I’ve known about the BAE’s 1073 preamp for a while now. The folks who have them often swear by them for tracking just about any instrument - vocals, acoustic instruments, guitars, drums… you name it. When I heard I would have a chance to try out BAE’s vision of a classic vintage compressor in the 10DC, I got really excited. Turns out, the only thing better than getting to review a high-end vintage compressor/limiter is getting to review two high-end vintage compressors!
The 10DC isn’t ‘built like a tank’… it’s built like a freaking battleship. This is one piece of gear that is made to not only look great, but to feel like an absolute craftsman’s tool. The switches are stepped switches and the knobs are Marconi style, so they click into place with authority. There is a gain reduction meter that is easy to read and extremely smooth and precise.
The power supply is separate from the 10DC, and the power supply will operate 2 units. I actually had the opportunity to test out the 2-unit linking mode and all worked as expected. One really nice feature I noticed is that the 10DC is true bypass even when the compressor is powered off. This is great because you can be sure you’re actually bypassing all processing simply by turning the unit off.
Dialing in a good sound with the 10DC is a breeze. The threshold on the compression section is stepped in 2dB increments, and the ratio varies from 1.5/1 to 10/1. Attack can vary from 2ms to 80ms with 6 different options. Recovery is a different story. You’ve got 4 fixed choices of 100, 200, 400, and 800ms—but you also have access to 2 ‘automatic’ modes that utilize separate algorithms for peaks and prolonged levels.
On the limiter side of things, you can dial in a whopping 20dBu of gain make-up. That leaves a lot of room to sculpt the exact amount of dynamic control that you want. The threshold on the limiter side is quite precise, with 0.5dB steps. I should note that although these are sturdy switches and knobs, I was surprised by how quiet they were. You can absolutely discretely adjust these while you are tracking and get away with it if you’re in the same room.
The 10DC is a single rack unit with a single input and output. BAE offers a 2-unit deal where you get 2 rack units and one power supply. You can connect two of the 10DC units together with a simple link cable, engage the link button on the front and you’re compressing a stereo signal! I had the opportunity to test this out with a pair of Neumann 184’s as drum overheads and I can tell you that this is a very musical compressor. I was able to control a pretty hard hitting drummer while still bringing out some of the ghost notes and subtleties that can often get lost when you track completely dry.
The BAE 10DC is a workhorse. It’s built to last, it sounds fantastic, and it’s dead simple to use. The price point might give a little sticker shock to the faint of heart, but if you’re looking at this standalone compressor then you likely know what you’re in for.
Price: $1800 for Single Channel/$3400 for a stereo pair
Pros: Solid build, vintage look, stereo link capability, quiet knobs, beautifully musical dynamic control, simple and usable design.
Cons: Price point might be a shock, but this is no tool for amateurs.