Orban 424A Stereo Gated Compressor De-Esser (Refurbished & Recapped)


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This 424A has been refurbished with new power supply capacitors and the capacitors in the audio path have been replaced with bipolar caps. The switches & pots have been cleaned & lubricated and the unit is tested & working 100% with the exception of one meter on each channel which does not work

Bob Orban is one of the unsung heroes of recording & broadcasting. His products are in use all over the world and have been for around forty years. Orban is not as well-known in the UK as in the USA, but plenty of UK studios in the 80s and 90s had an Orban De-esser, equaliser or – if they were lucky – a stereo compressor

The Orban Stereo Compressor is a substantial piece of kit in a deep, heavy 2U rack box. It’s a straightforward device, but not a particularly simple one to get your head around at first. The 424A combines compressor, gate and de-esser in one package. It has controls for both channels and a stereo link switch so can be used in dual mono or stereo modes

In operation, the 424A sounds like an opto compressor – slightly soft in operation and very pleasing to the ear. In fact it’s a VCA compressor, but one where the operation of the gain control mechanism is controlled by a number of variables

Controls are straightforward:

  • Input attenuator
  • Compression Ratio
  • Attack Time
  • Release Shape
  • Release Time
  • Gate Threshold
  • Output
  • Idle Gain
  • De-Esser Sensitivity
  • Output Level Attenuator

Of these, two need further explanation:

Release Shape changes the shape of the compressor release curve to suit program material. It has two settings, Linear and Exponential. Linear is closest to a “standard” compressor release setting

According to the manual, “The Idle Gain control is a bit tricky”. It sets the gain reduction floor, when the “gate” is activated, somewhere between minimum and maximum gain reduction. It is not a gate in the conventional sense

This is an interesting approach – rather than set a gate amount the setting refers to the level below unity at which the Idle Gain “sits”. The gate has a very slow release so gain changes are not abrupt

When used on a drum break sample the action of the gate can be used to accentuate the start of the loop or used to make it more choppy

Tucked away on the back panel is an output level attenuator. This is outside of the VCA loop and is used to match the compressor to subsequent equipment

The de-esser sounds to me like a derivation of the 1U Orban Dynamic Sibilance Controller. It’s pretty brutal in operation but undeniably effective. It’s also useful for pulling back cymbals

Attack & release times are program-dependent but may be scaled faster or slower by means of the front panel controls

It’s hard to sum up the sound of a compressor. Some are transparent (Aphex, TK Audio), and some are vibe monsters (Urei 1176, LA-2A), but most are boring. The 424A manages to carve a niche for itself by sounding wonderful at all times, whatever it’s doing. It’s my new secret weapon and, if I had to describe it in three words, I’d say “Mojo, mojo, mojo!”

A few quotes from Gearslutz:

Takes a little getting used to setting up as the controls are a little non-standard, but most definitely delivers a very sweet sound… smooth as butter”

I would actually go as far as saying this is the softest, most gentle, and most invisible VCA compressor I’ve ever encountered. I can’t get it to pump even if I want to. And it does add a very smooth sheen to the programme without changing the overall frequency balance which makes it perfect for 2-buss duties…

BTW, I do like the warm, creamy vibe this thing imparts on occasion, and the de-esser is actually one of the few I actually don’t mind using”

“Here’s one of my favorite sleeping underdogs – an orban 424a. It’s an adjustable program dependent, transformer loaded compressor you can operate in a clean or drived chip mode with a buttery de-esser and adjustable attack and release curves that’s stereo linkable”

In excellent, used condition.  Has some case scratches but the front panel and rack ears are particularly good for a vintage unit. Two of the meters on this unit work intermittently

VCA compressor with mostly automatic settings. These settings can be varied, within limits, by front-panel settings. The unit can be used as a twin-channel device - each channel has its own set of controls - but it is clearly aimed at stereo operation. The stereo link switch links VCA action to maintain stereo image

Inputs & outputs are balanced on XLR connectors. Sidechain inputs and main ins & outs are also on a back-panel terminal strip. The back panel has output level attenuators for each channel

Operation, alignment and gain-staging are clearly explained in the excellent Orban manual (see link below)

Standard (but deep) 2U device suitable for 19" racks.  240 Volt & fixed mains cable with a 3 Amp fused UK mains plug

Operating manual ftp://ftp.orban.com/422A_424A/422A_424A.pdf

Sound on Sound Classic Compressors Review http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/sep09/articles/classiccompressors.htm

Gearslutz Orban 424A Opinions https://www.gearslutz.com/board/so-much-gear-so-little-time/30758-orban-424-comp-opinions.html


TapeOp Orban info / ad (from 2009) http://messageboard.tapeop.com/viewtopic.php?p=564821


In excellent, used condition.  Has some case scratches but the front panel and rack ears are particularly good for a vintage unit. Two of the meters on this unit work intermittently