The Variable Mu Limiter Compressor is the GLUE that holds the mix together while crystallizing it into a professional, final product. All-tube, all transformer, an all-American legend. High Pass Side Chain mod now comes standard.
The MANLEY VARIABLE MU® LIMITER COMPRESSOR has been our best selling product for many years. It is one of the very few compressors that has become a real standard in Mastering studios and contributed to most hit records over the last decade and probably the next. "Mu" is tube-speak for gain, and Variable Mu® is our registered trademark for this limiter compressor. It works by using the "remote cut-off" or re-biasing of a vacuum tube to achieve compression. The precious vintage Fairchild 670 also uses this technique and is one of few all-tube compressor to do so, that we know of. Even the side-chain has glowing rectifier bottles. How’s it work? The unique 5670 dual triode is at the center of the peak-reducing and compression action constantly being re-biased by the vacuum tube rectified side-chain control voltages which cause this tube to smoothly change its gain. Just like that.
The COMPRESS mode is soft-knee 1.5 to 1 ratio while the sharper knee LIMIT mode starts at 4 to 1 and moves to a more dramatic ratio of 20 to 1 when limiting over 12dB. Interestingly, the knee actually softens as more limiting is used. Distortion can be creatively used by turning up the Input and turning down the Output while using very little or no compression. See the gain reduction curves here!
You might notice that the Variable Mu® Limiter Compressor has a ganged input control, but do not jump to conclusions that it is mono-unfriendly. Track away! There are separate threshold and output controls to make compensations with plus you can always adjust your individual source levels elsewhere, right? The advantage of the stereo input control becomes dramatically clear when you switch to LINK mode, and that’s what our Variable Mu® Limiter Compressor does better than anything else: final mix, 2-track, or mastering limiting and compression. Like one reviewer put it: “It’s like pouring a bowl of sweet cream over the mix.” Mmmmmm. Yummy. Give your music a big hug.
- MANLEY input & output transformers with nickel laminations in mu-metal cases with flat frequency response from 20Hz-25KHz
- BALANCED INPUTS & OUTPUTS (600 Ohms)
- Fully differential ALL-TUBE circuitry using one each 5670, 5751 (or 12AX7), 7044 (or 5687), & 12AL5 per channel
- Independently regulated B+ and Heater supplies
- Hard-wire BYPASS switch
- Stepped switch INPUT attenuator as of 10/2011. (older units use Silent dual-ganged potentiometer)
- RECOVERY 5 steps: 0.2s, 0.4s, 0.6s, 4sec., 8sec.
- Variable ATTACK: 25msec-70msec
- Continuously variable THRESHOLD
- LIMIT (4:1 to 20:1) or COMPRESS (1.5 to 1)
- HP SC: High Pass Side Chain Filter -3dB @ 100Hz
- Large ILLUMINATED Sifam METERS (older units before serial number MSLC61642 shipped before 12/2003 use: 26V 1.2W FESTOON LAMPS; Manley's Part Number: VAR016B) Order spare bulbs using our parts order form. (newest units after serial number MSLC61642 shipped after 12/2003 use white LED lighting)
- STEREO LINK SWITCH
- Several units can be linked for Surround (custom order )
- Maximum gain: 35dB
- Max. output: +30dBu (26Vrms) 26dB Headroom
- <0.1% THD @ 1KHz Noise floor: -85dB typical
- Power Consumption (120/240VAC): 80 watts
- Unit is factory set for 100V, 120V or 220-240VAC operation for original destination country's mains voltage.
- Operating Mains Voltage changeable with power transformer changeover switch and fuse value change.
- Mains Fuse Value for 100~120VAC operation:replace with 1.25A as of 10/2011
- Mains Fuse Value for 220~240VAC operation: replace with 0.6A (600mA) as of 10/2011
- Mains Fuse Type: MDA or MDL SLO-BLO Time delay 1 1/4" x 1/4"
- Mains Voltage Frequency: 50~60Hz
- Dimensions: 19” x 3 1/2” x 10” (chassis occupies 2u) Power transformer protrudes 3.5" out the back of the chassis.
- Shipping Weight: 23 lbs.
THE MASTERING VERSION
Proudly from our beginning, we at MANLEY LABS have been closely involved with numerous mastering facilities around the world. For these most demanding engineers in our industry, we have created specialized products such as our all-tube tape repro head amps, digital converters, high-powered vacuum tube monitor amplifiers, through to custom monitoring consoles, all the way up to complete facility design and installation.
The Mastering Version of our Variable Mu® Limiter Compressor incorporating detented and logable steps built with 1% metal film resistors on sealed gold-contact Grayhill switches is available. NO, we will not mod a "normal" unit to the Mastering Version. The Mastering Version of the Variable Mu Limiter Compressor uses expensive Greyhill rotary switches with gold contacts where conductive plastic pots were used. The steps are determined with a large number of 1% precision metal film 1/2 watt resistors. The best conductive plastic pots only have 10% or 20% tolerance. The ten fold improvement in precision helps a great deal in left-right matching. There is a subtle audible improvement with stepped switches as well. Audiophile HI-FI often uses that technique to wring the last drop of performance out of a preamplifier. And I bet you wanted stepped switches mostly for resets.
The INPUT LEVEL is a five position switch with a generic optimum setting of “0” in the 12:00 position. Each step in either direction is 2 dB. For reference, Unity Gain is "0".
The OUTPUT Attenuators are in half dB steps. Reference Unity is -11.5 or fully counter-clockwise. You might think of these as "gain makeup". They are marked technically, in that “0” or fully clockwise has zero attenuation in the circuit. The tube circuit actually has 15.5 dB of gain. The Input attenuator at "0" removes 4 dB and the Output attenuator removes the last 11.5 producing "unity". With a little compression the "gain make-up" available with the Output Attenuator is very handy.
The Threshold is in half dB steps calibrated to LIMIT mode. In Compress the steps are approximately 1/4 dB. There are 24 steps so LIMIT gets a 12 dB range and Compress has a 6 dB range of adjustment. In some cases it is common to use the Input Attenuator to find a good starting point. Some Mastering engineers find using the combination of Input, Output and Threshold to achieve a little different "drive". Another good reason for stepped gains.
The Attack Time has been slightly extended in both directions compared to a regular Variable Mu and divided into 11 steps.
The Recovery 5 position switch is exactly the same as a regular Variable Mu.
The switches specifically are like this:
Input: -4 to +4 in 2 dB steps
Output: -11 to 0 in 1/2 dB steps (24 detents)
Threshold: -11 to +1 in 1/2 dB steps LIMIT(24 detents) and 24 x 1/4 dB steps in COMPRESS
Attack: 11 positions CW (fast) 15mS, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90mS (slow) CCW
Release: 5 positions CW (fast) 200mS, 400mS, 600mS, 4S, 8 Seconds (slow) CCW