I use quite a few different compressors while I’m Mastering, hardware and software, but there’s one I’ve been using quite a bit more than any other as of late… The New (ish) Universal Audio Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor Plugin for the UAD2 System.
I sadly do not own the hardware unit, so decided to give the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor plugin a try when it first came out and haven’t looked back.
Honestly, there’s quite a few reasons I use it…
Two Stage Compression
The obvious reason would be it’s a very very high quality two stage compressor. There’s a fixed 2:1 ratio and fixed attack/release Optical Compressor first. It’s fast. Really fast.
The second compressor is a Discrete VCA compressor with semi-fixed attack, release and ratios (selectable from 6 options on each).
Combined they sound amazing, but I don’t need/want to use a fast optical compressor on every project… I’ll still use the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor though as you can bypass either (or both) compressors at any time.
The Side Chain
While the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor doesn’t have a classic side chain thats trigger-able from an external source, it does however have an internal switchable 90hz sidechain filter which is PERFECT for mastering. Basically it allows anything below 90hz to pass uncompressed, and also leaves it out of the compression input so your whole track doesn’t pump with the kick drum or a bass hit.
One of the great part of the hardware unit, which is passed on to the plugin is the Transformer Matrix. This gives you three different output transformer options to let you pick the tone and color you want on the output stage. Three options, three different sounds.
Nickel has the cleanest output with no typical analog overtones introduced. Iron is the happy medium, which introduces some coloring (even order harmonic overtones) to the output. For the down and dirty track though, Steel introduces a great agressive set of harmonic overtones that adds a great edge to any program material.
My Only Almost-A-Complaint
The only thing I’d like to see different on this plugin is better metering. I do like VU metering, but sometimes you just need the very exact readouts of a digital meter. Obviously they were going for complete replication of the analog unit (which does not include digital metering) so I can’t really complain on this. But worth mentioning.
How Does It Compare?
So you find yourself asking, how does the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor Plugin compare to the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor hardware? Listen for yourself.
Keep in mind this plugin will ONLY run on Universal Audio UAD2 External DSP Systems, and not natively on your computer.
Thank you for reading, and don’t forget to check out Gigantic Mastering’s Online Music Mastering Service!