Baby Audio I Heart NY 2 (IHNY 2) Review
Updated Parallel Compressor plugin from Baby Audio
Estimated read time: X minutes
The In-Depth Review
When Baby Audio decided to release an updated I Heart NY plugin* on 30th August, they surely planned to coincide with the 3rd birthday since the company's inception. It makes sense for Baby Audio, a company headquartered in New York, to focus on New York compression, more accurately called parallel compression.
The second parallel universe
So first of all, let's look at what parallel compression is. Simply put, parallel compression mixes the dry, uncompressed signal with the wet, compressed signal. In the analog world, this was usually achieved by routing signals to the send bus, retaining the dry signal, and enabling the mixer to add compression to taste.
This plugin can both sound flattening and flattering.
Now, why is parallel compression a good idea? The nature of compression is to reduce signal range by reducing some louder signals above the threshold. Therefore, transients will be particularly affected. And that may not bring out the release of signals that quickly tail off, such as snare drums.
Parallel compression was made famous by New York based engineers and producers, which is why it has become also known as New York compression. With Baby Audio based in NYC, surely the company was inspired to adopt the I Love NY slogan.
Leaving loud early expressions
As soon as you load the plugin, there is no doubt the intention is to flatten signals, not to flatter. Even the default preset with 50% amount and 50% dry/wet signal aggressively affects the signal. If you go any higher than that, I Heart NY 2 smashes the signal like pushing a square peg into a round hole.
The interface looks simple and clean, following the aesthetic philosophy of other Baby Audio plugins. The XY pad dominates the view and invites quick manipulation of two parameters simultaneously. On the X axis you choose the compression amount, and on the Y axis the balance between dry and wet signal.
The only other major functions are two small sliders that control the gain. One for autogain, which ensures the resulting signal remains at the same loudness as you change the compression amount and dry/wet balance. Another one for output gain.
The incoming signal alters the yellow glow radiating from middle, with louder signals increasing the size. Outer pink rings indicate the compression level, displaying the incoming signal being compressed. In practice, this looks attractive and neat but I would have preferred a more accurate metering.
So is this just a simple signal smasher? That is how it looks until you discover the small yellow tweak button at the bottom of the plugin. This reveals seven parameters, allowing you to fine tune I Heart NY.
- Attack & Release: How fast the compressor kicks in (between 1 ms and 150 ms) or disengages (5 ms to 1000 ms)
- Ratio: The amount of compression per 1 dB above the threshold
- Punch: Emphasizes transients in the attack
- Harmonics: Adds gain-reduction dependent harmonics
- Shape: Emphasizes high and low frequencies in the signal
- Tilt: Engages the compressor towards high or low frequencies
- High/ Low Preserve: Leaves high (635 Hz to 20kHz) and or low (20 Hz to 635 Hz) frequencies unaffected by the compressor
I Heart NY 2 can smash your signal, like pushing a square peg into a round hole.
The standard functions of attack, release and ratio work well and as expected. I could not hear significant changes for either harmonics or shape functions. The tilt and preserve functions work well when used gently.
In terms of usability, however, the parameter displays are very small. I can't help but conclude that the minimalistic design hinders more intuitive and speedy use. Parameters are only shown when hovering over the respective parameter, for example.
So how does In Heart NY 2 from Baby Audio sound? We found that drums are a sweet spot.
To test the plugin, we created a little loop. The first example is dry, the second with I Heart NY engaged, but only on the drums. The settings are default, 50% compression, 50% dry/wet.
Full Loop - without IHNY 2 on drums
I created a simple loop (mostly using a few excellent Spitfire Audio LABS sounds, plus XLN Audio XO on drums, and a few percussion loops).
The loudness of the loop using iZotope Insight 2, to compare with the loudness once the drums go through the parallel compression.
Full Loop - with IHNY 2 on drums
I Heart NY brings out the tail of the drums in a pleasant manner.
Integrated loudness is increased by 1.5 LUFS, without the peak levels changing.
Drums only - without IHNY 2
Without any plugins, the drums sound punchy
Drums only - with IHNY 2
With I Heart NY 2, the parallel compression leaves the transients punching through, yet brings out the tail, and increase average loudness
Introductory video from Baby Audio
The sound of the siblings
If you like the sound of I Heart NY, you should have a closer look at the siblings from Baby Audio:
- Crystalline: Reverb plugin with character, covered by musicmanta in the news
- Smooth Operator: Signal Balancer Plugin, similar to Oeksound Soothe 2
- Super VHS: Retro Color Plugin, similar to XLN Audio RC-20 Retro Color
- Spaced Out: Ambience Plugin
- TAIP: Tape Saturator, based on an AI algorithm, covered by musicmanta in the news
- Parallel Aggressor: Parallel Compressor and Saturator
- Comeback Kid: Delay Echo
The Test Rig
- Version Tested: Baby Audio I Heart NY 2, Version 1.0.0, license provided by Baby Audio
- Host DAW: Apple Logic 10.7.4
- Computer Used: Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch, M1 2020, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD, MacOS Monterey 12.5.1
The Pros and Cons
- Easy to use ...
- ... yet "tweakable" when you need it
- Compression ranges from soft to smashing
- Not that expensive, when you buy at the introductory price
- Sounds good on drums
- High sound quality
- It's easy to overdo parallel compression with this plugin
- The stripped back user interface lacks clarity in some areas
- Metering is pretty but not particularly practical
Baby Audio are known for specialist, niche plugins that exude quality, are easy to use, and pleasant on the eye. I Heart NY 2 is no different.
The plugin can be dialled in as a gentle giant, but it is so easy to overdo compression. Generally, the compromise between simple design and full functionality works. However, in our view the tweaking section should be tweaked and made more usable.
It is worth noting that the full price more than doubled, from $29 to $69 from I Heart NY version 1.0 to 2.0. You get more functionality for the higher price, on the other hand, and the introductory price of $39 is only slightly above the original, and looks like good value for money.
If you are into genres such as EDM or Drum and Bass, which uses heavy compression as a stylistic choice, I Heart NY 2 is a great choice. It is easy to use, sounds good, and has a wide variety of functions to adapt the signal to your heart's content.
Get this if you love smashing audio tracks with parallel compression, the easy way
Don't get this if you are happy setting up your own parallel compression
Full Price: $69
Introductory Price: $39 (until 30th September 2022)
Upgrade Price: $19 (for owners of I Heart NY)
1. Your DAW Stock Plugin
You don't need a dedicated parallel compression plugin to create NY compression. Compressors in the most popular DAW are such a high quality nowadays, and so fully featured, that you can use them comfortably to create your own parallel compression. The easiest way to achieve parallel compression is to use built-in mix balance such as Logic Pro X in the picture above, or using dry/wet balance in Ableton Live Compressor.
This is a nice, free little plugin from WA Production, which includes a mix knob, enabling anyone to dial in parallel compression. If you want a different flavour from your stock plugin, you might want to give this one a try.
Devil-Loc Deluxe: $99 Full Price | $29 Sale Price
If you already own the excellent Soundtoys Bundle*, you can use the Devil-Loc Deluxe compressor included in the collection. We are a fan of Soundtoys, and Devil-Loc is no exception. It's a good choice for compression with character. Just insert the plugin in your effect chain, and use the mix knob to balance the dry with the wet compressed signal. Crush to your liking, and sprinkle some crunch into the equation, and you are golden.