Brainworx AMEK Mastering Compressor review

 Brainworx AMEK Mastering Compressor
Brainworx AMEK Mastering Compressor

Brainworx AMEK Mastering Compressor: What is it?

Although Brainworx’s first pair of Amek-inspired plugins, the bx_2098 EQ and
bx_console 9099, are based on specific original Amek hardware, the subsequent AMEK EQ200 and AMEK EQ250 plugins have no direct relationship with past Amek glories. Instead, they are a more general melding of the characteristics – and circuits – of vintage parametric EQs that are particular favourites of Brainworx’ head honcho, Dirk Ulrich. 

The company has taken a similar approach with its new AMEK Mastering Compressor. The plugin’s circuit models aren’t based on any OG Amek hardware but are instead taken from Ulrich’s own GML 8900 compressor, a highly regarded and exclusive processor that has never – so far as we know – been modelled and plugin-ified before now. Brainworx has expanded on the original hardware’s somewhat austere control panel and added a suite of modern tools and features, and the result is a handsome plugin that doesn’t really resemble anything other than itself.

Brainworx AMEK Mastering Compressor
Brainworx AMEK Mastering Compressor

Brainworx AMEK Mastering Compressor: Performance and verdict

Each of the plugin’s channels boasts three true RMS detector circuits tuned to be sensitive to dynamic changes that happen over different periods of time. The Slow detector averages the signal over the longest period and is least sensitive to transients, Fast measures across a shorter period of time and so is more responsive, and Peak has the fastest response, as you would expect.

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A single Timing control determines the length of time over which the Slow and Fast detectors average the signal, which ultimately impacts those detectors’ attack and release times, whilst Peak has an instant attack and fixed release time. The response times of Slow and Fast decoders can be linked together using the oddly-named Release Hysteresis control – when the signal is above the RH threshold the Fast timing is used, otherwise the Slow timing takes precedence.

Likening this to a compressor you may be more familiar with, this multi-detector setup is not dissimilar to a DBX 165A’s two-stage Over Easy compressor and Peak Stop limiter. Unlike the 165A, however, AMEK Mastering Compressor allows the relative influence of each detector to be adjusted, with the compressor’s gain reduction being calculated based on whichever detector is being pushed hardest at the time. This provides infinitely more nuanced dynamics control than is offered by DBX’s classic.

The actual amount of gain reduction applied to a signal is dependent upon the ratio mode. In soft knee mode the Threshold control sets the level at which the compressor departs from a 1:1 ratio, with the ratio increasing progressively as the signal moves further above the threshold level. This is somewhat reminiscent of a Teletronix LA-2A’s natural-sounding progressive compression. Conversely, in hard knee mode a specific ratio is dialled in, running from 1.1:1 all the way up to a brickwall inifinity-to-one ratio, and the threshold control operates by driving the input level into a fixed threshold. This adds a punchy Urei 1176 flavour to proceedings.

Brainworx AMEK Mastering Compressor
Brainworx AMEK Mastering Compressor

Sub modules

Below AMEK Mastering Compressor’s main rack-style control panel lie a set of three additional rack units that add useful features. The first, Detector Activity Monitor, shows colour-coded output traces of the three detectors plotted against the threshold level. This makes it easy to judge not only what each detector is doing, but also which one has precedence at any time (this is reinforced by labels on the graph, and lights on the main control panel). The module also includes an Ambience button, as found on bx_console 9099, which mutes any sound that falls below the threshold so that you hear only the parts of your signal that are being compressed.

Below this lies the Sidechain Filter Module which provides high-pass filter and two bands of peak or low-shelving EQ with which to shape the compressor’s response. The final sub module contains a set of features common across many Brainworx plugins: TMT (Tolerance Modelling Technology) channel selection, input and output gain control and metering, stereo balance and correlation metering, low frequency mono maker, stereo width adjustment, VCA clipping control and mid/side mode switch.

Master of mastering compressors

Whilst different to other compressors, it didn’t take us long to get to grips with AMEK Mastering Compressor. When we did, and had tuned it to fit various mixes, the results were beyond all expectations.

Deliciously thick yet smooth low ends, excellent control over transients and peaks, and tons of cohesion

This is quite simply the best mastering compressor we have ever used. It delivers deliciously thick yet smooth low ends, excellent control over transients and peaks, and tons of overall cohesion and glue, all whilst remaining utterly transparent with not a hint of pumping to be heard (unless you want it!).

AMEK Mastering Compressor has blown away every other compressor in our well-stocked mastering rack… It’s just a shame it has to blow such a big hole in the bank balance, too!

MusicRadar verdict: This stunning dynamics processor captures the tone and response of a classic analogue compressor and presents them in an infinitely more flexible package.

Brainworx AMEK Mastering Compressor: The web says

"All-in-all, then, we have to concur with the general consensus, because AMEK Mastering Compressor really is worthy of all the accolades and praise it has been receiving."

Brainworx AMEK Mastering Compressor: Hands-on demos

Plugin Alliance

White Sea Studio

Mixing With Mike

Studio Life

Brainworx AMEK Mastering Compressor: Specifications

  • macOS 12 down to macOS 10.11. Intel, or Apple Silicon (except for AAX) architecture.

  • Windows 11 down to Windows 8. x64-compatible CPU.

  • Supported Plugin Formats: AAX DSP, AAX Native, AU, AAX AudioSuite, VST2, VST3.

  • System Requirements: Display resolution: 1440 × 900px or 1280 × 960px or higher.

  • Memory: 2GB RAM.

  • CONTACT: Brainworx