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It seems that no matter how many compressors and limiters there are in the rack, there is always room for another one. But as more and more manufacturers are bringing their products to market, units of this type are increasingly having to earn their place by offering new facilities, trendy retro styling, or simply by doing the job better. Dutch company DNA seem to have taken the third route in their Dictator stereo peak program limiter. Although they dont claim it, it would appear that they have set themselves the task of creating the ultimate limiter not only with excellent sound quality in limiting but thou shalt not pass control over peaks.
Professional features abound, such as gold plated balanced XLR inputs and outputs and a transformer option - yes, real coils of wire rather than electronic simulation - giving totally hassle free interconnection for those who are prepared to pay the extra. Other pro features include conductive plastic pots and two earth connections - one for audio and one for chassis, both on the large type of binding post that you would normally see on a power amplifier.
The Dictator possesses not one but two threshold controls, one coarse (±12dB) and one fine (±1dB). Being a limiter rather than a general purpose compressor, the ratio is fixed at 1:infinity, so that the output signal should not exceed the threshold level. Im sure that some users would like to see an adjustable attack time but here it is fixed at 100µs as a compromise between too long a time which will lead to overshoot and too short a time which will frequently have audible effects. For total control over peaks there is also a clipper which I will come onto in a moment. Of course there must be a release control (50ms to 500ms) because there will always be a need to adjust the release time precisely to the requirements of the signal, but there is also an auto function which will set the release according to the nature of the input signal. DNA advise that the release time computation circuit considers the amount of gain reduction and the crest factor (peak to RMS ratio) of the incoming signal. A large amount of gain reduction or a high crest factor leads to a shorter release time. I was more than happy with the auto release function on a range of material and I would probably use it most of the time.