It’s time for another gem from the world of FREE VST/AU plugins! And again (like the SlickEQ) it comes from the incredible people Tokyo Dawn Labs.
It’s called Kotelnikov (after one of the scientists who discovered the sampling theorem) and is a free compressor plugin for Mac and PC. It comes in all important plugin formats (VST, VST3, AU, AAX).
As I can’t hold back my excitement about this plugin any longer, I have to tell you right away: Don’t get fooled by the fact this compressor plugin is free. This is one of the best compressor plugins I’ve come across so far and it plays in the same league with some of the top commercial compressor plugins.
Before we move on to the features let me first describe Kotelnikov’s character a bit (…You should know, I’m always interested more in character than in features. However, when features support character…or make your life easier because of their usefulness, that can get me really excited, too;-).
The thing with the Tokyo Dawn Labs Kotelnikov compressor is, it is designed to NOT add any character to the processed signal. The only thing it is meant to do is changing the dynamics while preserving the character and color of the original signal.
So is it free of character? I would say no. I’d rather describe its character as crystal clear and pristine.
I have to admit that most of the time I’m after plugins that add color, warmth and grit to whatever audio I feed them. But in some cases, it’s just great to have an option that doesn’t add any additional color.
The most obvious case is when you have clean, pristinely recorded signal, an acoustic guitar for example. And you want to add some compression so that it fits better in the mix while preserving it’s clean character.
Another case can be that you already added good amounts of harmonics and color through vintage preamps, EQs or a saturation plugin like the Decapitator. And now you want to compress the signal but don’t want to further change the color of your sound.
This is when the Kotelnikov can be of incredible value as it is made for exactly these tasks. Crystal clear compression.
The Kotelnikov compressor plugin is equipped with more features than most compressors. Still none of them falls into the gimmick category. They all add to the versatility and usefulness of the Kotelnikov, so it’s well worth to spend some time to play with different settings and I highly recommend to read the manual.
A great thing about the manual is that it includes a step by step crash course in using the Kotelnikov without getting overwhelmed.
So what sets the Kotelnikov apart from other compressors?
The main difference between the Tokyo Dawn Kotelnikov and other compressors is that it operates with two compression chains that work in parallel. One operates in peak mode, the other in RMS mode.
The peak compresssion chain is operating fast, detecting and reacting to even the sharpest transients of an audio signal. While the RMS compression chain is operating slower and reacting to loudness rather than the exact waveform.
The result is super transparent compression without pumping, even at high ratios. When I was compressing a drum loop heavily with the Kotelnikov, with a gain reduction of up to -8dB, I first was’t sure if the unit was working properly. The sound just didn’t change. No pumping, no coloration. Just clean gain reduction.
The attack and release time of the peak and RMS circuitry can be adjusted separately. So apart from clean leveling, there are a lot of ways to getting creative with the Kotelnikov.
Another useful feature is a highpass filter in the sidechain. This is especially useful for bus compression and prevents low frequencies from triggering the compressor too much.
This has two advantages: First you can keep the low end from being squashed and thus preserving a big bottom.
Second you can prevent the higher frequencies from being overly compressed, because of the low frequencies exceeding the threshold.
Which both adds to the transparent sound of the Kotelnikov.
Playing With The Kotelnikov Compressor
When I played with the different features and settings of the Kotelnikov compressor, I came across an option that is meant to be used solely for monitoring purposes.
The Delta button let’s you monitor only the part of the signal that’s being compressed. Which I found interesting…
But the real cool thing about it is this monitoring option turns the Kotelnikov into a noisegate.
As I’ve been processing a vintage drum loop with the Kotelnikov compressor and switched on the Delta mode, the plugin instantly carved me out some awesome snare drums.
Playing with the attack and release settings, I got some more variations of the same snare sounds.
I just love that kind of stuff, happening by accident:-)
The Tokyo Dawn Labs Kotelnikov compressor plugin comes with an impressing set of useful features and stellar, crystal clear sound quality.
As Kotelnikov’s approach to compression is a little different to most dynamic tools, you have to invest a little time to really understand how it works. But the time is well invested as it pays out in a free dynamic processor, that fills a gap in most studio environments: Clean pristine compression.
As with the SlickEQ, it’s astonishing that the people at Tokyo Dawn Labs don’t charge for the Kotelnikov compressor, as it rivals some top notch commercial plugins.
This plugin is definitely one for the “Must Have FREE VST Plugin” list.
(When you download the plugin, leave the Tokyo Dawn people a comment thanking them. Really do it because they deserve it;-) )
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