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Wes Audio's Beta76 Compressor Interview with Radoslaw Wesolowski 3/10/2013 pan60 What name would you like me to use, when I address you? I feel the need to say …Wes. Wes Correct. My friends call me that. pan60 Could you please tell us a bit about yourself? Wes I graduated from Szczecin University of Technology (Szczecin, Poland), in telecommunications and electronics. I love music, and ever since I can remember, sound engineering and electronics have been my passion. They later evolved from the past into becoming my current way of life, as well as the foundation in forming my company. pan60 Very cool! Are you a musician? Wes Of course! Music is the key. It's a huge part of my life. I would share moments with my dad as he used to listen to a lot of music from old cassettes and records. I loved it. I enjoy listening to new stuff, composing, and recording. From an early age I had a thing for music. It influenced the style and character of my life. pan60 What instruments do you play? Wes I play the guitar, mainly electric and acoustic. For the past ten years I've been in a metal band called Annalisa. pan60 Cool! I’m also a bit of a guitar nut. Wes Great, two guitarists will always get on well. pan60 LOL! You know it! What music style most influenced you? Wes Now, that’s a difficult question to answer. I’ve listened and, continue to listen, to a wide variety of music. My first serious adventure with music started when I was 10 years old. I started by listening to metal bands such as Metallica, Sepultura, Death. It certainly had a big impact on me. After that, I began a period of playing the guitar and started to listen to guitar solos by Satriani, Vai, Gilbert and Wylde. They had, and still have, a huge impact on me and my guitar playing. Recently, I’ve been listening to  various musical styles - from jazz through dubstep - to deathcore, and I really like it all. It is said that the music one currently listens to influences what happens in one’s life. I believe it applies in my case. pan60 I love jazz. Mostly the swing stuff. But, really, I love it all. Tell us a bit about your band Annalisa. Wes My band is out there in our small Polish music world. We are rather a niche band, as the music we play isn’t very popular. Of course, most my friends listen to ‘proper’ music, but we’re different from the mainstream. Annalisa is comprised of five guys who have been playing together for over 10 years. We are comfortable with it, we create, record, and we’ve released three albums. The lyrics are in Polish, although, on the new album, there might also be songs in English. Who knows? We play quite a few gigs a year. But, apart from that, we meet, we talk, we discuss, we work in our studio with other bands and record. This gives us a great deal of pleasure and enjoyment. So, Annalisa is not just a band, but also friendship, vodka and music. pan60 Oh, I love Vodka! I don't drink much anymore, but I have always had a taste for good vodka: ) Are you into recording or just gear manufacturing? Wes I can't imagine how you can produce pro audio equipment and not deal with sound engineering. These two things are so intertwined that they seem to be in unity. I am a co- owner of a recording studio. We record a large variety of music from niche, underground bands to radio-friendly pop. We have a nice big mixing console, the SOUNDCRAFT DC2020, which not only sounds great, but doubles as cool coffee table LOL. pan60 Sweet! I recently grabbed a small Soundcraft. Very high rate boards, I always felt. How did you get into designing and manufacturing gear for studio engineers? Wes I think all the previous choices I made, my professional career and the experience I've gained over the years and my interests, all of this led me in this direction. I was experimenting and looking for different areas in which I could combine my passion for electronics and music. I don't like routine. I do love challenges and I’m always looking for new opportunities. My wife, who has supported me all through all this, has helped me a great deal, as well as the studies at the University of Technology. For my master's thesis, I decided to go for broke and devised an ambitious topic. Coincidentally, back at that time, I was really into A/D - D/A converters, so I decided to design an 8-channel AD / DA transmitter with AES / EBU and ADAT interfaces. It had a possibility of routing any channel one to another, a very low jitter clock on board and a graphic LCD display. It took me 9 months to develop the project, another three were devoted to assembling and installations and bingo! It worked, not without problems of course, but it's not the time or place to talk about this now. While finishing the work I already had a vision of how the equipment could be improved and modified. pan60 What made you select the types gear you build?   Wes Well, it started with the fact that I've always liked the sound and look of 1176. So, I it. I began to read, study, design, build and experiment, which I benefitted by learning a great deal. pan60 Tell us about the products you manufacture. How much do you do in-house? Wes I start with some ideas and theories that I try to work out in my mind. Sometimes, this process goes on for far too long, and then I can’t sleep at night LOL. The next step is talking. I interview sound and studio engineers, so that I can understand their preferences, and in context. If everything is good at that point, I begin to develop prototypes. This process is not only hugely time-consuming, but also expensive. Next, I continue testing. I may change some things, then test again. Then change again and test again. Then it's time to transfer projects into a computer, which means, I design the PCB board, chassis, panels, etc. I order components. Finally, I assemble the device and continue testing.;) pan60 Tell us about the tools you use… and send me some pics: )~ Wes I put great emphasis on the equipment I use for the production and development of my devices. I love good and high-quality hardware. Well, I guess everybody does. For measuring the digital analog audio domain, I trust my Audio Precision System ONE analyzer. I appreciate it for the parameters it represents. I also use a Tektronix oscilloscope, Weller soldering irons, and I have several Agilent meters, to name just a few. pan60 Can you chat a bit about your component choices? Wes Generally, I prefer high-quality components. I opt for brand names and reliable ones. It is a very broad topic to discuss and I don't have any special theory about this. A good component is a good component, the quality is often expressed by the price. It's as simple as that. So, you need to calculate everything to the finest degree, then count and listen before making a final decision. pan60 Let’s chat about the features on the compressor. There are so many companies making clones of these, why did you select this compressor as a model? Wes As I mentioned before, I chose it because it is a compressor that interested me greatly. It's a classic, a musicians' favorite. pan60 The first thing that comes to mind is the 1176, but, this is far from and still in that family. Let’s chat a bit about what separates the Beta76 from others. (Some cool features folks. Very, very cool features). : )~ Wes Well, I decided to slightly modify the previous version, because I wasn't utterly happy with a few things. I added a few new features that a modern compressor should have. First, I’ll address the input circuit. There were a lot of different versions of 1176. The early units had a transformer at the input, and later they began putting in electronics. It was obvious, that they sounded different. Some prefer a transformer, others like it without a transformer. So, I thought, why not enable the user to choose between the two? After a few nights of “designing,” I called the two modes Vintage/Modern. I used the Carnhill for the input transformer. I respect this company’s product quality, and I appreciate having their products available in Europe. Thanks to Collin of Audio Maintenance! Another addition that I decided to add is the SC High pass filter used in many other compressors. It is a very useful feature, especially if you are working on two compressors simultaneously. You can compress less sensitive for low frequencies, and thus there's no pumping effect. What else is there, oh yeah, the linking system. It's a very simple system, thanks to which there's no need to use any additional adapters. You take a slightly upgraded jack-jack stereo cable and you link two compressors. Then, you enable the "link function," and there you go! You work on a common SC signal, which is the sum of the signals from the two compressors. I'd been wondering for, quite a while, how to solve these control functions and without spoiling the overall  look of 1176. Rotary switches could not have come into play, because that would have taken up too much space on the front panel. There are also the buttons, but they wouldn't have chosen the function on their own. So, I decided to use a small 8-bit processor that controls the relays. This is probably the first 1176 compressor with a microprocessor inside. Oh, and I almost forgot one more function. True bypass, which is carried out on relays, is sometimes useful for comparison. pan60 As for the processor controls, I see a lot of companies moving this direction. But, for many older engineers (as well as other companies), this can be a scary venture. Can you elaborate on this? Why should we not think twice about it? Wes Everything is going in this direction. Microcontrollers have become very cheap and widely available. Looking at it from this perspective, we realize the opportunities and convenience it can provide while creating new projects. You can implement new features in a device in a simple way - by programming microcontroller. Can you imagine how much space and time was needed to develop a simple controlling logic? A lot of TTL / CMOS IC’s, a lot of designing, limited capacity, power consumption, etc. Now, we can use a simple, one-chip microcontroller in a DIL-14 housing without any external peripherals. And there you have it! Writing a simple code takes me one day. That’s not very time-consuming, you must agree? Memory durability of a FLASH program, in such a processor, is at least 20 years. So, why not use it? I think companies and engineers should start to develop and learn new things, because new technologies have a future, even in the pro-audio world. pan60 I think some of us just feel comfortable being able to service our own gear. Gear with a microprocessor inside tends to rule that out. Wes I think a microcontroller in such a system will be one of the last things to fail. In my 20 years of experience, servicing electronics and pro audio gear, I have had maybe one case where the damage was microprocessor. Most malfunctions occur in high voltage circuits or the ones where high temperatures and currents are generated. A processor is not one of those. An exception would be mechanical damage, but that's a different story. Besides, when a processor is found to be defective, you can always email the manufacturer, and chances are, they would send a new one. I have found most companies want to help their customers, because they care about their image. pan60 Also can you touch on the pad function and why you added it? Wes Oh, you’ve surprised me with that question;)  I had a few comments from customers about this feature. But, I found that it was not necessary, as it is very easy to reduce the compression depth by 6dB by activating the LINK function. This allows us to saturate the input transformer more and everybody knows why we do that;)  Thanks to this clever combination, PAD function seemed unnecessary. pan60 You also make other gear, can you touch on that a bit? Wes Correct, my second product is a passive equalizer called WesAudio LC-EQP. It comes with a tube amplifying stage based on the classic Pultec EQ section. However, it is very much different from the original. The main differences are the number of available bands, and the separation of boost and cut of the low frequencies. I designed a totally new restoring gain amplifier, because as you know, the passive systems generate high attenuation reaching 26dB. So, you end up needing to amplify the signal back to the input level. The system has only two Carnhill transformers, input and output - one without interstage transformer. The amplifier doesn’t have feedback, so this is an additional advantage of the equalizer. As for sound, believe me, you haven’t heard such Hi-freq in any other EQ LOL. It is so clear that it could be used everywhere. It sounds wonderfully natural. pan60 Also do you have some gear in the pipe line? Or as they say, new toys? : ) Do you care to chat about the newest project or maybe you want to hold off and offer the world a cool surprise a bit later? Wes Currently, I’m working on two projects simultaneously. One of them is a two-channel microphone preamp. It will have three modes of operation (Class A, modern I and modern II). I don’t know if these will be the exact names, but they reveal a lot about what preamp it will be. The input and output are armed with transformers, but only for ‘Modern I’ and ‘Class A’ modes. In the ‘Modern II’ mode, the output transformer is disconnected and replaced by a line driver. This gives us a total of three different tonal palettes, ‘Class A’ is a typical British FAT sound, known from Neve consoles from the 70's, ‘Class I’ and ‘Class II’ is totally my idea of ​​a preamp, the latest integrated circuits. There is not a single capacitor in the entire audio track from start to end. These two modes can be described as very clean and transparent and they are especially useful for recording acoustic guitars and vocals. This is just a brief description of the first project.   The second project is a 500 format compressor. However, this is not a normal compressor, which is typically the case with my products, LOL. It will be a fully-analog, FET type compressor, but digitally controlled. I don’t think a need to explain what opportunities such a thing can gives! It’s an explosive mixture ;) This compressor will have total recall function! You will be able to store presets. You will get an analog sound and a plug-in comfort. This is only the first part of a larger project which I plan to do, but we won’t discuss it now;) I trust that next year both of these projects will see the light of day. And there you have it. That's how I do it. I have to say that I am absolutely pleased with my work as well as motivated to work on new appliances. pan60 Sweet! I love the chat: ) Well, I must say, I do like this beast. And chatting with Wes has been a great way to spend some time. I loved it! So, off the bat, I feel Wes meets a couple of my big needs for article and gear. I like him and I feel confident in his work and service. So, to the Beta76 Compressor - It does just what you expect and then some. I loved playing with it and found I wanted to leave it my rack. So, I have bought it! Not just bought it, but, I called Wes and told him I wanted a pair the first chance I get. That may take me some time. I need to fill my wallet. But, I see a pair of these in my future! Wes, thanks for a great chat! pan
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