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Crane Song STC-8 Shape Dynamics Processors (HW)
Old 16th August 2008
  #1
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24-96 Mastering's Avatar
Crane Song STC-8 Shape

As someone here quotes in their signature: "You'll use the settings you need when you need them" ... or similar. Still, I'm wondering:

What is your take on the STC-8 Shape knob? It can bring great yummyness to a mix, making it punchy, giving it form when triggered by drums but can introduce nervousness and take from the depth of a mix. I guess I'm saying it's a very tempting but also potentially "dangerous" control.

My question to the users here is this: When you go for the effect while doing a "normal" amount of STC-8 compression (let's say between 3 and 6 dB of compression:

- What is the maximum amount of shape you dial in most of the time (if there is a "most of the time")?
- What is the value you usually find you don't go above unless you need very extreme effect?
- How often do you generally go for SHAPE (as opposed to going for 0 shape)
- What are your general thoughts on SHAPE

As usual, it all depends, I understand. However, I'm interested as to what the other users' experience on this is.
Old 16th August 2008
  #2
Audio Alchemist
 
Lagerfeldt's Avatar
Thanks, this could be an interesting discussion. Here are my thoughts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 24-96 Mastering View Post
I guess I'm saying it's a very tempting but also potentially "dangerous" control.
Without trying to sound like a smart ass, almost any control on a compressor can be "dangerous" when set in an inappropriate way for the given material.

As there's no ratio and knee control on the STC-8, the shape is actually a rather smart combination of the two which is linked to the feedback circuit design.

There's nothing dangerous about it as such, I think.

Quote:
When you go for the effect while doing a "normal" amount of STC-8 compression (let's say between 3 and 6 dB of compression)
I'm not sure 3 to 6 dB of GR is "normal". I'm much closer to 2 dB usually, with the occasional 3 dB GR peak in some cases. I often use an SSL compressor to grab 1-2 dB before the STC-8/M, which explains that partly though.

Quote:
- What is the maximum amount of shape you dial in most of the time (if there is a "most of the time")?
I do often end up with something around the 5-6 mark (6,25 if you must know, haha). I find that area offers a good compromise in the curve, where it isn't triggered too easily and still isn't too hard on the material. But in some cases I might use a shape of 0 or 3.

A maximum shape could still sound quite transparent if the input/threshold is not pushed as it never reaches the top of the curve.

Quote:
- What is the value you usually find you don't go above unless you need very extreme effect?
Above 7-8 it's starts acting up a bit, but still completely depending on the other factors.

Quote:
- How often do you generally go for SHAPE (as opposed to going for 0 shape)
0 shape is still a shape. And more of a "shape" than higher shapes in my opinion :-)

Quote:
- What are your general thoughts on SHAPE
The only bad thing about this feedback type circuit is that low level compression (very low threshold with very low ratio) is almost impossible to do. The only way is by feeding it very high levels (+25 dBu) and set shape for 0 while keeping threshold as low as possible.
Old 16th August 2008
  #3
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24-96 Mastering's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lagerfeldt View Post

I do often end up with something around the 5-6 mark (6,25 if you must know, haha). I find that area offers a good compromise in the curve, where it isn't triggered too easily and still isn't too hard on the material. But in some cases I might use a shape of 0 or 3.

Above 7-8 it's starts acting up a bit, but still completely depending on the other factors.
That's actually pretty close to my experience. I very often find myself in the region between 5 and 6, sometimes 7. It usually seems to be the best compromise for getting that punch while not provoking too much nervousness.

This thread could indeed be interesting... in the same fashion, where does your attack and release knob usually live? Of course that's somewhat program dependant, but I know that I gravitate towards certain numbers most of the time and I'm curious as to whether others find that too. The attack knob, for example, is around 7.5 to 8 a lot; the release for most material between 3.5 and 5 with 4 and 4.5 being the most suitable for most (mid tempo) material.

To those who don't use the unit, talking about "usual attack and release times" may sound weird. It's just that, in conjunction with higher shape settings, different release settings, for example, seem to "have a certain sound", as well as handle compression timing. That's my impression anyway.

This is fun... let's share
Old 16th August 2008
  #4
Audio Alchemist
 
Lagerfeldt's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by 24-96 Mastering View Post
Of course that's somewhat program dependant, but I know that I gravitate towards certain numbers most of the time and I'm curious as to whether others find that too. The attack knob, for example, is around 7.5 to 8 a lot; the release for most material between 3.5 and 5 with 4 and 4.5 being the most suitable for most (mid tempo) material.
Yes it is program dependent of course, but we have similar experiences in this area too.

Attack around 6-7 and release around 2-4 (lower than 2 tends to distort easily). Works well as a starting point at least.

There will always be instances where you do something entirely different, such as a very fast attack of 3 or 4 to control transients. But I tend to use an G SSL for glue and the STC-8/M as my main mastering compressor, and then a limiter to control transients.
Old 16th August 2008
  #5
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Sunbreak Music's Avatar
 

Verified Member
I also find myself around the 6-8 attack mark (as a generality, of course), but prefer a slightly quicker release.

Shape control just depends. heh
Old 17th August 2008
  #6
Most of the times i have the threshold set for no more than 1 dB gain reduction and with such a setting i find it hard sometimes to determine the optimal shape setting.
But i usually end up between 5 an 8.
The more aggressive the music (lots of metal here) the more aggressive the shape may be in general. Even 10 on occasions, but still, with very delicate threshold values.

To setup, i will typically start off with a higher threshold (say 3 dB of GR), release 4 and start adjusting the attack between 3 and 8. I might try to compensate the threshold simultaneously to maintain the same GR as to not being fooled by resulting level differences. Couldn't give an average attack, i guess 7 just as much as 4. Totally depends on the tempo, transients and bottom of the track.
The release will end up around 3 most of the times.
PK threshold at +26 lately, hardly activating the limiter but at least give some effect to attack mod modes for slightly more bottom when needed.
Old 17th August 2008
  #7
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24-96 Mastering's Avatar
Very interesting. I don't think I have ever really used an attack below 6 or so - even below 7 is pretty rare here. Although I have a feeling that, when the threshold is upped (lower in number) and less GR is achieved, the effect may be similar to using a longer attack, provided the shape is reasonably high (Shape seems to act so interactively...) . I shall give it a go later and see if this slightly different way of working with the STC-8 does something for me.
Old 17th August 2008
  #8
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Adam Dempsey's Avatar
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunbreak Music View Post
Shape control just depends. heh
It all just depends. IMHO.
I find getting the time constants right first up is paramount and will then dictate the shape, then tweak to fit. 'course you really gotta hear it in your head first what the program needs - the STC-8 is capable of real subtle levelling, more aggressive yet clean "grab", and all in between.
Old 17th August 2008
  #9
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24-96 Mastering's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Boomshanka View Post
It all just depends. IMHO.
I find getting the time constants right first up is paramount and will then dictate the shape, then tweak to fit. 'course you really gotta hear it in your head first what the program needs - the STC-8 is capable of real subtle levelling, more aggressive yet clean "grab", and all in between.
That's the way I and most others are usually working, I presume, but I have never thought of an attack of less than 6 as sounding right... so perception (and subsequently the way the unit is used) seem to vary. I'm curious to try it out - much faster attack than I'd usually go for, less GR and faster release.
Old 17th August 2008
  #10
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24-96 Mastering's Avatar
heh Wow.

I just had a play on mid tempo pop material with very fast attack (around4), very fast release (around 3) and only 1 dB of GR, as Finetuner uses it and suddenly the STC-8 becomes a gloss-machine, less about shaping the microdynamics and more about elegantly tying it together and laying a gloss on the material.
What a completely different way of using it. And how well it works... I'm stunned...

Finetuner, you must have thought I was crazy when I said I usually do 3-6 dBs of GR.... when using it your way, 1 dB is plenty, 2 dB sounds extreme.
I have mostly used the STC-8 to shape microdynamics, to control punch / rhythm, triggered off drums to get nice pumping, emphazise the feel, enhance the groove. A very different purpose to what you seem to mostly use it for. But I very much see your point. I just used it on a track I already used the STC-8 on (in my mode of use). It seriously makes me think it would be very nice to have 2 of them, because on the track(s) I just tried the gloss on, it did something very nice. It felt more like a soft limiter than a compressor, more like a colouring device than one to shape dynamics. A bit like the L2M but with a more glassy feel to it.

In return, Finetuner, if you haven't tried it much, try using an attack between 7,5 and 8 with a release of 4 to 4.5 (whatever fits the groove) on a mid tempo pop or rock song with a shape between 5 and 7. See that it triggers primarily off the drums and then get a good amount of GR, starting at 3 going as far down as 6 dB. If this way of working with the STC-8 is as new to me as your mode is, you'll find the unit acts completely different - it can be excellent in working with the beat, giving you punch and groove, reshaping the feel of the drums. If you are well aware of this way of working with the unit, apologies for sounding like an uneducated smartass. ;-)

This is what makes exchange on such a forum great. I'm not at all new to the unit, I have used it for several years on hundreds of albums, but using it this way (very short attack, very short release, medium to high shape, minimal GR) never occured to me. Thanks for sharing, everyone. And damn you! I want two of them now.
Old 17th August 2008
  #11
Always interesting seeing how other people use the same equipment.

I guess I typically use the STC-8 to pull around 1-2dB. Attack is almost always wide open, med-fast rel, shape is often 8-10. Shape would only be 'dangerous' based on the other settings.

Indeed, it is a powerful box. Using it as I do, it can be really nice at adding a cohesive glue without overly 'redesigning' the signature of the mix engineer's bus compressor.
I think A-Mod can help a lot with that too. I find it in the chain more than it's not.
Old 17th August 2008
  #12
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Lagerfeldt's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Boyd View Post
I think A-Mod can help a lot with that too. I find it in the chain more than it's not.
So how much is the limiter taking out? The A-Mod is only active when the limiter is active.

I don't find the limiter very useful, though some set it for A-Mod and engage the limiter, barely showing GR on the meter.
Old 17th August 2008
  #13
Quote:
Originally Posted by 24-96 Mastering View Post
..Finetuner, you must have thought I was crazy when I said I usually do 3-6 dBs of GR...
..er..yes actually i did

But let me add to that immediately, that i will try your approach more often now as well.
It's just that i've always been reluctant to apply more than 3 dB of GR.

but as you say:

Quote:
Originally Posted by 24-96 Mastering View Post
This is what makes exchange on such a forum great...
exactly!

and

Quote:
Originally Posted by 24-96 Mastering View Post
..Thanks for sharing, everyone. And damn you! I want two of them now.
this is what Gearslutz is about specifically i guess heh
Old 17th August 2008
  #14
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24-96 Mastering's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by finetuner View Post
It's just that i've always been reluctant to apply more than 3 dB of GR.
I know I may come off a bit crazy here for doing higher GR on the STC-8 than everyone else that posted... I want to specify though that it is only with the STC-8 with long attack & long release, and of course only when the track asks for some shaping. For fast, gentle "sweetening" compression, I've usually turned to my opto in the past. It seems the STC-8 is a worthy contender in that arena too though.
Old 17th August 2008
  #15
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Lagerfeldt,

just curious what ssl you are using and how it is set up? i having been putting an alan smart c2 or api 2500 before my stc8 and love it. just barely hitting a db or two on the stc8.
Old 18th August 2008
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lagerfeldt View Post
So how much is the limiter taking out? The A-Mod is only active when the limiter is active.

I don't find the limiter very useful, though some set it for A-Mod and engage the limiter, barely showing GR on the meter.
Funny. I have to confess I must have misread the manual. I thought it applied to the comp. I'm glad it wasn't something I was switching back and forth thinking I was saving the world! heh

As much as I love the comp, I'm not a fan of the punch-you-in-the-gut limiter. It stays off here.
Old 18th August 2008
  #17
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Lagerfeldt's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by dhiltonlittle View Post
Lagerfeldt,

just curious what ssl you are using and how it is set up? i having been putting an alan smart c2 or api 2500 before my stc8 and love it. just barely hitting a db or two on the stc8.
It's a custom clone job by Gyraf. It's the basic DIY version but with transformer balanced outputs and a 80 Hz 6dB/Oct slope filter in the sidechain, and all detented knobs.

So I use a bit of the good ol' SSL type sound to make it glue a bit. It's a VU meter and it's barely moving so it's not more than 1-2 dB of GR tops.

EDIT: I'm now using a SSL XLogic G-Series compressor instead

Then into the STC-8/M and rarely more than 2 dB GR there.

Once in a while I do some low level compression or parallel but I actually prefer digital for that.
Old 18th August 2008
  #18
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gransonik's Avatar
 

This is not related to the shape knob but as this turned into a (very interesting) STC-8 information thread:
I'm curious if you guys are using the sidechain from time to time or never feel the need even with material which "usually" benefits from it, for example bass oriented music -> hpf into the sidechain.

I'm currently waiting for my STC to be delivered thumbsup
Old 19th August 2008
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by chris_m View Post
This is not related to the shape knob but as this turned into a (very interesting) STC-8 information thread:
I'm curious if you guys are using the sidechain from time to time or never feel the need even with material which "usually" benefits from it, for example bass oriented music -> hpf into the sidechain.

Yes but not often.
Just a few months ago i soldered my own simple passive sidechain filter. Switchable between 70 or 150 Hz. It worked great on a few dance tracks.
Didn't like it on rock ... so far ... So indeed 'usually' on bass oriented music.
Old 27th August 2008
  #20
S75
Gear Maniac
 

Maybe a stupid question...when you talk about GR for STC8 do you talk about the upper or down meter?

And usually where do you use it in the chain? before AD (as a control comp) or at the beginning?
Old 27th August 2008
  #21
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Lagerfeldt's Avatar
There's just one meter (or rather two: one left and one right). No up or down meters.

You set the meter knob for Gain Reduction and it shows the amount of gain reduction, from right (0) to left (gain reduction amount in - dB).

In my case I use it after my other compressors but before analog equalizing (see post earlier in the thread).
Old 27th August 2008
  #22
S75
Gear Maniac
 

Thanks, but maybe I was not clear!!

For down meter I meant the VU meter
Old 27th August 2008
  #23
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Lagerfeldt's Avatar
There's no VU meter on the STC-8.

I have no idea what you're talking about.
Old 27th August 2008
  #24
S75
Gear Maniac
 

I try again...If you read upper the meter you read 0,-1,-2,-3 etc. If you read down the meter you read +3,+2,+1, 0,-1,-2 etc.
When you talk about GR you talk about the numbers upper the meter, right?
Old 27th August 2008
  #25
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Lagerfeldt's Avatar
There's no up or down on the meter, just left & right.

I've already answered your question regarding how to read the Gain Reduction, if you don't understand my answer I'm afraid I can't help you anymore.
Old 27th August 2008
  #26
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Lagerfeldt's Avatar
There's no up or down on the meter, just left & right.

I've already answered your question regarding how to read the Gain Reduction, if you don't understand my answer I'm afraid I can't help you anymore.

Again:

You set the meter knob for Gain Reduction and it shows the amount of gain reduction, from right (0) to left (gain reduction amount in - dB).
Old 27th August 2008
  #27
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MAzevedo's Avatar
 

I think he is talking about the scales printed above and below the meter, not an actual 2nd set of meters.

The top scale is gain reduction. The lower scale is level.
Old 27th August 2008
  #28
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Lagerfeldt's Avatar
Ah, the scale silly.

Yes, the top scale is GR, the bottom is level. For GR read from right to left for amount.

In most cases I don't see more than a 1-2 dB of GR action, maybe the occasional 3 peak if I'm aggressive.
Old 27th August 2008
  #29
S75
Gear Maniac
 

Thank you!

and about make up gain what about?

Do you like to push?
Old 27th August 2008
  #30
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Ok, first I am not a matering engineer.
Second, I understand that at the mastering level, it's the subtle things that you guys do to help mixes. What my lack of experience (which I admit) you are using a $4,500 transparent compressor to reduce a mix in the -1 to -2 db range. For the subtle touch your doing, I dont' understand how much better it could be than a Waves Ren compressor (or for more transparent work) their mastering compressor or using a Waves SSL compressor for a little more attitude if needed.

My friends studio, he has the STC-8 and I spent 1/2 an hour getting my UAD Fairchild to give me very similar results on a mix. With less input gain, the Fairchild allowed some of the bass to go through without pumping and I was able to get a subtle gentle reduction of the top dynamics and helping gel the mix. Yes there was a difference between the two, though is was questionable if the Cranesong sounds better to everyone who heard it. Maybe I would pay $1,000 to get that difference, but $4,000 more?? I just don't understand it. Now perhaps for a home studio guy like me, yes it does not make sense to spend that much money on a compressor when most people would not notice any difference unless they were in a studio with acoustic treatment, great monitors and a A/B box. I do understand for many this is your profession and the subtle improvements do make a difference that you are willing to spend money on. But I really don't see enough of a difference that would really justify the cost. Please enlighten me on this.

Thanks
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