11 – Neve 2254
Rupert Neve is best known for his legendary preamp designs, but his considerable talents don’t end there. Like the SSL Buss compressor and the Chandler TG1, the 2254 began life as a module in Neve’s legendary 1970s mixing consoles, applying its trademark coloured sound to signals fed into it. As you’d expect from a classic Neve product, it isn’t exactly transparent – instead, think rich, think ‘thick’, and think ’round’.
The 2254 can do great things to vocals – especially thin or over-bright recordings – as well as exposed keys, guitars, and bass tracks. Investing in a second unit allows for stereo bus operation, where the 2254’s abilities to glue stereo sub-mixes together can compete with other top-league bus compressors.
Originals remain highly sought after. You’ll be lucky to pick one up for £2,000, then you’ll need to have it built into a rack enclosure with a custom power supply. An alternative is Neve’s own reissue, the rack-mounted Neve 2254 R (£1,750), which uses the same internal architecture, components and hand-wound transformers as the original – and which delivers very similar results.
In the plugin world, modelling is available from Waves’ V-Comp, although as with most emulations the question of how close the plugin gets to the real thing is a matter of ongoing debate.