ESOTERIC AUDIO RESEARCH: EAR660 LIMITER/ COMPRESSOR AMPLIFIER
What they say: (from the website)
“The EAR 660 Fairchild-type valve limiter-compressor is designed to limit or compress the signal with the barest minimum of interference below threshold, and give the most subjectively satisfying operation on high-level signals.”
What we found:
You’ve heard that the Fairchild Limiter was the Holy Grail of equipment at Abbey Road. The reason that this compressor or any other “classic” (1176, LA-2A, and so on) compressor is drooled over is because they do their jobs well and the results are pleasing. I was not much of a compression fan until I had access to some of the classics. It was only then that I appreciated what others had told me was sweet.
But what I look for in a compressor is transparency. I do not want to hear it working. I want the compressor to tame that dynamic range but I don’t want to hear it. The EAR 660 does just that and does it extremely well. Independent Audio loaned me this unit for the Cerberus Shoal sessions in January 2005. It’s typical to compress an electric bass, so this was the first stop for the 660. Wow! . . . is all I can say! That bass never sounded so good. It was tight, defined, sat well in the mix and had the attack I wanted and lows I expect. All this with no effort at all. We then moved it to lead vocals. Wow! . . . is all I can say! The nuances of the voice were intact, no pumping, no artifacts — just giving me back exactly what I wanted with no effort.
The specs on this unit are fairly straight forward: attack times from .2ms to .8ms, release times from .3s to 5s, ratios from 1:1 to 10:1.
The price may make you gulp at first but it’s a fair price for a piece of gear that makes your life so much easier and actually improves the sound. In addition, these units are currently in production and the “classics” are not. I mean good luck finding a Fairchild. In the mean time, consider this beauty.