Review of Über Compressor by Sonalksis

Review Of Über Compressor by Sonalksis

Before looking at the Über Compressor, it is worth diving into a little of the background of the company. Sonalksis was formed in August of 2002 in Liverpool England by R&D engineers originally employed by AMS-Neve. As the company grew, they added people from Sony and Focusrite. With a pedigree like this, good things are bound to happen. Their first plug-in was released in 2003, and since then they have grown into a highly-respected company with a worldwide user base.
Über Compressor

Table of Contents

Though they are primarily known for their studio staple plug-ins, you may be using Sonalksis effects already, without knowing it. Their insert effects—hi-pass/low-pass filter, 5-band EQ, compressor, gate, and transient—are included in Toontrack’s award-winning Superior Drummer. Sonalksis plug-ins sound great, are relatively inexpensive, and are very CPU friendly.

FSU plug-ins are kind of unique in that they focus on ways to manipulate and destroy the sound. Generally, these are of the glitch/delay/granular / bit-reduction / buffer variety, sometimes modular, often combining effects and sequencing. Sonalksis offers a kind of sound-design / sound-destruction suite that has one foot in the FSU category but focuses mainly on dialing in sonic extremes without complicated bells and whistles. Three plug-ins—Über Compressor, Creative Filter, and Digital Grimebox—are a unified toolset sharing the same look and feel (and MIDI functionality), designed mostly for exploiting, shaping, and coloring sound. They are capable of everything from mild coloring and enhancement to complete sonic mayhem. This review will focus on Über Compressor, a very unique and useful compressor for enhancing, coloring, and grunging up sound.

Über Compressor

Not Your Mother’s Compressor

The Über Compressor is a specialized compressor that is very different from any other compressor I’ve tried. For one thing, the Über Compressor is adaptive. There are no attack and release settings, no separate input and output controls; instead, the two attack and release stages adapt according to the sonic material, controlled by a “Timing” switch (whose four values, “instant”, “pop”, “slap” and “pump”, approximate increasing attack and release timings with words that illustrate typical behavior of the settings) and an “S/C Bias” switch. Under the hood is a transient designer that allows everything from a fat punch to complete destruction of audio. According to Sonalksis, the Über Compressor utilizes “state space analog” technology to model real-world analog circuits, but these circuits, modeled to include noise (which can be switched off, if desired), can be pushed to digital extremes.

The controls of the Über Compressor are few, easy to understand, and placed in a logical order. Right in the middle of the plug-in is the ratio control. I’m not really sure why it’s so huge, but, hey, it looks like the other two plug-ins in the suite, and it certainly draws the eye.

The Timing and S/C Bias Switches

As I mentioned, there are no attack and release settings in the Über Compressor, which is, in my opinion, both bad and good. It’s bad in the sense that you really can’t anticipate how the Über Compressor will act by making minor adjustments. What you have, essentially, are switchable behavior characteristics. So, for example, if you want no delay in the attack, you’d choose “Instant”; if you want a pumping sound, you’d select “Pump”. The two in the middle are a little less obvious, but with use, it becomes fairly easy to anticipate, in a general sense, how the plug-in will react and what type of setting to try out on what material. In fact, one of the nice things about all the plugins in the Creative Suite is that with few controls adjustments can be made quickly to try out different settings.

Right below the Timing switch is the S/C Bias switch. Like the Timing switch, these settings are labeled with words that describe their behavior. Each of these settings selects a different filter circuit of the Über Compressor that affects the behavior of the compression. Several of these settings, like the Timing switch, are easy enough to understand: “None”, “Bottom”, and “Top”. The other two, “Scoop” and “Lump”, are a little more difficult to imagine, but once you hear the effect a few times you understand the general principle. The S/C Bias switch is intended to mimic side-chain compression and is more subtle than the settings with the Timing switch.

The “Noise” and “Fierce” options

Two really interesting features of the Über Compressor are the “Noise” and “Fierce” options. By selecting the “Fierce” option (whose default on or off state is configurable in the plug-in settings) the Über Compressor plug-in is kicked into Über mode – that is, extreme compression. It’s like a turbo on a car, and just as wild. This is the setting you’d want to experiment with on anything that requires controlled sonic destruction (massive pumping, controlled clipping, etc.). Using this option, it really becomes imperative to coordinate the settings already mentioned along with the “Input” control, which controls the volume of the incoming signal, and the selectable “Output” control. Not only is it great for creating instant mayhem, but it really augments material that may not be apparent in quieter audio, such as field recordings. The “Fierce” setting is especially effective along with another FSU-type plug-in in the chain (the Digital Grimebox, for example).

Along with the atomic compression values comes more noise (as part of the analog modeling process). If you find this undesirable, you can remove it by deselecting the Noise option.


The Über Compressor comes with only a handful of presets. I understand the point of this – it’s really not a Swiss army knife type of effect, after all – but it would be nice to have more of them to quickly try things out, particularly when you first start using the Über Compressor plug-in. For example, there is a setting called “Smart” which is great for drums and percussive-type basses (anything that needs a “popping” kind of presence), but I’m not sure I would have tried those specific settings quickly without initially taking the plug-in for a sonic test drive with different types of instruments and audio files. The few other presets included are also one-word descriptors which seem helpful, but don’t really indicate what type of material they’d be good for (“Colour”, “Filth”, etc.). Again, I get this; the point is to encourage experimentation. It would still be nice to have another 10 – 20 presets that essentially tour the Über Compressor plug-in (it comes with 8). Another possibility would be to include a “Suggestions” section in the manual, which is also a bit weak.

Artist/Band - Songstuff Music Community Join

A Few Last Words

I really like the Über Compressor, which is very creative, fun to use, and most of all, great sounding. Aside from the too few presets and weak manual complaints, it also doesn’t have MIDI learn. The MIDI settings are listed in the manual, which you need to download separately from the installer. For me, this is not a huge issue, because the controls are all labeled and easily accessible from the automation menu of a DAW. However, if you’ve just installed the plug-in and/or want to play live, you need to set up whether the plug-in parameters will be controlled by the “wheel” or “key” in the configuration menu and use the MIDI chart in the manual for specific CC values to manipulate the plug-in parameters with an external controller. It’s not the kind of compressor you’d want to use for one-size-fits-all track or bus compression. It is, however, a great tool to add punch to percussion and bass, extreme compression for FSU applications, and enhancement for ambiance (by itself for added character or as part of a sound-design chain to augment the characteristics of another plug-in). A very unique compressor that sounds great and is a steal for the price point Sonalksis is selling it at. Definitely worth adding the Über Compressor to your arsenal.

Price: $40 plug-in only or $100 for the Creative
Elements suite (Über Compressor / Creative Filter / Digital Grimebox)
Rating: 9/10

Steve Mueske

Discuss this article in our Music Forum.

Related Articles

Do you want to find out more about recording and music production? If so, you can find articles and tutorials on our Recording and Production Articles page.

Useful Links

Would you like to join in the discussion about recording, music production, or music technology? For that matter, just about any music-related subject? Then join our music community!

You might also find our Music Production and Recording Board particularly useful.

To help you to understand specific terms, take a look at our Music Glossary. It has extensive descriptions of music technology terms and concepts. It also contains entries about music theory and terms from across the music industry including music marketing and music promotion.

Become A Contributor To The Songstuff Music Library

Contributors Wanted

Are you a skilled sound engineer or producer? Or perhaps you have in-depth knowledge about an area of music technology? Would you like to contribute a hardware or software review?  Would you be interested in helping your fellow musicians to build their skills and understanding by contributing demonstration videos, reviews, articles, and tutorials to the Songstuff music library? We rely upon musicians, and people working within the music industry, being willing to contribute to our knowledge base.

As well as contributions to our music library, we feature contributions in our site blogs and social media portals. In particular, we add video contributions to the Songstuff Channel on YouTube.

Please contact us and we can explore the possibility of you joining our contributors asap.