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Looking for "inexpensive" saturation boxes.
Old 29th January 2019
  #1
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Looking for "inexpensive" saturation boxes.

Hello everyone !

I am looking for suggestion for "saturation" boxes or "color" boxes for my home setup.

I work in studio with big analog desk and plenty of outboard gear and I rarely play with mid-level or inexpensive gear.
But for my home setup. I don't want (for now) to spend xxxx on a Culture Vulture Phoenix or Mastering 15 edition (my favorite color/sat boxes). Or even 1xxx on TLA100A (which I really love, looking at the TLA50A atm btw).

So I was wondering if you know any low-mid priced piece of gear to recommend (price under 1000).

The only example I encountered was a Joemeek Channelstrip (VC2) that seemed to suit my expectation (with a proper drive control !).

I know which piece of cheap utilitarian outboard I am going to get (a lunchbox of 6 which I already know how I will fill the first slots). And I even already have a FMR RNLA to start with (partical for portable setup).
But I was wondering if you guys had any idead for those color boxes that won't cost me an arm or my car .
I know cheap is cheap and you get what you pay for but we also know there are expections to this "rule" (I know a few of them for compression for instance or even EQ).

P.S. : Effect pedals was something I was thinking about.
Someone suggested me some passive transformer boxes which looks cool indeed.

Thanks in advance !!
Old 29th January 2019
  #2
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If you can do some minor soldering of very few parts. This is a nice germanium diode clipper that I made for a our $30 for a stereo unit
You Can DIY! Build the Mojo Maestro | audioXpress
Old 29th January 2019
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Coldsnow View Post
If you can do some minor soldering of very few parts. This is a nice germanium diode clipper that I made for a our $30 for a stereo unit
You Can DIY! Build the Mojo Maestro | audioXpress
Wow very very cool ! How does it sounds btw ?
Thanks for the suggestion sounds interesting !

I listened to the audio on the website, there are no A/B so it is hard to hear if it destroyed the tone of the original track or not haha.
Old 29th January 2019
  #4
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szmola's Avatar
Check out old german modules like Neumann, Siemens etc. Could be bought for few hundred quids and if you can find someone to rack it comes out pretty cheap considering all their stuff is hi-end and there's tons of saturation going on if cranked up fully. Other than that, maybe Looptrotter Sa2Rate.
Old 29th January 2019
  #5
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kuasalogam's Avatar
How about DIYRE Color palletes? They comes in swappable cards/modules: The Colour Format – DIY Recording Equipment
Old 29th January 2019
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by szmola View Post
Check out old german modules like Neumann, Siemens etc. Could be bought for few hundred quids and if you can find someone to rack it comes out pretty cheap considering all their stuff is hi-end and there's tons of saturation going on if cranked up fully. Other than that, maybe Looptrotter Sa2Rate.
Never heard about Sa2rate thanks for the proposition, sounds promising.
Also hear about RSP Saturator which looks very cool.

For the modules like Neumann or Siemens, I only know the "mastering" EQ or compressors from them, which are quite expensive from what I recall.
So what kind of german stuff are talking about exactly ?
Old 29th January 2019
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kuasalogam View Post
How about DIYRE Color palletes? They comes in swappable cards/modules: The Colour Format – DIY Recording Equipment
DIYRE indeed catch my interest at first.
But it seems to be very versatile without sounding that good from what I heard.
It seems to be rather fun than very good.
Old 29th January 2019
  #8
Gear Nut
 

I'm aware that you're asking for hardware so ignore this if you want. But I'm personally in love with Decapitator of Soundtoys. The last two modes are modeled after the Culture Vulture. An engineer that I know well and respect a lot a/b'd them and said that besides some tiny difference in the low end they sound very much alike.

If you're looking for inexpensive it might be a better idea to invest in a good plugin? I'd love to mix outboard but if I just had 1 outboard unit I think I'd find it a hassle and I would go in the box anyway.


Just a suggestion of course
Old 29th January 2019
  #9
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I've seen Louder Than Lift Off Chroma or the Handsome Audio Zulu.
But I have to admit that at those prices, I rather have a good second-hand compressor in 500 format.

For Color Palette with all the palette you can have (especially Royal Blue which looks cool) you can quickly reach the budget of a good compressor 500 on second hand again from what I can see (especially since I am not in the US but UK). I am not sure about the sound too. Some just looks like glorified effect pedal to be honest ^^.

I heard also some 111c transformers pair could be a cool be very subtle idea. But they became a lot more expensive because of Sylvia Massey ^^.
Old 29th January 2019
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Khaleesi View Post
I'm aware that you're asking for hardware so ignore this if you want. But I'm personally in love with Decapitator of Soundtoys. The last two modes are modeled after the Culture Vulture. An engineer that I know well and respect a lot a/b'd them and said that besides some tiny difference in the low end they sound very much alike.

If you're looking for inexpensive it might be a better idea to invest in a good plugin? I'd love to mix outboard but if I just had 1 outboard unit I think I'd find it a hassle and I would go in the box anyway.


Just a suggestion of course
I already have good plugin .
Of course Decap is a true classic and for a good reason.

I mix entirely OTB on analog desk in the studio (or like 95% to be honest to ease recall).
I hate starring at a computer screen too much haha.
I also like saturation in the analog world as it doesn't impact any aliasing.
That is why I am after hardware boxes at the moment.

I don't mind having 1 or 2 outboard at home. I like printing stuff, it give me some quick ears breaks during the printing =). Which is essential to me (and that we sometimes forget with Pro Tools and stuff, whereas we analog tape you always had those breaks, which could be irritating too I admit).
Old 29th January 2019
  #11
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szmola's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by WheelieR View Post
Never heard about Sa2rate thanks for the proposition, sounds promising.
Also hear about RSP Saturator which looks very cool.

For the modules like Neumann or Siemens, I only know the "mastering" EQ or compressors from them, which are quite expensive from what I recall.
So what kind of german stuff are talking about exactly ?
Check for example on this site, I have this preamp module:
vintagetools shop | Neumann V472-2

They also have rack unit with power supply but if you can find someone to rack it it could be cheaper, there's schematics around as well.

Also, some good info about vintage german modules can be found here on Gearslutz if you search.
Old 29th January 2019
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by szmola View Post
Check for example on this site, I have this preamp module:
vintagetools shop | Neumann V472-2

They also have rack unit with power supply but if you can find someone to rack it it could be cheaper, there's schematics around as well.

Also, some good info about vintage german modules can be found here on Gearslutz if you search.
Looks nice thanks a lot !
Old 29th January 2019
  #13
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by WheelieR View Post
I already have good plugin .
Of course Decap is a true classic and for a good reason.

I mix entirely OTB on analog desk in the studio (or like 95% to be honest to ease recall).
I hate starring at a computer screen too much haha.
I also like saturation in the analog world as it doesn't impact any aliasing.
That is why I am after hardware boxes at the moment.

I don't mind having 1 or 2 outboard at home. I like printing stuff, it give me some quick ears breaks during the printing =). Which is essential to me (and that we sometimes forget with Pro Tools and stuff, whereas we analog tape you always had those breaks, which could be irritating too I admit).
That's a good point on the ear breaks! Good luck in finding some proper OTB saturation

- Afroham
Old 29th January 2019
  #14
I think for the low cost the best options have been mentioned in order: Zulu, DIYRe Colour...DIY Mojo Maestro...I wouldnt look to a compressor for saturation, and with Pre Amps well I compared the Colour format (Discrete Saturation) to a Warm Audio Tone Beast and they were pretty similar...even though a pre amp circuit is more complex it doesn't necessarily drive better IME...
Old 29th January 2019
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SWAN808 View Post
I think for the low cost the best options have been mentioned in order: Zulu, DIYRe Colour...DIY Mojo Maestro...I wouldnt look to a compressor for saturation, and with Pre Amps well I compared the Colour format (Discrete Saturation) to a Warm Audio Tone Beast and they were pretty similar...even though a pre amp circuit is more complex it doesn't necessarily drive better IME...
Zulu is on my wishlist too.

For saturation, harmonic enhancement I found some compressor to be amazing (Manley VariMu and the other I've listed in my first post come to mind). But I am not sure cheaper alternative could do this too. Although I was wondering, hence the creation of this thread =).

Good to hear your comparison with Warm Audio pres. Although I have to admit not being a fan at all of all the Warm stuff, the mindset behind it etc...

When I am looking at the Mojo Maestro, I am wondering if overdrive pedal won't be a good option to consider to at that point.
Something clean like a Xotic RC Booster Bass maybe ?
Or a Xotic EP Booster for subtle enhancement on midrange ?

I sometimes use effect pedal for mixing and have used overdrive but rather to distort sound not really trying to "embellish" them if you see what I mean.
Old 29th January 2019
  #16
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mutetourettes's Avatar
 

what about the airwindows magneto-dynamic infundibulator?

Magneto-Dynamic Infundibulator | Airwindows

a very cheap DIY inspired by the Gyraf Audio G21 “Magneto-Dynamic Infundibulum”...

Gyraf Audio Gyratec XXI Magneto-Dynamic Infundibulum |

just a suggestion....
Old 29th January 2019
  #17
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zvukofor's Avatar
You’re wrong about DIYRE colour - they’re not gloryfied stompboxes at all, some modules indeed make more obvious distortions than others, but thats why you have a wide palette to choose from.

Also, there is Camden 500-series modules that do some fine mojo.
Wooly Mammoth is out of price range, AFAICR...

Hell, shameless ad: even i myself manufacture some mojo-boxes.
Old 29th January 2019
  #18
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XAXAU's Avatar
 

CAPI VP28’s for around $400 each with 2x 2520 DOA’s and 3x trafos is hard to beat!

Lots of saturation if needed!
Old 29th January 2019
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by WheelieR View Post
Zulu is on my wishlist too.

For saturation, harmonic enhancement I found some compressor to be amazing (Manley VariMu and the other I've listed in my first post come to mind). But I am not sure cheaper alternative could do this too. Although I was wondering, hence the creation of this thread =).

Good to hear your comparison with Warm Audio pres. Although I have to admit not being a fan at all of all the Warm stuff, the mindset behind it etc...

When I am looking at the Mojo Maestro, I am wondering if overdrive pedal won't be a good option to consider to at that point.
Something clean like a Xotic RC Booster Bass maybe ?
Or a Xotic EP Booster for subtle enhancement on midrange ?

I sometimes use effect pedal for mixing and have used overdrive but rather to distort sound not really trying to "embellish" them if you see what I mean.
The reason I dont recommend a compressor is that it is a very expensive way to get the saturation part - which is what you are after (similar with using a pre amp)...but yes they have saturation also...

An overdrive pedal could work but it has to be able to accept line level signals, you may need stereo, and probably some sort of wet/dry functionality...that is why proper studio boxes tend to be preferable...
Old 29th January 2019
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SWAN808 View Post
The reason I dont recommend a compressor is that it is a very expensive way to get the saturation part - which is what you are after (similar with using a pre amp)...but yes they have saturation also...

An overdrive pedal could work but it has to be able to accept line level signals, you may need stereo, and probably some sort of wet/dry functionality...that is why proper studio boxes tend to be preferable...
Yep indeed a colorful comp could quickly become quite expensive.

If using a DI/reamp box for an effect pedal it should work in theory. Although dry/wet function is less common indeed. But still the track could be blended in parallel if needed.
Old 29th January 2019
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by WheelieR View Post
Yep indeed a colorful comp could quickly become quite expensive.

If using a DI/reamp box for an effect pedal it should work in theory. Although dry/wet function is less common indeed. But still the track could be blended in parallel if needed.
cool, if you find a pedal that sounds decent let us know! I did try the TC MojoMojo pedal and it was decent but in the end less usable than the Colour module from Bart HRK - Discrete Drive...
Old 29th January 2019
  #22
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

I've posted a lot about the simple transformer/trimmer boxes I've made. It's simple to do, just a 1:1 transformer followed by a balanced trim pot. You use a gain stage in front of the transformer to drive it into saturation, and then use the pot to bring the signal back down to a tolerable level.

The Avedis Audio TransDrive is a beautifully made, feature-rich and correctly-engineered version of what I do.
Old 29th January 2019
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SWAN808 View Post
cool, if you find a pedal that sounds decent let us know! I did try the TC MojoMojo pedal and it was decent but in the end less usable than the Colour module from Bart HRK - Discrete Drive...
I hope I'll !

So far I've only tried a few which were a bit too "guitar oriented" : strong midrange, killing the bass, too hot saturation and high end.

Although I am planning to try the Analogman King Of Tone as soon as I can (I've left it somewhere).
I've seen Timmy being used on kick drum too. In a studio where the guy put the Timmy next to its lunchbox, just as if it was part of the 500 series. That caught my attention haha.
Old 29th January 2019
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
I've posted a lot about the simple transformer/trimmer boxes I've made. It's simple to do, just a 1:1 transformer followed by a balanced trim pot. You use a gain stage in front of the transformer to drive it into saturation, and then use the pot to bring the signal back down to a tolerable level.

The Avedis Audio TransDrive is a beautifully made, feature-rich and correctly-engineered version of what I do.
Indeed the Avedis did catch my attention too.

Well I have to admit I am a pretty poor DIYer. Although, your boxes seem to be awesome idea.
I just need to find a good price for the transformers.
If you willing to (again sorry haha) any tips or tricks about it. I'd appreciate greatly.
Old 29th January 2019
  #25
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by WheelieR View Post
Indeed the Avedis did catch my attention too.

Well I have to admit I am a pretty poor DIYer. Although, your boxes seem to be awesome idea.
I just need to find a good price for the transformers.
If you willing to (again sorry haha) any tips or tricks about it. I'd appreciate greatly.
Only tricks are knowing what transformers to look for in your corner of the world, and where to find them without breaking the bank. Hot tip: much of my transformer acquisition involves yard sales and major dismantling followed by a trip to the hazmat.
Old 29th January 2019
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
Only tricks are knowing what transformers to look for in your corner of the world, and where to find them without breaking the bank. Hot tip: much of my transformer acquisition involves yard sales and major dismantling followed by a trip to the hazmat.
Never though about yard sales or major dismantling haha !

I live in London, so I don't know if it is the best place for this.
It is def one of the best place to find cheap and unique microphones, but transformers I don't really know.
Old 29th January 2019
  #27
You can buy a Carnhill line output transformer new for about £30 so it's not like its a total bank breaker...but can you really just push gain into that and get something useful? And if so - how much gain?...

I have the CTX and two custom made transformer modules for the colour format, and in my experience, they do cause some compression, a little punch but they dont really sound like they are producing audible drive.
Old 29th January 2019
  #28
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SWAN808 View Post
You can buy a Carnhill line output transformer new for about £30 so it's not like its a total bank breaker...but can you really just push gain into that and get something useful? And if so - how much gain?
A new Carnhill -- no idea. I live in Cinemag/Jensen/UTC/Stancor/Western Electric territory, and they're all different. Amazing variety of behaviors just among the UTC's. Push gain and get something useful? Yeah, sometimes. How much gain? As much as it takes. You kind of have to go at it with the mindset of a curious four-year-old sticking a fork in a toaster.
Old 29th January 2019
  #29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
A new Carnhill -- no idea. I live in Cinemag/Jensen/UTC/Stancor/Western Electric territory, and they're all different. Amazing variety of behaviors just among the UTC's. Push gain and get something useful? Yeah, sometimes. How much gain? As much as it takes. You kind of have to go at it with the mindset of a curious four-year-old sticking a fork in a toaster.
haha fair enough...what are you using though to run into the box you made? It looks cool!
Old 29th January 2019
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SWAN808 View Post
haha fair enough...what are you using though to run into the box you made? It looks cool!
Yes indeed it sounds really cool.

Although if it doesn't properly distort for it is not an issue.

I use sat as a way to enhance the sound (with harmonics) and slightly tame peaks and brings RMS. I am not really into super distorted sound so transformers looks like a perfect option .
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