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Ease Of Use
Intuitiveness and flexibility combined with great sound!
– Transparent and malleable
– Cool saturation and parallel mode
– It may look intimidating at first
U-he have partnered their excellent mix plugin Satin (see our U-he Satin review) with Presswerk – a dynamics processor.
While this can look fairly intimidating to start, especially as the beta version had different style GUI windows depending on what type of compression you wanted – I feel that it’s actually laid out very clearly and cleanly. Everything is right there at your mousetips, and it doesn’t feel cluttered. Personal taste, I know, but I really like this GUI. Great mix of colors and clean layout are pleasant to the eye and inviting. I enjoyed the combo of classic looking level meters and the digital meter. The digital meter shows the original and affected levels, and the analog style meters show the amount of gain reduction in real time. Excellent.
A quick click on the top menu opens a wide variety of preset options for 2buss, master, and specific instrument tracks. One particularly useful element to the presets are the written notes explaining what the presets are doing, and how best to use it. Seeing as the compression can get quite complex, it’s useful to know which parameters to tweak, and the notes help with this. I would think this would be very helpful if you’re just starting to use compression.
Presswerk has 3 modes for detecting the incoming signal; feed forward, which is very sensitive to the signal and quite clinical. I would use this in music where I’d need more precise control over how the compressor is responding to the sound. Feedback mode is a lot more forgiving, emulating some of the classic analog compressors. Nothing is precise, and it will react differently depending on the audio going through it. You might say this method is a more musically broad brush stroke, compared to the push pencil of the FF. The Interactive method is a kind of blend between the two former modes, a great way of getting the best out of both worlds. With transient heavy material, it leans towards Feed Forward. With smoother sounds, it will use Feedback mode. In fact, while using it, I tended towards this method most of the time, as it seemed to respond how I wanted to very well.
The regular compression controls (attack, release, ratio, threshold, and soft knee) take up most of the GUI with the level meters. There’s auto makeup, although I very rarely use this, as I prefer to increase the makeup gain myself with the main output. I liked the Adapt knob, as a kind of controllable auto release knob. The compression parameters are standard – 1:1 to 20:1 ratio, for gentle to limiting compression, attack times from .1ms to 150ms. Very handy.
To my ears, the compression works admirably. Very transparent, and with the wide parameter choice combined with the different detection modes, Presswerk is a very malleable compressor – responding very differently depending on setup.
There’s a sidechain section enabling you to mix the internal signal (the original audio) with external audio from another channel which can give a more subtle approach to the ducking compression that sidechain is more typically used for. There’s a delay knob, which is essentially lookahead. (A slow delay will allow more transients through the sidechain detection) A high cut, low cut, and slope change from 6DB to 12DB allow for more shaping of the signal that the sidechain detects.
Some other elements push Presswerk beyond standard though. I’ll mention the ones that really caught my attention:
There is a mix section, which allows for parallel or NYC compression without having to buss it to another channel, and route audio. You can do it all in the plugin, with the dry/wet knob. Other plugins have this, and I find it very useful. Saves the time to route, and can keep the track count lower. What takes the mix parameter over the top is the highpass filter and expander knobs. The highpass filter allows you to use Presswerk as a regular compressor, but add in just the high frequencies of the dry signal. It sounds like a lovely smooth EQ added to the compressed signal, making the sound more clear and breathy without making it hissy. It sounds great on acoustic instruments and vocals. Hitting the expand button just expands the dry signal to the same amount that the wet signal is compressed. This really makes sound come alive, and has to be treated with a little care!
The other section I love is the saturation. You can add saturation pre or post compression. You can add it to the entire audio, or purely the audio that has been compressed. You can add harmonic distortion with the amount knob – giving it the tube or FET compression vibe.
Here’s a video of how the saturation (harmonic distortion) increases as compression increases:
These last two sections that I have mentioned warrant the most playing with. Presswerk is a great transparent workhorse compressor without them, and with them, you can use Presswerk as a musical instrument in its own right, adding color and texture to sound that a simple compressor just wouldn’t be able to do.
Presswerk is extremely lightweight CPU-wise for the quality of work it does, (There is an HQ button to remove any very slight aliasing, at more CPU cost) making it useful both as a buss and channel compressor.
When it comes to emulating analog hardware, U-he takes an approach of what I would call ‘general modeling’ – rather than trying to emulate a specific original piece of hardware, instead modeling aspects of several different pieces of hardware. Diva, for example, has filter and oscillator models of several different classic hardware synths, and in Beta, Presswerk was similarly structured. I like this because I feel that you have to use your ears more, and try to understand what’s happening to the sound, rather than just recognize that it has the ‘sound’ of some old kit, and leaving it there. It also has the side-benefit of being infinitely more flexible than single model emulations. And this is the case with Presswerk. As usual, I would highly recommend this plugin to both the beginner and the expert, for its intuitiveness and flexibility combined with great sound. Bravo U-he!