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Is outboard compression a waste of $$?
Old 28th December 2009
  #1
Is outboard compression a waste of $$?

I've FINALLY saved up enough ($1500) to add a decent outboard compressor for tracking vocals. Now that I've reached this point, I'm a little hesitant to put this $ towards just a compressor.

My current setup is:

Shure SM7
API A2D
dbx 163x
Lavry DA10
Mackie HR624
MPC-1000
Technics 1200
Logic 8

My sound is very raw (early Kanye/Dilla/Madlib) type stuff so I only use Logic as a recorder with minimal processing. My favorite record is Common's "Be" album.

Would a compressor have a great enough effect on my vocals to justify spending the $1500?
Old 28th December 2009
  #2
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Audio Child's Avatar
 

On the sensible side i would get the Waves CLA bundle and softube cl1b which pretty much covers enough tonal ground.

On the other hand if it must be hardware then a distressor or trakker is a safe bet!

Lowend hardware an Art pro vla 2 is a very decent compressor too.
Old 28th December 2009
  #3
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Ca$h Marty's Avatar
 

OTB Compression is the balls - especially for vocals. If you have the budget get something nice and you will have it forever. Once I started going OTB, I just kept going and would like to continue to go.
Old 28th December 2009
  #4
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robmix's Avatar
Get an 1176 type compressor (Purple, UA, etc) and be done with it. . . .
Old 28th December 2009
  #5
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Distressor!
Old 28th December 2009
  #6
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Stitch333's Avatar
 

or something like the TLA100
or the ADL1000 and send it away to be modded
or TubeTech CL1B

1176 is right up there too

Any of these would be an eye and ear opener if you're used to tracking vocals with no compressor.
Old 28th December 2009
  #7
Any thoughts on the LA-3A?
Old 28th December 2009
  #8
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Liam Judah's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by robmix View Post
Get an 1176 type compressor (Purple, UA, etc) and be done with it. . . .
I used to use a vt737 for pre/compression, and am now using a different pre and an 1176 for compression on vocals going into the box. The sound is beautiful. Can't imagine using anything else, and don't see going in without outboard compression anytime soon.

Haven't used the LA-3A.
Old 29th December 2009
  #9
It Depends. What will you use it for? Vox? Instruments?
Old 29th December 2009
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrislago View Post
It Depends. What will you use it for? Vox? Instruments?
Vocals.
Old 29th December 2009
  #11
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viewing's Avatar
i'm sold on the TaDA method thanks to gs user brad mcgowan. i can't wait to get a tape deck now



Old 29th December 2009
  #12
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Squawk's Avatar
If you want/need to control levels before hitting the converter, then yes it's a good investment. Then you have to decide if you want color or something transparent.

Personally I quite like the Pete's Place BAC 500 on vocals..
Old 29th December 2009
  #13
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It does make a great difference on tracking, but if you got a decent set of plug-ins and know-how during the mixing stage it's honestly not night and day. I do have the 1176, CL1b and a Chandler TG1 available for tracking, but I always end up mixing entirely ITB anyway. Even if I didn't track with compression.

For software compressors, I'm really liking the Softube CL1B, the Abbey Road TG12413 and Waves' SSL BusComp. Of course used in conjunction with proper eq'ing and automation on all needed parameters.

I guess if you wanna see if its the right thing for you, try getting something like a 1176-type comp for a while and work with it in your own setup. Make sure you can take it back if it's not worth it to you.
Old 29th December 2009
  #14
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I pretty much always use outboard compression for lead vocals. If I had 200 outboard compressors I'd use them on every track. But then I'd need 200 I/O converters and those are pricey LOL.
Old 29th December 2009
  #15
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phillysoulman's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Audio Child View Post
On the sensible side i would get the Waves CLA bundle and softube cl1b which pretty much covers enough tonal ground.

On the other hand if it must be hardware then a distressor or trakker is a safe bet!

Lowend hardware an Art pro vla 2 is a very decent compressor too.
thumbsupthumbsupthumbsupyep
Old 29th December 2009
  #16
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illacov's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Marrvel View Post
I've FINALLY saved up enough ($1500) to add a decent outboard compressor for tracking vocals. Now that I've reached this point, I'm a little hesitant to put this $ towards just a compressor.

My current setup is:

Shure SM7
API A2D
dbx 163x
Lavry DA10
Mackie HR624
MPC-1000
Technics 1200
Logic 8

My sound is very raw (early Kanye/Dilla/Madlib) type stuff so I only use Logic as a recorder with minimal processing. My favorite record is Common's "Be" album.

Would a compressor have a great enough effect on my vocals to justify spending the $1500?
Why don't you mod your dbx 163x??

You have a monster compressor hiding in that half rack box with a few changes to the circuit!!

I modded mine and it sounds way more expensive now. The high end is no longer masked and its definitely alot faster sounding. I modded mine and my buddies and the units are much quieter than before and they still have that dbx flavor to them but just sound absolutely dope! I want another one so I can have 1 for kick and overhead when I'm tracking drums.

As far as the Pro Vla, you MUST get one of these things. MK1 is absolutely fine where it is. I use the dbx 163x into the Pro Vla, very very nice balanced sounding compression into the computer, if you're worried about handcuffing yourself or you want more tonal options, then mult the output from your preamp and record 2 channels at once. One channel with the hardware compression and one without. Best case scenario you can blend them together in the computer or you can go back to the raw vocal if you don't like the compressed sound at some point and want to rebuild the vocal.

I never toss the compressed vocal, always sounds good over here!

The thing about the 163x is that its got a warm tone stock and hides some of the harshness in cheaper mics or signal chains. But once you get balanced sounding mics at your disposal, you want all that frequency content that the ceramic lo pass caps were hiding in there. Removing a few caps and upgrading others really cleans up the unit and speeds er up a little too!

I really dig it now. I track vocals, bass and overheads with my modded 163x all day everyday!

Peace
Illumination
Old 29th December 2009
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robmix View Post
Get an 1176 type compressor (Purple, UA, etc) and be done with it. . . .
Thisthumbsup Close thread.
Old 29th December 2009
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Marrvel View Post
Any thoughts on the LA-3A?
Great-sounding comp, but kinda slow for rap. Nice midrange character, though. Used in conjunction with something faster (like an 1176) could put you in a good place.
Old 29th December 2009
  #19
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R3altruth's Avatar
 

1st comp is a big one....
If I only had 1 comp I'd want it to be super versatile like the CL1B

The distressor is great though... for a lot less money and it could definitely work as only comp

If you could save a little longer you maybe even wanna look into the UBK fatso

2 channels... Analog warmth... GREAT VERSATILITY

I know you're thinking that vocals only need 1 channel.... But you could even be creative.... Running an aux room mic or something like that
There are tons of creative ways to record...
Old 29th December 2009
  #20
Gear Guru
 
u b k's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Marrvel View Post
Would a compressor have a great enough effect on my vocals to justify spending the $1500?

It most certainly will. I can tell you what's gonna happen when you patch it in for the first time and squeeze your voice into submission: you're gonna cuss, then a split second later you're gonna laugh. A few seconds after that, you'll wonder out loud wtf took you so long.

Then you'll get back to it, and within days you will begin to think about which compressor to get next, and how long it'll take to scrounge up another $1500.

As for which one to get, my vote goes for Daking. It can be smooth or it can growl, and when you save up for a second, they kick ass on the drums and/or mix buss too.

1176 I don't like so much on vocals, the knee isn't quite right.


Gregory Scott - ubk
Old 29th December 2009
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by u b k View Post
It most certainly will. I can tell you what's gonna happen when you patch it in for the first time and squeeze your voice into submission: you're gonna cuss, then a split second later you're gonna laugh. A few seconds after that, you'll wonder out loud wtf took you so long.

Then you'll get back to it, and within days you will begin to think about which compressor to get next, and how long it'll take to scrounge up another $1500.

As for which one to get, my vote goes for Daking. It can be smooth or it can growl, and when you save up for a second, they kick ass on the drums and/or mix buss too.

1176 I don't like so much on vocals, the knee isn't quite right.


Gregory Scott - ubk
Daking is really nice
Old 29th December 2009
  #22
I've had some great results with the sm7b and Softube Tubetech vst. It's pretty much my only vocal vst comp that I use.
Old 29th December 2009
  #23
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KRStudio's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by u b k View Post
It most certainly will. I can tell you what's gonna happen when you patch it in for the first time and squeeze your voice into submission: you're gonna cuss, then a split second later you're gonna laugh. A few seconds after that, you'll wonder out loud wtf took you so long.

Then you'll get back to it, and within days you will begin to think about which compressor to get next, and how long it'll take to scrounge up another $1500.

As for which one to get, my vote goes for Daking. It can be smooth or it can growl, and when you save up for a second, they kick ass on the drums and/or mix buss too.

1176 I don't like so much on vocals, the knee isn't quite right.


Gregory Scott - ubk

This is one of the classiest posts I have seen in years! For the maker of a comp giving advice to get another brand because it may truely be better for the buyer. Big Kudos!

Jeff
Old 30th December 2009
  #24
Here for the gear
 

Hi guys I am a bit inexperienced in this area but a question comes to my mind.
The 1176 type thing comes with a £350 uad card so why not use this ITB rather than spending all that money on hardware?
Forgive my ignorance.
Old 30th December 2009
  #25
Gear Nut
 
tmrstudio's Avatar
 

I compress ITB but wouldn't mind having some outboard compression for tracking. On the flip side, my rap clients would probably baulk at the time it takes to dial up a good sound.
Old 30th December 2009
  #26
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Stitch333's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tmrstudio View Post
On the flip side, my rap clients would probably baulk at the time it takes to dial up a good sound.
I find that if I know the compressor well, I'll have it dialed in 90% of the way before the vocalist even steps up to the mic.
As the first takes happen, I'll adjust the compression and gain staging to suit. Something like an La2a is great for just this reason: simple and quick to dial in and sounds really good on most, tho it does tend to be a bit slow for rapping rappers.

Most of the time the client doesn't even notice the twiddling of knobs in the beginning, but they always notice the quality at the end.
Old 30th December 2009
  #27
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illacov's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tmrstudio View Post
I compress ITB but wouldn't mind having some outboard compression for tracking. On the flip side, my rap clients would probably baulk at the time it takes to dial up a good sound.
Damn how much do you charge for 10 seconds??

Seriously some hardware compressors just have a ready set go topology. There's not much to dial.

The dbx slider processors for example. You just slide it till it sounds good. That takes all of 3 seconds. Next step? Hit record. The Pro Vla I usually have dialed in for hip hop. Slow attack, fast release 4:1 ratio. Adjust threshold till you're doing maybe 2 to 4 db of GR, output gain at 0db.

Drums might require a little more tweaking but nothing more than a few more minutes.

When you have those locked in sound schemes at your disposal you actually save the client money I feel because you spend less time mixing their vocal so it evens out in the end.

Peace
Illumination
Old 30th December 2009
  #28
Gear Nut
 
tmrstudio's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by illacov View Post
Damn how much do you charge for 10 seconds??
About what you charge to mic a set of drums.
Seriously, compression on the front end is not something I feel a strong need for.
Old 30th December 2009
  #29
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Piedpiper's Avatar
Another budget model to consider is an old Aphex 651 Expressor and have it modded by Audio Upgrades, for clean and cheap. $150ish on eBay, $140 for the mod, plus shipping. Worth trying before you spend more.
Old 30th December 2009
  #30
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R3altruth's Avatar
 

Re: the OP....

Compressors aren't as necessary in the 24-bit world...

Compressors were once needed to tame an overly dynamic vocal so it could go in loud enough without clipping

Recording at 24-bit means the dreaded noise floor is kept at bay more so than it is at 16-bit... So you could have your vocal coming to your converters at -30 to -35rms and even a very dynamic vocal wont clip. AND that range is a perfectly adequate level for a vocal because the noise floor is low enough that it still wont be heard when the vocal gets louder

Now... with that being said, compressors are definitely NOT a waste of money....
They just don't need to be used in the traditional dynamic controlling way

A good compressor imparts a certain character onto the vocal that plugins can't mimic for the same reason they can't emulate mic pre's
Running through the analog circuitry can add pleasing color to the sound
Merge that with the fact that they alter the relationship between the fundamental and harmonics (By either adding or boosting certain harmonics or attenuating the fundamental) which can having positive and negative affects on tone

And there isn't too much dialing in on a hardware comp....
You generally know the ratio you're gonna be hitting around if you know the performer....
Sweep your threshold (With attack set kind of slow) while the performer is singing/rapping to get the gain reduction you want... and then sweep the attack faster until you get the right mix.... Possibly even having to tweak the threshold as you do.... not a bad idea to let your makeup gain match your GR and presto...
Pretty quick process....

I find that analog gear gets me where I need to go faster....
A better mic pre and comp means less EQ in the box on the vocal... an outboard comp routed in on the drum buss means less processing on each individual drum track.... Just tame the transient in the snare... eq the kick to taste.... EQ the high end on the cymbals to taste and the comp takes care of the rest... as opposed to using ITB only where I have to EQ more... comp the kicks if I used multi's.... more EQ on percussive elements like toms.... Then a saturation plugin + ITB comp
OTB comps make it easier all around

Lastly... large amounts of gain reduction sound better on OTB comps.... ITB I really don't like to go for huge wild GR numbers.... Thats a quick way to suck the life out of whatever instrument your working with.... I think you get a bigger window with OTB comps on how much gain you can remove and not kill the vibe
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