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ART Pro-VLA II: Using a hardware compressor for my synths. Dynamics Processors (HW)
Old 6 days ago
  #1
ART Pro-VLA II: Using a hardware compressor for my synths.

Why did I buy this?

So, I bought an ART Pro-VLA II optical/tube-based compressor for my synths a few months ago. I initially bought it to tame the output of my Sherman Filterbank II, but reading some other threads here at GS regarding the use of outboard compressors, specifically for synths, turned a light bulb on.

Often described as a poor man's Universal Audio LA-2A ($3,500), I was initially impressed by the VLA's specs: optical-based (Vactrol) compressor and a 12AT7 vacuum-tube. [Note that I'm planning to buy an ART Pro Channel II tube-preamp/compressor channel-strip specifically for mic'ing my guitar cabinets, so I won't be using the VLA for guitar, vocals, or drums.]

I'll quote an older post from another thread which in essence, helped clear up my application for the VLA:
Quote:
Originally Posted by bs333 View Post
Sometimes [compressors help with] some tasty artifacts lurking low in the signal in an older analog synth. Compression helps bring these little magical bits out. You don't need something fancy or expensive . . . if you mix the compressed signal in with the dry signal (parallel compression) you should get something good.
When I bought my Sherman Filterbank, I saw the warning stickers ["WARNING: HIGH-FREQUENCY DAMAGE!"] and thought, "Oh, I better get a compressor!" Only after ordering the VLA did I realize that any mixer or interface I would feed the output of the Filterbank into would supply any necessary attenuation before sending its signal to my DAW. Then I was like, "Why did I even buy a compressor?" This of course was after the 30-day return period had elapsed.

So then I read the the above quoted post, and thought, "Aha!" I've been noticing that on my OB-6 especially, and Moog polychain (and all of my analog synths in general) produce some very interesting sonics in the lower-register, but only at very low volumes, when I have the cutoff/resonance set to "cow-udder flapping" mode.

Signal-chain:

I gather that you're supposed to put compressors (dynamics) first in the signal-chain. Certain patches on my Prophet-6, DeepMind 12D, also produce some very interesting sonics at low-volumes and my thinking is that the VLA will help me to better capture those sonics while tracking. So I'm thinking to put the VLA at the output of my line-mixer (the mixer into which all of my analog synths are connected).

Taming filter-sweeps:

The other synth-application compressors seem to address is the volume-increase during sweeps as you open the filter. I like creating huge sweeps on my Korg Kronos' VA pads, and that filter can get extremely spikey. Now I'm not too heavy into outboard effects at all, so I didn't also want to get into band-limited compressors to address that issue, so hopefully the VLA can help in that area somewhat as well.

Coming in "hot":

Sometimes a certain patch will just encompass a ton of dynamics, and I have to really watch my VUs to not over-modulate my signal going into Logic. This was a huge stumbling block for me when I was first testing out my Moog Slim Phatty polychain experiment. At first, all of my test recordings were hugely over-modulated, and I didn't even realize it initially. Once I tamed my recording levels, all of a sudden, the sounds became a LOT more interesting, prettier-sounding, and way more delicately nuanced. The VLA should definitely help in this regard as well.

Does all this make sense?
Old 6 days ago
  #2
Here's my suggestion: Instead of just a dynamics problem fixer with one function, try see it more as a creative mixing tool? It doesn't have a sidechain input but IMO makes up for it with it's sound. You can shape the dynamics of some parts of your song, "flatten" those a bit, so other parts can stick out a bit more. Compressing reverb and delay sends or returns can give that a different feeling, make a track more "dense" sounding. Also it's a nice machine to "glue" different parts of your song together; you sort of use it as a mix destination. That doesn't have to be a full mix, you can of course choose to send only some synth lines and perhaps some reverb to it, then record that. It will take a bit of experimenting, and some time to get used to what it does for different sounds. It being an opto compressor it can be pretty unobtrusive, but maybe figure out what it does when you turn up the make up gain to really high levels? you'll need to put some fader after it, to pull the level down again, before hitting the converter AD input. The point is that it can be a color box if you want it to be, but it will function best with some other gear (preamp, fader). So what I do sometimes is create a submix, filter the lows out of it, then gate or compress that rhythmically, and then send that, together with the untouched original to a limiter (like this ART). You can put it on a bus of a mixer, or just use the DAW to make the submixes, and then route to the inputs. So you can control dynamics before, creatively, and then route it to the ART for that smooth edge. Also check out the difference between stereo operation and dual mono. Sometimes I like a dual mono on a stereo bus, just to keep the stereo image intact.
Old 6 days ago
  #3
Quote:
Originally Posted by Reptil View Post
So what I do sometimes is create a submix, filter the lows out of it, then gate or compress that rhythmically, and then send that, together with the untouched original to a limiter (like this ART) . . . So you can control dynamics before, creatively, and then route it to the ART for that smooth edge. Also check out the difference between stereo operation and dual mono.
Thanks for your detailed reply! Once I get all my stuff re-racked I'll attempt some of your suggestions. So, after researching it a bit more, the VLA doesn't seem like a waste of money, and that my applications detailed in my initial post seem like they'll produce some much-desired results.

Anyone else care to comment?
Old 6 days ago
  #4
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didlisquat's Avatar
I run one of my Tempest through a Pro~VLA II and dig it. My other Tempest goes through two Aphex Project Channels and those are really nice as well.
Old 6 days ago
  #5
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bgood's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by studio460 View Post
Thanks for your detailed reply! Once I get all my stuff re-racked I'll attempt some of your suggestions. So, after researching it a bit more, the VLA doesn't seem like a waste of money, and that my applications detailed in my initial post seem like they'll produce some much-desired results.

Anyone else care to comment?
It’s a great box... I would call it the delusional man’s la2a, though... doesn’t really sound or have the action of an la2a. Also, I would try to send modest levels into it... anything super-hot tends to make the unit fart out
Old 6 days ago
  #6
Lives for gear
 
grasspike's Avatar
If you have not done so already, I would swap out the tubes that came with it with something else.
Old 5 days ago
  #7
Gear Addict
 
tricera's Avatar
 

Useful thread. I got an FMR RNLA7239 a while back with the aim of trying it out on everything, but it just sits on drums. Synth tips and tricks please.
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