by Jerry Vigil
This month's Test Drive is perhaps the simplest yet, in terms of how complex the gear is. The equipment under inspection has no pretty LCD display. There aren't any knobs or buttons. You can't do fancy, digital cut and paste editing with it, and everything fits into a box roughly the size of a pack of cigarettes. Introducing, the ProMod Ultra Miniature Modules from Ramko Research.
Ramko has been around for a while, but these little boxes are relatively new to our industry. You may have spotted one stuck to the side of an equipment rack somewhere in your station and didn't give a second thought as to what it was. Ramko offers over fifty modules to choose from, each handling a unique task, anything from compression and EQ to mixing and amplification. Aside from their compact size and simplicity, another attractive facet of these modules is the cost. Prices range from about $45 to $160 per module depending upon the type and quantity purchased.
Checking out all fifty-plus modules would be fun, but maybe a little monotonous. So we picked four that we thought might pique your interest.
The P-1ACL Line Input Audio Compressor/Limiter
Connections to the ProMods are made with a wire captive terminal block with twelve connect points. Some modules use more points than others. The modules are powered with external 12 volt AC adaptors which connect to the first two connectors. On the P-1ACL, the next three connectors accommodate balanced or unbalanced output, and connectors 6, 7, and 8 are for balanced or unbalanced input. Connectors 9 through 12 are unused. As mentioned, there are no knobs, but keep your little screwdriver handy. There are three adjustments for this compressor/limiter. Three holes on the top of the metal housing access Gain Adjust, Compression Ratio Adjust, and Compression Threshold Adjust. The Gain is adjustable from 0dB to +23dB. The Compression Ratio is adjustable from 2:1 to 5:1, and the Threshold can be set from +10 to +22.
Granted, you don't get the controls found on high dollar compressor/limiters, but the P-1ACL isn't trying to compete with those boxes. Instead, the P-1ACL is a low cost method of handling simple compression/limiting tasks without taking up a slot in your equipment rack. Where would you use a little box like this? How many people in your station use a microphone in one of your studios, but have no idea how to use the mic processor in the same room? How many times do you get voice tracks from people who fail to properly watch their levels? A simple compressor/limiter like the P-1ACL is ideal for little fixes like this. You can install it permanently in line, hide it in a nearby cabinet, set it, and leave it alone. Apply just enough compression to assist those who like to overmodulate just a little too much. Add just enough punch to voice tracks that otherwise might go unprocessed altogether. The P-1ACL also works well on phone lines in control rooms to help keep recording levels between callers and jocks under control.
These are just a couple of applications for this single channel compressor/limiter. Of course, you could get two units to create a stereo compressor/limiter if desired, just remember that settings to the left and right channels have to be made independent of each other. Reported specs on the P-1ACL include a frequency response of 10Hz to 60kHz. Output is +24dBm into balanced 600 ohms, +20 into unbalanced 600 ohms. Distortion is rated at 0.007% without compression and 0.09% at full compression. Noise+hum+distortion is at -80dB. The unadjustable attack time is at 5 ms. The release time is compression depth dependent. List price on the P-1ACL is $119.