The Smart Research C2 is a world-class compressor with a punchy, crisp sound. It offers easy controls, use-it-on-everything versatility and impeccable sonics. Those who can afford the C2’s luxuries will enjoy better tracks and tighter mixes right out of the box.
The C2 is a two-channel compressor with switchable link mode. Called “left master” on the C2, this mode slaves the Channel 2 VCA to the control settings and gain reduction of Channel 1. Both channels offer external sidechain and process I/O buttons; underneath the slave button on the leftmost side of the C2 is the crush button (more on this later).
Channel knobs include threshold, ratio, attack time, release time and makeup gain. Each channel has a VU-style meter that tracks gain reduction. Unfortunately, the C2 doesn’t let one switch the meter to monitor either the input or output levels.
The threshold and makeup gain knobs are the only continuously variable knobs on the compressor. The ratio and release time knobs are detented with six possible positions, while the attack time control offers seven positions. Compression ratios include 1.5:1, 2:1, 3:1, 4:1, 10:1 and limit. Attack times settings are 0, 0.1, 0.3, 1.3, 10 and 30 milliseconds (ms); release times include 100 ms, 300 ms, 600 ms, 1.2 seconds, 2.4 seconds and auto. The C2 offers XLR-balanced, 4 dBu I/Os only; sidechain inputs are also on balanced XLR connectors. A three-position switch selects various output options, including balanced, pin 2 hot unbalanced and pin 3 hot unbalanced.
One can pretty much forget using the C2 with -10 db signals, as the threshold control only goes down to -20 dB. This control bottoms out at -4 dB with a -10 dB signal, which isn’t nearly low enough. On the other side, the makeup gain control offers a generous range from 0 dB to 20 dB.
Crush mode drives the C2 into not-so-subtle FET distortion. When engaged, the C2’s output level jumps up nearly 3 dB and upper harmonics are accentuated. It appears the compressor also adds a dose of equalization in this mode, which serves to carve out the mid- and low-mid frequencies a few dB. The amount of distortion added appears to be fixed and is unrelated to input level, output level or the amount of gain reduction applied. Hence you could use the C2 to add some distortion (but no compression) by taking the threshold all the way up and engaging both compression and crush modes.