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Plugin Review: McDSP 6030

I am a little bit in love with this compressor.

Or should I say “suite of compressors.”

The value of McDSP 6030 isn’t in its full-featured-ness as a compressor, it’s in the fact that it’s basically 10 simpler compressors, each with different characteristics, that can be switched seamlessly.  There’s everything from a simple one-knob, LA-2A style opto compressor to a feed-forward dbx160 type compressor, making it incredibly versatile.

Of course this raises the question “so, okay, it’s versatile, but how does it sound?”

A valid question, since there are a few multi-tool compressors and EQs that are only sort of okay at what they do.  But in a word, 6030 sounds great.  It’s warm, punchy, and some of the models can be driven extremely hard. The McDSP-designed “FRG444” can squash a signal down to a mere suggestion of the original dynamics (although to be fair I’ve not yet found an actual use for this one).

The collection of compressors includes emulations of a Fairchild670, a Neve 33609, an LA-2A, a Mu-Tube, and then…well, to be honest none of them are exact models, but that’s not a bad thing.  There’s a vaguely dbx160ish one called “Over-EZ”, something kind of SSL-esque called “SST76”, a compressor modeled on the Empirical Distressor called “D357”, an one mystifyingly called “iComp” which is blue, seems to be an intelligent-ratio kind of thing but is basically an all-original creation.  None of these compressors is dead-on – the U670 for example has slightly different ballistics and doesn’t have the Lat/Vert controls of an actual Fairchild 670.  The Opto-C deosn’t sound exactly like an LA-2A.  But they all “feel”, for lack of a better word, like high quality compressors of that design.  U670 feels like a vintage tube-based compressor, British-C feels like a Neve – the response from the compressor is what you’d expect from those pieces of hardware, even if they’re not dead-on impersonations.  Whether this is good or bad is a matter of interpretation – for me, it’s good, since I’m not too concerned with sounding exactly like I have a vintage Fairchild in my basement, merely that I have a good, smooth, tube-y compressor for vocals.

As both a blessing and a curse, the makeup gain stage of 6030 saturates instead of straight-up clipping, so once you’ve compressed the signal you can crank the makeup gain well beyond what would normally be a digital over.  The saturation algorithm used is generally pretty smooth but overuse on many tracks can of course make things muddy.

The price of McDSP 6030 (native – TDM/RTAS costs more) is $229, which for an individual compressor plugin is a bit on the higher end side.  However, for that price you get a very flexible compressor toolbox that outclasses a lot of plugins in the same pricerange.

By Eric Oehler

Senior Engineer

Founder and owner of Submersible Studios, Eric enjoys talking about microphones and buying audio software he doesn't especially need. He also spends an awful lot of time with a RTA and a reference mic trying to get the acoustics of the studio juuuust right.