This is the second rewrite of my first Compadre review, to keep up with the latest version, now at 1.1.
For a basis of comparison, I often use the UAD-1 plugs, and I like UA's emulations of the LA2, the 1176, and I also really like Waves' SSLs. Each of these are of high quality, and though I wouldn't give them up, I find Beatpuncher occupies its own niche and gives me sonic options that the others simply can't provide.
Compadre can function as a typical compressor (though the "snap" and "non-linearity" controls let you control the personality of the sound in useful ways), but the really unique trick of this comp is what happens when you put it into "shaper" mode. This accesses a variety of user-chosen amplitude curves that act independently of the actual peaks in the program material, with fascinating and fantastic results.
The interface is beautiful and well-designed, as with all of Otium's products, but you have to have a light touch. The threshold is critically important in "shaper" mode, as are the attack and release times, and you have to be careful with your mouse while setting it. On the other hand, when you hit a fortunate combination on a drumloop, you can get mindblowing, very groovy and musical results. Sometimes, working with material that has a lot of "air" around it, Compadre can give you a "fluffy" sound that I've not heard from any software compressor. Pretty unique.
This comp has a filter sidechain that enables me to radically alter the frequencies to which the compressor is reacting. VERY useful. The afore-mentioned "snap" and "non-linearity" function allow you to control the tone in innovative ways. Lots of options for tone creation here.
There's a secondary "auto" compressor as well as a limiter, both optional, as the audio heads out of the signal path. These offer additional tone creation tools, as well as further methods for crushing the snot out something. You can control the amount of compression of course, but also the mix of dry to wet signal, if you want to save the CPU cycles of sending your drums out to another buss and compressing that.
I've worked with drum loops in "shaper" mode and in short order had them twisted into funky, totally usable, totally unrecognizable rhythmic elements. They really sounded as if I'd spent ages slicing hits and reversing them; the way this compressor lets go of the beat sometimes gives you the most luscious "whooosh" of air you could imagine. Really, it's ability to squeeze air out of the most unpromising of loops is what made me such a rabid fan so quickly. Again, in "shaper" mode the threshold is vital and has to be set with some sensitivity, and the release and attack times change the results quite dramatically, so it may take some a moment to find something you like, but you should hear its potential right away, and once you hit a good combination, the sounds are surprising and cool.
The 1.1 update actually provides a vital improvement -- the ability to absolutely clamp down on the signal within the first fraction of a millisecond. The first version let a little bit of the sound escape, which would sometimes result in clicks or other artifacs, making extreme shaping settings less useful. This negative effect is now gone, I'm happy to report, and the coding is tight and the plug is now CPU-optimized.
It's not for everything, but what compressor is? Its rhythmic tricks simply can't be replicated by other compressors. It's rare to find a compressor with such personality, in plugin or hardware form.
User Interface: Boasting a lovely photorealistic interface, the ergonomics are clean and elegant.
Sound: Fantastic. If you are looking for something that will instantly give you a vintage pumping compressor sound, look no further. The sound is rich and thick, and you can dial up (or down) that character to taste.
Features: Compadre was optimized for loops and drums, and the feature set offer a very broad range of options for that application. Within minutes I was able to come up with a very cool syncopated pumping effect. Alternately, I was able to pull out "stick", snare attack, or paper in the kick. Very flexible and lots of fun.
Documentation: Certainly enough to get your started!
Presets: Lots. More than enough to showcase what it can do and you should have no problem finding a starting point for rolling your own. Simply adjust the threshold and you are in action.
Customer Support. Excellent!
Value for money: A great value.
Stability: No crashes yet!
Bottom line: I own and use several hi-end compressors. They all have uses and stengths. That said, Compadre is unique in a lot of ways. If you want to add heft and attitude to drums, its a no brainer. Surprisingly, it has proven a life saver several times on vocal tracks. None of the compressors I had were taming a wild voal track the way I wanted, so I tried Compadre. It nailed it in 5 minutes. I was more than impressed. In short, for me it is a "character compressor" - but what character! When I am looking for "that sound" this is the one I use.