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Stillwell Audio

Latest News, Product Listings and Discussion for Stillwell Audio.

Products by Stillwell Audio

Latest reviews of Stillwell Audio products

The Rocket

Reviewed By oskroskroskr [all]
March 22nd, 2014
Version reviewed: 32bit on Mac

The Rocket is a really great all-round compressor. It's one of my favourites. You can use it in just about any situation and quickly dial in the settings you want. The GR meter is one of the best I've come across and the GUI is nice to look at and perfect in size. It also has an "impetus" knob for adding subtle harmonics which is something I don't think I've come across before. If you didn't know already the compressor is modelled on a hardware compressor known as the UA 1176 which was first produced in the late 1960s.

Stillwell makes a big deal about how fast the attack is but generally I don't use it at extremely short attack speeds. However it's nice to know it does go fast if you want it to.

A couple of critcisms and ideas:

Why are the GR / OUT buttons upside down relative to the scale on the actual meter?

The impetus knob is super subtle until right at the far end of the dial. It would be easier to use if the effect was better distributed across the entire dial.

It would save me a few seconds here and there if there was "dry" and "wet" written next to the parallel knob. Generally you would expect dry to be on the left side.

The difference between the ratio buttons is really very subtle. More often than not I find the differences between two ratios completely inaudible but that may be because I use the parallel and input filter quite liberally. Arguably the ratio button concept was more important on the original 1176. That said however, when used aggressively the "all" ratio setting is rather interesting. It sounds quite sexy on a drum kit. Most of the other compressors I've tried can't do this sound. On the Rocket it's only a few clicks away.

Is the oversample x2 or even higher? I'm curious. This is definitely a great feature.

The HP filter on the signal only goes to 200Hz. I usually find that is barely enough.

The compensation slider runs between -20 and +20 decibels. I have no idea why you would want to reduce the volume by 20, and when used on the extreme settings +20 is not enough. In my opinion it would make more sense to run the slider between 0 and 30db.

Thanks Stillwell.


PS: Some more stuff you may like to know before using the Rocket!!.

The impetus knob does literally nothing for precisely the first 50%! (Confirmed by null test). When turned up beyond this it seems to add some higher order odd harmonics, ie 5th and 7th etc etc.

With oversample activated the plug consistently performs 2db louder. It makes it difficult to compare oversample results. It seems to be a bug as the oversample features on other compressors don't do this.

There's a lag on the parallel knob. Can't think why this would be desirable. It may be a bug. If you turn the knob swiftly from one side to the other it takes a second or two for the audio to catch up.

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Reviewed By Mauvehead [all]
June 6th, 2008
Version reviewed: 1.5 on Mac

Finally a plug that has a very transparent yet musical sounding high frequency boost!

I decided to try this plug on a whim when I was searching for more transparent plugs to complement my Nomad Factory Blues Tubes bundle. But the problem with most "transparent" plugs is that they tend to sound harsh or sterile. I am glad to say that the 1973 EQ is not harsh or sterile yet it remains very transparent and it is very flattering to pretty much whatever you put through it. This is by far the sweetest sounding high frequency boost I have ever used in a plug.

The high frequency knob is centered around 12kHz and you can apply a lot of boost on it without ever sounding harsh. And I do mean a lot. Up to +20dB. I find this feature to be indispensable when bringing elements up front in a mix (or conversely pushing them back a bit by rolling off this same knob). And yes this plug does impart a small amount of personality and coloring to the material being processed but only in a good way. This plug makes me forget that I am using a plug versus really nice outboard gear.

The other EQ controls are useful and very musical as well, but who really gets excited about a good sounding high pass filter or mid range? But they do indeed sound equally as good as the high EQ and are likewise very flattering to program material. But the high frequency EQ on this plug alone is worth the $40.

The controls are simple and do just what they should. Also, there is an oversampling switch that basically doubles the sample rate being used (as well as the CPU overhead) that is supposed to help reduce aliasing. I usually just leave this switched on and it seems to help add depth to the material.

On my Mac with OSX 10.5.2 running Logic Studio, Bidule and Tracktion3, the 1973 EQ plug requires negligible CPU (even in oversampling mode) and it never crashes anything. That includes both the AU versions as well as the VST version of 1973. No complaints there.

There are only a small handful of presets and honestly you don't need any presets anyway. The controls are simple and obvious and they are hard to screw up. I do like having presets on some plugs to horse around with and get things in the ballpark before starting to tweak, but the 1973 EQ is so simple and straightforward that a gob of presets would have been silly. You just twist knobs and listen. Fortunately, the high frequency boost and cut is very forgiving and sounds good without much effort, and the same can be said for the low boost/cut and the high pass filter. The mid frequency boost and cut can get out of hand if you don't exercise moderation, but that is normal for mid frequencies and less is usually more when dealing with mid frequency adjustments (or at least it should be that way). I find that the best sounding mid frequency adjustments on the 1973 EQ are in the +/-3dB range. On a different note about those mid frequencies, if you crank up the mid boost to max and rhythmically move the frequency selection slider slowly all the way back and forth through all of the detents, you can get a really interesting "sample and hold" effect going on guitars or keys. But even when you crank the mids, things never sound harsh or digital and there are never any artifacts along the way.

There is no manual for this plug (but do you really need one?) If there was any sort of a manual included, it would surely be a very short and concise one. This plug is pretty much WYSIWYG. (And if you don't know what EQ boosts and cuts are then perhaps you'd better not quit your day job in pursuit of a music career.) But seriously, the simplicity of this plug is its strength and even though it doesn't initially appear to have very many bells and whistles, the sound it bestows upon your tracks will surely put a grin on your face. As per the lack of presets or manuals, I am giving this plug a ten for documentation and presets in that the directions on how to use this EQ are right in front of you when you open this plug. Again, WYSIWYG. And you don't really need any presets on this plug to make it sound good. It doesn't get much more simple than that.

Customer support is great and Scott over at Stillwell replies quickly to emails and forum posts (they have their own forum on their website). And what's more, the demo plug for this is identical to the licensed one except for a ten second nag screen when you first open it up. But other than that, the demo is fully functioning with no drop-outs or noise bursts or any other limitations. Very generous indeed and it is good to see a company using the old "honor system" for letting people try their products.

This plug is definitely worth more than the $40 they are charging for it. Would be easy to pay twice that for as good as those high frequencies sound. Very flattering. Very musical. This is the kind of EQ you put on your more important tracks that deserve the very best. A rare jewel among plug-in EQ's.
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