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Possibly scrapping all outboard for replacements, would love opinions . . . Dynamics Processors (HW)
Old 2 weeks ago
  #1
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Possibly scrapping all outboard for replacements, would love opinions . . .

Not a uncommon topic, I know, but . . .

OK, mastering has been a side hobby for me for about 10 years, about 5 years ago I realized that it was something I could honestly do for work, beside my regular job (I own a computer repair / IT biz - been at that since '95).
I've been focusing on it & getting more and more jobs lately & over the past year did some significant upgrading to my space, monitoring and converters - until recently all my work was done with plug-ins, since I now have an in / out on my converter it's time to integrate outboard again but much of what I have, for one reason or another, isn't ideal for the job. It's good enough stuff, left over from my tracking days but I'm looking to possibly sell it all & start fresh with outboard. In all, I can get $3500-4K for the existing equipment, so that amount (say plus $500, tops) is what I'd have to do this.

First let me tell you what I have that I could move along:

dbx 160SL stereo, dm comp / limiter
Black Lion AM/CH1 dm inductor EQ
Anthony DeMeria dm ADL 600 (tube stage)
Chameleon Labs 7720 stereo comp
Drawmer DL241 stereo / dm comp
A 'needs some work' early 80's Audioarts
parametric dm EQ (not currently in use, but there)

And what I have that I'm going to hang on to:
dbx Quantum II

The ADL, 160SL, & CL have all proven useful, but the only
one with good recall is the CL - I'd like to change this.
I hesitate to part with the ADL as it's the only tube stage
& also as I use the mic preamps & DI for recording & it's
quite nice, but I can be persuaded to part with it so long as
there's some tube option in the replacements - I have other
good preamps.

What I would want:

I'd like M/S on at least the EQ(s) & parallel +
high-pass on dynamics. Stepped / recall is a BIG plus.

I'm thinking 2 compressors & one broad EQ - all other EQing will be done either in the dbx or via plug-in. On compression I need versatility - something that will cover (as much as possible) a wide variety of styles & needs.

Here's what I'm considering &
what I can likely get it for used, etc.:

1. TK Audio TK-ilizer - $1500
2. Chameleon Labs 7730 (coming out very soon - a big upgrade
of the 7720 with parallel, RMS & peak, soft / hard knee,
sidechain, variable high-pass & largely stepped like the 7720 is) - $750
3. SKnote Vastaso stereo compressor / saturator - $1900
(possibly less used)
3a. The Elysia xpressor is a tempting option but drives the price point over
what's possible - still, it's in the running and the price can be brought
down one way or another (used!).

Thoughts?

I think this is a sensible chain but would love to hear from others who either have some of the wish-list and have some experiences with them, want to tell me why I should hang on to one thing or another that I already have or make other suggestions. I won't be doing this for another few months because I don't want to rush it - I want to be quite sure that I'm getting what I'd want to keep for quite some time and I value the opinions here.

Thanks
B
Old 2 weeks ago
  #2
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The Silver Bullet could also be among my choices, in place of tube compression & I could stick with a single compressor for the time being.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #3
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The Tk-lizer and a used P3S-ME would be a versatile core chain for that budget. If you're wanting some tubes you could look at Pendulum ES-8/6386 or Varis for bang-for-buck and versatility. You could even consider a Michelangelo for a good value tube EQ but it's probably not as versatile as the Tk. That's what I'd be considering if I was in your situation. I don't know that I'd want to keep any of the gear you have for a mastering chain, but maybe I'm just a snob.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SmoothTone View Post
The Tk-lizer and a used P3S-ME would be a versatile core chain for that budget. If you're wanting some tubes you could look at Pendulum ES-8/6386 or Varis for bang-for-buck and versatility. You could even consider a Michelangelo for a good value tube EQ but it's probably not as versatile as the Tk. That's what I'd be considering if I was in your situation. I don't know that I'd want to keep any of the gear you have for a mastering chain, but maybe I'm just a snob.
For the projects I'm most often working on some of my existing chain is fine, just not convenient & I'd certainly like to upgrade - the CL, despite not costing thousands, has been a versatile and very useful compressor, more than the 160SL has been (which is the priciest of 'em), which is why I'm glad to see CL expanding on it in ways that will make it all the more versatile. The TK-lizer, I'm thinking, is going to be the EQ - it fits well & this is what I can afford for now, processing that's 1k - 2k a pop. Unfortunately everything mentioned for compression falls above my limit at the moment, even used, great and versatile though they may be & of course I'd love to have a Michelangelo in the rack (stellar) but again, too much, even used. I've put 5K+ into my room, monitoring & conversion this year so can only afford what can be had for value equal to my current, leftover outboard. The TK & the updated CL would suit me fine but unfortunately I get a feeling that people want to see pictures of gear with big knobs & more than just two things - I think they'll wanna see at least three. I'm not new to the craft but am to it as a profession so this concerns me - not only would I like to sell-off what I have and build up a small outboard scenario that has great versatility and workflow but I'm going to need pictures on my site - if I only have 2 pieces of outboard gear I may loose some business and I want to come out swinging as it were. I have a few dozen folks using me for their mastering but I'm going to need many more if I'm to eventually make the switch - I don't want to do anything that would put folks off. I know this is a bit of a change in topic but it's part of it professionally, I'm sure. Of course I'd rather anyone listen to my work and make a decision, first and foremost, but I know they will be looking for pictures too AND . . . listening to before / afters brings me to the whole other topic of how useless non volume-matched example tracks are and what a potential pitfall to business that could be . . . especially with many others presenting 'afters' with gain still applied which I would probably refuse to do as it's just silly.

Anyone got other compressor suggestions in range?
Thanks
Old 2 weeks ago
  #5
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BradM's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by brijem View Post
The Silver Bullet could also be among my choices, in place of tube compression & I could stick with a single compressor for the time being.
Hi,

Thanks for considering the Silver Bullet. Feel free to call me day or night and I'd be happy to discuss your setup and answer any questions you might have about the unit or how it might integrate into what you have planned.

cheers,
Brad
Old 2 weeks ago
  #6
Few and good is better than many and average.
On your buy list the TK-lizer is the only thing I would consider a really hi class piece, maybe the Xpressor too but the cheaper Elysia gear lack headroom. You should consider the TK BC aswell for compressor. Good but cheap.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #7
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by Magnus Lindberg View Post
Few and good is better than many and average.
On your buy list the TK-lizer is the only thing I would consider a really hi class piece, maybe the Xpressor too but the cheaper Elysia gear lack headroom. You should consider the TK BC aswell for compressor. Good but cheap.
Yes, I am interested in the BC, especially the ME.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by Magnus Lindberg View Post
Few and good is better than many and average.
On your buy list the TK-lizer is the only thing I would consider a really hi class piece, maybe the Xpressor too but the cheaper Elysia gear lack headroom. You should consider the TK BC aswell for compressor. Good but cheap.
you take the words from my mouth: -)
tk-lizer I've had for a while now, was only intended as a temporary replacement, but seems to be confirmed in my chain (besides devices that often cost several times as much).
maybe a product like the new hcl varis blueface would still be interesting, which brings a classy sound and a nice big tube vibe in the chain for a relatively small budget.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BradM View Post
Hi,

Thanks for considering the Silver Bullet. Feel free to call me day or night and I'd be happy to discuss your setup and answer any questions you might have about the unit or how it might integrate into what you have planned.

cheers,
Brad
Thanks Brad!
Old 2 weeks ago
  #10
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by teebaum View Post
you take the words from my mouth: -)
tk-lizer I've had for a while now, was only intended as a temporary replacement, but seems to be confirmed in my chain (besides devices that often cost several times as much).
maybe a product like the new hcl varis blueface would still be interesting, which brings a classy sound and a nice big tube vibe in the chain for a relatively small budget.
Good to hear another +1 for the TK! Thanks - I'll have a look at the HCL - that's just the kind of thing & within budget (and stepped, I see)! Doesn't appear to offer parallel, which is quite important to me, but the idea is to get a list of considerations that fit, at least, MOST of my requirements - if they happen to work for ALL then that's obviously the best - only one I'm not so flexible on is budget.

I feel safe saying I'm going to get the TK-lizer - that leaves $2500 for compression.

A couple very good suggestions so far.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #11
a few months ago I was looking for a good solid mastering EQ a at low price, I know that doesn't seems to exist, so I got a Tk-Lizer, I had a Bax already and a API 5500, I didn't kept it very long as I found it quite soft on the low end, almost muddy, and the top was not much better, I waited one more month and got the MEA-2 instead, which I obviously kept.
even the API with his fuzzy hi's was more detail (and way more solid on the low end).
I felt eveytime I would put the TK in the chain some life was taking away, I am obviously being a little dramatic here in my comments but that's what I experienced.
I would consider it if you cant get the 5500 (second hand they go for 1800 euros I believe or less) for a test drive against the TK
looking at the previous comments now I almost feel my TK was defective but I don't know I would notice something else I guess
Old 2 weeks ago
  #12
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Slug1's Avatar
For clean solid state, TK BC2ME and TKlizer, along with a few good plugins will get you a long way. The BC2ME has a lovely class A tranny that can be switched in, along with a separate harmonic saturator that really adds depth and warmth in a very classy way. It also has a parallel compression knob. All switches. Great compressor. Teebaum has been putting the TK lizer through its paces and can provide some feedback on that. TK is great kit.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #13
Quote:
Originally Posted by alex-p View Post
a few months ago I was looking for a good solid mastering EQ a at low price, I know that doesn't seems to exist, so I got a Tk-Lizer, I had a Bax already and a API 5500, I didn't kept it very long as I found it quite soft on the low end, almost muddy, and the top was not much better, I waited one more month and got the MEA-2 instead, which I obviously kept.
even the API with his fuzzy hi's was more detail (and way more solid on the low end).
I felt eveytime I would put the TK in the chain some life was taking away, I am obviously being a little dramatic here in my comments but that's what I experienced.
I would consider it if you cant get the 5500 (second hand they go for 1800 euros I believe or less) for a test drive against the TK
looking at the previous comments now I almost feel my TK was defective but I don't know I would notice something else I guess
hi alex
judging cheap mastering hardware is always pretty brutal.
I already had a bax 2 times (I thought the first one was broken, but the second one didn't convince me either).
I would call my 5500 (with other opamps) an effect device that can be fun with rock and rarely with hiphop, but it is far from being universally usable.
the tk-lizer I like best of the three actually in my chain, I can't confirm your impressions - but I know that other, very well known technicians can't understand my impressions of the bax either. similar to me was the mea-2, the boxtone didn't convince me. the mla-3 goes in a similar direction, for electronic music it's ok, but with acoustics I can easily lose something. btw I find the user interface of all maselec devices great.

we mastering technicians are terrible when it comes to judging over devices; -)

Last edited by teebaum; 2 weeks ago at 04:01 AM..
Old 2 weeks ago
  #14
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BradM's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by brijem View Post
Thanks Brad!
You're welcome!
Old 2 weeks ago
  #15
I had a nice, long walk at night and was wondering if I should write you the answer, which is honest and direct, but I didn't want to hear myself 10 years ago.

the first thing you have to do is ask yourself honestly if you're really happy with your listening situation.

this is really difficult to achieve - I had to build a new studio for it and developed a studio-monitoring together with a partner for 3 years to be really satisfied (for 2.5 years) now.

before this point is reached, you don't have to think about buying outboard. our business is ruined by too many technicians who turn too much on tracks in the blind flight.

after that I would throw out every device that doesn't make something better than a plugin.

maybe you need a first-class converter - otherwise it is possible that every device is a loss on the sound side.
the cheapest ad/da-converters, which play mE clearly in the first league, are from mytec. I wouldn't even consider a price range below that.

the challenge will now be to find relatively inexpensive devices that are on the one hand quite versatile and give you exactly those aspects that you miss in ITB.

again and again I hear that the new spl-eq has to be very versatile and is relatively cheap considering the possibilities. but I've never heard it myself.
unfortunately spl-devices break down when I just look at them - but that doesn't have to be the case with you...

i stick with it, the tk-lizer is mE a good and inexpensive device, maybe the compressor of tk is also interesting. I'm about to try out other ic's in the tk-lizer - maybe I can get some more sound out of it.
if someone knows a dual-opamp as 5532-upgrade, which can be supplied with +/-18volt....

i'm a big fan of airfield liminator 2 (with mastering upgrade) - i shouldn't tell too much about that ;-)

the knif pure mu and the hcl varis (only the blueface) I also find very helpful compressors.

an hendyamp michelangelo could also give you a lot of things you can't get ITB to do.

I can't honestly say that a lot more does not occur to me, that it doesn't cost a lot of money or is too hard to be a specialist who rarely works.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #16
what is interesting here is that obviously everyone has different preferences but we all get the job done
I love my BAX and my API as well as my MEA-2, I think hardware like or dislike come a lot from the actual chain that is placed in, some piece of hardware do not interact well with others in one room while they perform really nicely in the studio next door, I think it may also have to do with how long you have the piece and ''how much you want to like it before hand''.
having said that you may have had 2 broken BAX hehehe
the MEA-2 I get it, its a matter of love and hate! but it does almost everything I want exactly how I want it so I used the brand for 15 years now even if there is something that I don't like about it so I don't use it for that purpose, easy .
but the BAX...??? at least just for the hi pass
my TK lizer might have been broken but it just didn't fit into my chain, and my trusted clients also didn't liked it (every new pieces of gear I redo a bunch of song and send it to known clients/friends without telling them what has changed ) they noticed the same as me.

what about the DAV BG3? that's something that could fir the budget for the Op and it supposed to be clean ?



Quote:
Originally Posted by teebaum View Post
hi alex
judging cheap mastering hardware is always pretty brutal.
I already had a bax 2 times (I thought the first one was broken, but the second one didn't convince me either).
I would call my 5500 (with other opamps) an effect device that can be fun with rock and rarely with hiphop, but it is far from being universally usable.
the tk-lizer I like best of the three actually in my chain, I can't confirm your impressions - but I know that other, very well known technicians can't understand my impressions of the bax either. similar to me was the mea-2, the boxtone didn't convince me. the mla-3 goes in a similar direction, for electronic music it's ok, but with acoustics I can easily lose something.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by alex-p View Post
what is interesting here is that obviously everyone has different preferences but we all get the job done
I love my BAX and my API as well as my MEA-2, I think hardware like or dislike come a lot from the actual chain that is placed in, some piece of hardware do not interact well with others in one room while they perform really nicely in the studio next door, I think it may also have to do with how long you have the piece and ''how much you want to like it before hand''.
having said that you may have had 2 broken BAX hehehe

what about the DAV BG3? that's something that could fir the budget for the Op and it supposed to be clean ?
you're absolutely right, sometimes units like or hate each other.

bax on gyraf (or was it the other way around?) - total disaster.

soma on maselec - well... I can only advise anyone who owns a soma to contact jonte, he has made a small modification and now fits - would be nice if more manufacturers would try to make their devices more compatible.

the dav bg3 can be something, at least it didn't break the sound (in my chain...) and the shelfs are cool. the featureset and the haptic is a bit unsatisfactory and finally he didn't give me enough that I couldn't have ITB.
I replaced it with the knif eksa, which is a bit of an unfair comparison.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by teebaum View Post
. . . the first thing you have to do is ask yourself honestly if you're really happy with your listening situation . . .

. . . I would throw out every device that doesn't make something better than a plugin.

. . . maybe you need a first-class converter - otherwise it is possible that every device is a loss on the sound side . . .

. . . . the challenge will now be to find relatively inexpensive devices that are on the one hand quite versatile and give you exactly those aspects that you miss in ITB.
I'm heading out for a couple days early in the AM so am a bit limited for time in responding (and may not be back to this thread until I return on Tuesday) but, thanks teebaum - I very much appreciate hearing from folks (like yourself) who have had the experience I'm having now - believe me, I'd rather NOT have to learn everything the hard way, so this is invaluable. Of course, some of what you & others have said I've already learned the hard way (at least twice - haven't we all?) - having a reliable listening situation was a long time coming for me too & has been through a couple failed, expensive and frankly, depressing incarnations . . .

But . . . my listening situation is what I need it to be at this moment (someday have a room designed ground-up - not possible just yet) & it's proven reliable for critical listening. Work is translating well across-the-board (including at a friend's room, a former Earthworks engineer who has a space flat from 20Hz to at least 10kHz) & though I still have some work to do to the room, it's fairly minimal - I'm lucky to have this spot. Right now the main obstacle I'm facing is getting more distance on my speakers - I'm still a bit too close, but I have that planned - just have to do the work necessary (& some of that has to do with outboard placement). As far as the core, I'm using a Lynx Hilo > Emotiva XPA-200 > KEF 104/2s (in perfect condition - very well cared for through their life). I have a second room (doubling as my living room!) with a pair of B&W 685s & B&W sub + Emotiva DAC / Amp that I use on occasion to check low / sub-bass - or, more often than not, I'll uses phones for that (the ol’ Sennheiser 650s) but I don't get a lot of bass heavy work.

As for plugins - I have a great many - I've put an awful lot of money into plugs through the years but the ones I use most are those that are among the least expensive! Tokyo Dawn, Klanghelm, Acon (for me a hidden gem of an EQ), Voxengo & so on. I absolutely agree that if a plug can do it better, don't bother with hardware. Really, this is the reason I'm looking at broad / Bax EQs / analog compression & tube stages - these are the processors which most defy software emulation - EQ is the least of the lot but there's also the matter of ergonomics - I want to turn knobs to craft sound & a knob / rotary controller doesn't quite satisfy (I have 'em, I use 'em). Plus, as I mentioned earlier in this thread, there's the matter of drawing clients – unfortunately (but kind of understandably) people want to see big expensive knobs, I know they do! More on that in one of my responses above.

Yep! The challenge of finding "relatively inexpensive devices that are on the one hand quite versatile and give you exactly those aspects that you miss in ITB." is exactly it! Any suggestion that comes up in this thread WILL BE CONSIDERED! This is part of why I love the internet; mastering is already an isolated interest for most (my poor girlfriend – she’s always hearing A/Bs of one thing or another! – but she’s actually quite acute!) – it’s just awesome to talk to others who get it and to have this input.

Over short time I'll grow this as a business, but I've got to start in seriously - I've spent years growing it as a craft but it's time to make it a business - I know I'd be doing it anyhow - I'd be mastering masters for my own enjoyment if there were no other material! Everything has a season & there's no way on Earth that I'd just decide not to do this if I can't have a perfect situation at all times - if I did that it wouldn't happen at all. That would be the worst thing imaginable.

The long & short is that I DO want outboard in the chain & not only because I want to work with analog processing that doesn’t stand to diminish & is exciting / pleasing to use & master but because I love being at the controls & the gratification of hearing a project fully realized for all involved.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by teebaum View Post
. . . or is too hard to be a specialist who rarely works.
Right! That's just what I'm trying to avoid
Old 2 weeks ago
  #20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Slug1 View Post
For clean solid state, TK BC2ME and TKlizer, along with a few good plugins will get you a long way. The BC2ME has a lovely class A tranny that can be switched in, along with a separate harmonic saturator that really adds depth and warmth in a very classy way. It also has a parallel compression knob. All switches. Great compressor. Teebaum has been putting the TK lizer through its paces and can provide some feedback on that. TK is great kit.
Yep, I have both. THe BC2-ME is probably the best SSL-style compressor on the market. Not mainly because of the actual compression (I think they are all quite similar here) but rather the different tone options, build quality, big headroom etc. Just a very solid piece of gear.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by teebaum View Post
. . . . the knif pure mu and the hcl varis (only the blueface) I also find very helpful compressors.
teebaum - on the HCL blueface, is the tube presence noticeable in the signal at all times or can it be run fairly clean with material not in need of a tube stage? - tubes aren't always in order. I see some pt & tr adjustment knobs on the sides of the meters.

Thanks
B
Old 2 weeks ago
  #22
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Bichop's Avatar
Use my TK BC-2 every day, I love it.
I have been selling my Foote P3S ME for 2 weeks, which is an excellent transparent compressor with a very flexible dynamics control, to stay alone with the BC-2, the TK has something special, a kind of glue and a tone that sounds like a disc, HPF with 6 positions that reaches up to 250hz, transformers, THD and parallel compression, I do not need more compressors.
With that money I bought the Silver Bullet , these 2 accompanied by my Gyratec 14 I think they will be a good combo.
The TK-lizer I have been about to buy it, but I have not been able to resist the Silver Bullet, the sounds that pass through it improve dramatically, also already has bax curves, but it would be a good addition, I could choose the curves between 2 and also I would use the M / S mode a lot.
The sound of the TKlizer is softer and more silky than the BAX, for me more musical the TKlizer, and more transparent, tight and with more definition the Bax.

If it were you, I would go for the BC2, the TKlizer and the Silver Bullet
Old 1 week ago
  #23
Quote:
Originally Posted by alex-p View Post
a few months ago I was looking for a good solid mastering EQ a at low price, I know that doesn't seems to exist, so I got a Tk-Lizer, I had a Bax already and a API 5500, I didn't kept it very long as I found it quite soft on the low end, almost muddy, and the top was not much better, I waited one more month and got the MEA-2 instead, which I obviously kept.
even the API with his fuzzy hi's was more detail (and way more solid on the low end).
I felt eveytime I would put the TK in the chain some life was taking away, I am obviously being a little dramatic here in my comments but that's what I experienced.
I would consider it if you cant get the 5500 (second hand they go for 1800 euros I believe or less) for a test drive against the TK
looking at the previous comments now I almost feel my TK was defective but I don't know I would notice something else I guess
I have converted my tk-lizer to opa627, opa2604 and opa604 - that's a bit of a push in the right direction - I could imagine that you would like it to be rebuilt this way.
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