BAE Audio 10DCF Review

Performer Magazine reviews the BAE Audio 10DCF (Compressor/Limiter Stereo Pair with PSU)

PROS: Musical at every setting, incredibly well built.
CONS: Pricey (but worth the investment).
PRICE: $4000 (total package)

Digital recording has leveled the playing field, but nothing beats the real thing when it comes to compression. BAE Audio’s 10DCF brings that nice classic vintage sound, in an impressively well built package.

Housed in a one-rack unit is a Compressor/Limiter featuring a newly designed indutor-based bypass filter. The build quality on these is simply amazing. Each knob and switch has a super robust feel, and each unit is handmade and hand-wired in California. We received a stereo set for review, which also included their proprietary power supply, and the detail in components and construction really shows. Tucked inside are Jensen and Carnhill transformers, and they live up to their legendary audio quality. The compressor has that vintage-Neve style vibe to it, but practically speaking, will make modern products sound great, as well.

One of the things we found, either in stereo or run as stand-alone units, is that just a touch of an effect can make all the difference. A/Bing tracks with a smidge of compression added to those without was a revelation. What we found in our listening were smoother peaks and valleys, and an overall “smoothness” to the signals we ran through the units. The controls were simple to use, felt great, and allowed for precise dialing-in of our desired amounts of dynamic-control.

Physically-speaking, on the left side of the unit the compressor has the usual selections: Threshold, Ratio, Attack and Recovery, as well as a large VU meter. Each knob has detents to particular selection value, so no fiddling with those in-between positions; a sharp and positive click defines the knob’s setting. The increments fit in actual musical applications, even at extreme settings. Dialing in any desired sound is amazingly easy, and the response is very direct, overall. Put simply: it’s designed to work for music, not some algorithmic preset. And the results are stunning (even, as we mentioned, in subtle applications).

BAE 10dcf-stereo-pair
The limiter sits on the right hand side, with its usual control options: Threshold, Recovery, as well as a Fast/Slow. Again, it features the same detent selections, with a sharp positive response between settings. It has plenty of options to radically bring audio to life, without dampening the dynamic range of the original signal (a problem we’ve encountered in other units, and were glad to see was not an issue with BAE).

One of the most pleasing features is the bypass filter, which means the compressor leaves the lower frequencies alone, while still compressing the upper range frequencies. In our tests, this really came in handy on our percussion bus (most notably kick drums, floor toms and bass), providing plenty of push, but not losing the deep low-end frequencies in the process.

In a mix-down session, navigating each knob and setting is super intuitive; it’s not hard to find which settings work best, just within a few clicks. This is where analog rules over the endless options of digital; it gets the best sound, then allows the user to move on. Being able to link in stereo, the 10DCFs can also sit very well as a tool for mastering as well as mixing/recording sessions. There’s plenty of overall clarity and headroom, with a wide amount of range to spare. Trust us, it’s one of those things that just doesn’t get in the way, sonically. And though it might seem to be counterintuitive to say for such a hefty investment, it’s precisely the reason these BAE units are so well-designed. The dynamic control isn’t punch-you-in-the-gut extreme, but take it out of the mix and you immediately miss the finesse and fine-polish it adds to your tracks.

The stereo set isn’t cheap, coming in at around $4000 with power supply. But this isn’t some preset box powered by software. The build quality is beyond excellent, with well laid out components, and excellent craftsmanship (yes we opened it up and took a peek ‘under the hood,’ so to speak). It’s a tool that can be as individual as the artist, and for pro studios and serious home setups, it can be the final piece of the puzzle for crafting your next project’s sound.

FEATURES
-Discrete Class A transformer-coupled circuit throughout.
-Fully independent Compressor and Limiter for separate audio dynamics control.
-Intuitive layout with illuminated meter showing gain reduction.
-High quality stepped Elma switches for dialing accuracy and repeatability.
-Bypass filter using Carnhill inductor
-Same remote power supply as used on other 24VDC BAE units.
-One power supply can run two units.

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