Originally Posted by MichaelPatrick
I wonder if any experienced mastering engineers could recommend a good mastering compressor/limiter for live acoustic ensemble and classical music recordings.
This is for a university where there's not a lot of money. I do all the tracking, mixing, and mastering. I currently work ITB with Waves and UAD mastering plug-ins. I want to build clean OTB mixing and mastering chains that are particularly good for this kind of music.
Budget is 1 to 3 thousand for compression and limiting.
I think tubes are good but not necessary. There's little need for tone or color manipulation. The chain must be fast and transparent; anything else (e.g. tone options) would be a bonus.
I don't think there is a single unit that would do comp and limiting equally well. For classical work I highly recommend an upward compressor rather than a downward compressor. It does the least damage to the sound. And the good news is an upward compressor constructed as a parallel compressor doesn't have to be the world's best-sounding unit, because only part of the signal passes through it. It's the principle of the original Dolby system, that is, "do no harm". Construct a parallel compressor using a very good digital compressor mixed with the dry signal. Look at my recommended settings on parallel compression in my book.
For peak limiting, if your desire is "invisible peak limiting to control metered peaks" then you get no sympathy here, because for classical work you're not looking for the loudest master on the block are you? But if if you need it for AUDIBLe control of a nasty peak, then first try a downward compressor with a higher ratio. For "in the box", Waves C1 Comp comes to my mind. Or in the analog domain, the Cranesong STC-8. If that's too expensive, maybe someone else can nominate a good-sounding stereo comp in your price range as the only thing that comes to my mind at $1000-odd dollars is the DBX-160. The most transparent outboard digital compressor is either the Weiss or the DBX Quantum. And in fact, if you want a good outboard with both good comp and limiting, I would recommend you try the Quantum.
How much is the Waves BCL? If you can afford that, it's a good combination outboard comp and limiter in the digital domain.
Hope this helps,