The SSL LMC-1 is a free VST plugin which recreates the ‘listen mic’ compression that was built into SSL ‘E’ series desks. The compressor was originally put in the talkback channel from the studio to the control room. You needed to be able to hear someone on the other side of the room as someone standing next to the mic, so the compressor needed a very high compression ratio. It didn’t need to fulfill any other function, so a fixed attack and release was perfectly adequate.
For a while, that was its only function until an engineer named Hugh Padgham was using the listen mic channel to talk to Phil Colins in the studio, who then started to drum. Hugh liked what he heard, and a new drum sound was created! You can read the full story as part of this article.
At first glance, the LMC-1 plugin looks only slightly more complex than it’s analogue predecessor. In the plugin window you find a dial which goes from ‘Less’ to ‘More’ compression, an ‘In’ (or bypass) button, and input and output gain dials which you would expect in any modern plugin.
So far so good, and that’s all that the short ‘readme’ instructions cover. However, there is much more to this plugin than meets the eye.
If you look closely at the image above you can see that there is a tick-box in top right which is another bypass button, and next to that it says “100% wet”. This is actually a wet/dry control, click and drag to change the balance. The ‘UI’ button gives you a simplified interface with four sliders instead of three dials and an ‘In’ button, which makes it much easier to fine tune the amount of compression.
Hitting the ‘Param’ button will give you access to some exciting hidden features! Through the parameter modulation option, you will find the attack, release, min volume [threshold], max volume and strength [ratio] controls all laid out for you, a luxury that wasn’t there in the original 80’s version.
From here, you can put in an LFO to continually sweep up and down the level of compression should you want to, and you can also offset any parameter value by a fixed amount.
In it’s simplest form the LMC-1 doesn’t lend itself very well to most of the usual applications for a compressor. This is mostly because as well as compressing the signal it also filters the low and top ends out, just as the original analogue compressor did. Combined with the very heavy compression, it doesn’t sound very flattering on guitars or vocals etc but it does sound great on fairly ambient drum mics.
By giving you access to a wet/dry control and the actual compression parameters, SSL have made this a much more usable plugin for modern mixes. By putting back in a bit of dry signal, this plugin works well on a drum sub-mix as it sounds much less brutal but still thick and very 80’s.
The LMC-1 is free to download from SSL once you have created a login, and is RTAS supported with this VST-RTAS wrapper.