Manley Stereo Variable MU Mastering Compressor
The Manley Stereo Variable MU Mastering Compressor is one of the very few compressors that has become a real standard in mastering studios and contributed to most hit records over the last decade and probably the next!
The Mastering Version of the Manley Variable Mu Limiter Compressor incorporates detented and logable steps built with 1% metal film resistors on sealed gold-contact Grayhill switches.
The Manley Variable MU Mastering Compressor has been Manley's best selling product for many years. It is one of the very few compressors that has become a real standard in Mastering studios and contributed to most hit records over the last decade and probably the next. "Mu" is tube-speak for gain, and Variable Mu is our registered trademark for this limiter compressor. It works by using the "remote cut-off" or re-biasing of a vacuum tube to achieve compression. The precious vintage Fairchild 670 also uses this technique and is one of few all-tube compressor to do so, that we know of. Even the side-chain has glowing rectifier bottles. How's it work? The unique 5670 dual triode is at the center of the peak-reducing and compression action constantly being re-biased by the vacuum tube rectified side-chain control voltages which cause this tube to smoothly change its gain. Just like that.
The COMPRESS mode is soft-knee 1.5 to 1 ratio while the sharper knee LIMIT mode starts at 4 to 1 and moves to a more dramatic ratio of 20 to 1 when limiting over 12dB. Interestingly, the knee actually softens as more limiting is used. Distortion can be creatively used by turning up the Input and turning down the Output while using very little or no compression.
You might notice that the Variable Mu Limiter Compressor has a ganged input control, but do not jump to conclusions that it is mono-unfriendly. Track away! There are separate threshold and output controls to make compensations with plus you can always adjust your individual source levels elsewhere, right? The advantage of the stereo input control becomes dramatically clear when you switch to LINK mode, and that's what our Variable Mu Limiter Compressor does better than anything else: final mix, 2-track, or mastering limiting and compression. Like one reviewer put it: "It's like pouring a bowl of sweet cream over the mix" Mmmmmm. Yummy. Give your music a big hug.
The High Pass Side Chain is included and controlled by 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. Manley standardly use 100Hz as the -3dB point. This HP SC 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 was to keep very LF stuff (like a heavy kick drum) from activating the compression/limiting so that the overall level didn't duck with every drumbeat.
Mastering Version Switches
- 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 (24 detents)
- Attack: 11 positions
- Release: 5 positions
Manley Stereo Variable MU Mastering Compressor Specifications
- MANLEY input & output transformers with nickel laminations in mu-metal cases with flat frequency response from 20Hz-25KHz
- BALANCED INPUTS & OUTPUTS (600 ohms)
- Fully differential ALL-TUBE circuitry using one each 5670, 5751, 7044 or 5687, & 12AL5 per channel
- Independently regulated B+ and Heater supplies
- Hard-wire BYPASS switch
- Silent conductive plastic dual INPUT attenuator
- RECOVERY 5 steps: 0.2s, 0.4s, 0.6s, 4sec., 8sec.
- Variable ATTACK: 25msec-70msec
- Continuously variable THRESHOLD
- LIMIT (4:1 to 20:1) or COMPRESS (1.5 to 1)
- Large ILLUMINATED Sifam METERS (older units before serial number MSLC61642 shipped before 12/2003 use: 26V 1.2W FESTOON LAMPS; Manley's Part Number: VAR016B) Order spare bulbs using our parts order form. (newest units after serial number MSLC61642 shipped after 12/2003 use white LED lighting)
- STEREO LINK SWITCH
- Several units can be linked for Surround (custom order )
- Maximum gain: 35dB
- Max. output: +30dBu (26Vrms) 26dB Headroom
- <0.1% THD @ 1KHz Noise floor: -85dB typical
- Power Consumption (120/240VAC): 80 watts
- Unit is factory set for 100V, 120V or 220-240VAC operation for original destination country's mains voltage.
- Operating Mains Voltage changeable with power transformer changeover switch and fuse value change.
- Mains Voltage Frequency: 50~ 60Hz
- Dimensions: 19" x 3 1/2" x 10" (chassis occupies 2u) Power transformer protrudes 3.5" out the back of the chassis.
- Shipping Weight: 23 lbs.
Manley Stereo Variable MU Mastering Compressor Options
Manley offer a Mid/Side mod upgrade (aka. Vertical/Lateral or Sum/Difference) to the Variable Mu Limiter Compressor, which 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.
Note: There is no space to have both M-S and the HP SC mods, so you have to pick one or the other.
Newer Manley Variable Mu Compressors use the 5670 tube instead of the 6386. In terms of sound, up to about 6db of limiting it's about the same for these two tube types. After that point, the 5670 version tends to sound more "squashed" than the original 6386 version. Some like it better, some don't-- depends on what you're trying to do. To solve all these problems, Paul at Manley came up with a really good solution: The T-Bar Mod. The T-Bar Mod uses a pair of 6BA6 pentodes wired as single triodes to replace each dual triode 5670 (or 6386). the 6BA6 TBAR Mod is the preferred system to use in the Manley Variable Mu for reasons of ability to perfectly match each phase-halve section and each stereo set, ability to select for lo-noise and lo-microphonic sets for a low cost, and because the action of the 6BA6's so closely resemble the smooth 6386 limiting curves. In other words, the T-Bar Mod converts later 5670 units to have the same limiting characteristics of the original 6386 for smoother operation.
Manley Stereo Variable MU Mastering Compressor Downloads
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This thing has lived in some of the top studios around the world for 4 decades. You've heard it on countless hit records and it continues to deliver that smooth, bear-hugging compression that glues a mix together in a musical way that other Vari-Mu comps just can't do. It can be transparent or inject that famous "Manley distortion" that brings life and punch to a mix. It's my favorite Mu compressor and it's hard to get a bad sound out of this thing. The mastering version makes it quick and easy to recall settings from session to session and is an indispensable tool in my rig.