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Why not buy a cheap compressor?
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nickjmk
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#1
9th May 2012
Old 9th May 2012
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Why not buy a cheap compressor?

I'm thinking of buying a cheap compressor, mainly to use as an insert between my preamp and A/D converter while recording vocals, mainly. The products in my price range are the Behringer Composer, DBX 266/166XL/XS and the Alesis 3632, all of which have been bashed pretty severely by you gearslutz. My question is, what makes these units 'bad'. I know they wont stack up to Distressors and 1176s but but what are the inherent flaws of these cheap outboard units?

Thanks
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9th May 2012
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Nothing wrong with a "cheap" compressor if you like what it does.

Don't forget to check out the ART Pro VLA II. Perfect for what you want to do with it. Definitely performs well over its price. Lots of studios have them and use them even when more "expensive" options are available.

If it sounds good, it is good.
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9th May 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nickjmk View Post
I'm thinking of buying a cheap compressor, mainly to use as an insert between my preamp and A/D converter while recording vocals, mainly. The products in my price range are the Behringer Composer, DBX 266/166XL/XS and the Alesis 3632, all of which have been bashed pretty severely by you gearslutz. My question is, what makes these units 'bad'. I know they wont stack up to Distressors and 1176s but but what are the inherent flaws of these cheap outboard units?

Thanks
The dbx's you mention to me are indeed bad. Like, sound like shite and will make your signal a fluffy blob. I guess an old (german made) Composer isn't the anticrist. Not tried the Alesis.

But if you want cheap for the mentioned purpose I recommend a dbx 160xt or x or a. They sound nice and you won't outgrow it, just prioritise it for different things over time perhaps. Unlike a 266 or 166xl, which once you realise what it does you will want to loose faster than a turd down the toilet.
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9th May 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NYCruiser View Post
Nothing wrong with a "cheap" compressor if you like what it does.

Don't forget to check out the ART Pro VLA II. Perfect for what you want to do with it. Definitely performs well over its price. Lots of studios have them and use them even when more "expensive" options are available.

If it sounds good, it is good.
Hmm, looks quite sexy, I'll have to look into it, cheers!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Karloff70 View Post
The dbx's you mention to me are indeed bad. Like, sound like shite and will make your signal a fluffy blob. I guess an old (german made) Composer isn't the anticrist. Not tried the Alesis.

But if you want cheap for the mentioned purpose I recommend a dbx 160xt or x or a. They sound nice and you won't outgrow it, just prioritise it for different things over time perhaps. Unlike a 266 or 166xl, which once you realise what it does you will want to loose faster than a turd down the toilet.
This is my problem, can you use some descriptors that actually give me an idea of the sound? XP
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9th May 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nickjmk View Post


This is my problem, can you use some descriptors that actually give me an idea of the sound? XP
Not sure which comp you're referring to but as this is so very subjective anyway I'll keep it to 166/266xl = plastic, cheap, not believable sound = not useful, 160xt/x/a = hairy and musical sound with character = useful.
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9th May 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nickjmk View Post
I'm thinking of buying a cheap compressor, mainly to use as an insert between my preamp and A/D converter while recording vocals, mainly. The products in my price range are the Behringer Composer, DBX 266/166XL/XS and the Alesis 3632, all of which have been bashed pretty severely by you gearslutz. My question is, what makes these units 'bad'. I know they wont stack up to Distressors and 1176s but but what are the inherent flaws of these cheap outboard units?

Thanks
I picked up a Behringer MDX 2600 for Christmas, and although it's had limited use so far--mostly due to the fact that I've not recorded too much in the past few months--it's proven pretty handy. It has lots of cool features, and I think it will come in handy for live use as well.

Chris
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9th May 2012
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Cheap compressors should not deter you..its what you do with them that counts!
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Nothing wrong with cheap compressors, but there's a lot of better options out there. RNC, Pro Vla... older Ashly and symetrix are great! Do a search... there's many threads on this subject!
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I've used (and still own) an original DBX 166, an ART VLA II (with NOS Mullard Tubes) and a Behringer MDX2200; each one has worked well and has done its job.
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A ProVLA will be useful even alongside much more expensive compressors.. it's definitely not a crappy sounding piece and can be picked up for $250 new and a lot less used.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nickjmk View Post
The products in my price range are the Behringer Composer, DBX 266/166XL/XS and the Alesis 3632, all of which have been bashed pretty severely by you gearslutz.
I don't see anyone bashing the 3632. Unless you mean the 3630?
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Check out Aphex 661 as well. Great comps and even better when jim williams mods it.

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Well, why do you want to track with compression?

It makes no sense when recording in 24-bit format, unless you have only one good compressor that you want to use on multiple tracks.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jetam View Post
Well, why do you want to track with compression?

It makes no sense when recording in 24-bit format, unless you have only one good compressor that you want to use on multiple tracks.
Actually, it totally does, if you are going to do it anyway, and if the performer likes to sing into it to interact with it (like most....). Still, the compressor is largely viewed as only a dynamics controller, when really it is mainly a dynamics maker.
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Yeah lots of reasons to track with compression.
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I've grown fond of cheap comps from doing live sound, where they simply get the job done.
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9th May 2012
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I was SO lucky I bought a Pro VLA for my first compressor. It still sits proudly among my newer, "better" gear. I still use it everyday.
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fmr rnc is a good sounding cheap compressor?
fmr rnla is a better good sounding cheap compressor.
as others said, vla is a good sounding cheap compressor
however i would put more money and buy either fmr pbc or gap comp54 which are cheap priced, but expensive sounding compressors
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ivmike View Post
I've used (and still own) an original DBX 166, an ART VLA II (with NOS Mullard Tubes) and a Behringer MDX2200; each one has worked well and has done its job.
So many 166 variants. I have an older 166A and I think it's a pretty decent little unit. The Symetrix 501, too...

Although, I've heard the XL variants are pretty bad, I haven't used one. I wonder if all the negative hype they get is deserved?
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My first compressor was an Alesis 3630. Granted, I didn't know what the heck I was doing, but regardless of which knob I turned, and which direction I turned it, my mix sounded like crap (I was using it on the stereo bus)! Then, I hit the bypass button, and everything sounded fine again. Needless to say, I got rid of it.

A short time later, I bought a Behringer Composer MDX2200, and found it to be much, much better. It was much more subtle, and I was able to actually use it on my mix without destroying it. I still own that MDX2200, and still use it occasionally for live sound.

But for not much more money, I'd still probably direct you to an FMR RNC, or an ART Pro VLA II (both of which I also own today).
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For just tracking any cheap compressor is fine. Heck you could even route a plug-in compressor for the singer in the headphones if that's all that is needed for tracking.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ksandvik View Post
For just tracking any cheap compressor is fine. Heck you could even route a plug-in compressor for the singer in the headphones if that's all that is needed for tracking.
I'm assuming you mean just for monitoring while tracking, as opposed to printing the compressed signal............
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Karloff70 View Post
Actually, it totally does, if you are going to do it anyway, and if the performer likes to sing into it to interact with it (like most....). Still, the compressor is largely viewed as only a dynamics controller, when really it is mainly a dynamics maker.
Well, I'd call it a dynamics killer.

Speaking from my experience it is vay more difficult for the performers to control their own dynamics if they have compressor in their monitoring chain.
But even if some wants to hear compressed vocal, you can insert the compressor in the monitor path. You don't need it on the input.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jetam View Post
Well, I'd call it a dynamics killer.

Speaking from my experience it is vay more difficult for the performers to control their own dynamics if they have compressor in their monitoring chain.
But even if some wants to hear compressed vocal, you can insert the compressor in the monitor path. You don't need it on the input.
You don't need it on the input? lol......

Sure, you could also record both, one straight and one with compression, only I don't often feel to bother unless maybe a VERY dynamic singer comes along.

It's only a dynamics killer if you set it wrong. Set right it becomes a dynamics influencer in the positive.
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The entire point of using a compressor is to limit the dynamic range, not enhance it.

Set modestly, I wouldn't say it kills it, but it is supposed to reduce it.

Its a tool. Use it if you need it.

I also wouldn't call it a dynamics maker. It will reduce dynamic range to some degree depending on settings, period.

It may help evoke a better performance if a singer likes how it sounds in the cans, but that doesn't mean it is enhancing dynamics.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NYCruiser View Post
The entire point of using a compressor is to limit the dynamic range, not enhance it.

Set modestly, I wouldn't say it kills it, but it is supposed to reduce it.

Its a tool. Use it if you need it.

I also wouldn't call it a dynamics maker. It will reduce dynamic range to some degree depending on settings, period.

It may help evoke a better performance if a singer likes how it sounds in the cans, but that doesn't mean it is enhancing dynamics.
It's an enveloper. It doesn't just stop the sound getting louder than x. It influences the shapes the sound pulls when it ebbs and flows. And yes, to my mind this is prime territory to enhance dynamics in a musical sense. As in, make the dynamics behave more musically.

Yes it's a tool. But if you think of compressors merely as "those things that reduce dynamic range" you're missing out on the most fun bit of the party.
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10th May 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Karloff70 View Post
Yes it's a tool. But if you think of compressors merely as "those things that reduce dynamic range" you're missing out on the most fun bit of the party.


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10th May 2012
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the 3630 is a really bad compressor and will destroy your signal but the 3632 is pretty decent i used it on some screamed vocals and really compressed the **** out of it and it gave a really good result to it im going to try it on some drum tracks in the next few weeks hopefully so ill be able to see
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it's like buying a cheap hooker. she may do the job but....yeah, okay i'm old and insensitive.

g
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Thanks for the response guys, very helpful!

Quote:
Originally Posted by mijome07 View Post
I don't see anyone bashing the 3632. Unless you mean the 3630?
I know the 3632 is considered better than the 3630, but it still didn't seem particularly well received. Is the 3632 worthwhile?

A few of you guys have said the Composer is decent, is this the case with the current model, the 'COMPOSER PRO-XL MDX2600'?
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