HHB Radius 3 FATMAN Stereo Tube Compressor. Reviews 5

I have been looking for a tube compressor to use on vocals and electric guitars. Our live gigs needed presence and something to iron out some of booming levels. I need something portable, relatively inexpensive and durable. Above all, it had to give me good full compression. I had tried numerous products under $300 and I was never satisfied with the sound that came out of them. I had run to my local music store to check out their array of products. After explaining to Tim, the "PA guy", that my previous compressors came out thin, he said, "Have you tried the FATMAN?". The FATMAN? Wow! Looking across the counter I saw it there for the first time - purple - and priced out at $475.

First of all, how could you refuse a compressor with a name like FATMAN? The mental image of a "fatman compressor" is just too good to let go. The name says it all. The unconventional name aroused my curiosity, as did the unconventional casing. I was faced with a purple metal plate decaled with hand-written labeling and a vintage looking VU Meter. The unit comes with 15 very nice presets, a preamp built into it and they work incredibly well. After some experimentation with the manual settings, I went back to the presets. They just work too well - I haven't gone manual since. The tube in the compressor also works remarkably well. This compressor really does give you a smoother and fatter sound. I have been using it with vocals, electric guitars and general mixes and every time I have been able to squeeze out a better, fuller and punchier overall sound. The compression is truly quite transparent.

There are very few complaints about the FATMAN. Despite the availability of the two separate input channels, the two channels cannot be compressed separately. The controls affect both channels simultaneously. This isn't too much of a problem if you are using it for LIVE applications, but I miss the separation for studio situations. The shape, although I found it interesting, is not very rack friendly. HHB offers a mounting bracket for rack mounting, but it is an extra accessory that requires purchasing. It would have been nice to have this already built in.

Construction quality is great! The unit is cased within a metal box. The top of the unit has a perforated sheet metal covering, allowing you to see the two channel single tube. All the knobs sit firmly in position and don't feel like they will fall off after some playing around. This unit is definitely built to last. It would have been nice to have the VU meter protected by a glass lens instead of a plastic one, but that is just a minor point.

The bottom line, I was looking for an all around compressor that gave me tube warmth but without the cost associated with tube compressors. I have been able to achieve great warm transparent sound with this little unit. The presets are outstanding, if not by sheer virtue of actually working the way they should be. Even when I ran mastered CD's through the FATMAN with one of the "mixing" presets engaged, I noticed an improvement in sound quality with an edgier punch to it. All in all, I am very pleased with this product, and the fact that I got it at this price makes me even happier. It's no LA-2A, but I can lug it around from studio to gigs without a concern of it getting damaged, stolen or having someone place their half full beer-can on it. Would I buy another one? You bet!

Dave rated this unit 5 on 2003-01-31.

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