Charter Oak SCL 1 first impressions
Old 20th October 2012
  #1
Charter Oak SCL 1 first impressions

I'm not a tech guy or and experienced engineer. Just a full-time performer, forced by circumstances to self produce, and determined to make each new release sound better than the last. Looked up recently and was surprised to notice that my attention recently has been focused in the high end section. Its my ears that got me here, certainly not my wallet, and even though I've been using cheap gear for a long time, recently I just don't hear things like I used to. I'm no longer satisfied with the sound of some of my cheap gear and I've been looking for an exceptional buss compressor that could also be used for mastering.

After extensive research I came up with a short list of units that would suit my style music, either the SCL-1 or the SOC1.1
The SCL-1 was my preference, but the price, along with the import tax was a bit scary.

I was fortunate to get my mitts on a SCL-1 this week.
There are damn few of them here in Japan, and only one distributor. I wasn't planning to buy so soon, but he offered me a demo unit that was scratched, and the price was too good to pass up. Then, on top of that, after getting my bank transfer he decided to send me a unit that had never been used before. Its a "old" unit, near the end of the first hundred that Charter Oak produced, but I was happy to find that it did have a bypass switch on the front panel, unlike the first ones off the line.

Its interesting to note that Charter Oak, which has sold close to 500 SCL-1's as of this date, has made some significant refinements in the newer models. The knee is even more versatile than before and there are also some switching improvements to aid the mastering guys in recalling settings.

Upon receiving the unit I didn't have a chance to listen to it or do anything with it other than connect it to my master bus, plug it in, and turn it on and off. The next day, like magic, there was an email in my box from Michael Deming of Charter Oak and we arranged a Skype call in which he helped me calibrate the unit. The calibration process is pretty simple. I had some gain staging problems in my recording setup and, in spite of being obviously busy he was patient and happy to help me get them straightened out. It was a priceless learning experience for me and a pleasure to talk to him.

I can't give an in-depth review because I only had a few minutes to listen to the unit. By the time I had it set up and configured it was well after midnight. Here are some first impressions.

This unit is hot! (Not heat wise, in fact, it runs so cool you can leave it on for years at at time.) At unity gain, the signal that comes off my stereo bus is hot enough to fry my interface, but at more than twice my normal stereo output settings the Charter Oak was like, "Is that all you've got....punk??" So I'm getting a really hot signal going into my interface now, which is a good thing for fidelity.
If you like headroom, this is your baby. You can really hit it hard, and what comes on the other side is huge and clean. I had to pad down the inputs on my interface but I've got the inputs and outputs of the Charter Oak cranked to 7 and 8.

Next impression, upon listening to one of my better mixes. Right off the bat, have to say this thing has quite a "lifting" effect! Things that were buried in the mix before come through loud and clear and beautifully. Also, when I put the Oak in bypass mode and listen to the same mix, which I thought was so great, its like I can hear instruments flailing around or flapping in the breeze. There's definitely a gluing effect to using this compressor.

Its funny how extreme settings that would have a normal compressor pumping and gasping can be used in the Oak with impunity. If you have an Oak and want to hear that "lifting" effect, and its a Clean lifting, try this setting in the dual mode:
Ratio at 1 (near 1.5:1 to 2) within a .5dB of GR with the input cranked at 10.

Again, this is only after a few minutes of listening because my performing schedule on the weekends is very busy, but will add some more impressions when more time presents itself for me to get used to this thing, especially the dynamic and static threshold, of which I've barely scratched the surface.

This fantastic compressor puts me in a whole new league! VERY happy with it.
Old 23rd December 2012
  #2
Finally had a few weeks to work with the SCL 1 on a few mixes, and wow! This compressor is not only beautiful sounding but it has changed the way I work and the way I hear things. It seems like after you run a signal through it, with the minimum amount of tweaking, the sound is just "finished."
Its like there's
nothing left to do, and you can move quickly on to what's next. I have some of the best UAD plug ins but most of them sound cheap and plasticky when tacked on to the sound of the SCL1. The
fidelity of the unit, and the way it opens up a mix is also incredible. What a pleasure it is to work with this compressor!
This thing sounds so good that my ear is getting "spoiled," and it looks like a few of my boxes are going to be heading out the door because they just don't measure up, and space on my rack (and in Japan in general) is at a premium.
Just comparing the waveforms that come out of this thing to some of my other compressors I find them to be more detailed, as if every nuance of the performance is captured. I had an ART PRO VLA II downstream from it but I had to take that out the chain. The ART was just muddying it up. (Gold pin long plate tubes in the ART, btw, not the usual stock tubes, and they sound pretty good in other applications besides the mix bus.) The ART just can't track fast enough or handle the high level of signal required to juice the SCL.
On the SCL no matter how low you crank down the threshold or crank up the gain reduction, or the input there is no distortion. As a result I find myself ignoring the meter and tuning the sound to my liking by ear. This is the way the unit was designed to be used, in sort of a right brain approach which really gels with my style of working.
Old 23rd December 2012
  #3
Gear maniac
 
Upfront2K's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by warlordpriest View Post
I'm not a tech guy or and experienced engineer. Just a full-time performer, forced by circumstances to self produce, and determined to make each new release sound better than the last. Looked up recently and was surprised to notice that my attention recently has been focused in the high end section. Its my ears that got me here, certainly not my wallet, and even though I've been using cheap gear for a long time, recently I just don't hear things like I used to. I'm no longer satisfied with the sound of some of my cheap gear and I've been looking for an exceptional buss compressor that could also be used for mastering.

After extensive research I came up with a short list of units that would suit my style music, either the SCL-1 or the SOC1.1
The SCL-1 was my preference, but the price, along with the import tax was a bit scary.

I was fortunate to get my mitts on a SCL-1 this week.
There are damn few of them here in Japan, and only one distributor. I wasn't planning to buy so soon, but he offered me a demo unit that was scratched, and the price was too good to pass up. Then, on top of that, after getting my bank transfer he decided to send me a unit that had never been used before. Its a "old" unit, near the end of the first hundred that Charter Oak produced, but I was happy to find that it did have a bypass switch on the front panel, unlike the first ones off the line.

Its interesting to note that Charter Oak, which has sold close to 500 SCL-1's as of this date, has made some significant refinements in the newer models. The knee is even more versatile than before and there are also some switching improvements to aid the mastering guys in recalling settings.

Upon receiving the unit I didn't have a chance to listen to it or do anything with it other than connect it to my master bus, plug it in, and turn it on and off. The next day, like magic, there was an email in my box from Michael Deming of Charter Oak and we arranged a Skype call in which he helped me calibrate the unit. The calibration process is pretty simple. I had some gain staging problems in my recording setup and, in spite of being obviously busy he was patient and happy to help me get them straightened out. It was a priceless learning experience for me and a pleasure to talk to him.

I can't give an in-depth review because I only had a few minutes to listen to the unit. By the time I had it set up and configured it was well after midnight. Here are some first impressions.

This unit is hot! (Not heat wise, in fact, it runs so cool you can leave it on for years at at time.) At unity gain, the signal that comes off my stereo bus is hot enough to fry my interface, but at more than twice my normal stereo output settings the Charter Oak was like, "Is that all you've got....punk??" So I'm getting a really hot signal going into my interface now, which is a good thing for fidelity.
If you like headroom, this is your baby. You can really hit it hard, and what comes on the other side is huge and clean. I had to pad down the inputs on my interface but I've got the inputs and outputs of the Charter Oak cranked to 7 and 8.

Next impression, upon listening to one of my better mixes. Right off the bat, have to say this thing has quite a "lifting" effect! Things that were buried in the mix before come through loud and clear and beautifully. Also, when I put the Oak in bypass mode and listen to the same mix, which I thought was so great, its like I can hear instruments flailing around or flapping in the breeze. There's definitely a gluing effect to using this compressor.

Its funny how extreme settings that would have a normal compressor pumping and gasping can be used in the Oak with impunity. If you have an Oak and want to hear that "lifting" effect, and its a Clean lifting, try this setting in the dual mode:
Ratio at 1 (near 1.5:1 to 2) within a .5dB of GR with the input cranked at 10.

Again, this is only after a few minutes of listening because my performing schedule on the weekends is very busy, but will add some more impressions when more time presents itself for me to get used to this thing, especially the dynamic and static threshold, of which I've barely scratched the surface.

This fantastic compressor puts me in a whole new league! VERY happy with it.
sssSSSH stop with all the fuss you're gonna give people ideas.

It's suppose to be a secret OK.
Quote
1
Old 24th December 2012
  #4
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I checked one out at AES this year and was super impressed.
Old 25th December 2012
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gear is cool View Post
I checked one out at AES this year and was super impressed.
Same here. Agreed. - paul
Old 26th December 2012
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by gear is cool View Post
I checked one out at AES this year and was super impressed.
Yeah, well I just checked out your page and saw your studio and got blown away! Looks like paradise on earth! You should have a caution posted like, "some viewers may find the following pictures disturbing!"
Its nice to know of such wonderful spaces where you can get just the right sound, and hats off to you for your obvious dedication to it, Joe!
Old 26th December 2012
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by warlordpriest View Post
You should have a caution posted like, "some viewers may find the following pictures disturbing!"
That's a super nice thing to say, thanks!

Its still a work in progress

Not to derail the OT but have you heard the Charter Oak SA538B.

Its pretty sweet on a number of sources.

I'm super impressed with Mikes mic's ...
Old 26th December 2012
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gear is cool View Post
That's a super nice thing to say, thanks!

Its still a work in progress

Not to derail the OT but have you heard the Charter Oak SA538B.

Its pretty sweet on a number of sources.

I'm super impressed with Mikes mic's ...
Hi Joe, super impressed with your studio site. Who tuned your control room and what do you have on your ceilings? I am in PDX and about to build out my studio in the basement. It will be about 800 sq ft. Having an accurate control room is my number one goal.

My first pro studio experiences were actually in Mike's studio 20 years ago and I have been using the Charter Oak on my 2 bus for about a year. It is an interesting piece. I am still figuring out gain staging with it but there is no question that it is special when dialed in right.
Old 27th December 2012
  #9
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gear is cool's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by skythemusic View Post
Hi Joe, super impressed with your studio site. Who tuned your control room and what do you have on your ceilings? I am in PDX and about to build out my studio in the basement. It will be about 800 sq ft. Having an accurate control room is my number one goal.

My first pro studio experiences were actually in Mike's studio 20 years ago and I have been using the Charter Oak on my 2 bus for about a year. It is an interesting piece. I am still figuring out gain staging with it but there is no question that it is special when dialed in right.
Mike is a good dude, a busy man too ...
Sweet, having an accurate control room is a good goal to have!
I did all the room treatment also built the clouds on ceiling, back lit them etc.
I tuned my room with those those archaic test instruments (my own ears
its the best sounding control room in the NW (at least the best that I've heard). If you want any pointers I'm happy to offer them.

This was my 3rd go around with the control room ....
Old 28th December 2012
  #10
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Seamus TM's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by gear is cool View Post
Mike is a good dude, a busy man too ...
Sweet, having an accurate control room is a good goal to have!
I did all the room treatment also built the clouds on ceiling, back lit them etc.
I tuned my room with those those archaic test instruments (my own ears
its the best sounding control room in the NW (at least the best that I've heard). If you want any pointers I'm happy to offer them.

This was my 3rd go around with the control room ....
Great looking live room!
Old 29th December 2012
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by skythemusic View Post

My first pro studio experiences were actually in Mike's studio 20 years ago and I have been using the Charter Oak on my 2 bus for about a year. It is an interesting piece. I am still figuring out gain staging with it but there is no question that it is special when dialed in right.
Really curious about that. What kind of music were guys you doing in those days and what attracted you to Mike's studio?

I was having gain staging issues (volume spikes and/or no gain reduction) when I finally had time to sit down and use the piece intensively. Didn't want to call Mike, knowing how busy he is, and how much time he took helping me get it set up initially. Taking that other compressor out of the chain helped immediately. There's still a Fatso upstream, but that unit has separate, recallable input and output controls and that seems to make a difference. Every time I would get in trouble, going back to the original settings when we calibrated the machine and using that as a starting point also helped. Sometimes using extreme settings as a starting point has helped, like really cranking down the threshold, cranking up the input and ratio, and easing up from there.

Don't know if that helps. It's just been my experience.
Old 15th February 2013
  #12
Gear maniac
listen

to check out the charter oak compressor, go to youtube or sound pure site and you can watch mike deming and todd atlas testing it at different levels of reduction. pretty impressive. if i were in market (would rather eat), this is what i'd get for tracking and mixing.
Old 1st March 2013
  #13
Lives for gear
 

I've got an SCL-1 coming to me next week, and I'm very curious to see how this thing reacts on my Mixbus and in a Mastering application. I was actually trying to grab an H1000 A (very impressed at AES SF), but apparently Mike Deming is still tweaking them ( I was told "July", but of course it's always up in the air). So, the SCL-1 was my next in line, and it looks like I'll be messing around with one soon. I will post my impressions after I get a feel for it . It will be going against my Manley VariMu with HPSC and TBar mod and my STC8-M on my 1608's Master insert. I know both of those units pretty well now (especially the VariMu, the STC8 will always have some mystery), so it will be interesting to see what I hear. Cheers. - Paul
Quote
2
Old 1st March 2013
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by warlordpriest View Post
Really curious about that. What kind of music were guys you doing in those days and what attracted you to Mike's studio?

.

We were doing sludge rock. Sort of somewhere between Soundgarden and Smashing Pumpkins with 2 lead vocalists and a bit more active basslines (well, at least than the Pumpkins). We went to Mike's studio because the rest of the band had made a couple records with him. I was all of 19 or 20 and it was my first time in a bigger studio I believe. Mike worked on a lot of Brooklyn records before Brooklyn became hipster central. I especially like St Johnny (from CT) and the Essex Green.
Old 2nd March 2013
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by skythemusic View Post
We were doing sludge rock. Sort of somewhere between Soundgarden and Smashing Pumpkins with 2 lead vocalists and a bit more active basslines (well, at least than the Pumpkins). We went to Mike's studio because the rest of the band had made a couple records with him. I was all of 19 or 20 and it was my first time in a bigger studio I believe. Mike worked on a lot of Brooklyn records before Brooklyn became hipster central. I especially like St Johnny (from CT) and the Essex Green.
Have no idea what you're talking about, but that's not your fault. I have heard of the Smashing Pumpkins. Think they got a Grammy a while back. Never really checked out their music.
Thanks anyway. I definitely need to get out more....or at least out of my genre.
Old 25th March 2013
  #16
I wanted to fix a few seconds on three songs on my second CD which has some amateurish problems that are difficult to correct since that the original recording was destroyed. Only had a little time to remaster. Anyway, I ran then through the SCL-1 just before the press deadline and when I heard the results and how smooth and even sounding it had made the compression it just blew me away. I really regret not re-doing the whole album, because now I can really hear a stark difference between the tunes that went through the SCL-1 and those that didn't. Elements are so neatly and naturally laid down!
It wasn't immediately that apparent, but wow, I hear it now. In fact, the more I use it the better my hearing gets!
One thing's for sure. Nothing's ever going out of here again without going through the SCL-1.
Old 2nd May 2013
  #17
Man! I gotta tell you! Finally using this on a bonafide acoustic mix...no studio, just a live recording and this thing is friggin awesome! Now I know why they call themselves Charter Oak Acoustic. This thing really shines on acoustic sources. The way it pulls a mix together is like some kind of secret sauce or mojo! My rack is getting clearer and clearer, down to the essentials. The SCL-1 has made a lot of gear redundant and just useless clutter.
Old 24th October 2013
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by riffmachine View Post
I've got an SCL-1 coming to me next week, and I'm very curious to see how this thing reacts on my Mixbus and in a Mastering application. I was actually trying to grab an H1000 A (very impressed at AES SF), but apparently Mike Deming is still tweaking them ( I was told "July", but of course it's always up in the air). So, the SCL-1 was my next in line, and it looks like I'll be messing around with one soon. I will post my impressions after I get a feel for it . It will be going against my Manley VariMu with HPSC and TBar mod and my STC8-M on my 1608's Master insert. I know both of those units pretty well now (especially the VariMu, the STC8 will always have some mystery), so it will be interesting to see what I hear. Cheers. - Paul
so what did you think?
Old 24th October 2013
  #19
Its subtle and refined, if you like that. I remember reading one experienced Gearslut wrote something like if you could quantify the compression effect it imparts in terms of a color he would call the SCL-1 the color purple.
I have one of the first production models and am very happy with it. On several occasions I've pushed mine to the very limit of headroom where it looked like it was going to clip but when the signal got into the DAW there were no overs. I also love the imaging and adjustments you can make to really solidify and center the lead instrument or vocal in a mix. Pretty sure the design has been improved at least twice since the first release, so you're getting something that's tried and tested in multiple scenarios.
You already have some impressive compressors in your rack.
Putting it in series after the VariMu might also be interesting....to catch any peaks the Mu can't get to fast enough. Just a thought. Enjoy!
Old 25th October 2013
  #20
Gear nut
 

anyone compared the CharterOak scl1 to Roll Music super stereo, I already have the SCL1 and need to know if the Roll Music would give a significantly different / better sound across the mix bus, using all analogue / tape; Toft ATB 16, Tascam MSR 24 1" 24 track , Revox B77 15 i.p.s. half track for mixdown & Ross Martin PCM 4222 AD converter
Old 25th October 2013
  #21
Gear nut
 

My first impressions are Charter Oak is cleaner & more natural sounding to my ear with gain reduction 1/2db -1db, slowest attack/ fastest release , ratio 1.5:1 - just sounds clear with with well defined highs and more space - Roll Music sounds slightly muddy in comparison.
Old 25th October 2013
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mixerguy View Post
so what did you think?
Oh man, I totally forgot to give my thoughts on this comp. i won't go into it too in depth since it's my bday and I'm somewhat mentally challenged by drink at the moment, but the short and sweet of it is it is a very nice box. It's got a hifi sound to it, pretty clean (more so than my STC-8M imo), and it can do a lot of gain reduction very well. I've been using it on my 2bus for mixing instead of my tbar modded VariMu, and I'm liking it a lot. It's certainly less colored than the VarMu which is working well with my 1608 since I already get a lot of coloration from the console. I've also used it for mastering and it has performed very well. It keeps the transients pretty well intact and I don't hear any rounding or softening happening. I haven't used it on individual tracks yet because it's been on my 2bus or for mastering since I got it. Quite a cool box in my opinion. It's the best box for clean gain reduction I've tried so far. The key for me is setting the Control Voltage/Static Threshold right. You can really nail things down or keep things big but compressed. Depends on your needs. - paul
Quote
1
Old 25th October 2013
  #23
tko
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Calibrating...

To the O.P, could you walk us through the calibration process and how it worked for you please?

I have one myself and have talked with Mike about the process, but I am still getting my head around and would like to make sure I'm not missing anything.

Yes these babies are sound fantastic! I've starting using mine along with the PEQ-1 on rooms.

Thanks,
TKO
Old 25th October 2013
  #24
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fccmt's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by optionalanalogue View Post
My first impressions are Charter Oak is cleaner & more natural sounding to my ear with gain reduction 1/2db -1db, slowest attack/ fastest release , ratio 1.5:1 - just sounds clear with with well defined highs and more space - Roll Music sounds slightly muddy in comparison.
Unfortunately I don't have any experience with the charter oak, I've only seen the videos (from sound pure) and they are quite impressive!
But I own a Roll Super Stereo unit and I can tell you that is a very clean, transparent and open sound compressor. With low ratios, slow attack times and fast releases (pdr engage) you get an accentuated effect on the high-end. It doesn't shrink the image and at the same time it can tighten up a mix without any effort or audible compression artefacts...I the love sound/grab of this compressor when you set to a 4:1 ratio...playing with the attack and release to enhance the punch...it's a great unit an again very transparent...the way I like it
Old 25th October 2013
  #25
Quote:
Originally Posted by tko View Post
To the O.P, could you walk us through the calibration process and how it worked for you please?

I have one myself and have talked with Mike about the process, but I am still getting my head around and would like to make sure I'm not missing anything.

Yes these babies are sound fantastic! I've starting using mine along with the PEQ-1 on rooms.

Thanks,
TKO
I'm a little mentally challenged myself, having just got back from gigs in 2 cities with only 4 hours sleep...and having not been able to mix, look at, or turn anything related to recording on since August, but here's my calibration process:

!. Turn it on and let it warm up for at least a half hour or until the needles are stabilized. ( I try to wait an hour. )

2. Set the control voltage so the needle is at zero on both sides.

3. Go to work.

I'm not trying to be flippant or anything, that's just how I use it.
Since Michael set it up for me that first time, there hasn't been much variation in where the control voltage needs to go. I'm sure you've noticed it fluctuates until the unit is warmed up.
Again, I have an older unit.
I'll be getting back to mixing and using it in a few days and will definitely get back with you if something else comes to mind, but I don't pay too much attention to it other than that.

Cheers!
Old 25th October 2013
  #26
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Yes, that's exactly what I do for calibration after it's been warm up. But I believe it's just for setting up to have reference point(Knee shape). You are free to adjust the control voltage as you like for different Knee. I only have my SCL-1 for two days and just finished a mix today where I used it on vocal. Vocal chain is SCL-1 -> Massive Passive -> L2M MK II. I am very impressed with how smooth and transparent the SCL-1 compress a vocal track. I am looking forward to tomorrow mix...maybe I will try putting the SCL-1 on the stereo buss with the PEQ-1 and see what happens.
Old 25th October 2013
  #27
And if you ever get lost, just go back to the original settings when you first calibrated it and used it on a mix (assuming that you wrote them down or something.) Go back to that and tweak from there. Which can also keep you from getting too extreme.
Old 25th October 2013
  #28
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How good or bad is the SCL 1 for recall?

i dont care about stepped... just are there clear markings I can notate?
Old 26th October 2013
  #29
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Charter Oak SCL 1 first impressions-imageuploadedbygearslutz1382749398.120929.jpg

See for yourself. :-)
Old 26th October 2013
  #30
Yeah. And, of course it comes with a recall sheet. Quick and easy.
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