Tim Mead is the owner and designer of Q2 Audio, a small boutique manufacturer in Royal Oak, Michigan, USA. Having been servicing original ADR Compex compressors in Detroit, Tim approached ADR UK with the idea of creating a re-issue of this classic design as the F760X-RS Compex had made a name for itself worldwide - especially on drums! The Compex originally started life in the late 1960's as the F600 before the F700N module was fitted into Helios consoles as the F700H in the 1970's. I caught up with Tim to discuss bringing this classic back to life and what attracted him to that 'Compex sound'.KMR : What's your background, Tim? How did you get into designing gear, was this something you've always been into?TM : I got into this thing like a lot of others I suspect, I was a musician and played in bands on the keyboards and wanted to pursue recording and music in general. I was never the best keyboard player even in our little town, so not much future in that but I did want to work around music in some manner.
I spent a few years after high school going to a community college in Northern Michigan learning general electronics. At the time they were still leaning toward students getting their FCC 'Radio First Class' license at the end of the coursework, but just as I finished they pretty much got rid of that requirement.
Eventually, I made my way to the Detroit area and worked in an RF testing lab for the automotive industry for about seven years. During that time I met Mike Nehra who was running a business in downtown Detroit called Vintage King.
I did some wiring harnesses for him and years later after they had grown a bit I started working for them directly. A couple of years into that and I decided that the Compex needed to be reborn as it had been ignored by many of the 'cloners' of the day, who were focusing on Neve's, Pultec's, 1176's etc.
Q2 Audio | Compex F760X-RS
KMR : How long did it take before you were satisfied with the Compex re-issue?TM : It took me seven years, on and off, of evenings and weekends (and a couple of failed mechanical designs that never made it out of the PC) to get to the current design which I made to be more easily serviceable than the vintage units.
I've had to stop servicing the old units due to the amount of time it takes to get them apart and back together. I can't charge for all of the time that goes into them. It kills me to tell people that I can't work on their vintage units but it doesn't make economical sense for me at this point.
KMR : Did you first get in contact with Ian Harley at ADR because you were servicing older vintage ADR kit in the US?TM : Yes, it was probably around 2004 and I was, and still am, working for Vintage King and I had very little experience with the Compex. I had one that would not calibrate in some manner so I managed to get in touch with Ian Harley at ADR in the UK and he pointed out a few possibilities and I managed to get it sorted. There was something about that unit that I liked there and then...
Q2 Audio | Compex F760X-RS
KMR : Was it difficult to get the new units to sound and react the same as earlier designs? - Do you use many more modern parts and building techniques?TM : Not too much...the original engineering was very well thought out. When I started I thought I could improve it in certain areas, I was mostly wrong!
The vintage units all sound slightly different anyway, although they still have that Compex 'magic something' that is its signature characteristic. I played around a bit with capacitors (polypropylene vs polystyrene, etc) and recently had to go with polypropylene due to availability. These were mostly the small pF range caps that control the HF response, the other caps in the audio path are the same types that the original Compex used.
Q2 Audio | Compex F760X-RS Rear
KMR : What, if anything, have you improved over the original version?TM : I've tried to make the calibration more stable by using multi-turn trimmers and more modern voltage references in a few places. I modified a vintage unit to be sure it did not affect the compression characteristic first though. Ian suggested this and it has turned out to be a good recommendation.
KMR : Your F765 500 version (Compex in a 500-Series) looks similar to the vintage ADR F760 N module - was this the thinking behind it?TM : I tried to make it look as much like the classic N-units as I could - yet I like to work as much 'top down' as possible so having the "System In/Out" at the top made more sense to me, also I didn't have much real estate on the front panel, so there had to be some shuffling required!
Q2 Audio | F765
Q2 Audio | F765
KMR : Are there any plans for other hardware devices such as the Vocal Stresser F769X-R perhaps or more in the 500 format?TM : I have thought about a 500 series EQ but I'm not sure what the market is like these days. The F765 500-Series has headers to allow the use of an EQ inserted for 'Vocal Stresser' effects as well as the side chain access if you have a Radial Workhorse rack or any other 500 Rack that might follow their specifications. The Workhorse would allow any EQ to be inserted at the input to the compression sidechain. Vocal Stresser maybe...
ADR Original Vocal Stresser
KMR : I feel the F760X-RS is really one of those legendary FET character boxes and should be viewed in the 'classic' list like a 1073 or 1176, La2a - was it the love of this sound that made you want to make them again?TM : I use a drum loop as a test track in the shop and I like what it does at fast attack and fast release. It really brings up the room ambience and totally changes a mild-mannered drum loop into a seething monster.. at least that is how I hear it!
The Compex does have that 'something' that I've never been able to put my finger on, it seems to make everything sound more exciting. I think it sounds great on everything, but it does really have a magic effect on drums.
KMR : Thanks for the interview!
For more information on Q2 Audio Products at KMR Audio and the ADR| History of the Compex interview please use the links below :