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thermionic culture phoenix vs. drawmer s3
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mastermat
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21st March 2011
Old 21st March 2011
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thermionic culture phoenix vs. drawmer s3

I know these machines are 2 different concepts and can´t be compared directly , but I´m thinking to get one of these 2 as an addition to my mastering chain, maybe someone with experience can help me with some advice, let me first explain why I´m asking.
I´m mastering on the analog side with an stc8, an nseq2, el7 phatso (not using it for compression) and a vsc2....
lately I heard some masters that sounded very good to me and I know which equipment had been used to master them (mainly passive massive, api 2500 and drawmer s3)
I had the opportunity to get the same premasters and tried to get about the same sound and loudness. Actually normally I´m quite good at that (at least I thought so until that moment). But in this case I tried and tried and just couldn´t get it right. I didn´t wanted exactly the same sound just the same direction.
At that time I had the chance to test out a culture vulture (mastering version) and I saw that what was lacking all the time was the warm sound of some tubes!
I thought ok problem solved and bought the vulture culture.
But now I heard some more masters done with the drawmer and they all sounded in a way very appealing to me.
So I thought maybe I should get rid of the vulture culture and get the s3 instead allthough I´ve never been a fan of multiband compressors. Then a friend adviced me to get the phoenix instead of the s3.
Anyone with an idea which machine would be more usefull in my case.
phoenix or s3? I´m mastering mainly house & techno music and dnb.
thanks in advance for your thoughts and help!
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21st March 2011
Old 21st March 2011
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any idea on the subject is welcome!
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21st March 2011
Old 21st March 2011
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Hello,

I had the Thermionic Phoenix SC, didn´t here the S3. Very fat sounding.
Unhearable compression to arround 2-3 db and with 6 db still very clean.
With heavier settings very nice to pump drums in an old skool hip hop way.
I opened a thread where I want to know the differences between
Tube-Tech SMC-2b and the Drawmer S3.
I thought about the S3 leading into the Phoenix for good 3-way
compression and than the real sound of the vari-mu for the last
roundness. Hope that helped a bit.
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21st March 2011
Old 21st March 2011
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thanks a lot, maybe I need to modify my question a little,
should I get a drawmer S3 (or the phoenix I don´t know this one I only know from hearing what the drawmer can do) or maybe is it possible to achieve my goal (please read my starting post) with the equipment I allready have, maybe I have to rearrange my chain....at the moment it is:

various digital eqs for resonance control - dithering down to 24bit - DA convertion with lynx aurora 8 - stc 8 comp - nseq2 (mostly without tubes) - vsc2 comp - culture vulture mastering plus - el 7 fatso (used with no compression most of the time) - AD convertion with the lynx aurora - digital eqs for gentle adjusments and maybe lowcut or lowshelve to roll of or clean up some unwanted sublow freq - digital limitting (various in use here, what sounds best depends very often on the source material) - dithering down to 16bit (mostly using UV22hr or the dithering inside the limitter).

does anybody has an opinion if it is maybe possible to get the sound that a drawmer S3 can produce with this chain, maybe I just havn´t tried it in the best possible order (for electronic music with a lot of subbass) on the analog side of my chain....any suggestion highly apreciated....
would it help maybe or solve my problem If I use the side chain inside the stc 8 (havn´t tried that one out so far as I need to get the cable and an extra external eq first).
My main issue is that the drawmer makes a very fat but clean bass (without much eq-ing necessary), I wasn´t able to get my bass as fat with my chain so far. As an adition I must say that I tend to use all my equipment very gently as I think most of the time drastic adjustments sound not very good and destroy the music most of the time. For example I don´t compress more than 2 or 3 db with the stc8 (I think I loose too much bass otherwise - no matter how I use the stc 8 - and I´ve been digging it out very deeply for 9 months now and read and tried out a lot of tips on how to use it from professionals) maybe more GR and still having the bass fat is possible with the side chain cable and an external EQ which I don´t have at the moment....please help with experienced advice.....
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21st March 2011
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Mastermat,

I generally find with electronic music you don't want to run it through too many tube devices as it softens the impact too much and you lose the tightness and punch of the drums. When you say 'fat bass' I find that is more of an EQ thing then compression, especially multi-band compression, which is often only used for that out of control sub bass that is common in dub step. Even then, the right EQ filter to tuck away the subs combined with a nudge in the punch of the kick and broadband compression will often do the trick.

I have the Tube-Tech SMC 2B and the TC Phoenix and would generally only use either one or the other with a solid state (non tube) EQ such as the Sontec or BAX. The VSC2 and Phoenix would work very well together- clean and punchy with a softer warmer tube sound. You can often just use a plug-in to tame certain frequencies before ruining through the EQ and compression. You can achieve a lot of different textures with the right combination.

In a nutshell, I don't think buying more gear is ever the answer to achieving the sound you are after, it may be just a chain or technique that you haven't tried yet?
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22nd March 2011
Old 22nd March 2011
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hi ben,

thanks for your answer, and thanks for your tips, allways welcome, you´re certainly right with the statement on bying new gear and you are also right about the tube thing with electronic dance music.
that´s why I use my nseq2 mostly without the tube (you can switch between discret j-fet and vacuum tube). I got the vulture culture because I wanted a little colour in the sound and that´s what it does very well, but you´re right it also softens the impact of the drums a little. With the S3 I found when I heard it on some masters, you get a certain tube sund but it´s more subtle, and it really makes a strong bass....I tried to mimik the sound of the masters done with the S3 by eqing and I nearly got there after many hours (not on the same day though), but then again not really, it just wasn´t the same...
do you know the S3? Regarding the vulture culture...I would get rid of it (I can still send it back, as I only had it for 2 weeks now) and get the S3 instead....
only the S3 is more than twice the price.....

any more suggestions?
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22nd March 2011
Old 22nd March 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mastermat View Post
hi ben,

do you know the S3? Regarding the vulture culture...I would get rid of it (I can still send it back, as I only had it for 2 weeks now) and get the S3 instead....
only the S3 is more than twice the price.....

any more suggestions?
I do know the S3 unfortunately King Willy found it was not calibrated properly out here so it would have been hard to demo. I've been a fan of the Tube-Tech SMC 2B for years it's kind of a loyal companion- would never sell it, just comes in really handy some days, even though I don't use it that often. It's not really for huge bass mainly for controlled bass and also gives a really nice bounce back to flat drums, and a lovely stereo image. Works well for the standard flattened mixes. The Maselec MLA-3 is faster and cleaner probably a good contender as well. The Maselec lacks tube colour though. The Elysia Alpha is pretty phenomenal with those 'tilt' filters.

Nothing in my mind really beats a vari-mu for depth and thickness. It's a winner for masters and for happy clients. The Phoenix is great, then there is the Knif, the Gyraf, Fairman and....the Rockruepel Comp One which looks awesome!
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22nd March 2011
Old 22nd March 2011
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Hello All,
Just to put anyones mind at rest, any callibration issues on the Drawmer S3 have long since been ironed out! Regards, Kieron.
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22nd March 2011
Old 22nd March 2011
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very good to know.....any more views on the topic (keeping my chain in mind)
buy the dramwer or is it possible to achieve what the drawmer does with my equipment - as I said I tried and didn´t get there to my satisfaction, close but not as close as I wanted - with more than 15000 € (I know to some people this is nothing, to me it´s an absolute fortune) that I´ve spent on high end gear I thought at first it should be easy to get the same impact as the drawmer S3, but no chance...or am I doing something completely wrong with my chain? I allways thought I´m good at what I´m doing and my customers were happy so far - but personally I find it hard to believe that one machine like the S3 can do what all my stuff is not capable of - mybe I am not so good - do I have to experiment more, or can it really be, that the drawmer is that exceptional? of course it´s also a matter of taste, but then again the drawmer sounds damn good regarding punch... straight in your face.....I was just offered a drawmer for a very good price should I take the chance and give back the vulture culture?
it would be quite hard for me financially, though....
the offer won´t stay for long so I need to make a decission....
please share your ideas with me....

thanks in advance!
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22nd March 2011
Old 22nd March 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben F View Post
Mastermat,

You can often just use a plug-in to tame certain frequencies before ruining through the EQ and compression.
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22nd March 2011
Old 22nd March 2011
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yeah I know that and I do it - before I do a master I spend quite some time analyzing the sound (with my ears and by finding resonances while sliding with with a steep filter over the frequency range) and aply some eq (I take away unwanted frequencies before comp of course and ad frequencies I like after - mostly with my nseq2) - still....the whole character of the drawmer sound I wasn´t able to mimik...more tips very welcome....
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23rd March 2011
Old 23rd March 2011
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I´m also familiar with the thechnique to reduce bass and hf before compressing with lowshelf and highshelf filters, and after that aply some eq so it sounds as fat as before...but what I´m really curious about is if other S3 users realized when they used the machine that it does something special, or am I just mislead by a few masters that sounded very tasty to me Anyone out there who worked with the S3 and can give me his opinion on the matter (again please read my first posts...)

thx in advance
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23rd March 2011
Old 23rd March 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kieronc View Post
Hello All,
Just to put anyones mind at rest, any callibration issues on the Drawmer S3 have long since been ironed out! Regards, Kieron.
Thanks for the clarification.

I just noticed the new S2 which looks like another worthy contender Drawmer - S2 Dual Channel Tube Compressor

The S2 and S3 are optical tube compressors?
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23rd March 2011
Old 23rd March 2011
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I advise you the Rockruepel comp one. See the threads. It's amazing.
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23rd March 2011
Old 23rd March 2011
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Hello Ben,
Both the S3 and the S2 are fully balanced opto compressors, 3 per channel on each unit, the optos are ovened at a constant temperature to make them fast and repeatable. They can be seen on the attached photo on the left and right of the unit in their own little aluminium block ovens.


Best Regards, Kieron.
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thermionic culture phoenix vs. drawmer s3-photo1.jpg  
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24th March 2011
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For me, TC Phoenix and go with plugins for multiband. TC Phoenix to make tube sound and compression, MB plugins for controlling.
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24th March 2011
Old 24th March 2011
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thanks for your thoughts, but isn´t analog multiband compression (when it´s made as good as within the S3) much nicer than the digital equivalent so as anlaog compression sounds most of the time better than the most digital compressors (ok this also depends very much on the source, but I´m generalizing here a bit - I have to, because I have to work on a lot of different productions with different standards and in average I prefer the analog compression!)? I have the stc8 and I use it every day and none of the digital compressors I have used, come even close regarding sound quality (again...there might be this one production every month under my hands where a special digital compressor will just do the trick).....
I don´t want to start any digital vs analog discussion here (there´s sure good reason to wander in both worlds) but I don´t think digital multiband compression can give me anything what the S3 has to offer (if anybody has reason to argue about this, you´re most welcome and if there´s any digital multiband that beats the S3 please let me know!!!)....
Still havn´t made up my mind, so time is running, please any last thoughts, anybody?
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24th March 2011
Old 24th March 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mastermat View Post
thanks for your thoughts, but isn´t analog multiband compression (when it´s made as good as within the S3) much nicer than the digital equivalent so as anlaog compression sounds most of the time better than the most digital compressors (ok this also depends very much on the source, but I´m generalizing here a bit - I have to, because I have to work on a lot of different productions with different standards and in average I prefer the analog compression!)? I have the stc8 and I use it every day and none of the digital compressors I have used, come even close regarding sound quality (again...there might be this one production every month under my hands where a special digital compressor will just do the trick).....
I don´t want to start any digital vs analog discussion here (there´s sure good reason to wander in both worlds) but I don´t think digital multiband compression can give me anything what the S3 has to offer (if anybody has reason to argue about this, you´re most welcome and if there´s any digital multiband that beats the S3 please let me know!!!)....
Still havn´t made up my mind, so time is running, please any last thoughts, anybody?
Get one on trial! It's the only way to satisfy your curiosity. Maybe try the Tube-tech SMC 2B at the same time as a comparison.

I tend to agree with the post before, in that precise plug-in compression control of the low band if required combined with the Phoenix works quite well together.
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24th March 2011
Old 24th March 2011
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thanks ben, I´ll order the S3 tomorrow....and will send back the culture vulture...will try to get a phoenix to compare.....
I will post my experiences here....
thanks for all posts....
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25th March 2011
Old 25th March 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mastermat View Post
thanks ben, I´ll order the S3 tomorrow....and will send back the culture vulture...will try to get a phoenix to compare.....
I will post my experiences here....
thanks for all posts....
If you want to send me some files to run through mine and compare let me know.
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25th March 2011
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I see Your rig, it's good choice, but there is no tube comp that in most case is really helpful to get the work done. Base on financial, IMO TC Phoenix can be use in most situation (effective investment), actually I prefer Manley Vari-Mu, but a multiband is a must too for some project (not really effective but must have) that's why in Your case, I will choose TC Phoenix, and go with plug MB.

Everything depends on Your situation, what kind of song, genre, how it was mix, etc, hope You can make the decision soon.
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25th March 2011
Old 25th March 2011
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thanks a lot ben, if I can´t get a phoenix for testing I´ll be grateful to send you some files Ì´ll let you know soon, can I pm you?
thanks nescafe, I will keep your advice in mind!
thanks to all for having shared your thoughts....
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11th April 2011
Old 11th April 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kieronc View Post
Hello All,
Just to put anyones mind at rest, any callibration issues on the Drawmer S3 have long since been ironed out! Regards, Kieron.
Hi, I have an S3 and wasn't aware of any calibration issues . What was the problem and how would I know if my S3 needed to be recalibrate .
Thanks
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11th April 2011
Old 11th April 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mastermat View Post
but what I´m really curious about is if other S3 users realized when they used the machine that it does something special, or am I just mislead by a few masters that sounded very tasty to me Anyone out there who worked with the S3 and can give me his opinion on the matter (again please read my first posts...)

thx in advance
S3 owner here . The s3 is amazing ,it took me some time to realize it.
I 1st had to get a better understanding of compression and I'm still learning.
IMHO this compressor is not made to make your tracks pump , the pump needs to be there all-ready if that's what your looking for but it will do some pumping if you push it pretty hard. The S3 will take your track and round it off in a sweet way, it adds that last 5 or 10 percent so many talk about. As you add compression to each band you then can make your song loud as hell ! 1 of the cool things about the S3 is that you can focus on 1 band at a time and mute the others and when I say mute I mean mute if you mute all 3 bands you will hear absolutely noting (cool).With the split points you can almost use it like an EQ . There's like 10 tubes inside , you can see them glowing it looks like a little city inside at night very cool . Build quality is second to none IMHO , it's beautiful to look at, sometimes I catch myself staring at it like a piece of jewelry .I'm falling in luv with the sound more and more everyday.It also has an air switch to add air back to the top end after compressing it and a big switch to do the same for the low end . Vu meters are freakin huge and back-lit with a warm and bright yellow retro type light . IMHO the S3 is for when you have made you cake and want to add the icing on it to make it look pretty because you know the cake taste good all by itself . Try and demo 1 for your self it's the only true way to know if it works for you .
All the best
mastermat
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16th April 2011
Old 16th April 2011
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wow....my brand new S3 finally arrived last week....and it is here to stay for sure!!! I nearly havn´t left my studio since it´s a fantastic machine, all I can say!
I have it at the end of my masteringchain, and I feel that my other machines especially the stc 8 work great together with the S3....as a sacrifice I had to sell (and it´s allready sold) my VSC 2 and gave back the vulture culture mastering plus.....but with the S3 I miss none of them
I havn´t had the chance to test the phoenix, but at the moment I´m totally satisfied...it´s a pleasure to work with the S3!!!
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29th July 2011
Old 29th July 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mastermat View Post
wow....my brand new S3 finally arrived last week....and it is here to stay for sure!!! I nearly havn´t left my studio since it´s a fantastic machine, all I can say!
I have it at the end of my masteringchain, and I feel that my other machines especially the stc 8 work great together with the S3....as a sacrifice I had to sell (and it´s allready sold) my VSC 2 and gave back the vulture culture mastering plus.....but with the S3 I miss none of them
I havn´t had the chance to test the phoenix, but at the moment I´m totally satisfied...it´s a pleasure to work with the S3!!!
Are you still enjoying your S3 ?
How about a review ?
How are you using it .
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30th July 2011
Old 30th July 2011
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Quote:
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Hi, I have an S3 and wasn't aware of any calibration issues . What was the problem and how would I know if my S3 needed to be recalibrate .
Thanks
Hopefully as Drawmer have said it has been ironed out in the later units. I had a review unit here for Audio Technology magazine many years back and I could never get the unit close to flat - even with no compression in I had to tweak the levels of the high band to try and get it closer to the original signal but it never sat right. Apparently the pots used weren't the ones specified by the manufacturer - that's what they said at the time anyway but it was waaaay out of whack and a shame too because I could tell from from what I could discern that the unit had a very likable compression action. But I couldn't review it, it just didn't work properly at all.

I'd love to try out a new one actually as it had lots of possibilities and sounded and behaved very differently to the MLA-3 and the SMC-2A(or B for that matter). It was quite a punchy machine but not clean (and maybe a bit sterile) like I found the MLA-3 to be, it had personality...

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Last edited by William Bowden; 30th July 2011 at 08:17 AM.. Reason: Spelling pedantry
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30th July 2011
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Quote:
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Hi, I have an S3 and wasn't aware of any calibration issues . What was the problem and how would I know if my S3 needed to be recalibrate .
Thanks
One potential source of trouble is that the gain ranges on make-up and threshold are pretty coarse, so pot deviations between left/right channel, overall as well as per frequency band, could be significant.
You can test how the pots track by sending individual sine tones (that fall into each of the 3 bands), then seeing how much L/R balance changes as you turn band gain and compression thresholds. (The crossover frequency pots can influence L/R tracking too.)

Opto cells can also deteriorate and go out of alignment, so should you find significant tracking error in compression GR, that could also be a cause (not sure how common this is with the S3's optos though).


Also, when I had the unit here, unity gain was significantly off. I.e. the unit amplified the signal by over 1 dB when taken out of bypass with all gain pots at the 0 dB marking.
Whether this was my specific unit being out of whack, or whether the S3 is purposely calibrated "on the generous side", I don't know. In either case, it shouldn't be! To check whether 0 gain marking is actually at unity, send a 1kHz sine tone and see if level changes significantly when you switch out of bypass (with compression out and all gain pots at 0.
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30th July 2011
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I wonder of they changed the threshold and gain ranges, I remember they were pretty wide weren't they Robin.

Perhaps Drawmer will chime in and talk about the changes new to old?

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1st August 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben F View Post
Mastermat,

I generally find with electronic music you don't want to run it through too many tube devices as it softens the impact too much and you lose the tightness and punch of the drums. When you say 'fat bass' I find that is more of an EQ thing then compression, especially multi-band compression, which is often only used for that out of control sub bass that is common in dub step. Even then, the right EQ filter to tuck away the subs combined with a nudge in the punch of the kick and broadband compression will often do the trick.

I have the Tube-Tech SMC 2B and the TC Phoenix and would generally only use either one or the other with a solid state (non tube) EQ such as the Sontec or BAX. The VSC2 and Phoenix would work very well together- clean and punchy with a softer warmer tube sound. You can often just use a plug-in to tame certain frequencies before ruining through the EQ and compression. You can achieve a lot of different textures with the right combination.

In a nutshell, I don't think buying more gear is ever the answer to achieving the sound you are after, it may be just a chain or technique that you haven't tried yet?
hey ben,

great advice as usual!

one comment I would add from my recent experience with tube-based gear - I always found the kick drum the hardest part to get right in my mixes - it would either be too subby and cause problems on big systems or too weak. After recently adding a Manley Vari Mu to my set up at the pre-limiting stage - I have noticed that not only is the overall mix punchier, but the kick has just the right level of impact. It definitely takes something out of the low end - but in my case it works perfectly.
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