The Manley Vari-Mu compressor/limiter is a modern day studio classic. It also runs hotter than the Sun thanks to the 8 tubes housed inside.
The Vari-Mu design (mu often explained as ‘tube speak for gain’) is similar to the legendary Fairchild 670 that was strapped onto probably all the records released in the 60s. It uses the inherent characteristics of the tubes to compress, rather than the more precise methods found in more modern VCA or even digital compressors.
This means that none of the numbers used to explain what’s going on in the Vari-Mu are exact. Not even the manufacturers are entirely certain of the ratios/thresholds/attack/release times and can only give approximations.
The kind of words used to describe the Manley Vari-Mu are warm, lush and expensive. It’s used extensively for mastering and really is one of those boxes that makes things ‘sound like a record’. It can be driven quite hard or deliver surprisingly clean compression as needed.
Great at adding punch, warmth, character, gluing a mix together and fantastic for upping gain, the Vari-Mu is absolutely indispensable for our mastering work.