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Importance of op amp in compressor?
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babydaddymusic
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20th December 2010
Old 20th December 2010
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Importance of op amp in compressor?

I just got in the 500 series game, with an API lunchbox and my first unit is an API 512.
I have the Waves CLA classic compressor bundle and the Waves SSL bundle as well.

For outboard compression right now all I have is the Optical compressor on my Joe Meek 3Q. The knobs are set in the middle for my "testing", and of course this compressor has a fixed ratio.

I performed some systematic testing including recording acoustic guitar and vocals straight from the API into my apogee and then from API into the Meek using first the EQ section and the compressor followed by the compressor only.

What I noticed is that even without the mic pre or EQ section engaged that the Meek imparted some of it’s clinical/sterile sound to the source.
I actually preferred the recordings where I went straight from the API into the Apogee.

I would prefer to get the sound “there” as much as possible on the way in, and for me I like to compress stuff a little on the way in. My observation is that good hardware compressors seem to play a role in imparting life and vibe to a source, and so I am thinking of making my second lunchbox unit either an API 525, or 527 or maybe an Action compressor, instead of an MA5 or 1073 lb mic pre.


I am surmising from my experience thus far, that having a good op-amp in the outboard compressor might be crucial to keeping the warmth and presence that I am getting going directly from the API- Is that a fair statement? And further, that a quality outboard compressor may aid in getting some sound sculpting mojo on some sources.

Love to hear your thoughts
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20th December 2010
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the joemeek also has opamps
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It's not the Op-Amps you hear in Most gear..Some to a small degree..
The overall circuit and transformers has more impact on the sound...
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nosebleedaudio View Post
It's not the Op-Amps you here in Most gear..Some to a small degree..
The overall circuit and transformers has more impact on the sound...
Gotcha
I guess in looking at the guts of the Joe Meek I see a lot of chips, and common sense tells me comparing that with the innards of my 512C that not having real electronics (2520, actual wires, etc..) could affect the final sound I'm hearing.
All I know is what my ears tell me which was that even with light compression I could hear some sort of thin, more sterile sound characteristics just by virtue of running through the meek
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Quote:
Originally Posted by babydaddymusic View Post
Gotcha
I guess in looking at the guts of the Joe Meek I see a lot of chips, and common sense tells me comparing that with the innards of my 512C that not having real electronics (2520, actual wires, etc..) could affect the final sound I'm hearing.
All I know is what my ears tell me which was that even with light compression I could hear some sort of thin, more sterile sound characteristics just by virtue of running through the meek
Again the circuit/components play a huge part in the sound...
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20th December 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by babydaddymusic View Post
Gotcha
I guess in looking at the guts of the Joe Meek I see a lot of chips, and common sense tells me comparing that with the innards of my 512C that not having real electronics (2520, actual wires, etc..) could affect the final sound I'm hearing.
All I know is what my ears tell me which was that even with light compression I could hear some sort of thin, more sterile sound characteristics just by virtue of running through the meek
What you're hearing is the "sound" of each unit. How they're made, component choice, how the gain reduction cell operates - blah, blah, blah - blee, blee, blee is all well and good when you're involved in the making of these things ---- which you're not - you're involved in the using of these things, so please evaluate them on the merit of the product [a sum of the parts] and don't give yourself a headache trying to worry about "design" / "construction" decisions.

Yes - those things mean something... to techs, to modification guys, to designers, to OTHER manufacturers, and the occasional sales weasel who understands a bit of what the various methods can do and some of the general textures they impart -- but to the average user, it shouldn't mean shit unless you have a penchant for the erudite [and permit that penchant to skew your hearing as woefully many do].

These are tools that need to be looked at [and more importantly - listened to] and evaluated as complete products [you liked the API more than the Meek -- the "why" isn't important unless you want to be involved in changing the design to suit your aesthetic].

Its like a car... unless you're involved in designing cars, does it really matter if a car has 6 or 8 cylinders? No - it matters if the car suits your need for speed, handling, acceleration [and deceleration - which is actually more important many times]. How they build the engine? Makes nice fodder for the car magazines - but does it really mean shit to the driver? Seriously? Does it need to have "dual overhead cams" to run at 250 km/h? How about 8 cylinders? My 6 cylinder car was more than capable of doing 250 km/h and I have no idea how the cams are set up... after about 250 km/h the "governor" kicks in so all I could accomplish after that was waste some energy [turns out most cars have governors set around 250km/h - the only reason I know this is because I have a friend who works in "automotive design" -- otherwise I would have thought it was just the "top speed" of the car].

While I understand a fair bit about the "design" in things like 2 buss compressors, and could probably explain to you why you're hearing what you're hearing - the fact of the matter is that it doesn't really matter to you "why" you're hearing what you're hearing, the only thing that should matter to you is that you are hearing the difference -- and from that experience you should be better able to make the necessary decisions on where that tool can best be employed in the context of your production.

Peace.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by babydaddymusic View Post
Gotcha
I guess in looking at the guts of the Joe Meek I see a lot of chips, and common sense tells me comparing that with the innards of my 512C that not having real electronics (2520, actual wires, etc..) could affect the final sound I'm hearing.
All I know is what my ears tell me which was that even with light compression I could hear some sort of thin, more sterile sound characteristics just by virtue of running through the meek
there's the problem-> the common-sense...
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fletcher View Post
What you're hearing is the "sound" of each unit. How they're made, component choice, how the gain reduction cell operates - blah, blah, blah - blee, blee, blee is all well and good when you're involved in the making of these things ---- which you're not - you're involved in the using of these things, so please evaluate them on the merit of the product [a sum of the parts] and don't give yourself a headache trying to worry about "design" / "construction" decisions.

Yes - those things mean something... to techs, to modification guys, to designers, to OTHER manufacturers, and the occasional sales weasel who understands a bit of what the various methods can do and some of the general textures they impart -- but to the average user, it shouldn't mean shit unless you have a penchant for the erudite [and permit that penchant to skew your hearing as woefully many do].

These are tools that need to be looked at [and more importantly - listened to] and evaluated as complete products [you liked the API more than the Meek -- the "why" isn't important unless you want to be involved in changing the design to suit your aesthetic].

Its like a car... unless you're involved in designing cars, does it really matter if a car has 6 or 8 cylinders? No - it matters if the car suits your need for speed, handling, acceleration [and deceleration - which is actually more important many times]. How they build the engine? Makes nice fodder for the car magazines - but does it really mean shit to the driver? Seriously? Does it need to have "dual overhead cams" to run at 250 km/h? How about 8 cylinders? My 6 cylinder car was more than capable of doing 250 km/h and I have no idea how the cams are set up... after about 250 km/h the "governor" kicks in so all I could accomplish after that was waste some energy [turns out most cars have governors set around 250km/h - the only reason I know this is because I have a friend who works in "automotive design" -- otherwise I would have thought it was just the "top speed" of the car].

While I understand a fair bit about the "design" in things like 2 buss compressors, and could probably explain to you why you're hearing what you're hearing - the fact of the matter is that it doesn't really matter to you "why" you're hearing what you're hearing, the only thing that should matter to you is that you are hearing the difference -- and from that experience you should be better able to make the necessary decisions on where that tool can best be employed in the context of your production.

Peace.
Excellent post, as usual.
Although I have been fortunate to have been recorded using great gear as an artist, this is my first decent mic pre, and I was just struck by the warmth and presence of the API with nothing on it, just the SM 81.
I thought well, a little compression from the Meek will only make things better (as it often does when I use the Meek as an all in one, pre, compressor and EQ)
Instead though I felt like I had weakened my chain even though I was trying to match volume, etc..
Of course my first thought was I don't see wires and I don't see, etc....
and I so much want to understand what makes the API have more presence and warmth, etc.. and why IC chips etc...sound sterile to me.

I get what you are saying for sure, I guess I am hoping to get the same type of baseline for reference with outboard compressors that I have gotten with mic pre's and mics. For example, having transformers on mic pre's versus clean like a Grace 101, or more ballsy like a BAE 1073, etc...
I understand VCA, versus Optical etc... so in looking at comparing, I always felt that the optical compressor on my meek actually added a little "warmth" and fatness to the source when used in the all in one, and I assumed it would do the same when using the API with the Meek compressor. Instead it sounded thinner and more sterile, which was the opposite of what I thought would happen!

By the way- as I learn more about the technical the more I am using and trusting my ears. I find myself thinking, "I don't care if it's not suppose to sound good, it does" or vise versa.
I like to have a baseline to start from, as I did when I bought the 512, where I knew the API was more mid-forward and my voice likes and API, and plus my style of music is mostly about the vocal and the snare. So I thought, the API will work well with a 57 on snare top and my voice, and so I was able to make that choice for my first good mic pre based on what I knew about the API.

With compressors, you hear a lot of comparison to the staples (LA-2A, 1176) etc...and all I have are the Waves plug ins and my memory of being recorded as an artist. Now that I am in the cockpit and have experienced my same rig but with an API mic pre, I'm sitting there thinking maybe I need to get an outboard compressor of the same quality, but aside from comparisons with the standards, I have no real way to compare other than- that's a VCA or Opto, or what have you.

I noticed in looking at the API 525 and 527's on the website that they have the same op amps, and so I was curious about how that ties in with the sonic characteristics of a compressor- because it seems less obvious than with a mic pre.
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20th December 2010
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Opto's are used in many different compressors with different sounds...
From cheap (stomp boxes) mid level (LA5) to high end, CL1B for example..
Again it HOW its used and the rest of the circuit..an Opto by its self has NO sound...
Same thing for a VCA based compressor..a GOOD one can be VERY clean..(GML)...
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nosebleedaudio View Post
Opto's are used in many different compressors with different sounds...
From cheap (stomp boxes) mid level (LA5) to high end, CL1B for example..
Again it HOW its used and the rest of the circuit..an Opto by its self has NO sound...
Same thing for a VCA based compressor..a GOOD one can be VERY clean..(GML)...
gotcha thanks
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21st December 2010
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When I started really paying attention to gear, people were just beginning to see the marketing power of tubes. Tubes made everything better. Transistors were for cheap gear (unless it said Neve on it). Now it's tranformers, and to a lesser extent, discreet transistors. IC opamps are still out. Who knows? Who cares? It's a bunch of marketing hype. I've got transformerless mics and preamps that sound spectacular. I have high end outboard gear that has ICs. Good is good, crap is crap. Putting a glowing tube in a Behringer box doesn't make it sound good. The ICs in a Distressor don't seem to wreck it. A good designer chooses components based on how they affect the whole circuit. A transformer won't fix a bad design. An IC won't wreck a good one.
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21st December 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eganmedia View Post
When I started really paying attention to gear, people were just beginning to see the marketing power of tubes. Tubes made everything better. Transistors were for cheap gear (unless it said Neve on it). Now it's tranformers, and to a lesser extent, discreet transistors. IC opamps are still out. Who knows? Who cares? It's a bunch of marketing hype. I've got transformerless mics and preamps that sound spectacular. I have high end outboard gear that has ICs. Good is good, crap is crap. Putting a glowing tube in a Behringer box doesn't make it sound good. The ICs in a Distressor don't seem to wreck it. A good designer chooses components based on how they affect the whole circuit. A transformer won't fix a bad design. An IC won't wreck a good one.
Very good points,
As an example, I like the TLM 103 more than certain other, more expensive mics, on certain sources.
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21st December 2010
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If you're hearing a piece of gear that makes the sound 'smaller' & 'grainy' just by passing thru it, that's pretty much gonna be down to two things: the IC's used in the signal path, and the capacitors in the signal path.

The layout, the implementation, the power supply, any transistors in the path... these things also affect the sound, especially with regards to noise performance and how it reacts and treats transients and hot signals, but by and large it's the chips and the caps themselves that determine the baseline tone of a chip-based design.

What I know from experience is that some older chip sets, like those from the 70's that you find in the occasional UREI, Ashly, Tascam and other pieces that are held in dubious regard around here, actually have a very cool sound, a lo-fi grain and grunge that's pleasing to my ears and can be warm in its own way. IC's in metal-can form also sound great, MCI desks are chock full of them and they're meaty as hell. These days, there are chips that are *squeaky* clean and impart no coloration that I can detect; what comes in is what goes out.

What I find consistently have the most dramatic positive effect on the tone of a circuit are transformers. They run the gamut from clean to fat, but by and large the units I consider to be the biggest tone monsters generally have 1, usually 2, beefy transformers in the path.

Tubes tend to be a religious matter around here so I'll tread lightly. Suffice to say that in my experience, honest-to-god tube circuits (the kind with serious voltage feeding the glass) usually sound more 'real' to me than transistor based designs. Not that they're colored, there's just something about tubes, whether clean or otherwise, that feels more musical, more honest somehow.


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21st December 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by u b k View Post
If you're hearing a piece of gear that makes the sound 'smaller' & 'grainy' just by passing thru it, that's pretty much gonna be down to two things: the IC's used in the signal path, and the capacitors in the signal path.

The layout, the implementation, the power supply, any transistors in the path... these things also affect the sound, especially with regards to noise performance and how it reacts and treats transients and hot signals, but by and large it's the chips and the caps themselves that determine the baseline tone of a chip-based design.

What I know from experience is that some older chip sets, like those from the 70's that you find in the occasional UREI, Ashly, Tascam and other pieces that are held in dubious regard around here, actually have a very cool sound, a lo-fi grain and grunge that's pleasing to my ears and can be warm in its own way. IC's in metal-can form also sound great, MCI desks are chock full of them and they're meaty as hell. These days, there are chips that are *squeaky* clean and impart no coloration that I can detect; what comes in is what goes out.

What I find consistently have the most dramatic positive effect on the tone of a circuit are transformers. They run the gamut from clean to fat, but by and large the units I consider to be the biggest tone monsters generally have 1, usually 2, beefy transformers in the path.

Tubes tend to be a religious matter around here so I'll tread lightly. Suffice to say that in my experience, honest-to-god tube circuits (the kind with serious voltage feeding the glass) usually sound more 'real' to me than transistor based designs. Not that they're colored, there's just something about tubes, whether clean or otherwise, that feels more musical, more honest somehow.


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I was hoping you would post !
Thanks very much- brilliant- Having read some of your posts elsewhere, I know you are a fan of compression for shaping sounds, etc... If you were going to add another 500 series unit to your arsenal would you get a compressor as the second thing or a mic pre of a different flavor than the API 512?
I guess a part of me thinks that having a good meaty compressor can kill two birds with one stone, which is to compress a little on the way in, and provide a little of the bottom end beef that I might look for in say a Neve 1073 lb, or MA 5, etc...
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23rd December 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by babydaddymusic View Post
I guess a part of me thinks that having a good meaty compressor can kill two birds with one stone, which is to compress a little on the way in, and provide a little of the bottom end beef that I might look for in say a Neve 1073 lb, or MA 5, etc...

In my opinion there's absolutely no substitute for getting the tone at the source, which for anything that vibrates air means room and mic and preamp. API preamps have a very specific 'thing', and no comp in the world will take that thing and make it sound like it was recorded thru a 1073 or a fearn (I don't know the ma5).

But you gotta be honest about what you really want, and it sounds like you really want a beefy compressor. There are tons of boxes that will thicken the sound of your 512, but the transient character and overall vibe of the api will always be there, and I don't know of anything that will give it the tight but massive low end whollop of something like a v72.

And none of the above will have even remotely the same impact as switching to a different mic.


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26th December 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by u b k View Post
In my opinion there's absolutely no substitute for getting the tone at the source, which for anything that vibrates air means room and mic and preamp. API preamps have a very specific 'thing', and no comp in the world will take that thing and make it sound like it was recorded thru a 1073 or a fearn (I don't know the ma5).

But you gotta be honest about what you really want, and it sounds like you really want a beefy compressor. There are tons of boxes that will thicken the sound of your 512, but the transient character and overall vibe of the api will always be there, and I don't know of anything that will give it the tight but massive low end whollop of something like a v72.

And none of the above will have even remotely the same impact as switching to a different mic.


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Yes- That has been in the back of my mind here in the last week or so- meaning getting a better mic for vocals.
I was using an AT 4041 SDC which is a very natural sounding SDC to my ears, and I always felt I would need to have something (mic pre) to flatter the sound going in if I was going to continue to use that mic.
Although it's not the most glamorous mic, I've always liked the sound of a Shure SM-81 on acoustic guitar, so I got one for Christmas. I compared to the sound of AT 4041, and indeed, the SM 81 is more flattering in the way I wanted it to be. What's funny though is that running the SM 81 through the API took things to a big next level. This was the first time I was able to really mess with a good mic pre in my own world, with my stuff on my time and I guess the notion that a good mic pre will make your mics come alive is proving true. BUT I only have an SM7b and an AT 3035 to record vocals.
As an example of what you are saying about the mic. I finally decided to not roll of low end using the filter on my AT 3035's as overheads and I was floored by how much better the drums sounded by having the mics flat!

What I am trying to accomplish specifically is that sort of rounded, pleasing acoustic sound like on "Don't Panic" by Coldplay. I feel that I am hearing compression as an effect, ie tamping down the initial transient a little, in a high quality way. Perhaps though, I can accomplish this by moving the mic around.
But, to me it would seem a good compressor would help me do that.

Let's say that I get a 1073 lb, you get some of that rounding and compression of the sharp transients by viitue of the mic pre's characteristics, so I wasn't sure which would provide the most overall value.
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26th December 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by babydaddymusic View Post
What I am trying to accomplish specifically is that sort of rounded, pleasing acoustic sound like on "Don't Panic" by Coldplay. I feel that I am hearing compression as an effect...

Well, what you're hearing on that song is the masterful use of about 35 compressors, all used in ways that most guys never begin to experiment with.

Not that you need to do that in order to get a round, pleasing sound on acoustic, I'm just advising you to stay reasonable in your expectations of any single piece of gear.

For what it's worth, api preamps are not what I reach for when I'm looking to hear 'round'.


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27th December 2010
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Originally Posted by u b k View Post
Well, what you're hearing on that song is the masterful use of about 35 compressors, all used in ways that most guys never begin to experiment with.

Not that you need to do that in order to get a round, pleasing sound on acoustic, I'm just advising you to stay reasonable in your expectations of any single piece of gear.

For what it's worth, api preamps are not what I reach for when I'm looking to hear 'round'.


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Interesting- Michael Brauer mixed the record I know, and he is a wizard.

I think I have decided to possibly get a more round mic pre, and for now maybe an RNC just to have some sort of decent compression on the way in. I really am loving the English way of getting it right when recording.

What are your basic thoughts on plugins after the fact versus hardware compressors on the way in?
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27th December 2010
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Hi
The SSL, Neve and most of the other 'big' desks are stuffed full of all the chips that it is now fashionable to hate. Are ALL recordings made between mid to late '80's to say 2000 totally rubbish? Many of the bits of recording gear have them too, as well as the monitoring systems.
Get over it.
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28th December 2010
Old 28th December 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by babydaddymusic View Post
What are your basic thoughts on plugins after the fact versus hardware compressors on the way in?

Think of hardware as tone and attitude more than anything, because it's still irreplaceable from that perspective. The fact that hardware is generally easier to work with, more forgiving, and gives better results with less effort is a bonus.

Get as many transformers in the path as possible before you convert a signal, that's my advice. If there are tubes in there, all the better.


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28th December 2010
Old 28th December 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Syson View Post
Hi
The SSL, Neve and most of the other 'big' desks are stuffed full of all the chips that it is now fashionable to hate. Are ALL recordings made between mid to late '80's to say 2000 totally rubbish? Many of the bits of recording gear have them too, as well as the monitoring systems.
Get over it.
Matt S
I totally agree with you Matt.thumbsup

Its like people hear the word "chip" and they right away blame it for their "small and grainy sound". Didn't stop Rupert Neve from using them from what i've noticed has it? There is much more to the sound of a unit than if its class A, has transformers, expensive resistors and such. People get caught up too much in what's inside the unit than worrying about more of what's between their ears or what's going into the unit.
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