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How similar are Retro 176 and Fairchild/Anamod?
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MONKEYBEACH
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#1
4th July 2009
Old 4th July 2009
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How similar are Retro 176 and Fairchild/Anamod?

Anyone have the opportunity to compare a Retro 176 to an Anamod660 or real Fairchild? I'm curious, as they are both Vari-Mu tube boxes ( not the AM660 of course ). How do they differ sonically and reaction-wise when tracking. I am especially interested in tracking vocals. Didn't the Beatles track vocals through Faichild's?

Thanks
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5th July 2009
Old 5th July 2009
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Had both for some days in my studio.
Not similar at all.
Anamod 660: reacts more drastic to peaks, gives You great results an cllassic "Beatles-esque" tone on Ac Gt and upright bass, not so much on voc, imho. You can hear it working when the needle shows -3dB...

Retro 176: has tons of possibilities, can sound very smooth with 2:1 and med fast auto-attack on vocals, can sound ultra-punchy (12:1, fast fixed attack, fast rel.) on drums (try snare!), can distort an electric bass DI heavenly, if the interstage transformer is switched out. You can hear it working when the needle says -10db...

So what do we learn: Never trust the meters! ...
MONKEYBEACH
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6th July 2009
Old 6th July 2009
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Thanks t-hiho

Thanks T-HIHO!!
Your comments are a great help. I have a 176 and have been thinking about replacing it with a few other pieces ( AM660 and a Shadow Hills Optograph ). Sometimes I truly love the 176 and at other times it doesn't seem to work for me. But, I fully admit the problem is probably my not operating it correctly. I just did a vocal session with the input at 20 and the output at 90 ( 4:1 - attack at 40, release at 70, no Interstage ). The idea being I wouldn't push the compression too much and then use the output for make-up gain. All was well until the loud parts of the song and it started to sound over-driven. Looking back I think I should have used a higher input - say 30 - and a lower output. Even though my AD converters never went into the red - the sound was definitely like tubes being overdriven.

I had been told in the past to set the output of my mic-pre's at an ideal level and then back down by about 3 db. Then using the output of my compressor to make up the gain. This seems to work well with an 1176 - but, is this the right way to use the Retro 176?

As you can tell, I am no great engineer.
#4
7th July 2009
Old 7th July 2009
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the 176 is great but like all good tools,doesn't work on everything
#5
7th July 2009
Old 7th July 2009
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176 is it's own beast.

Tube tone out the wazzoo.

das wassup.
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7th July 2009
Old 7th July 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by t-hiho View Post
Had both for some days in my studio.
Not similar at all.
Anamod 660: reacts more drastic to peaks, gives You great results an cllassic "Beatles-esque" tone on Ac Gt and upright bass, not so much on voc, imho. You can hear it working when the needle shows -3dB...

Retro 176: has tons of possibilities, can sound very smooth with 2:1 and med fast auto-attack on vocals, can sound ultra-punchy (12:1, fast fixed attack, fast rel.) on drums (try snare!), can distort an electric bass DI heavenly, if the interstage transformer is switched out. You can hear it working when the needle says -10db...

So what do we learn: Never trust the meters! ...
I've gotten the Anamod 660 to sound brilliant on vocals; deep, lush, 3D. I definitely agree with what you said regarding the Beatles-esque tone, but for me it's really not limited to acoustic guitar and upright bass. I've generally found that it tends to complement literally everything I run through it - kinda gives the whole recording a late 60s/early 70s sound if that's what you're after. I own several of them and use them for stereo tracking, mixing/mastering applications as well. Basically, everything it touches turns fat and amazing. To my absolute surprise it turned out to be a dead ringer for the real thing, which of course would be a well-maintained vintage Fairchild unit. Indispensible tool in my arsenal.

Don't get me wrong, the 176 is wonderful as well (which I also own - just one unit though). I've found the overall sound to be a bit more spacious and... monochromatic, for lack of a better word, which is certainly welcome on many, many recordings. It may not have the brilliant depth or immediate vintage goodness that the 660 brings to my ears, but it's also indispensible - just in a very different way.

Both are awesome units; the type of machines you make a special trip into the studio to visit even if you have no intention of recording, haha.
MONKEYBEACH
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7th July 2009
Old 7th July 2009
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Did you track vocals?

TonyRockyHorror,

Did you TRACK vocals through the Anamod? After my front end I'm completely ITB. I don't mind printing what I want to hear as opposed to waiting for the mix as others do.
#8
8th July 2009
Old 8th July 2009
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Hello!

This topic is very interesting for me.
I ask me the same thing.

Quote:
the 176 is wonderful as well (which I also own - just one unit though). I've found the overall sound to be a bit more spacious and... monochromatic, for lack of a better word, which is certainly welcome on many, many recordings. It may not have the brilliant depth or immediate vintage goodness that the 660 brings to my ears
Really! Any sound examples of an AM660 vs Retro 176? on a mix?

***

And in a point of view most general, which of this machines is better for a mix process (Jazz, acoustic music or hip hop) :
- 2xRetro 176
- 2xAnamod AM660
- Anamod ATS-1
- Real tape machine
- Other Suggestions...

Thanks for any help you can offer.

JH
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9th July 2009
Old 9th July 2009
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don't have 176 yet (on the wish list), but a neve 2254 pretty much lives on BG vocals over here... we just weren't getting what we needed on this one tune though, tried TSL3, nope. tried the anamod 660 and it worked great!

not your desert island compressor imo but when it works it sure does the trick.
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9th July 2009
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I actually think the anm660 is a great compressor for tracking vocals. There is a certain balance between coloration and subtleness that makes perfect sense to me in most cases.

If you set it up to do just a few db while tracking, you can later decide to let it do a few more, or chain it with a more bitey comp like a distressor or use another comp at mixdown if desired.

I can't speak of the 176 as I have never used one but that it seems like that one would make a very handy comp for mixing since it can produce a lot of different, perhaps more extremer results.
#11
9th July 2009
Old 9th July 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyrockyhorror View Post
I've generally found that it tends to complement literally everything I run through it - kinda gives the whole recording a late 60s/early 70s sound if that's what you're after. I own several of them and use them for stereo tracking, mixing/mastering applications as well. Basically, everything it touches turns fat and amazing.
OMG, it feels like you're playng with me, saying just the right words to push me over the top. The AM660 sounds just like the comp I'm looking for...

So is it possible to do just kind of "touch" with the AM660 when tracking without doing anything too drastic but leaving that beautiful euphonic color anyhow? That's what I'm basically looking for and ofcourse when the time is right murder certain tracks with totaly beatletype fairchild assault

I'm looking for something pretty simple and not easy to screw up, just a light touch when going in most of the times but something with beautiful color.

It's also really inspiring to find people who prefer the AM660 over the 176, which seems to be the holy grail/magic bullet right now. It's pretty cool the 176 costing almost three times more. I think I'm buying the AM660.
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9th July 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MONKEYBEACH View Post
I fully admit the problem is probably my not operating it correctly. I just did a vocal session with the input at 20 and the output at 90 ( 4:1 - attack at 40, release at 70, no Interstage ). The idea being I wouldn't push the compression too much and then use the output for make-up gain. All was well until the loud parts of the song and it started to sound over-driven. Looking back I think I should have used a higher input - say 30 - and a lower output. Even though my AD converters never went into the red - the sound was definitely like tubes being overdriven.

I had been told in the past to set the output of my mic-pre's at an ideal level and then back down by about 3 db. Then using the output of my compressor to make up the gain. This seems to work well with an 1176 - but, is this the right way to use the Retro 176?
I think it's not so much a problem of overdriven outputstages, You should in fact have tried to switch the interstage XFM to on. On vocals it gives a much smoother sound, and more typical XFM colour, less tube drive colour!
MONKEYBEACH
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#13
10th July 2009
Old 10th July 2009
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Once again

Once again, big thanks to T-HIHO for his always intelligent and useful answers. Danke Schoen!
#14
10th July 2009
Old 10th July 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MONKEYBEACH View Post
TonyRockyHorror,

Did you TRACK vocals through the Anamod? After my front end I'm completely ITB. I don't mind printing what I want to hear as opposed to waiting for the mix as others do.
Quote:
Originally Posted by MONKEYBEACH View Post
TonyRockyHorror,

Did you TRACK vocals through the Anamod? After my front end I'm completely ITB. I don't mind printing what I want to hear as opposed to waiting for the mix as others do.
Yes, I track vocals through the Anamod. I always print what I hear (sans reverb, of course), it's just my way of recording. And to answer your question, ToneRanger: Yes, you can easily just add a touch of compression with a heap of flavor. I do it all the time, as I'm sure other owners do as well. The AM660 is probably the most character-driven machine I own; it really does leave its mark on everything - for better or worse, depending on what type of recording you're making. There are a lot of great compressors out there though, most of which will pretty much get you where you want to go.

The thing is... getting into the 500 series seems like a no-brainer these days, what with all these brilliant new pieces coming out all the time. A few years ago, I'd have said you were crazy if you told me that my expensive, vintage, classic units would be taking second chair to the likes of these deceptively simple little modules (660, MA5, Elixir, BAC500, E27, anything by API, etc.). I mean, you hear them and realize it's some of the best quality you've ever heard, then you see the price and before you know it you're officially a 500-head.
#15
10th July 2009
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Tony, I like using my 660's on vox as well, but I find that its effect so far has been a little cleaner than I would like.

I have had to use the time contraints at around 2.. Anthing higher was just too slow to catch up- mind you , I only on 2 sessions and both guys were screamers with fast phrasing.., so maybe I will have some more leeway when I track someone who sings instead of screams..

Got any specific settings you use?

Either way, it doesnt get in the way and does a great job.
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#16
11th July 2009
Old 11th July 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ToneRanger View Post
OMG, it feels like you're playng with me, saying just the right words to push me over the top. The AM660 sounds just like the comp I'm looking for...

So is it possible to do just kind of "touch" with the AM660 when tracking without doing anything too drastic but leaving that beautiful euphonic color anyhow? That's what I'm basically looking for and ofcourse when the time is right murder certain tracks with totaly beatletype fairchild assault

I'm looking for something pretty simple and not easy to screw up, just a light touch when going in most of the times but something with beautiful color.

It's also really inspiring to find people who prefer the AM660 over the 176, which seems to be the holy grail/magic bullet right now. It's pretty cool the 176 costing almost three times more. I think I'm buying the AM660.
not to rain on your parade, but there's no magic pill for that particular sound. it's a combination of many things...and i'd even put money on the the fairchild being one of the least important parts of the equation.
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11th July 2009
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got a 176 since yesterday

yes!!!!!!
#18
11th July 2009
Old 11th July 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by retractablezing View Post
not to rain on your parade, but there's no magic pill for that particular sound. it's a combination of many things...and i'd even put money on the the fairchild being one of the least important parts of the equation.
I'm with you. I had a 176 it was great on male vocals and horrible on female IMO. But I think it depends on what you do for a living, I make modern music a lot of that tubey old school stuff is just to soft for modern rock so it's not my thing.

My 2 cents
#19
19th September 2009
Old 19th September 2009
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Quote:
- 2xRetro 176
- 2xAnamod AM660
- Anamod ATS-1
- Other Suggestions...(THERMIONIC CULTURE Phoenix?)
In your opinions, wich of theses machines for a "Dave Brubesque..." sound?
For 2 buss, mastering compressor?
I have already a LA2A.

#20
20th September 2009
Old 20th September 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kokoa View Post
In your opinions, wich of theses machines for a "Dave Brubesque..." sound?
For 2 buss, mastering compressor?
I have already a LA2A.

i seriously doubt that in dave brubeck's day compression on the stereo buss was in vogue but anyway... for a tape-like effect, which he definitely did use i would probably go with the anamod. i do believe LA2s were used for mastering then but maybe someone with more knowledge can pipe in.
#21
29th October 2009
Old 29th October 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ncskolrud View Post
would-be-nice-to-try-the-adl-670-as-well
though-i-dont-have-$17,000.....
i-think-theres-24-tube-in-that-two-channel....

also-the-goldenage-1660,
both-idlove-to-try.....

my-space-bar-is-broken

the-only-peice-really-in--myh-pricerange-is-the-anamod...


Do own a Golden Age 1660.
Very smooth, and matter of factly very similar sound to the original Fairchild 670 I've worked with.
Cream all the way.
Cant take BDs though - will mess up the low end when used on Master Bus.
Can works miracles on master bus on acoustic material though.
Absolute killer on piano.
Nevertheless:
Handle with care.
All in all - best Fairchild clone I've encountered.
#22
24th April 2010
Old 24th April 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MONKEYBEACH View Post
But, I fully admit the problem is probably my not operating it correctly. I just did a vocal session with the input at 20 and the output at 90 ( 4:1 - attack at 40, release at 70, no Interstage ). The idea being I wouldn't push the compression too much and then use the output for make-up gain. All was well until the loud parts of the song and it started to sound over-driven. Looking back I think I should have used a higher input - say 30 - and a lower output. Even though my AD converters never went into the red - the sound was definitely like tubes being overdriven.

I had been told in the past to set the output of my mic-pre's at an ideal level and then back down by about 3 db. Then using the output of my compressor to make up the gain. This seems to work well with an 1176 - but, is this the right way to use the Retro 176?

As you can tell, I am no great engineer.
I think you'll become a better engineer the more you trust your ears instead of dials... we all suffer from watching the knobs and the meters at times; we've all thought we adjusted something on a blank channel once or twice too! =)

But I would definitely not part with the 176 based on one mistake that you made with it. *And I'd certainly not try and replace it with an Anamod 660 for vocal tracking specifically, but that's just me. I just sent my AM660 back for that very reason: 1) it wasn't quite as 3D as my Bloo LA2A, 2) it DID sound very good on acoustic and electric bass (and drum rooms), but on vocal tracking specifically, the lack of head room (due to voltage limitations of the 500 series) made it very difficult for me to get a matched level against my Daking FET and/or Bloo LA2A, and 3) it has no make-up gain, true to the Fairchild 660 design, which left me with gain structures that, no matter how many varied settings I attempted, were always 25% less than what I could get out of my other compressors.

I so badly wanted to keep the AM660 because I did like the sound, but when it came down to it... having the LA2A sound better on vocals (and sounding more 3D) and having problems with clipping no matter what setting I tried (while also having less output) made up my mind for me. I wasn't going to keep a 1300 dollar compressor that has a more-similar-than-not coloration to the Bloo while not being able to use it on vocals.

As for your mis-operation of the Retro 176, perhaps this will help you: what I'm learning to trust more than the controls and meters themselves is 1) the sound and 2) the visual waveforms being created by what's being recorded. With vocal compression specifically, you can always hear when vocals are becoming squashed (not typically what one wants), and you can tell visually when your waveforms end up looking more like a big BLOCK than actual "waves" with rising and falling lines. Conversely, you can also tell (via audible clipping) when something's not setup right, and you can generally see when the waveforms aren't really being affected (compressed) enough as well.

Typically, a vocal compressor is right when you A/B the sound and the waveforms between the dry and compressed signal to find that with the compressor engaged, the transients and peaks are being brought down "just a bit" to a "medium-bit" (if it's ok to use loose terminology here). And if it sounds better in the song by hitting the compressor a little harder than not, then push the input hotter and turn down your output. A good compressor can always do this to a degree without sounding obvious or squashed. There's always that line between "just enough" and "too much," but you will find that line the more you play with compression - especially with vocals, which are almost always the most tricky.

No matter how expensive or cheap a compressor is, good engineering is always more valuable, as we'd all agree. =) *And I'll add that if you were truly a bad engineer, you wouldn't even have recognized the problem: but you DID. And now you know a bit more of how to become a better engineer with compression *which is certainly still my goal as well!

Cheers and best of luck, brother - Brad
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