Review: Cytomic The Glue
There are many applications for compression, from subtly fixing dynamics to creating wild effects. In my experience compressors (both hardware and software) are often the subject of heated discussions about analog versus digital, sound coloring and transparency, harmonics, transients, etc. If you are looking for a review that goes into these kind of technical details you are in the wrong place.
For those who don’t know me, making music is my hobby, not my profession. My tools include lots of free plug-ins like Variety Of Sound’s Density mkII and NastyVCS, and commercial ones such as FabFilter’s Pro-C — currently my favorite slap it on anything to make it sound good compressor.
I have a fairly simple approach when it comes to dynamics processing: I use whatever sounds good.
Luckily there are some great developers out there who know how to create compressor plug-ins that sound great straight out of the box, with minimal effort on the user’s part.
One of those developers is Cytomic founder Andrew Simper. Cytomic might not ring a bell, but Andrew is not exactly new to the scene. Working as the head DSP developer of FXpansion, he was responsible for doing the algorithms for the excellent D-CAM Synth Squad, and the effects for both Guru and BFD2.
With The Glue Andrew basically did a complete re-write of the compressor algorithm he previously developed with FXpansion, improving and adding a bunch of things in the process.
The Glue features
- Accurate analog model of classic 80′s British big console buss compressor.
- Ultra-fast attack time of up to 0.01 mS.
- Range knob to naturally control the maximum compression applied.
- Peak Clip to optionally hard limit transients.
- DSP coded using C++ and assembler, Interface coded using the Juce framework (C++).
- Serial number copy protection with generous license agreement.
Similar to Synth Squad, The Glue is a physics-based circuit simulation using the same values of components like resistors, capacitors, diodes, etc., and a matching circuit structure in order for the model to sound identical to the hardware.
The Glue models a design that is somewhere between an E and G series buss compressor of the classic 80’s British big console buss compressor mentioned earlier in the list of features — the SSL 4000.
There are only a few controls on The Glue so let me briefly explain what they do.
- Threshold, determines at what dB compression kicks in.
- Range, an additional parameter that allows more natural sounding results by limiting the depth of the compression. This is not available on the original circuit.
- Makeup, applies gain to the main compression amplifier to make up for the reduced signal level caused by the compression. There’s no auto-makeup so you will need to adjust this yourself.
- Attack, the speed at which the compression kicks in. The Glue includes a super fast 0.01mS attack mode which is useful for limiting.
- Ratio, the amount of compression applied. Ratio 2 (50%) has a soft knee shape, 4 (75%) a medium one, and 10 (90%) a sharp knee. For example, the gain reduction with ratio 4 would be -7.5dB per 10dB over the threshold; 75% of 10dB.
- Release, determines how fast the compressor goes back to the original volume. Setting this control to “Auto” is a handy way to compress a wide range of material in a gentle way. It uses a slow release time for a base compression value, plus a fast one for transients.
- Comp(ression) in, basically bypasses the compression when off.
- Mix, mixes the dry and wet (compressed) signal.
- Peak Clip in, a fixed waveshaper which can be useful on transients.
- Side-chain, a highpass filter is available to reduce pumping, and an “Ext(ernal) in” button will let you use any signal you like as a detector.
I was going to post some audio clips but decided against it since the demos on Cytomic website do a terrific job showcasing The Glue. Check them out here.
So what do I think?
Format: Effect plug-in for PC and Mac (VST2.4/AU/RTAS)
Price: $99 USD
I personally do not have any experience with the SSL 4000 hardware so I can’t make any comparison. I’ve heard good reports on The Glue, but frankly it’s not that important to me whether this emulation is spot on or not. As I mentioned earlier I just use whatever sounds good and boy does this compressor sound good to me. From subtle compression to insane pumping, The Glue shines whichever way you turn its knobs. I have no complaints sound wise.
I do have a minor gripe concerning the presets management system. It currently offers some nice features like copy & paste functions (even across multiple plug-in instances) and A/B comparison, but you can’t select the presets directly from your DAW. Selecting a preset shouldn’t take more than a mouse-click or two. I think Andrew is going to improve the presets system in the upcoming version 1.0.16 update.
Talking about updates… It might also be good to know that Andrew is not only an incredibly talented developer but also a guy who is genuinely interested in having a dialog with users of his products (as demonstrated by almost 150 pages of The Glue at the KVR forum), taking in suggestions, loyally offering support, and keeping people posted with the latest developments.
Anyway, The Glue is an excellent buss compressor, capable of glueing your mix together in a most wonderful way. It is easy to use and the additional features like the ultra fast attack, and range & sidechain controls are valuable additions.
A 14-day trial version is available to download so you can try this compressor on your own material.
More information: Cytomic