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FMR RNLA7239 Really Nice Leveling Amplifier
WHAT'S THE RNLA?
The Really Nice Levelling Amplifier (RNLA) is a
compressor, of sorts, with a character that works well with
vocals, bass guitar, acoustic guitars and two-mix sources. A
friend describes the RNLA's tone as "thick and
gooey". Some very well-outfitted RNLA users report
that even with a full complement of expensive, vintage levelling
amps/compressors, the RNLA still fills a niche that the
others don't! The sonic performance of the RNLA harkens back
to the Really Nice Compressor's (RNC's) origins. The
original RNC was, in fact, based upon an optical gain element
that was ultimately rejected (and tucked away) due to its
imparting of a sonic signature (i.e., "color").
However, just like trying to throw away a ball of adhesive tape,
this one has also stuck with (to?) us! What's the old saying?
What's old, is new again? The implementation is a
little different (i.e., no opto) from the 1984 version, but the
final sound is eerily similar...
- Size: 1/3 x 1 EIA rack unit
- Left/Right 1/4" unbalanced inputs (TS, or TRS for
- Left/Right 1/4" balanced, single-ended outputs
- TRS sidechain
- Controls and Displays
- Rotary: Threshold, Ratio, Attack Time, Release Time, Output
- Switches: Bypass, Mode Select
- Meter: 8-segment LED Gain Reduction, 0-16 dB
- Normal: Provides fast attack/release
- Log Rel: Provides release envelope acceleration to aid
maintenance of transient "punch"
- Operating Level
- 0.775 Vrms (0 dBu) nominal for +22 dB headroom
- 1.228 Vrms (+4 dBu) nominal for +18 dB headroom
- Less than -90 dBu over 20-20k Hz
- Typically -95 dBu over 20-20k Hz
- Frequency response: 10 - 100k Hz �0.5dB @ 0 dBu
- Clip point: +22.5dBu @ 3% THD, 1kHz, greater than 2k Ohm
- Less than 0.1%, no gain reduction @ 1 kHz, 0 dBu;
- Less than 0.5%, 6 dB G.R. @ 1 kHz, 6:1, 6.0 msec attack, 0.5
sec. release, 0 dB gain, 0 dBu
- Threshold range: -40dBu to +20dBu
- Ratio range: 1:1 to 25:1
- Attack range: 0.2 msec to 200msec for 100% correction with
<15dB over threshold input signal
- Release range: 0.05 sec to 5.0 sec for 100% recovery with
- Output trim range: �15dB
- AC Power: Wall transformer, 9VAC @ 500mA, 2.1mm jack
- Dimensions: 5.5" x 5.5" x 1.6"
- Weight: 2 lbs
Wide Dynamic Range. Despite the unbalanced
input/output connections, the RNLA has a dynamic range of 117dB,
minimum, which is appropriate for today's digital systems and
exceeds that which is attainable with many older,
�vintage� levelling amplifiers. The RNLA offers a
clip point (<3% THD) of 22.5dBu.
Fidelity.Although the RNLA is designed to dynamically
"color" the sound passing through it, the channel
electronics are fairly neutral and designed so that the output
signal (statically measured) closely resembles the input signal
(fidelity defined...though slightly paraphrased). Each channel is
hand-trimmed to typically less than 0.005% Total Harmonic
Distortion plus Noise (THD+N). Even this low-level distortion is
predominantly second-order...a much less heinous form of
distortion and agreed by many to impart a slight
"sweetness" to a signal.
Ugly and Cheesy
Box. Like its FMR brethren, the RNC and RNP, we use a
third-rack cabinet (still a hearty combination of extruded
aluminum and steel) to allow us to throw the money we save in
cosmetics into the quality of the audio electronics. Although we
did decide to splurge a little by putting very red knobs on it
along with a brushed-aluminum LexanTM overlay for that more
impressively cheesy, "homegrown" look!
Easy-to-read Panel Graphics. This may seem like an
arbitrary and trivial point, but we think it's important:
easily assessing the settings on a rack-mounted processor is
important when you've got a lot of stuff going on during a
recording session. In our experience, dark lettering on a light
background works better than the other way around.
and Inserts. As with the RNC, the RNLA has unbalanced
inputs that also double as Tip-Ring-Sleeve (TRS) inserts to mate
with popular mixer and equipment inserts. This allows you to
connect, using only a single TRS-to-TRS cable per channel, an
RNLA's channel (in & out) with a single cable to a mixer
or other compatible device (such as our own Really Nice Preamp,
Great River Electronics MP-NV preamp, etc.).
Outputs. The RNLA has balanced, non-differential
outputs. Although the "cold" part of the signal is not
driven (that would be a "differential" signalling
scheme), the impedance in both legs are the same, thereby giving
your audio the benefit of reduced noise if the RNLA is connected
to a balanced line input.
Precise Gain Reduction
Metering. A highly accurate gain reduction meter is
provided to allow visual verification of what you're hearing.
Although meters should never be a substitute for what you hear, a
dynamically accurate meter is better than one that can
"lag" or misread the actual dynamic performance of the
compressor. Due to our digitally-controlled architecture, even
the peak-detection errors of a pure digitally-implemented meter
are avoided and a dynamically accurate meter is obtained.
Full Parametric Control. Some of the more common
Levelling Amplifiers don't have full parametric control. Many
LA's are missing the ability to control the ATTACK time. Some
of them don't even provide a RATIO control, let alone a
continuously-variable RATIO control! The RNLA provides both for
maximum artistic flexibility. But, most importantly, both the
ATTACK and RELEASE controls go to 11! In addition, all of
the front panel controls are merely a "control surface"
for the RNLA's internal digital engine. This means: (a) No
main channel audio flows to/from the front panel controls that
might increase its noise susceptibility (that's bad) or
dreaded "scratchy pot syndrome" (that's annoying),
and, (b) We can use a "ratiometric" measuring
technique, along with robust digital filtering, to derive
repeatable and precise compression parameters (that's good,
if not a little geeky). Did I mention that the ATTACK and RELEASE
controls both go to 11?
Contour. Loosely based upon the "Log/Lin"
control on the Valley People's (Person's?) Gain Brain II,
this control ("Log Rel") can help restore some
"punch" that can get lost without an acceleration of
the release envelope. So, when Log Rel is on, we accelerate the
release time as a function of gain reduction amount. We've
found this to be particularly handy on drum sub-mixes where we
still wanted the drums to "punch", but in a compressed
and controlled way (you know, it's really true: talking about
audio is like dancing about architecture...).
Bypass. We use a sealed relay (for long life) to switch
the RNLA's output connectors between the output of the
compression stage or the input jacks, thus providing a true
bypass of the signal path. Worst case, without mains power,
you'll still get a signal out of the RNLA!
The U.S.A. We want you to know that we do our own
manufacturing here in beautiful Austin , Texas 'cause: (a) We
live here. We're control freaks. We need things done to
standards that are very specific and loftier than most.
Manufacturing products here help control important costs and
reduce waste (there's more to producing a product than just
considering the costs of labor and parts). All this helps ensure
that your RNLA will retain its value and continue compressing for
many years to come, (b) Austin's resources and culture--from
a very lively music scene to lots of high-tech
companies/products--help inspire and maintain our committment to
music and technology, and, (c) In order to help others, here and
abroad, we believe we've got to be vital and capable
ourselves. Our first choice is to employ as many U.S.-based
resources as possible in the design, manufacture and distribution
of our products.
The RNLA uses a wallwart. As with our other
products, the RNLA uses a wallwart. This is done to: (a) reduce
internal noise induction, (b) make the national/international
regulatory compliance less costly, and, (c) to permit easy
adaptation of the RNLA to countries other than the U.S.A. As
practical as these reasons for wallwart use are, it
doesn�t reduce the annoyance factor that the RNLA uses a
less common, *AC* wallwart. You can reduce this annoyance,
however, by: (a) labelling your wallwart on both ends (i.e., on
the part that plugs into the wall and at its opposite end) that
the wallwart is for use with the RNLA, and/or, (b) use AC mains
power strips that can accommodate the extra space required by
wallwarts, and/or, (c) hook-up your wallwarts with one of those
short, power cord extenders. In either case, what a pain
The RNLA "colors" the
audio. I don't consider myself a "purist",
however, I have spent a fair amount of time/effort in the studio
(and design lab) trying to reduce sonic coloration (i.e.,
distortion). Although I appreciate and applaud those who are
skillful enough to record and mix with fidelity or coloration at
will , I've always preferred fidelity over distortion...no
matter how artsy it is! So, why are we now producing a device
that deliberately distorts the audio? There are three reasons for
this: (1) our customers have requested it and feel that they
can't get specific combination of features elsewhere, (2) I
believe that the RNLA distorts in a tasteful, useful and
controllable way, and, (3) Maybe you can teach an old dog new
tricks: I'm actually learning to like and find uses for the
sonics of the RNLA!