I’ve been meaning for quite some time to write an addendum/update to the G21 review, with another year or so under the belt with it. And a friend asked about it, so it seemed like the right opportunity to do so.
Really the main thing I want to get across when I think about that review, is that the ‘bad stuff’ – ie the propensity to distort – is more or less a total non-issue, if you use it as the last thing before the AD. It’s just born to be there. I’d been using it somewhat as a ‘pre-conditioner’, but using it as a finishing box is where it truly excels. So in contrast to that review, I pretty much only use it at the end of the chain now. I can’t remember the last time it was anywhere else. It’s probably something to with with the loading/gain structure at that point vs earlier in the chain, but whatever, I don’t really care. It just works as a near-finishing piece and I absolutely love it. When it’s last in the chain, the ‘use with caution’ advice becomes way less of an issue – as in, I never think about it unless the band clipper knobs are getting down below 3 o’clock to near 2 o’clock (right to upper right).
Having spent another year or whatever with it, I have to say that I honestly don’t understand why it hasn’t got a huge, rabid, quasi-religious following – it’s in with a shout of being my favourite piece of gear above everything else. It’s not a free ticket to loudness via clipping, but it is a very big help in loudness via helping achieve a great sound absolutely transparently and effortlessly. It’s borderline magic at times, seriously. Why? It just invisibly removes (‘clips’ is such an ugly term) the stuff in the signal that you don’t want when it needs to and at no other time, by the amount it needs to and no more. All the stuff in that review about re-eqing kicks or whatever, the ‘auto de-mud’ of the 270 band (that very rarely moves unless there is a specific problem), the ability to re-eq snares further up…. all that still applies, totally.
It’s in the way it plays with other things – add punch across the board with something else (ITB or Nvelope or whatever), remove any harshness that comes out absolutely invisibly with the top band, any mud/boominess in the kick with the low band/s. Have a tickle of the overall signal with the broadband clipper, suddenly you have incredibly clear, punchy (is ‘impactful’ a word?) sound but still with dynamic control that eases the limiter’s workload. So, yes it does help get things loud, but not necessarily in a ‘just shave everything off’ typical saturation way.
To put all that another way, it actually enables you to make things more dynamic (at least, dynamic-sounding) by getting rid of the crap bits in dynamic stuff. The band clippers allow you to make things sound louder by letting good stuff speak more clearly. There’s more ‘room under the limiter’ because the dynamic bad stuff never makes it. Yep; clipping makes things more dynamic. ‘I could just get the eq right and there would still be that room under the limiter’. Well, yes, except it’s just completely different to that.
In the simplest possible terms, I almost think of it as two different boxes. 1) The band clippers allow you to make things more dynamic (elsewhere) by working inside the signal to free up space, and 2) the full band clipper is ‘very tweakable tape’ strapped over everything, ie, reducing full-band dynamics.
Having spent even more time with it I like it MORE than I did in that review. It’s absolutely wonderful, totally unique, a total masterpiece of gear design, sounds the dog’s bollocks, and probably helps you get things louder.