The Komit is basically made up of two distinct circuits. These are polar opposites. At one end is a state of the art VCA compressor. THAT Corp. is well known as the market leader in voltage controlled amplifiers. Their integrated chips have been used for years by companies as diverse as Neve, API and SSL so choosing a THAT chip made sense. Smooth, clean and clinical.

The problem with compressors is that they can often end up sounding bad or unmusical. Kevin explains: "During the Komit development stage, we tested all kinds of compressors and found that the front-panel controls rarely matched what was actually going on inside. In essence, the controls had very little to do with the audible settings. This caused us to reassess how compressors are used and we came to the conclusion that most folks simply use their ears when setting the controls. By rethinking the approach we felt we could cover all of the bases with a single control and a 3-position switch. This way, the user does not have to adjust all kinds of knobs to achieve the dynamics he may be looking for. All you do is select the speed to match the type of program material and then set the ratio. This speeds up the process without hampering the creative flow."

At the other extreme is the bridge diode clipping limiter. This is the type of circuit protection that was used in transistor radios 50 years ago and today, variations of this are found in fuzz boxes and distortion pedals. For some, the distortion created conjures up extremes. For others, the effect is much too confining to a particular musical genre. Extreme, nasty and ugly.

When we finished the Workhorse, we had to go back and redesign the Komit so that it could fit the new format. And as we tested and listened, we got to know the good, the bad and the ugly. It became clear that in order for it to appeal to a wider audience, changes were needed. But we had to be careful… we wanted to retain the 'particularities' that made it special.

Komit™ Development

Company President Peter Janis explains:"When we hired Kevin Burgin, we wanted to make sure that there would be no conflict of interest. Therefore, we decided to also buy the Komit design. It was amazing to hear the radical opinions from customers who either loved the Komit or hated it. In a way, it reminded me of a Fender Telecaster. Some folks hate them others swear by them… but there is no denying that in the right hands a Tele can sound amazing! After consulting many users, we chose to retain the character and charm of the original Komit while improving the functionality, updating the grounding, replacing the VU meter, adding metal cased switches and adding the Omniport key input. We believe the Radial Komit will not only enhance the experience for those who have used the original, but will delight those who have maybe stayed away due to the radical nature of the beast."

The Radial Komit is a combination compressor-limiter designed for 'one knob' operation. This eliminates the guess work that often makes dynamic processing a challenge. But don't let the diminutive front panel make you think that the Komit is 'limited'… there are tons of features just raring to get used!

The Komit is made up of two major building blocks: the compressor and the limiter. The FlexKnee™ compression circuit is a voltage controlled amplifier (VCA) while the limiter is a unique clipping circuit designed to simulate the sound created by old school diode bridge inputs from the early days of radio. In between is a gain make-up control that lets you adjust the output to compensate or drive the Clipper™ to create various effects.

Getting great sounding compression is often described as one of the most difficult challenges in audio. This is attributed to the complex balance involved in setting the input level, threshold, compression ratio, attack time, release, compression curve and gain make-up. Too much or too little of any one parameter and the track ends up pumping or modulating. With the Komit, many of these controls have been purposely omitted. Instead, each control has been carefully crafted to achieve great results with a limited amount of fiddling and knob twisting. In other words, instead of focusing on the minutia, we suggest paying attention to how it sounds.

What is Compression Anyway?
In simple terms, a compressor is an automatic level controlling device. In the early days before compressors, the audio engineer basically had to adjust the volume manually in order to keep the signal under control. Back then, the dynamic range of a typical recording system was limited to around 60dB and with big band orchestras generating peaks as high as 100dB, keeping the levels under control was an art to be sure. Compressors changed the way music was recorded by automatically adjusting the levels. With today's digital technology, we are now able to record with as much as 120dB of dynamic range. But this poses a new problem: when musical passages are low, we turn up the volume to hear the music above the ambient noise. And then when thunder strikes, the resulting transients can be deafening.

Compressors are used to limit the transients by attempting to keep the program material within a given range. For example, the yellow shading depicts the average program level. When the program level exceeds the average (the red line depicts the threshold), compression is applied.

Voltage Controlled Amplifiers
A VCA or voltage controlled amplifier is exactly that… an amplifier whose level is controlled by an external voltage. So instead of 'riding the fader', the process is automated. The control voltage uses what is known as an RMS detector that reads the program material. When a peak arrives that is above a predetermined threshold, the amplifier's output is reduced automatically. The amount of reduction is set by the engineer using the compression ratio control. The ratio can be set for slight compression to extreme whereby with every decibel (dB) that comes in, only a certain percentage will be allowed to pass.

Slight Moderate Significant Heavy Brick Wall
1.2:1 2:1 5:1 10:1 20:1
1.2dB in : 1dB out 2dB in : 1dB out 5dB in :1dB out 10dB in : 1dB out 20dB in :1dB out
83% allowed to pass 50% allowed to pass 20% allowed to pass 10% allowed to pass 4% allowed to pass

Using the example above, if the ratio is set at 2:1 and there is a 10dB peak, the VCA will only allow 5dB to pass. When the compression ratio is pushed above 10:1, the compressor is generally considered to be a limiter. When the ratio is above 20:1 it is often referred to as a 'brick wall'. In this case, for every 10dB that is applied, barely ½ a dB will pass. A brick wall limiter is used to keep the signal out of the red. As a rule, the less compression you apply, the more natural it will sound.

Controlling the VCA
The Komit's VCA employs what is known as a feed-forward detection circuit. In other words, it looks at the incoming signal before it arrives and adjusts itself accordingly to control the peak. When it 'sees' a peak that exceeds the threshold (red), depending on how the compression ratio has been set, the VCA will reduce the output to compensate.

The control is processed outside the VCA using a circuit is known as the side chain. The side chain itself is governed by what are called time constants. These determine how quickly the VCA circuit will react. This involves carefully setting the attack and release times. When adjusting the time constant, you are basically telling the compressor how quickly it should react to the peak (attack time) and how quickly things should revert back to normal (release).

If set too quickly, it can click. If set too slow it can squash the dynamics to a point where the track sounds lifeless. One typically sets the 'conditions' by adjusting a variety of knobs such as gain, threshold, compression ratio, attack, release and so on. Trying to get the combination to sound right is difficult. This is precisely why the Komit is equipped with three speed settings and a single control knob. The Komit makes it easy to set the time constant based on the type of material that you are compressing and get great results quickly.

For ultra quick transients like percussion, a fast setting (A) is used. This sets the compressor to react very quickly to high-hats, tambourine, wood block or even a snappy snare. For instruments like guitar and bass a smoother time constant is generally used. The medium (B) setting avoids the abrupt turn-on transient and lets the note decay more naturally. And for voice or maybe a string section, the slower (C) setting may be preferred.

The FlexKnee Compression Curve
For the most part, there are two fundamental compression curves known as hard knee and soft knee. These are often confused with the attack time. The knee is the pivot point where compression begins. Hard knee compression abruptly affects transients above the threshold while soft kneed sets in before the threshold and does so in a smoother fashion. Most engineers feel that soft knee sounds more musical.

And as previously mentioned, lower compression ratios tend to sound more natural but may not prove to provide adequate control over peak transients. On the other hand higher compression ratios provide the needed control, but tend to introduce artifacts or squash the natural dynamics.

With the Komit, a scaled approach we call FlexKnee is employed that dynamically adjusts itself based on the incoming program material. At lower levels the compression ratio automatically decreases for a more natural rendering but as peaks are encountered, the compression curve changes, simultaneously lowering the threshold and increasing the compression ratio at the pivot point. As this happens, a larger portion of the signal's dynamic range becomes compressed all the while, automatically adjusting the output to that it stays within the predetermined range.

FlexKnee Dynamic Compression Curves

Simply set the input level to the desired program range between -10 and +4dB and set the compressor to the desired ratio. Should sibilance or pumping become audible, simply back off the compression. If more output is needed, adjust the make-up gain to suit. It truly is that easy!

Good and bad limitations!
In general terms, a limiter is basically compressor that is set at a higher ratio. And although there are no set rules, one usually refers to limiters when the compression ratio is set above 10:1. Some compressors like the Komit employ VCAs while others employ opto-couplers (photocells), FETs (field effect transistors or even go as far as using light bulbs to work their magic. These are available in various tube or solid state circuit permutations that together give them a particular sound. Because each type of compressor-limiter will introduce a sonic signature, engineers will select one or another depending on preference. The Komit's 12 position limiter control has been set up to work two ways: Either as a clipping limiter or as a super clean brick wall.

Diode Bridge Clipping Limiter
Back in the early days of radio, diode bridge circuits were used as a means to limit the signal in a classic communication receiver. These 'nasty' sounding circuits would 'clip' the peaks in the truest sense of the word. Just as you encountered clipping when you exceed the rail voltage of a given electronic device, these circuits also clipped the signal. With the Komit, you decide when the onset of clipping will occur.

  • No Clipping
  • Moderate Clipping
  • Hard Clipping

The Komit simulates the effect with 10 presets for quick, repeatable set ups. These are scaled from slight clipping to down-right nasty. Adjusting the amount of clipping is merely a matter of selecting one of the 10 presets and then using the drive gain to decide how hard you want to hit the Clipper circuit.

Brick Wall Control
Although the aggressive effect of radical diode bridge limiting can be fun, there is often a need for clean high-ratio compression or brick wall limiting. The application is simple: to keep the signal out of the red. Only this time, we want to do it with minimal artifact. When the Komit is set to BW, it basically bypasses the diode bridge circuit and 'resets' the limiter by increasing the compression ratio. When set to maximum it can actually reach a ratio of 25:1 compression which means that for every dB that is applied, you are only allowing 4% of the signal to pass.