The A-Designs HM2 Nail is a unique, hybrid solid state/tube compressor with wet/dry mix control and LF filter that allows bass and kick to pass without pulling down the mix
The A-Designs HM2 Nail takes compression out of the realm of mere gain reduction and raises it to high art. The design of the HM2 Nail is focused on making compression a more musical process, rather than a hit-or-miss automatic fader that can only follow one set of directions. A-Designs understands that music presents a far too complicated waveform to be addressed effectively by one ratio and one threshold. To achieve a more musical compression, the A-Designs Nail employs two threshold controls; one that handles average levels with a ratio that adapts to changes program material, and a hard threshold that interacts with a filter control that reduces compression applied to lower frequencies. While the HM2 Nail employs the compression techniques of two historic compressors, it also incorporates modern compression techniques via its Mix control, which allows you to perform parallel compression without the latency incurred by sending aux signals to and from outboard gear from a DAW. Whether you’re looking for a tracking compressor, stereo-bus compressor that can widen a mix and add tube saturation, gentle compression for drum overheads, or the ability to nuke room mics, the A-Designs HM2 Nail can do it all, musically, creatively, effectively.
A-Designs HM2 Nail Unique Features:
- Wet/Dry mix control for parallel compression inside the box, no need for DAW sends
- Filter allows bass and kick to pass without pulling down the mix great for R&B and other bass-forward styles
- Hard Threshold provides FET-style compression in combination with Filter control
- Adds the euphonic sound of tube amplification to digital recordings
A-Designs HM2 Nail in one take:
- Hybrid solid state/tube compressor with feedback-, diode-based design
- Functions like a leveling amplifier and FET-style compressor combined
- Filter, Hard Threshold, and Mix provide flexibility and control beyond ordinary compressors
- Stereo or dual-mono operation makes it useful for mixing and tracking
- Awarded Mix Certified Hit by Mix magazine
- Custom-milled aluminum knobs
- Custom-milled aluminum face-plate
- LED Indicators switchable to stereo
- Gain-reduction switch for meters
- 2U rackmount
- Balanced XLR outputs
- Carling toggle power switch
- Red jewel power indicator
- In/out switch
INSIDE THE BOX A-Designs HM2 Nail
Two styles of compression
Think of the A-Designs Nail as a combination of two types of compression based on the two most ubiquitous compressors in recording history; a leveling amplifier that responds to program material like the Teletronix LA-2A, and FET-style compression reminiscent of the UA 1176.
On the surface, there are three features that distinguish the HM2 Nail from other compressors: Filter, Hard Threshold, and Mix. Taken in that order, Filter is a high-pass filter, continuously variable from 10Hz to 250Hz; Hard Threshold, which functions like the variable threshold control of a VCA (Voltage Controlled Amplifier) compressor and differs in that it works only in conjunction with the Filter (more on that later); and finally, Mix lets you combine direct and compressed signal in continuously variable amounts parallel compression).
As you become familiar with the HM2 Nail, you’ll realize that what also sets it apart are the ways the controls interact, and more importantly, how the HM2 Nail gives you extensive control over compression in a most musical fashion. The A-Designs HM2 Nail also has the Attack, Release, Threshold, and Gain controls found on standard compressors. With Hard Threshold and Filter in the off-position, the normal Threshold control acts like the peak reduction control of the Teletronix LA-2A. Attack and Release depart from traditional functionality when Hard Threshold and Filter are turned off (more on that later). Gain does exactly what you’d expect.
Unlike other compressors, ratio is not set by a front-panel control. The HM2 Nail features a variable ratio that changes in relation to settings of the Threshold and Hard Threshold controls. In this way, the HM2 Nail provides a much more musical-sounding style of compression over simply stonewalling an input signal the way a VCA compressor would.
Wet/dry mix control
Being the most straightforward of the HM2 Nail’s unique features, we’ll start with the Mix control and then circle back to Hard Threshold and Filter. Mix provides a continuously controllable blend between compressed and uncompressed signal, allowing you to combine them in any amount you desire. There are two main advantages to the Mix control. To begin with, if you’re working with a DAW that has limited sends and want to perform parallel compression on drums etc., the Mix control saves you an Aux send/return by doing parallel compression internally.
By turning the Mix control to Compression (fully clockwise), not only can the HM2 Nail function as a compressor/limiter, but also it allows you to listen to, and adjust overall compression and then mix wet and dry signal in varying amounts, i.e. mix in a little compressed signal to direct signal; blend in a little direct signal to compressed signal; or equal amounts of both. The ultimate benefit of the Mix control is that it prevents all the tail chasing that comes with mixing into a compressor. It enables you to maintain proper balance between direct and compressed signal without fighting the compressor. For example, you get the compression right on the verses and find that it squashes the chorus, killing its energy, which means tearing down the mix and going back to square “”A.”” (Had you started at “”square A-Designs,”” you’d be home by now.) With Mix, you won’t have to copy your verses, bridge, and chorus onto separate tracks and treat them all separately.
Hard threshold control function
The HM2 Nail’s Hard Threshold control introduces the functionality of an FET compressor, such as the Universal Audio 1176LN. Hard Threshold has a range of 0 to +18 dB and works in conjunction with the Filter. The Filter is a variable high-pass filter on the HM2 Nail’s side chain, which allows you to compress all frequencies above a selected frequency, while marginally compressing the frequencies below. The result is a much more musically suitable compression curve than that a multi-band compressor, plus the ability to let the bass roam free and full.
While not a multi-band compressor in the traditional sense, meaning it will not isolate the assigned frequency; it does allow you to be very flexible in your application of compression. For example, if you select 100Hz on the filter, frequencies below 100Hz will be lightly affected by compression, but they won’t be crushed the way most compressors do. Once the filter frequency is selected, then Hard Threshold comes into play. It works like a traditional threshold control; the difference is that Hard Threshold only springs into action when the selected low-frequency energy crosses its setting. When used in combination with the Hard Threshold and Threshold, the Filter gives you greater simultaneous control over the frequencies you wish to compress more and those you want to compress less.
A good example would be an R&B track, where you want the bass and kick to be exaggerated without throwing the mix out of balance. Set the filter at 250Hz use the Hard Threshold to dial in the amount of compression you want (Around +11dB is a good starting point). In this scenario, the HM2 Nail is compressing everything above 250Hz according to the amount of compression you dialed in with the Threshold control, while touching everything below 250Hz lightly, resulting in a much more musically suitable compression curve. The lows come up solid and present without overwhelming the mix or ducking it. Plus it eliminates the often frustrating and time-consuming crossover and compression tweaking that a multi-band compressor requires to sound natural.
Dual-mono or linked stereo operation
The HM2 Nail was designed to sit in a place of authority on the 2-bus (main L/R mix). However, along with overall mix compression, its dual-mono design makes it a marvelous tracking compressor as well. For mix-bus chores, The NAIL has a Stereo Link switch that makes it a true stereo compressor. In stereo mode, all functions on both channels are controlled via channel one’s controls (with the exception of Gain and Mix).
Switching to dual-mono gives you two channels for tracking, plus a little something extra in the form of air and presence. For example, if you were recording a singer accompanying themselves on acoustic guitar, you could use one channel set LA-2A style on vocals and the other with Hard Threshold set to allow the body of the guitar come through, plus fast attack to reduce pick and finger noise.
Here’s a little secret for you: dual mono isn’t just for tracking. It has a hidden bonus. Perform a mix with the HM2 Nail on the 2-bus in stereo mode, which, by the way, sounds wonderfully 3-dimensional. When you’ve hearing the love, switch it to dual mono and you’ll hear the mix get even wider. Just make sure you have both channels set the same when you switch to dual mono.
Certified Mix Hit by Mix magazine
While the HM2 Nail sells itself once you hear it in action, it’s a little harder to get the point across that it’s an amazing value as well, and should be strongly considered by budget-minded folk who want the highest quality compressor they can get for the 2-bus without adding bank robbery to their skill set. The A-Designs Audio HM2 NAIL costs significantly less than other compressors in its class, yet rivals any and all comers in sonics and exceeds nearly all others in flexibility. Of course, A-Designs probably had you Certified Mix Hit.
OUTSIDE THE BOX A-Designs HM2 Nail
Front- and rear-panel layout
The HM2 Nail shares the same modern/retro look as the A-Designs Hammer EQ. On the modern side, its brushed black faceplate is adorned with custom, brushed-aluminum control knobs, sculpted to fit nicely between the fingers, plus dual LED Gain Reduction/Input Level meters that are easily visible across a dark-lit control room. On the retro side of the tracks we have toggle switches for gain reduction vs. level metering, compressor In/Out, and stereo link; a big diamond cut power-on light and toggle switch reminiscent of the venerable old studio gear from the days when consoles were custom made, and Pro Tools really were just hammers and nails making the names of A-Designs Audio’s brother and sister act, The HM2 Hammer EQ and Nail compressor all the more appropriate they’re professional tools that get the job done for anyone who picks them up, and can do glorious things in the hands of master craftsmen.
If you’re looking to nail your next mix with depth, euphonic tube tone, and artifact-free compression, then NAIL your next mix. For more information on the A-Designs HM2 Nail, call or chat with your Westlake Pro audio specialist today.
A-Designs Audio HM2 Compressor NAIL specifications:
- Frequency response: 3Hz – 50Khz
- Noise: -89dbu
- Balanced Input: XLR
- Balanced Output: XLR
- Clipping: +20dbu
- Filter: Off – 8Hz (starting point) – 250Hz
- Channel Isolation @1kHz: 90dB
- Variable Ratio: Self adjusting
- Mix (direct/compression): Complete bypass to complete compression
- Power Requirements: 120/230V AC – 23 watts
- Dimensions: 19″ x 3-1/2″ x 10″ (W-H-D)
- Weight: 10 lb.
- Shipping weight: 12 lb.