The Model-T = Transparent
- The Model-T has a “Speed” switch that affects Attack and Release times. On the Model-A, the switch affects Attack only (and is labelled as such).
- The Model-T sports an additional switch (not present on the Model-A): “Action,” which lets you choose between two modes – each giving you a different combination of threshold and compression knee. “Soft” gives you less pump factor and is useful for for complex material – mastering, for instance. “Hard” allows for more agressive pumping and is great for tracking, when you occasionally want access to stronger compression.
- The Model-T’s “Soft” setting is optimized for complex material that requires a more finessed touch, such as film scoring or classical music recording and mastering. In case your were wondering, the “T,” in Model-T designates “Transparent.” The Model-A (“Aggressive”), lacking this switch, exhibits the “Hard” compression characteristic, and is great for more aggressive material such as rock and pop recording and mastering.
We were lucky to have a chance to spend some quality time with the Gem Audio Labs Preceptor Model - A Version.
Gem Audio Labs Preceptor Model A - Power Supply
First of all, you can immediately tell that this unit is built like a tank. Gem Audio Labs is very smart. Because the first thing they thought to build right and stable in this unit was the Over Sized Power Supply. The Power Supply is based on a 70VA toroidal transformer. The Power Supply is the heart of the system and the better it is, the better the whole system works. In an audio system, this translates into a better sound quality, lower noise and unwanted distortion elimination.
Gem Audio Labs Preceptor Model - A - Components
Next the components in the unit are ALL top notch. Everything from guts inside of the unit, to the knobs and switches. Each channel of the Preceptor consists of Individual Mono Blocks each with their own Carnhill Input Transformers. The signal path is a Pure Analog, Class-A and is All Discrete. The Gain Reduction section is made by a discrete VCA based on bipolar transistors and Zener diodes. There are actually 16 Zener diodes that are manually selected and matched. All elements in the signal path and the side-chain section are built from the high quality discrete elements (low-noise transistors, ultra low-impedance electrolytic capacitors, precision film capacitors, precision silver-mica capacitors and 1% low noise metalized resistors)
There is no point too putting high-grade components inside of a unit like this without making sure all external components can stand up to the test of time and use. So that is why Gem Audio Labs uses only rotary and toggle switches installed to obtain the best repeatability of all settings. Thus you can easily return to your favorite settings. By using 1% low-noise metalized resistors and gold contact rotary switches, they succeeded to obtain (in the link mode) the difference between levels and characteristics of two channels in a range of +/- 0.1 dB.
Gem Audio Labs Preceptor Model - A In Action
The first time we ran signal through the Model - A....All we can say is WOW! This thing sounds MASSIVE! Obviously a lot of engineers are going to love this piece as a stereo buss compressor. But it has amazing possibilities when it comes to parallel compression (Also known as New York Compression). There is an extra set of knobs on the front panel of the Preceptor called "BLEND". To me without adding this feature, this unit would just be another great stereo compressor. But the BLEND feature takes this piece to a whole new level. It allows you to have built-in Parallel compression. Parallel Compression is frequent technique I love to use when I mix and is a trick most engineers use to get things sounding big. It can really add a hugeness to vocals, guitars and especially drums. I found that turning the BLEND knob to 50% was the perfect setting for most applications. I had a great time running a couple of rough mixes from a session I just finished up from a Acoustic Singer/Songwriter to really add a thickness and dimensionality to a solo acoustic guitar and vocal track.
Note: You do need to match settings on both sides to obtain identical compression in STEREO LINK mode
Like I mentioned above, most engineers will find the Gem Audio Labs Preceptor is great on the 2-Buss but it definitely has plenty of potential when used in Dual Mono Mode. It was nice to use just one side of the unit for a vocal compressor and the other to help tame and even out a dynamic electric DI Bass track. I also thoroughly enjoyed using one side to compress a vocal and the other side to limit it. What makes this unit so versatile is the variety of settings available to adapt to most program material. I never found the unit to be too slow or fast. That's not to say there are not better compressors out there to do a specific job. There is no Threshold knob on the Preceptor so you will achieve your Gain Reduction from the position of the Input and Output Knobs.
Attack and Release Functions
It does have a wonderful selection of Attack and Release options. As well as a SPEED switch (F=Fast, M=Medium, S=Slow) that allows you to even further critique the response of the compressor to your desired application. When both the Attack and Release knobs are turned fully to the right an AUTO mode kicks in.
Side Chain Possibilities
Of course, what is a great compressor without Internal and External Side Chain options. Having this extra feature as most engineers will agree can make the world of difference for compressing certain instruments or source material. Adding your favorite hardware Eq or another signal to the external Side chain input always is a nice thing to help control/alter compression on certain sources. There is another trick in the Perceptor's Side Chain. If the SIDE CHAIN switch is in the EXT position and the EXT Side Chain input does not receive any signal, then the Preceptor turns into a pleasant harmonic distortion generator. The amount of distortion depends on the Z and the INPUT switches settings. The larger the signal, the more distortion is in the processed signal (at extreme settings, it may be up to several % of THD). This is because there is no control signal and the circuit is driven. There is also a built-in Side Chain HPF to remove Low Frequency information from the side chain circuit. Great for compression on the 2-Buss without affecting your Bass or Kick Drum.
All and all I would have to say I am very impressed and happy with Gem Audio Labs Preceptor Model- A Compressor. To me it is more than just a Stereo Compressor. It is truly a versatile, well designed and built compressor, parallel compressor with even the ability to become a harmonic distortion box. I really found I could use it on a variety of program material and individual instrumentation. I am really happy to say we will be representing Gem Audio Labs Preceptor and Gem Audio Labs Line of gear here at Pro Audio Boutique. We keep a DEMO unit In Stock here so if you ever want to give it a try, let us know. I hope this little review gave some insight into anyone who is thinking of adding a new Stereo Compressor to their gear collection. For more information on The Gem Audio Labs Preceptor Model-A drop us an Email.