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FMR Audio RNLA Really Nice Leveling Amp

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The Really Nice Leveling Amplifier (RNLA) by FMR Audio is a compressor with a character that works well with vocals, bass guitar, acoustic guitars and two-mix sources. Audio professionals describe the RNLA's tone as "thick and gooey". Some very well-outfitted RNLA users report that even with a full complement of expensive, vintage leveling amps/com...  Click To Read More About This Product

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The Really Nice Leveling Amplifier (RNLA) by FMR Audio is a compressor with a character that works well with vocals, bass guitar, acoustic guitars and two-mix sources. Audio professionals describe the RNLA's tone as "thick and gooey". Some very well-outfitted RNLA users report that even with a full complement of expensive, vintage leveling amps/compressors, the RNLA from FMR Audio still fills a niche that the others don't!

One of the very few bargains you'll ever find in pro audio, FMR Audio gear is used by Grammy-winning engineers Larry Seyer (Asleep At The Wheel, Manhattan Transfer) and Bob Power (Eryka Badhu); platinum producer-engineer Ed Seay (Martina McBride, Melissa Manchester, Ricky Skaggs); and legendary producer-engineer Michael Wagener (Ozzy Osbourne, M¶tley Crœe, Skid Row, Janet Jackson, Megadeth, Alice Cooper).

The sonic performance of the RNLA harkens back to the Really Nice Compressor's (RNC's) origins. The original RNC was, in fact, based upon an optical gain element that was ultimately rejected (and tucked away) due to its imparting of a sonic signature (i.e., "color"). However, just like trying to throw away a ball of adhesive tape, this one has also stuck with (to?) us! What's the old saying? What's old, is new again? The implementation is a little different (i.e., no opto) from the 1984 version, but the final sound is eerily similar¦

Wide Dynamic Range. Despite the unbalanced input/output connections, the RNLA leveling amp has a dynamic range of 117dB, minimum, which is appropriate for today's digital systems and exceeds that which is attainable with many older, vintage leveling amplifiers. The FMR Audio RNLA offers a clip point (<3% THD) of 22.5dBu.

Fidelity. Although the RNLA is designed to dynamically "color" the sound passing through it, the channel electronics are fairly neutral and designed so that the output signal (statically measured) closely resembles the input signal (fidelity defined...though slightly paraphrased). Each channel is hand-trimmed to typically less than 0.005% Total Harmonic Distortion plus Noise (THD+N). Even this low-level distortion is predominantly second-order¦ a much less heinous form of distortion and agreed by many to impart a slight "sweetness" to a signal.

Easy-to-read Panel Graphics. This may seem like an arbitrary and trivial point, but FMR thinks it's important to have easy viewing to assess the settings on a rack-mounted processor is important when you've got a lot of stuff going on during a recording session. In our experience, dark lettering on a light background works better than the other way around.

Inputs and Inserts. As with the RNC, the RNLA has unbalanced inputs that also double as Tip-Ring-Sleeve (TRS) inserts to mate with popular mixer and equipment inserts. This allows you to connect, using only a single TRS-to-TRS cable per channel, an RNLA's channel (in & out) with a single cable to a mixer or other compatible device (such as our own Really Nice Preamp, Great River Electronics MP-NV preamp, etc.).

Balanced Outputs. The RNLA Leveling Amp has balanced, non-differential outputs. Although the "cold" part of the signal is not driven (that would be a "differential" signalling scheme), the impedance in both legs are the same, thereby giving your audio the benefit of reduced noise if the RNLA is connected to a balanced line input.

Precise Gain Reduction Metering. A highly accurate gain reduction meter is provided to allow visual verification of what you're hearing. Although meters should never be a substitute for what you hear, a dynamically accurate meter is better than one that can "lag" or misread the actual dynamic performance of the compressor. Due to our digitally-controlled architecture, even the peak-detection errors of a pure digitally-implemented meter are avoided and a dynamically accurate meter is obtained.

Full Parametric Control. Some of the more common Leveling Amplifiers don't have full parametric control. Many LA's are missing the ability to control the ATTACK time. Some of them don't even provide a RATIO control, let alone a continuously-variable RATIO control! The RNLA provides both for maximum artistic flexibility. But, most importantly, both the ATTACK and RELEASE controls go to 11! In addition, all of the front panel controls are merely a "control surface" for the RNLA's internal digital engine.

This means:
(a) No main channel audio flows to/from the front panel controls that might increase its noise susceptibility (that's bad) or dreaded "scratchy pot syndrome" (that's annoying), and, (b) FMR can use a "ratiometric" measuring technique, along with robust digital filtering, to derive repeatable and precise compression parameters (that's good, if not a little geeky). Both the ATTACK and RELEASE controls both go to 11!

Alternative Release Contour. Loosely based upon the "Log/Lin" control on the Valley People's (Person's?) Gain Brain II, this control ("Log Rel") can help restore some "punch" that can get lost without an acceleration of the release envelope. So, when Log Rel is on, FRM can accelerate the release time as a function of gain reduction amount. This is particularly handy on drum sub-mixes where you still want the drums to "punch", but in a compressed and controlled way (it's really true: talking about audio is like dancing about architecture&hellip).

Hardwired Bypass.FMR uses a sealed relay (for long life) to switch the RNLA's output connectors between the output of the compression stage or the input jacks, thus providing a true bypass of the signal path. Worst case, without mains power, you'll still get a signal out of the RNLA!

Made In The U.S.A. FMR does its own manufacturing in Austin, Texas 'cause: (a) Manufacturing products there help control important costs and reduce waste (there's more to producing a product than just considering the costs of labor and parts). All this helps ensure that your RNLA will retain its value and continue compressing for many years to come, (b) Austin's resources and culture--from a very lively music scene to lots of high-tech companies/products”help inspire and maintain our commitment to music and technology, and, (c). RMF's first choice is to employ as many U.S.-based resources as possible in the design, manufacture and distribution of our products.

The RNLA Amp uses a wallwart. As with FMR's other products, the RNLA uses a wallwart. This is done to: (a) reduce internal noise induction, (b) make the national/international regulatory compliance less costly, and, (c) to permit easy adaptation of the RNLA to countries other than the U.S.A. As practical as these reasons for wallwart use are, it doesn­t reduce the annoyance factor that the RNLA uses a less common, *AC* wallwart. You can reduce this annoyance, however, by: (a) labelling your wallwart on both ends (i.e., on the part that plugs into the wall and at its opposite end) that the wallwart is for use with the RNLA, and/or, (b) use AC mains power strips that can accommodate the extra space required by wallwarts, and/or, (c) hook-up your wallwarts with one of those short, power cord extenders. In either case, what a pain wallwarts are¦

The RNLA "colors" the audio.FMR has always preferred fidelity over distortion¦ no matter how artsy it is! So, why do they now producing a device that deliberately distorts the audio? There are three reasons for this: (1) customers have requested it and feel that they can't get specific combination of features elsewhere, (2) the RNLA distorts in a tasteful, useful and controllable way, and, (3) Users find uses for the sonics of the RNLA!


  • Wide Dynamic Range
  • High Fidelity
  • Easy-to-read Panel Graphics
  • One third-rack cabinet
  • Unbalanced/TRS Inputs and Inserts
  • Balanced Outputs
  • Precise Gain Reduction Metering
  • Full Parametric Control
  • Alternative Release Contour
  • Hardwired Bypass
  • Size: 1/3 X 1 EIA Rack Unit
  • Connectors: Left/Right 1/4" Unbalanced Inputs (TS, Or TRS For Console Inserts)
  • Left/Right 1/4" Balanced, Single-Ended Outputs
  • TRS Sidechain
  • Controls And Displays:
  • Rotary: Threshold, Ratio, Attack Time, Release Time, Output Level
  • Switches: Bypass, Mode Select
  • Meter: 8-Segment LED Gain Reduction, 0-16 Db
  • Modes:
  • Normal: Provides Fast Attack/Release
  • Log Rel: Provides Release Envelope Acceleration To Aid Maintenance
  • Of Transient "Punch"
  • Operating Level: 0.775 Vrms (0 Dbu) Nominal For +22 Db Headroom 1.228 Vrms (+4 Dbu) Nominal For +18 Db Headroom
  • Noise: Less Than -90 Dbu Over 20-20k Hz, Typically -95 Dbu Over 20-20k Hz
  • Frequency Response: 10 - 100k Hz ±0.5db @ 0 Dbu
  • Clip Point: +22.5dbu @ 3% THD, 1khz, Greater Than 2k Ohm Load
  • Distortion: Less Than 0.1%, No Gain Reduction @ 1 Khz, 0 Dbu;
  • Less Than 0.5%, 6 Db G.R. @ 1 Khz, 6:1, 6.0 Msec Attack, 0.5 Sec., Release, 0 Db Gain, 0 Dbu
  • Threshold Range: -40dbu To +20dbu
  • Ratio Range: 1:1 To 25:1
  • Attack Range: 0.2 Msec To 200msec For 100% Correction With <15db Over Threshold Input Signal
    Release Range: .05 Sec To 5.0 Sec For 100% Recovery With 15db G.R.
  • Output Trim Range: ±15db
  • AC Power: Wall Transformer, 9VAC @ 500ma, 2.1mm Jack
  • Dimensions: 5.5" X 5.5" X 1.6"
  • Weight: 2 Lbs
  • * ” Since We're Geeks, We Continually Strive To Improve Our Products And May Do So Without Notice.
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