I have been working in Ottawa at my own music studio, ATAM Productions, for the past two years. One of the most frequent processes I perform on audio is some form of compression. Whether it is heavy compression on a sample or limiting the entire mix for mastering, most of my projects have at least 100 different compressors applied to different parts.

I have been using two brands of plugins almost exclusively during the last 6 months. Those are the Focusrite Liquid Mix hardware and the Solid State Logic (SSL) Duende Native software. (I'm not including the native Ableton and Logic compressors, but they get a bit of use too)

The Liquid Mix is a convolution compressor and equalizer that I purchased for my studio about 6 months ago. The convolution process takes samples from 40 world-class compressors and 20 eq's. The biggest selling point about this hardware is that it features a (mhz?) DSP chip to off-load the plug-in processing from the host. I purchased the Liquid Mix 16 which was cheaper, didn't feature an LCD screen, and supports up to 8 stereo instances of the Liquid Mix plug-in and each instance comes with a compressor and an EQ.
[caption id="attachment_1625" align="alignleft" width="300"]Liquid Mix 16 front panel The Liquid Mix in operation[/caption]

I have read mixed reviews about the Liquid Mix software, mostly centring on how it isn't as flashy as some plug-in graphics are. While it would be cool for Focusrite to add some ability to "skin" the software this company is rooted in a rich heritage of high-end studio products; basically they've got more important stuff to focus on, right?

The advantage to having a standardized plugin for all emulations is that it allows you to really focus on the sound of the effect without the distractions of fancy graphics.

All of the emulation names have been modified for example "BRIT DESK 2/BRIT CLASSIC DESK 2" is modelled on the compressor section of an SSL SL 4000 G+ console and "ZEBRA 2 / US ZEBRA DISCRETE DESK COPY EQ" is based on the Chandler Limited Passive TG Channel MkII Abbey Road Special Edition EMI Equalizer. Focusrite ships the unit with a list of the originals for decoding purposes, but I sort of wish there were some way to change the names yourself.

How the Duende Native Demo Scheme works:

From the day you activate your first free demo you have 30 days of fully functional use. When this initial 30 day demo period ends your Demo License expires and the plug-in will stop working. If you wait for 30 days you will be eligible for another 7 day fully functional free demo. You don't have to activate it right away, but when you do it will run for 7 days and then the 7 day Demo License will expire and the plug-in will stop working. Wait another 30 days and you will be eligible for another 7 day Demo License.

This works every 30 days which works out to 93 days of free demo over the course of a year. That is a badass preview deal. It's just long enough for casual users to continually use it on their projects while they learn their way around the SSL workflow.

I prefer the SSL product because of sound quality and rendering speed. Even though continually adding instances of the plugin increasingly slows down render time, the real-time feature of the Liquid Mix is a bit of a misnomer. The real time export means that even a minimal 10 minute project takes 10 minutes to export.Since its not possible to freeze a track with side chaining I often have some unfrozen tracks with liquid mix which inevitably end up causing a road block upon exporting.