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HHB Classic 60 Tube Compressor

HHB continues to venture into new territory with the release of the new HHB Classic 60 Tube Compressor.

HHB continues to venture into new territory with the release of the new HHB Classic 60 Tube Compressor. Dismiss any reservations you may have about a tape company releasing a line of professional tube products – only a third of the company’s business consists of recording media. HHB is also known for its recorders – the PDR1000 Portadat location sound DAT recorder, (PAR, 11/95, p. 23) and the CD-R850 CDR recorder (PAR, 7/99, p. 56).
Product PointsApplications: Studio

Key Features: Auxiliary input; XLR connectors; 1/4″ jacks; 1/4″ TRS jacks; two channel operation

Price: $2,395

Contact: HHB at 310-319-1111

The HHB Classic 60 ($2,395) rack-space unit weighs 11 lb. All controls are continuously variable and the absence of VCAs results in an extremely transparent sound. The frequency response of the unit is 40 Hz to 20 kHz, and it is virtually flat between 20 Hz and 40 kHz.

The unit’s rear panel is equipped with two female XLR connectors for microphone input, two female XLR connectors for line input and two male XLR connectors for line output. There are four 1/4″ jacks; two provide unbalanced line input and two provide unbalanced output.

The nominal level switch lets the user select either -10 dBu or +4 dBu as the nominal operating level. Two 1/4″ TRS jacks provide side chain inserts (tip-send, ring-return, sleeve-earth). The voltage switch allows the user to specify either 110 to 120 V/60 Hz or 220 to 240 V/50 Hz as the operating power requirement level.

The front panel of the Classic 60 is equipped with duplicate controls for both channels. The input source switch selects the input source as microphone with 48 V phantom power, microphone without phantom power, line or auxiliary. If mic with 48 V is selected, a red LED indicator glows.

Auxiliary input is provided via two 1/4″ jacks on the front panel. This input has a sensitivity switch that selects either guitar or keyboard level and an auxiliary gain control sets the input level. Auxiliary Input 1 is normaled to Input 2 if nothing is plugged into the second input. This permits both compressor channels to be driven from a single mono input. With different channel settings the user can create a two channel image from a mono source.

The input source switch is also equipped with a 90 Hz second order high-pass filter. The input gain control adjusts the input gain from +16 to +60 dB for mic input, -10 dB to +35 dB for line input (both balanced XLR and unbalanced 1/4″).

Variable controls for threshold, attack, release, ratio and gain makeup let the user tailor the compression to fit the program material. The threshold is variable from-20 dBu to +20 dBu. Attack is adjustable from 0.5 msec to 50 msec.

Release can be set from 40 msec to 4 seconds. The ratio can be varied from 1:1.5 to 1:30. The gain makeup control at the output of the compressor stage allows the signal level to be compensated for up to 20 dB of lost level due to compression.

The front panel is also equipped with a stereo link switch that gangs threshold, attack, release and ratio controls from channel one for processing stereo signal sources. The meter source switch selects the meter source as either audio output (0 VU = +4 dBu) or compression. Both channels are equipped with bypass switches that allow the user to compare the compressed signal to the uncompressed signal. The power switch, accompanied by a green LED, lets the user turn the power on and off from the front panel.

In use

The Classic 60 is an extremely flexible piece of gear – it practically sits on the shelf and screams “use me, use me” in bright purple letters until someone takes note. The unit was obviously designed by people who actually spend time in the recording studio. The 1/4″ jacks on the front panel constantly come in handy, as does the ability to select sensitivity to either guitar or keyboard.

I frequently use guitar pedals for effects when I am mixing. This usually means that I have to track down a direct box in addition to a mic pre and compressor every time I patch one into the chain.

Not the case with the Classic 60. I run a cable from the pedal to the Classic 60, set the input sensitivity to either guitar or keyboard (depending on the pedal I am using) and run the output to the line input of the mixing desk and I’m ready to go.

The Classic 60 compressor sounds great on a wide range of material. I found it worked best on vocals, guitars (both electric and acoustic) and bass. Even if they were compressed significantly, guitars always seem to sit in the mix better if they are compressed through the Classic 60. The HHB is smooth and punchy and always adds that classic tube warmth and fullness associated with a tube circuit.

For the studio that does not have the financial resources to afford a Focusrite Red 3 or SSL stereo compressor, the Classic 60 works fairly well as a stereo bus compressor.


The Classic 60 combines two channels of high-quality solid-state microphone preamps with two impressive sounding channels of tube-based compression resulting in a flexible unit that should easily find a home in studios worldwide.