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Dave, other people's compressors?
Old 17th May 2003
  #1
Gear addict
 

Thread Starter
Dave, other people's compressors?

Dave, I'm kind of surprised I haven't seen this asked yet, so I have to ask what I hope isn't too touchy of a question:

What are your favorite compressors that you don't make? What do you like about them? And, the touchiest question of the lot, what do you feel the Distressor (or Fatso for that matter) cannot replace?

Not to put you on the spot, but this could provide an enormous amount of insight. I know some classics figured prominently in influencing the capabilities, sound, and attitude of your new classic, and I'm interested in the details.

Bear
Old 17th May 2003
  #2
The Distressor's "daddy"
 
Dave Derr's Avatar
 

Bear - First, it shouldnt matter to people what I used because I was never a classic recording, "Hit producing", guy. There are 100,000 people who made better sounding recordings than I do. You really should ask major engineers/producers what they like. But I certainly dont mind giving you my opinions from my limited experience, since you asked. So with that warning...

My first favorite compressor was this old ASHLEY compressor from the 70's. It was my favorite cuz it was the only one I had! lol. But it was pretty smooth and adjustable, and not too noisy. It was also the first to go when I had more money to spend, but, that is the unit where I learned about compression. My buddy Craig Melvin from Maryland Sound at the time bought it, I think.

In the mid 80's, I got these kick butt GAIN BRAIN II's from Valley people. I still love those. They are smooth and have some pretty wild circuitry in them. You have to really use your ear when adjusting the attack and decay times, cuz they have a wide range and you can add some nasty modulation distortion if youre not careful. Verrrrry High Performance critters tho. Interestingly I kind of bought them cuz I had used an original Gain Brain I back in my band days, and loved what it did to druns and bass and things. I came to find out that the Gain Brain II's were a COMPLETELY different design. Gain Brain I's i think were closer to the 1176's.

The first EYE OPENING COMPRESSORS was two LN1176 black faces I got around 1990. These suckers had character and could be soooo smooth or soooooo RADICAL. I made some mistakes with them like trying to run a whole mix thru them (I only did that once!). Their attack is way to fast for master buss compression. After I got these, I rarely tracked using another compressor on Bass or Vocals or Acoustic Guitars, untill around 1996.

My buddy Ken Bogdawicz bought an LA2A right around the same 1991 time and after he got done playing with it, I "absorbed" it into my studio. (Laughing). Here was a slower compressor with tubes, incredible on vocals, bass, and guitars, especially SLIDE GUITAR! I have to say it didnt work on all vocals and wasnt a swiss army knife at all, tho. Tracking was rarely done thru the LA2a - it was mainly a mixdown tool because it did add some artifacts that were hard to undo. If i was doing balads or less dynamic music, maybe I would have tracked through it. I think i did maybe track a few bass or slide guitar parts thru it??

Also in the mid 90's, I started loading up on dBX 160XT's. What great little compressors. I believe I had four of them at one time. Although you could make em sound bad, it was kind of hard... I liked the soft knee thing. One thing i found useful was turning on the soft knee and turning the ratio up reallly high, like 20:1 or more, cuz it still sounds relatively gentle, but eventually does reach a point where it nails the signal in place. I loved em on snares and vocals and guitars. They were good on bass if you used the soft knee or lower ratio. I have heard them get crackly on bass if used heavily on low notes. Its possible that these also were a result of the brilliant mind of Dave Blackmer, the "DB" of DBx. Theres some other threads detailing my respect for this guy. He invented and patented so many nifty circuits. When it came to audio, David Blackmer was at one with electrons. If you are in the market for some swiss army compressors and can't afford a Distressor (laughing!), get a DBX160X or XT. Shop around and you should be able to get a new one for like $350 and a used one on eBay for $150.

I have used the APHEX Compellors and Dominators and think those are great designs! Great utilitarian and original electronics. The dominator is more of a peak limiter while the compellor was more of a general purpose leveling device. I wish I owned one in my studio but it just never happened. I remember using the Dominator on a hard rock Thrash metal singer and it would nail his vocal within about a 2 dB range and yet sound pretty darned ok. I gated before the Dominator. The guys in the band dug the name too.

Recent compressors that I really enjoy are the Massenburg 8900 and the Cranesong ST8. I remember using the Massenburg on a bass guitar and adjusting the crest factor to allow or disallow pick noise and slaps to come thru. I also used it on a drum kit as a stereo buss compressor. It really hits hard, making the smacks come out like a mama jama. Thats a very unusual beast and I wanna own one cuz its so deep. I wonder what George uses for a VCA in that thing? Prolly some discrete long tailed transistor thing he came up with. It is capable of really long attack times, and moderately quick ones. Something tells me it would be one of the ultimate Mix Buss compressors. but I never had the chance to try it there, except at AES shows on already mastered demo material.

The Crane Song is just so variable and unusual too. I never actually got a chance to use it on a "real" recording project but have played with it for several hours goofin around in my home studio. That thing can be blindingly fast or really slow. I bet the attack range is from a few microseconds to a couple hundred milliseconds. He uses a very strange method of gain reduction that I would be scared to death to undertake! Yet it works beautifully and quietly. The method is somewhat like the old PYE limiters used back in the Zeppelin/Hendrix era, I think. (Sheesh I hope Im not way off base here).
Old 18th May 2003
  #3
Gear addict
 

Thread Starter
Dave, I don't think there's anything about your view here that couldn't be educational. Not to kiss your ass, but the Distressor is probably the single biggest thing to come along in compression in at least the last ten years, so the boxes that influenced it's approach and your view of them seems relevant. Besides that, I don't have the Massenburg or Lord Alge bucks to spend on gear, much less close to the budget you probably had back in your studio days, so the progression you've already laid out is very interesting to another musician recording and working his way up to better kit. Keep it coming.


Bear
Old 21st May 2003
  #4
The Distressor's "daddy"
 
Dave Derr's Avatar
 

The Fairchild 670 was a wild beast. Im not sure why those things are $22,000 except they arent made anymore and have enough tubes to warm a small neighborhood. It really does sound great on vocals and guitars and room mics I think. But not $22K worth! <Laughing>.

Has anyone used a Fairchild 670 on bass successfully.? I kept thinking it should sound really HOTTTT on bass but kept getting this creepy almost crackly Distortion. I still expect that it should be great on bass with the soft clipping and tubes and all but... I just never got it to work nicely.
Old 21st May 2003
  #5
Moderator emeritus
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Dave Derr


Has anyone used a Fairchild 670 on bass successfully.? I kept thinking it should sound really HOTTTT on bass but kept getting this creepy almost crackly Distortion. I still expect that it should be great on bass with the soft clipping and tubes and all but... I just never got it to work nicely.
Yes. Not me, but the bass player in the country group Alabama uses one on his records (I was working in a studio the day after they'd cut something, and the rental 670 was still sitting in the control room; the information came from the engineer).

On the other hand, compressors based on a 6386 may or may not be great; I didn't like the sound of any of the Gates or Altec 6386 based broadcast limiters I've tried, but I really like what the General Electric BA-9B does, as well as an RCA BA-6A.
Old 21st May 2003
  #6
Lives for gear
 
jpaudio's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Dave Derr


Has anyone used a Fairchild 670 on bass successfully.? I kept thinking it should sound really HOTTTT on bass but kept getting this creepy almost crackly Distortion. I still expect that it should be great on bass with the soft clipping and tubes and all but... I just never got it to work nicely.

I've done that.... it can be beautiful in the right situation, i remember it sounding incredible on Will Lee once. I also remember it sounding like crap on someone else, so go figure!
Old 21st May 2003
  #7
Gear addict
 

Thread Starter
Old 21st May 2003
  #8
Gear addict
 
CrazyBeast's Avatar
 

"I can't live the button-down life like you. I want it all! The terrifying lows, the dizzying highs, the creamy middles!" - Homer Simpson

You get my vote for best signature. That rules!!

Cheers.
Old 21st May 2003
  #9
The Distressor's "daddy"
 
Dave Derr's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Gone Fission
Dave, the Cranesongs use Pulse Width Modulation, as do Neve compressors, if I'm not mistaken.
Bear - PWM Exactly! I didnt wanna get too geeky. The Neves dont use Pulse Width Modulation tho, but a wierd discrete VCA that colors the sound... and nicely I might say... Its a neat, brute force technique that was also used by other Brits, very unrelated to the Pulse width technique, (which is actually a digital "switching" technique).

The Old Pye's which Ive never used, apparantly used the Pulse Width Modulation method too. I strongly suspect that the Pye's were the first to use the Pulse Width Modulation commercially, if indeed they do use it.

Ill check it out when I get a chance.
Old 21st May 2003
  #10
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Some of the folks at Motown used a 670 on the bass while they were mixing. They rolled most of the top off. Tracking was with a Fairchild 666, an LA-2a or frequently nothing.

I think I remember the EMT compresser was a PWM.
Old 21st May 2003
  #11
The Distressor's "daddy"
 
Dave Derr's Avatar
 

I strongly suspect that at least two of the 670's I used were in grave need of servicing... probably re-capping and tubes, and that could account for the noticeable nasty sounds on the bass.

Hmmmm. You know I think I remember the bass i was using it on was tuned down to a LOW D instead of a Low E. The band was heavy and quite possibly between the super low notes and the type of music (Fast and Bottom oriented), the 670 could have been adding too much modulation distortion. Its possible the I/O transformers were saturating too if the level was too hot. Oh well.
Old 22nd May 2003
  #12
Gear Head
 

This is a very cool thread. Dave, thank you for being generous with your knowledge. Though you are quite humble, it must be obvious to anybody who has used your products that you know a hell of a lot about recording and have created great tools.
Old 22nd May 2003
  #13
There is only one
 
alphajerk's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Dave Derr
Hmmmm. You know I think I remember the bass i was using it on was tuned down to a LOW D instead of a Low E. The band was heavy and quite possibly between the super low notes and the type of music (Fast and Bottom oriented), the 670 could have been adding too much modulation distortion. Its possible the I/O transformers were saturating too if the level was too hot. Oh well.
i wouldnt expect tubes could keep up with that. most players i know who play that kinf of bass dont even use tubes in their amps.
Old 22nd May 2003
  #14
Gear addict
 

Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally posted by Dave Derr
Bear - PWM Exactly! I didnt wanna get too geeky. The Neves dont use Pulse Width Modulation tho, but a wierd discrete VCA that colors the sound... and nicely I might say... Its a neat, brute force technique that was also used by other Brits, very unrelated to the Pulse width technique, (which is actually a digital "switching" technique).
Weird, I was sure I had seen that Neves used some non-VCA method. Then again, just because I saw it on the internet doesn't mean it's true.

Bear
Old 22nd May 2003
  #15
Registered User
 
malice's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by jpaudio
I've done that.... it can be beautiful in the right situation, i remember it sounding incredible on Will Lee once.
I guess a 160 sounds right on Will Lee as well ...
In fact, I'm quiet confident a Boss would do the trick with this guy heh

malice
Old 22nd May 2003
  #16
The Distressor's "daddy"
 
Dave Derr's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Gone Fission
Weird, I was sure I had seen that Neves used some non-VCA method.
Bear - you are actually right about non-VCA method although its a semantics thing. Neve doesnt use a dedicated VCA chip or anything but kind of makes one out of very common components that serves a similar function. The pulse width modulation part of the PYE and ST8 devices could also be considered VOLTAGE CONTROLLED AMPS because at some point, a derived voltage does control the level.

I saw some engineer lambash another engineer because he used the term VCA applied to a circuit that only attenuated the signal... not Amplify it. You say Patahtoe, I say Pataytoe....

To me its kind of like the name UFO. Thats "Unidentified Flying Object." People wonder if they saw a real UFO?? WELL DUHHH!!. If you saw something flying and you couldnt identify it... isnt that an Unidentified Flying Object?? The real question should be, "I wonder if I saw a real flying saucer with little green aliens in it, observing us and abduting human specimens to see how we taste?" <Laughing>

Well ok ok.... you get the point. Its a question of semantics.
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