Waves Kramer PIE Compressor review

Kramer PIE

Waves have a number of signature lines from such luminaries as JJ Puig, Chris-Lord Alge and Eddie Kramer. Whilst some of these are all in one type plugins aimed at a specific application such as bass or vocal they also have emulations of vintage equipment attached to these names.

Under the Eddie Kramer monicker they have a couple of rarities based on a Helios channel strip and a PYE compressor. These are not licensed products but the names sort of give the original away. With a lot of emulations there is still quite a bit of the original equipment out their for reviewers to compare the plugins against but for these two Kramer plugins the source equipment is like hen’s teeth – particularly the PYE compressor. So we have either to a) believe that Waves have built an accurate emulation or b) decide if we like it or not regardless of it’s lineage. For most emulations, apart from synthesizers, I fall into the latter camp. Does it sound like a Fairchild, Pultec or SSL? Not really bothered. Does it sound good and can I use it? Definitely bothered. This is my approach with the Waves Kramer PIE compressor.

This plugin has been available for a few years now and as with all Waves products will be offered at a ridiculously reduced price at some point during the year. I do have to ask if anyone pays retail for Waves given that either Waves or other retailers have specials on most of the year? Available in all common formats  in both 32 and 64 bit and the authorisation is via the excellent Waves Licensing Centre.

First impressions
The Waves PIE is based on the PYE compressor – a solid state compressor built in the 1960’s by PYE TVT and was part of their console range. As usual with Waves vintage emulations the graphics are very good and it looks excellent on the screen with well sized controls. From the top the controls are:

  • Meter – switch the metering between gain input/gain reduction and output levels. The meter is very responsive and has a great look.
  • Analog 50Hz/60Hz and Off – this is supposed to introduce some ‘vintage’ noise. I don’t like it and keep this one switched off. Horses for courses and maybe some people find a use for it but the beauty of digital for me is a low noise floor.
  • Threshold – sets the level at which compression will start
  • Decay time – six settings are available between 100 and 3200 milliseconds. There is no configurable Attack setting on this compressor
  • Compression Ratio – 5 settings which are 1:1, 2:1, 3:1, 5:1 and ‘Limiter’

A number of presets are included covering both bus and channel applications but it’s such a simple compressor to use that you can dive into the front panel straight away.

In use
This PIE compressor has it’s own unique sound that will not suit every application. To use the usual cliches it has a noticeable warmth and thickness that imparts it’s own character. I hate to use these sort of terms but in the case of the PIE these characteristics are very noticeable. The effect of changing a setting is very noticeable and it’s a great compressor for experimenting. Because of this strong sonic character it won’t suit every application but there will be times when it is the only thing that will work.

I love this compressor on the drum bus. As an insert on the bus it gives a lovely vintage sound and certainly gives my Superior drums a thicker sound. I’ve also used this on a send bus and set the ratio to limiter. Mixing the bus in with the main drums gives a great full drum sound. I tend not to put compression on Toontrack Superior drums as they are already well recorded but the PIE will definitely find it’s way on to my projects.

A couple of reviews suggested putting this on piano tracks so I gave it a go. Again it imparts it’s own character and I will happily use this for certain applications. Playing around with the release and ratio settings I managed to get a very punchy piano sound that is great for rock and roll piano with the right source – in this case the Pianoteq K2.

I do have my favourite bus compressors that will take some moving but I had to give it a try on the master bus. I’m working on a lot of 60’s and 70’s inspired material at the moment and first impressions are good. Different from my normal SSL type bus compressor but still very usable. The PIE does take a tiny amount of the top end off but not in an unpleasant way.
Having only had this piece of software for a couple of days I’ll continue to update the review as I try it on different sources. Next up is vocals.

Conclusions
I’ve enough compressors to match every requirement and had no intentions of buying anything else. However within 10 minutes of downloading the demo of Kramer PIE I pushed the buy button. In my collection are compressors from Waves, IK Multimedia, Nomad and the excellent built in Logic compressors but the PIE has a sound that none of them have. It won’t suit everything and for where it does may only be for certain applications but when it’s right it’s very right. A lovely compressor.

 

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