Early in my Funky reincarnation I purchased a pile of new Manley tube equipment from Tony Larking who had enjoyed a short period as distributor.
Back then (in the early 1990’s) Manley were making waves in the US but meant nothing in the UK, and despite his efforts, Tony had enjoyed little luck in seeking to establish the brand.
With a pile of boxes in the corner, I took the opportunity of adding a selection of units to my rack and spent many happy months using the equipment. The Vari Mu* compressor soon became a favourite, and has remained so ever since.
Good tube compressors colour the sound, but in a pleasing way. They thicken and smooth signals, which can be particularly effective on vocals, bass or over the mix. Of course, I’ll always argue the case for faster, punchier VCA comps for signals with fast transients, such as drums or rap, as tube compressors have a tendency towards sluggishness; they tend to be a little laid back on R+B or pop, but the sound is so good I’ll overlook such drawbacks whenever possible.
I remember that the first Manley Vari Mu I ever sold shipped out for a little over three grand. With the sinking dollar and rising sales, prices are closer to two than three thousand, which makes the unit pretty much a bargain. I utterly fail to comprehend why the Vari Mu is overlooked in favour of so many new kids on the block with no pedigree, no character and precious little real value in the studio, but c’est la vie I guess. Maybe its fashion or maybe its marketing bucks. Who knows?