Valley International 440 Compressor (Refurbished & Recapped) #3


In prep now…

Valley International was one of the last incarnations of Allison Research. The company was started by Paul Buff, an engineer who worked with Frank Zappa in the early days. Buff designed the amazing Gain Brain compressor for Allison Research and the equally extraordinary Dynamite compressor for Valley People. He patented the legendary Valley People TA-101 VCA which formed the basis of many of his designs. The 440 in this auction uses the TA-101 as the gain reduction element

Valley People morphed into Valley International and the model 440 was produced under both names, with minor differences. I’ll update the description and list the differences between the Valley People and Valley International models once refurbishment is complete

This 440 is a late Valley International model in the same 1U case used for late-model Dynamite compressors. It’s a VCA compressor utilising the sidechain know-how and control circuitry of Valley to enable it to combine a compressor, limiter, clipper and expander in one box. VCA compressors use a Voltage-Controlled Amplifier as the gain control element. VCA design has been the subject of much design effort & optimisation over the years and high-end products offer extremely transparent gain control. Examples of clean, transparent VCA compressors include Aphex products, various SSL bus compressor clones and many of the Valley People / Valley International designs

Despite similar topologies, some VCA compressors offer more than others. In this area, experience is key and companies & designers with a long history of compressor development tend to bring more to the table. Paul Buff is a great example – his list of compressor designs is remarkable

The 440 is a single-channel unit with linking for stereo setups. There are separate controls for the various sections and, unlike the hyper-complex Valley People Dynamite, the front panel is logical & pretty simple to use

Front panel controls:

  • Compressor
  • Threshold
  • Compression Ratio
  • Attack Time
  • In / FM / Out switch
  • Expander
  • Expander Threshold 
  • In / Out switch
  • Compressor / Expander
  • Release time
  • Auto / Normal switch 
  • Limiter
  • Threshold
  • Release
  • In / AGC / Out switch
  • Clipper In / Out switch
  • Other
  • Compressor gain reduction meter
  • Limiter gain reduction meter
  • Stereo link switch
  • DSP 1 / 2 / Out switch
  • Output gain
  • Output level meter
  • VU input / output switch
  • Bypass switch
  • Power switch

Most controls operate as you’d expect but, as usual with Valley products, there’s more going on than meets the eye. Switches are a mixture of two and three-position toggles so it’s possible to confuse yourself utterly. Starting with all sections switched out is a good move

The compressor has In, FM and Out. FM gives FM pre-emphasis compensated compression & limiting – see the link to the manual for more details

The expander has a simple threshold control and an in / out switch

Release controls release time of the compressor and expander and has a duration pot and an auto / normal switch. In the auto position release is program-dependent

The limiter section has two parts, a limiter and a clipper. The clipper operates after the limiter section, just before the output buffer of the unit. The limiter has separate threshold and release controls and an in / AGC / out control. AGC is an automatic gain control setting with a much longer release time. This allows it to pull louder signals back to maintain an approximately consistent level

DSP has three settings, 1, 2 and off. DSP is a dynamic sibilance processor designed for de-essing. Setting 1 is a low frequency setting, 2 is high

In use the 440 is similar to the Valley People 610 – at lowish compression ratios, up to about 4:1, it’s subtle and punchy. Most of the action is set by the attack & release times. At higher compression ratios and lower thresholds the attack control changes the initial transient but the character of the sound remains pretty constant. It’s an odd sensation hearing a snare drum being pushed back & forth in a drum loop but the 440 does it with ease. Despite very audible compression with higher ratios, the audio is clean and remarkably free from artifacts

If you want super-compressed drums, the 440 will deliver. The release time enables compression to be matched perfectly to tempo and pumping, over-the-top compression is yours for the asking. The attack time setting dictates how much of the initial transient makes it through and determines how hard the initial hit sounds. This flexibility means that the 440 is hard to beat for parallel compression

By contract to the super-clean SPL Dynamaxx, and the subtle Orban 424A, the 440 will do nasty as well as clean. It has a dual personality that isn’t apparent at first. It may take a little time to find out what it can do, but the 440 is capable of many different types of compression and delivers them all with great fidelity. It’s very responsive to control settings – a trait I’ve found to be common amongst good compressors – and offers a wide palette of sounds

The 440 is a hard compressor to sum up in a nutshell but it offers all the dynamism & madness of the Dynamite, the fidelity of an Aphex Dominator and the flexibility and control of a UREI LA-22

Quotes from the web:

Wow. this thing is nuts. sooper fast attack. makes vocals stand up right in your face. you can make the attack of a snare inaudible”

“It’s my main vocal compressor. Very transparent, even at high ratios, the limiter and gate work well”

“How come i’ve never heard of it before? btw-i think vocals are where it excels too. it is useful anywhere. last night i used it while tracking an unruly acoustic gtr to great effect. but great on vocals”

“Can’t talk about Valley People without mentioning the name Paul Buff… or Frank Zappa”

“Really loving working with my Valley 440. It’s pretty versatile and can really put vocals or electric guitars ‘in your face'”

Photos show a Valley 440 sold previously

VCA compressor with mostly manual settings. Inputs & outputs are balanced on terminal strip connectors. Stereo linking can be setup as master / slave or true stereo with summed control voltages. 220 Volt AC power input on standard IEC socket. Internally switchable to 110 Volts. UK, Euro or US power cable supplied on request

Standard 1U device suitable for 19" racks. 220 VAC power input via a standard IEC socket. UK or Euro Schuko power cable supplied on request

Operating manual Valley People History Sound on Sound Classic Compressors Review Gearslutz Valley People 440 Discussion Youtube demos


This 440 has been refurbished with a rebuilt & upgraded power supply. Pots & switches have been cleaned & lubricated. In excellent, used condition - the front panel and rack ears are in extremely good shape for a vintage unit. Tested and working 100%. Photos show a 440 sold previously and will be replaced with photos of the item for sale

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