A Designs Nail

A-Designs HM2 Nail Tube Compressor


Solid state/tube hybrid dual-mono compressor – Infinite sound-shaping possibilities

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A-Designs HM2 Nail Tube Compressor

There are rare times in the professional audio industry when a new piece of recording equipment comes to the market that is ahead of its time. A Designs Audio, Inc. believes the HM2 Compressor “Nail” is one of those pieces of recording equipment.

The Nail is offering endless possibilities in the control of compression and shaping the envelope with three features that set the Nail apart from other compressors, such as Hard Threshold, Filter and Mix. Due to the unique nature of the design, the Nail will take you to places you have not experienced before. But with all things new, there is a “learning curve”.

The NAIL is a Feedback, Diode baised design combined with tubes. This combination qualifies it to be a Hybrid.

One feature that is missing is the Ratio setting control. It has been replaced with a “Variable Ratio”. This means that the ratio will change as the settings of the Threshold and Hard Threshold are changed along with the amount of gain reduction. You may, or may not, need to adjust Attack and Release, depending on what is sonically pleasing.


This feature is a powerful tool of the Nail’s design. This is what we would consider a highly valuable function. The Mix feature allows for endless combinations of mixing the sound of the Nail’s compression with your audio signal path. You can go from your signal (Dry) to full on compression, depending upon your need or taste.

This means you can perform the maximum compression on a signal, such as drums, then blend it into the audio path. Where as with most compressors, you do not have this option and you will find yourself fighting this in a mix. The Nail takes all that away and makes it easy to blend just the right amount into your audio signal path. This is also referred to as Parallel Compression.


The Nail offers another feature, the Filter. The Filter is a Variable High Pass Filter on the side chain so that selected frequencies below are not triggered by the gain reduction. This feature, in combination with the Hard Threshold and Threshold, allows you to select the frequency or frequencies you wish to compress. This is by no means a “multi-band compressor” where you can isolate and compress, but it works somewhat along those lines.

For example, if you would like to compress everything above 50HZ, but you do not want to drag down the frequencies below that, then simply select the right frequency you wish to apply compression to. Then, you will be compressing all frequencies above your selected choice.

The frequencies below 50HZ will be hit by the Nail’s compression, but they will NOT be dragged down, the way most compressors will do.

Again, this will not isolate the assigned frequency, such as a multi-band, but it will allow you to be very flexible without fully compressing the lower frequencies. This function becomes extremely useful with recordings that are Kick Drum-forward or Bass-forward. But, the Nail has much more to offer with numerous other applications.


A great deal of thought and consideration went into the decision to use an LED array as opposed to the traditional VU meters you would most likely see on a compressor. Aesthetics and personal taste are involved and we chose a combination of “Old School and Modern Look.” But, plain old work environment dictates that the LEDs can be seen from across a dark studio much easier than a backlit VU meter and in some cases with more accuracy.


The NAIL was designed with the 2 Buss in mind. It is with this that the feature of a Stereo Link Switch was developed. All the functions on both channels in Stereo Link Mode will be controlled via channel 1 (with the exception of Gain and Mix).

The NAIL is not limited to this application alone! It works very well as a tracking compressor too.


All equipment brings something unique to the table. The NAIL is no different in that respect. It has it’s own sonic flavor, for lack of a better term, but it can be “neutral,” clean or colored, as well. The tubes in the NAIL (12AT7) were selected because they will allow for more on-demand control.


The NAIL has six functional switches that aid in the operational use of the compressor. There is a main power switch, a stereo link switch and two gain reduction/level switches to change your metering, one for each channel. There are also two in/out switches, one for each channel, that allows you to hard bypass the compressor channel, as needed.


The NAIL has four XLR connectors on the rear panel, two male balanced and two female balanced for easy standard integration for any studio.


The potentiometers, or pots, are a conductive plastic. The conductive plastic pots are found to be most reliable and have an above-average life-span. There is a lesser chance of getting that “scratchy-ness” when compared to a carbon based pot.

Custom-milled aluminum knobs, and milled-aluminum face plate add just the right touch to compliment this unit.

A Designs Audio Inc. considers the HM2 COMPRESSOR “NAIL” to be the last product to complete our signal chain, which ranges from the MP-2A, Tube Microphone Pre Amplifier, Pacifica, Solid State Pre Amplifier, and HM2EQ “HAMMER” Hybrid 3 Band Dual Mono EQ. All in a 19 inch rack mountable gear for both the Professional and Non Professional. And, as always, our products are Beta Tested to the max and then field tested.

We feel you will find the NAIL to be a great addition to your studio’s working environment and will help enhance your audio signal. The more you use the NAIL the more you will understand the unique functions and greater possibilities this unit has to offer. You will no longer be controlled by compression. You will have the control.

The Nail web page contains two PDFs. One PDF is an Owner’s Manual. Contained in that manual is a graphic of the face plate of the HM2 COMPRESSOR “NAIL” on page 6. We strongly recommend you visit this before you insert the NAIL into your signal chain. We refer to this graphic as “A GOOD STARTING POINT”. But another good starting point would be to just turn off the Hard Threshold and Filter then turn the Mix to full on so you get a sense of the compressor alone. The second PDF is a RECALL sheet. You can use this to mark any settings used in a session for call backs.

We are doing our best to keep a green planet green so there is no paper manual included with any of our products that require a manual.

A Designs Audio Inc. would like to thank you for your consideration of any products we manufacture. A Designs develops tools to improve the quality of audio recordings and to inspire some fresh, creative engineering into the art of recording.


• Solid state/tube hybrid design combines high performance with rich sound.
• Dual channel with switchable stereo link or dual mono modes.
• Mix control lets you blend wet/dry signal for parallel compression.
• Hard Threshold and Filter let you select amount of compression and frequency (to 250Hz) to prevent mix from being “dragged down” by LF energy.
• Awarded “Mix Certified Hit” by Mix magazine.
• Custom-milled aluminum knobs.
• Custom-milled aluminum faceplate.
• LED Indicators switchable to stereo.
• Gain-reduction switch for meters.
• 2U rackmount.
• Balanced XLR outputs.
• Carling toggle power switch.
• Red jewel power indicator.
• Frequency response: 3Hz – 50Khz • Noise: -89dbu
• Balanced Input: XLR
• Balanced Output: XLR
• Clipping: +20dbu
• Filter: Off – 8Hz (starting point) – 250Hz
• Channel Isolation @1kHz: 90dB
• Variable Ratio: Self adjusting
• Mix (direct/compression): Complete bypass to complete compression
• Power Requirements: 120/230VAC – 23 Watts
• Dimensions: 19” x 3-1/2” x 10” (W-H-D)
• Weight: 10 lbs.
• Shipping weight: 12 lbs.

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