client Pensado is working with. “There was definitely some clipping on the mic, maybe the capsule collapsing a bit, he says. “I ran it through the 10DCF without much compression and it smoothed it out.”
Analog That Carries Its Weight
Despite its sonic smoothness, Pensado emphasizes the power of the 10DCF with slightly more aggressive language. “It feels to me like it grabs you the neck, throws you on the ground, and stomps on your neck. It’s really got some powerful stuff going for it!” It has joined a short list of analog gear that Pensado, who works almost exclusively ‘inside the box’ with digital plugins, recommends to his followers. “Anybody can design an electric circuit but only a handful of people can make an art form out of it,” he says. The ones that have a sense of musicality and are made by people who use the gear they create tend to work better for me. I really like the 10DCF and I think you guys should check it out.”
For more information on BAE Audio and the 10DCF, please visit baeaudio.com
About BAE Audio
BAE Audio is a U.S.-based manufacturer of high-end microphone preamp and equalizers, all of which are faithful to vintage designs of the seventies and before. The company is committed to the vintage philosophy of hand wiring and hand soldering all of its components to achieve a high quality and authentically vintage sound. For more information on BAE Audio, please visit our website at www.baeaudio.com.