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PowerCore Compact

Portable Audio Processing Powerhouse By Frank Moldstad

Serious audio production capabilities come to laptop computers with the PowerCore Compact ($995 MSRP) from TC Electronic. It provides 12 professional mixing and mastering plugins, doing all processing inside a paperback-sized external enclosure that connects to the host computer via FireWire 400. 

The outboard processing relieves the computers CPU of that responsibility, freeing it to handle the recording and editing tasks of a DAW or video editing program. The PowerCore Compacts dedicated processors include a 266 MHz PowerPC chip and two 150 MHz Motorola DSPs, each with 512Kb RAM. This is less than the processing power of TC Electronics PowerCore Element (PCI) and PowerCore FireWire (rackmount) units, which each have four Motorola DSPs. But the PowerCore Compact is easily portable while the other two are not (unless you like lugging around a desktop computer or a rack).

The PowerCore Compact is compatible with Mac OS X and Windows XP computers and they dont have to be laptops. Even though its designed for portability, the PowerCore Compact works equally well with a desktop computer. Since my laptop PC runs Win 2K, not XP,  I used a Mac G4 desktop computer running OS 10.3 for this review, with Live 4 as the host .

In addition to the nine plugins which come standard with all PowerCore units, the PowerCore Compact adds three others: Noveltechs new Character plugin, the dual ?analog filter bank Filtroid, and Master X3, modeled after the TC Electronic Finalizer. Among the other plugins included are reverb, chorus/delay, compression/limiting, EQ, a vocal channel strip, a mono soft synth and an amp modeler. Any VST- or AU-capable application can host the PowerCore plugins, from DAW applications such as Pro Tools, SONAR, Digital Performer and Logic to video editing apps such as Adobe Premiere Pro.


The included plugins are:

  • 24/7-C Limiting Amplifier (stereo and mono versions)
     Compressor/limiter based on vintage Teletronix LA2A hardware unit has the originals four-button-mode, and new features such as auto-gain sensing that adjusts the output depending on the program material.

  • Chorus-Delay
    Chorus-Delay modeled on TC Electronics own chorus sound recreates the 1210 Spatial Expanders modulation images, including Chorus, Flanging and Slap Delay with flexible routing and filtering options. Modulation speed is adjustable in BPM.


  • MegaVerb
     Based on core technology from TC Electronics high-end M5000 processor offers wide diffusion, dense tails and realistic room impressions.

  • Classic Verb
    Warmer, lusher reverb effects compared to the more natural sounding MegaVerb
  • EQSat Custom
    Clean sounding EQ provides five bands with three parametric ones and two additional shelving bands. Feedback on the applied EQ curve is shown with frequency response display. Also features analog saturation emulation.
  • Master X3
    Virtual version of the TC Electronic Finalizer mastering processor integrates multiband processing with expansion, compression and limiting separately for each band, with  dithering option included. The interface features new options, such as ?Target Curves" of overall processing characteristics to control global processing for all bands in all modules.

    Master X3
  • PowerCore 01
    Mono-synth similar to the Roland SH-101, with some added features like velocity and drive. Punchy Bass lines, synthetic percussion sounds or synth-leads.
  • PowerCore CL (stereo and mono versions)
    Vintage CL delivers compression and limiting on each channel, up to seven instances per DSP. Emulates behaviour of "dbx-style" analog compression devices.
  • VOICESTRIP  (stereo and mono versions)
    Voice processing channel includes compression, de-essing, dedicated EQ, Lo Cut filter and gate. All modules can be run simultaneously, providing instant total recall.

  • Tubifex
    Amp modeler incorporates three tube stages and a speaker simulator with individually adjustable 12AX7 tubes for dialing in a tonal range from warm to overdriven. The speaker simulator is based on impulse measurements of a 2 x 12 cabinet. Virtual microphone placement control also included.
  • Filtroid
    This optional analog filter plugin with dual filters and extensive modulation capabilities is included as part of the PowerCore Compacts bundle. Filters can be used in series or parallel.
  • Character
    Another optional plugin included with the PowerCore Compact. Created by Noveltech Solutions, Character develops the characteristics of an audio source, employing both the frequency response and the dynamic properties of the input source in a time-variant manner.


In addition, PowerCore Compact includes two other non-effect plugins that come in handy. One is a Plugin Delay Compensator, for host applications that do not compensate for the delay between a processed signal and the audio source. The other is a Sidechainer, which can be used to allow one effect to control another. 

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Related Keywords:PowerCore Compact, TC Electronic, Noveltech?s Character, plugin, Finalizer, reverb, Limiting Amplifier


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