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Author Topic: Your first compressor  (Read 4243 times)

brandondrury

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Your first compressor
« on: February 22, 2005, 12:17:06 pm »

I'm toying with the notion of picking up a kick ass compressor.  I track everything straight into DAW from my various preamps but I'd like to get a shit kicking compressor to run overdubs through.

I know very little about it, but I've read over the years about people running preamps through compressors and setting the threshold high enough that the compressor does nothing just because they like the way compressors color the sound.  

I want something like that, but that would be useful on a wide range instruments.  

I'm leaning towards a Distressor, but I really don't know if that's the way to go.

Brandon

James Duncan

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Re: Your first compressor
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2005, 01:04:08 pm »

The Distressor is going to impart a definite sound to your mix, it is not one for the timid!!!

As a first compressor, that one might be a bit "strong", although it is really an amazing piece!

It might be better to use it on stuff that you have already saved to tape, and then you don't have to worry about screwing something up permanently.
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J.J. Blair

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Re: Your first compressor
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2005, 07:06:50 pm »

1176LN.  My desert island compressor.  (Or the Purple MC76/77)
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They say the heart of Rock & Roll is still beating, which is amazing if you consider all the blow it's done over the years.

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twigg

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Re: Your first compressor
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2005, 07:27:38 pm »

The first compressor I bought was an old Urei LA-4. I've used it on just about anything I can think of since I got it. There is some amount of coloring (not much) and it sounds great on most things. I got it on eBay for under $500.

Oh yeah. I choose it over the distressor almost every time.
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brandondrury

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Re: Your first compressor
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2005, 11:28:30 pm »

Cool.  I'll check all those out.  I tend to like the opposite of subtle.  If I'm gonna add character to something I want it obvious to everyone in the room that I just added character to something.

I'll check out the cheaper LA-4 and see what's happening on that end.  

By the way.  What does color mean?  Does it mean darker, brighter, smoother, harsher, or something else?  Can it be described in a frequency response curve?

These days I find that I'm eqing the shit out of my snare to give it more cut or crack.  I would like to run it through something harsh beforehand just so I don't have to rely on eq so much.  The same applies to my toms.  Then again, I want other things to be the opposite.  Is this the kind of color that a compressor can give?

Brandon

antti

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Re: Your first compressor
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2005, 07:45:46 am »

brandondrury wrote on Wed, 23 February 2005 04:28

Cool.  I'll check all those out.  I tend to like the opposite of subtle.  If I'm gonna add character to something I want it obvious to everyone in the room that I just added character to something.

By the way.  What does color mean?  Does it mean darker, brighter, smoother, harsher, or something else?

Brandon


It can mean all what you mentioned. Coloured = non-transparent.
A 'coloured' piece of gear basicly adds it's sound/colour to what's been put
through it. Compression = Distortion. Whether you want it to be more
or less audible depends on how 'coloured' you want your compressor to be.
Hence the name Distressor (DISTortion compRESSOR). There are different types of distortion (2nd harmonic, 3rd harmonic..). The most drastic
'compressor' is a fuzz pedal. A 'coloured' compressor can/will also 'shape' sound's 'envelope'. A 'coloured' compressor can/will also change sound's
frequency response.

If I would be you I would get either an old 1176 (more 'coloured') or Distressor.
Those 2 can do a hell of a lot different things. From subtle to 'fairly' drastic.
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Fig

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Re: Your first compressor
« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2005, 02:45:52 pm »

brandondrury wrote on Tue, 22 February 2005 22:28

If I'm gonna add character to something I want it obvious to everyone in the room that I just added character to something.



A worthy notion.  Reminds of the mixerdude I would second for on occasion.  He had a tip jar out on the meterbridge.  "I do something you like, you put a dollar in."  "Something you don't like?  Pull a dollar out."



Quote:

I'll check out the cheaper LA-4 and see what's happening on that end.


Don't know about "cheaper".  I use three of these devices at my place.  Highly recommended.  Not the fastest compressor in the west though, so your snare requirements below may not be met to your satisfaction.  

Quote:

By the way.  What does color mean?



If a piece of gear is uncolored, it faithfully reproduces its input without adding anything to the signal.  Many call this transparent.

If a piece is colored, it adds to (or sometimes subtracts something from) the original signal.  This can be a good thing.



Quote:

Does it mean darker, brighter, smoother, harsher, or something else?



Yup.


Quote:

Can it be described in a frequency response curve?



Not likely.  Even the colored pieces will show "flat" in many cases.


Quote:

These days I find that I'm eqing the shit out of my snare to give it more cut or crack.



Try a different microphone, or position for said microphone.  Better yet, try a different snare.



Quote:

I would like to run it through something harsh beforehand just so I don't have to rely on eq so much.



Perhaps a Rat pedal is what you seek?  Cool on vocals, too.

As for a "first compressor", I would start with either an RNC from FMR or a trusty 166 from dbx.  Certainly not the best compressors in the world, but for the money, good learning tools.

There's few things worse that someone with a Distressor in his/her rack who can't wield it.  Many mics fall into this category, too.

$0.02,

Fig
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Magnet

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Re: Your first compressor
« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2005, 10:49:57 pm »

I put my vote in for the ADL 1000  it's a La-2a style compressor. I bought one about a month ago and have been using it on everything. It has a very nice color and is also very utilitarian as well. There are a few for sale on harmcentral or trading post right now. And you can always contact Anthony Demaria at www.anthonydemarialabs.com  and see what he can do for you. He is a great guy and really dedicated.

good luck with your quest
magnet
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J.J. Blair

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Re: Your first compressor
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2005, 12:18:56 am »

I own a couple of ADL1000s.  I bought them from Anthony ten years ago when he was debuting them at AES SF!  Really great compressor, but if you are going to own just one, this is not it.  You can't hit it hard without losing high end.  It starts to get dark after -6db of reduction, and unlike a real LA-2A, does not have a darkness control.  But if you really want to squash the crap out of something -6db is not anywhere near enough.  With the 1176 or the Distressor, you can really slam the crap out of a vocal without it losing everything above 10k.  The ADL is nice if you want some gentle compression.  Oh, one bad thing about it, not a great deal of headroom.  It starts to distort as soon as the needle starts hitting the wall.  Plus you are locked into that 3:1 ratio and the slow attack rate of the ELOP, which can really increase sibilance on some vocalists.
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They say the heart of Rock & Roll is still beating, which is amazing if you consider all the blow it's done over the years.

"The Internet enables pompous blowhards to interact with other pompous blowhards in a big circle jerk of pomposity." - Bill Maher

"The negative aspects of this business, not only will continue to prevail, but will continue to accelerate in madness. Conditions aren't going to get better, because the economics of rock and roll are getting closer and closer to the economics of Big Business America." - Bill Graham

djui5

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Re: Your first compressor
« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2005, 12:52:53 am »

Distressor or a DBX 160VU (the old one)
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antti

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Re: Your first compressor
« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2005, 05:30:31 am »

J.J. wrote on Thu, 24 February 2005 05:18

I own a couple of ADL1000s.  I bought them from Anthony ten years ago when he was debuting them at AES SF!  Really great compressor, but if you are going to own just one, this is not it.  You can't hit it hard without losing high end.  It starts to get dark after -6db of reduction, and unlike a real LA-2A, does not have a darkness control.  But if you really want to squash the crap out of something -6db is not anywhere near enough.  With the 1176 or the Distressor, you can really slam the crap out of a vocal without it losing everything above 10k.  The ADL is nice if you want some gentle compression.  Oh, one bad thing about it, not a great deal of headroom.  It starts to distort as soon as the needle starts hitting the wall.  Plus you are locked into that 3:1 ratio and the slow attack rate of the ELOP, which can really increase sibilance on some vocalists.


Agreed. C/l 1000 was my first compressor too (still have it). It's great for
adding a little colour/glue to vox, bass, electrics, acoustics (whatever really) but
it's not a versatile workhorse like 1176 or Distressor. It's not the same as LA2A
either.. similar but not the same. But then again original LA2As are very different (and imo 'better') than 'modern' ones. Same applies to 1176s. The old/'original' units have more noise and distortion but they really add something special (which for me is usually a reason to patch them in anyway).
I call it 'character boost'. Then again the modern UA comps are wicked too (depending on what you want). Same thing with DBX 160 series. The VU ones are hard to beat for what they are good for. 165a is cool and has similarities to 160 VU when used in 'over-easy' mode but after all it's a completely different animal (different distortion even after using the same vca inside). More modern 160 thingys are cool basic comps but they don't have what the early VU ones had. Great for lots of applications though. A lot of people over here seem to hype about 160sl at the moment. They are using it cross the 2 buss. BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH..... Amen.

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vernier

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Re: Your first compressor
« Reply #11 on: March 09, 2005, 11:32:03 pm »

quote: "If I'm gonna add character to something I want it obvious to everyone in the room that I just added character to something."

An old variable-MU limiter (something like a BA9 UniLevel or Altec, etc) would do it.
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maxdimario

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Re: Your first compressor
« Reply #12 on: March 10, 2005, 12:00:01 pm »

for character and ease of mix I would go for an old variable mu compressor like the ones above or a ba6a and restore it to new condition.

the 1176 is the best all around if you like solid state.

stay away from op-amp and chip compressors, however good they may seem, because they alter the signal too much to be used on everything (regardless of THD specs etc.)
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Mike Cleaver

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Re: Your first compressor
« Reply #13 on: March 10, 2005, 06:17:12 pm »

The RCA BA6A at my first radio station.
Wish I'd kept that "mutha."
Starting out to learn how they work?
An RNC!
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U1176

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Re: Your first compressor
« Reply #14 on: March 11, 2005, 02:19:16 pm »

maxdimario wrote on Thu, 10 March 2005 13:00


the 1176 is the best all around if you like solid state.

stay away from op-amp and chip compressors, however good they may seem, because they alter the signal too much to be used on everything (regardless of THD specs etc.)


My 1176 has three op-amps in it, two in the signal path and one for the meter G.R. . Which rev. is yours?
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Patrick Brannen

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Re: Your first compressor
« Reply #15 on: March 13, 2005, 08:54:37 pm »

My first comp was a Manley ELOP and it actually still is first call on a lot of sesions. I think it might be good to start with fixed attack and release and grow into more control after you have a feel for it. Comps are dangerous in unexpierienced hands.
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Brian Roth

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Re: Your first compressor
« Reply #16 on: March 14, 2005, 01:09:37 am »

If you can find one, an Audio+Design (aka Audio Design (Recording) aka ADR) "Compex" (which was also part of their Vocal Stresser) is a really cool unit once you learn your way around the complicated controls.

Be aware...those were mid 70's British designs and not all units have aged well.

Bri

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