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In search of first solid outboard compressor Dynamics Processors (HW)
Old 6 days ago
  #1
Gear Nut
In search of first solid outboard compressor

This might be my first post outside of low end theory.

I have the sense that there might be something about good outboard compressors that just can't be achieved in the box. I don't have much outboard gear (RSP saturator, which is a poor man's Culture Vulture, a GAP comp 54, and a really cool spring reverb).

I'm considering properly entering the outboard game. Well, at a hobbyist level anyway. Mostly rock music at this point. Budget ~$1000 (used). My ideas include:

-- Kush Tweaker. Really cool, modern, versatile box.
-- Distressor. Classic.
-- Solder together or find a used Munson & Fletcher MS76. They seem to have recently stopped selling the kits, but I've had an eye on them for awhile. Seem like a really cool unit.
-- WA76 or two
-- Something else?


What do you guys think? Pretty open ended, I suppose.
Old 6 days ago
  #2
Here for the gear
 

the more things you connect into your signal chain the more degraded the audio quality will become. all the magic happens at the microphone and preamp the mic goes into. each connector it runs through will be degrading the sound. maybe thats the magic youre looking for.
Old 6 days ago
  #3
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ApplePiesForYou View Post
the more things you connect into your signal chain the more degraded the audio quality will become. all the magic happens at the microphone and preamp the mic goes into. each connector it runs through will be degrading the sound. maybe thats the magic youre looking for.
So I've been listening to degraded audio all this time? Lets do away with connectors already!!! Destroyers of audio bliss!!!
Old 6 days ago
  #4
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DougS's Avatar
 

Daking Fet II (Used). Serious bang-for-buck!

...or for a little more you can get the two channel/stereo Daking Fet III (used).
Old 6 days ago
  #5
Gear Nut
Quote:
Originally Posted by DougS View Post
Daking Fet II (Used). Serious bang-for-buck!

...or for a little more you can get the two channel/stereo Daking Fet III (used).
Oh that unit looks really cool! If I'm lucky, maybe I could get one for ~$800 used; I'll look up some audio samples when I get home.

I also just rediscovered the Hairball Audio 1176 clone kits which seem neat. Looks like the MS76 isn't available anymore, so maybe this is the best option if I want to go the kit route.
Old 6 days ago
  #6
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noah330's Avatar
The true GS answer would be you should be investing that money in room treatment!

Seriously, it sounds like you have some good choices there but it comes down to what you want. The Distressor is a great comp but the Daking FET II is probably what I would choose if I could only have one box.

Just my opinion.

I have a WA-76 and like it. I had a real 1176 but it was so long ago I couldn't give you an accurate side by side comparison. I can tell you the WA-76 sounds good and is useful (IMHO).

Also, I had a Saturator way back in the 1990s to use with an ADAT (which is what it was originally sold as - something to warm up your digital tracks). I think it was the first product of its kind, or at least the first I can remember.

You don't see too many of them these days. They did look cool in a rack!

Last edited by noah330; 5 days ago at 03:47 AM..
Old 5 days ago
  #7
Here for the gear
 

Audio Scape is worth looking at. I have their GSSL stereo comp and it's really nice. also DBX 160X (pair)
Old 5 days ago
  #8
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James Lehmann's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by pemberley View Post
I have the sense that there might be something about good outboard compressors that just can't be achieved in the box. I'm considering properly entering the outboard game. Well, at a hobbyist level anyway. Mostly rock music at this point. Budget ~$1000 (used).
For $1,000 you could rack up one of each of all three models of FMR compressor (RNC, RNLA, PBC-6A) and give yourself 5 channels of very decent and varied outboard compression to get you going, which you will likely keep using even when you acquire more 'boutique' stuff.

Last edited by James Lehmann; 5 days ago at 04:42 PM..
Old 5 days ago
  #9
I agree with james. I have quite a few options and seem to be using the pbc and rnc a lot still. They sound good and do the job well. I have two pbc’s and one rnc in the rack. Paid about 700 for all of them used then added the rack. Good solid units.
Old 5 days ago
  #10
Lives for gear
Personally I'd keep saving - do it once do it right is my moto.

At the $1000 mark you'd be better off with a UAD card and their 1176 and LA2A MK2 collections, I have a couple of mid priced compressors I these plugins sounds ever bit as good if not better.

I'd wait and get something really truly special that will shine of everything you track through it such as,

Tubetech CL1B
LA2A
Retro STA Level
RS124

Get a big "toob" comp with lot's of iron in it :-)

I demod a few and ended up with the Retro STA Level and it's a made a massive difference to my recordings that totally blow away plugins. I track through my STA Level - vocals, bass, acoustic guitar - heck even hi-hat overdubs sounds great!

Mine cost me $2,200 second hand so you're almost half way there - hold out, keep saving and get something special - plus if you buy second hand it will totally hold it's value and maybe even appreciate in value!
Old 3 days ago
  #11
Gear Nut
Quote:
Originally Posted by noah330 View Post
The true GS answer would be you should be investing that money in room treatment!

Seriously, it sounds like you have some good choices there but it comes down to what you want. The Distressor is a great comp but the Daking FET II is probably what I would choose if I could only have one box.

Just my opinion.

I have a WA-76 and like it. I had a real 1176 but it was so long ago I couldn't give you an accurate side by side comparison. I can tell you the WA-76 sounds good and is useful (IMHO).

Also, I had a Saturator way back in the 1990s to use with an ADAT (which is what it was originally sold as - something to warm up your digital tracks). I think it was the first product of its kind, or at least the first I can remember.

You don't see too many of them these days. They did look cool in a rack!
I really like my Saturator; loads of character. A bit heavy handed, but usable especially in parallel.

I'm leaning in the FET direction here. I really like the texture and weight of those harmonics. The Daking FET II sounds great, so does the Black Lion Seventeen, which I've recently discovered.

If I can summon enough patience, I think it would be a lot of fun to put together one of these: MS76 KIT | PCB Grinder

I like the idea of the FMR stuff, but my ears are drawn more strongly to the 1176 sound. Maybe I just don't have the ears to appreciate their more subtle color.
Old 3 days ago
  #12
Gear Nut
Quote:
Originally Posted by thehightenor View Post
Personally I'd keep saving - do it once do it right is my moto.

At the $1000 mark you'd be better off with a UAD card and their 1176 and LA2A MK2 collections, I have a couple of mid priced compressors I these plugins sounds ever bit as good if not better.

I'd wait and get something really truly special that will shine of everything you track through it such as,

Tubetech CL1B
LA2A
Retro STA Level
RS124

Get a big "toob" comp with lot's of iron in it :-)

I demod a few and ended up with the Retro STA Level and it's a made a massive difference to my recordings that totally blow away plugins. I track through my STA Level - vocals, bass, acoustic guitar - heck even hi-hat overdubs sounds great!

Mine cost me $2,200 second hand so you're almost half way there - hold out, keep saving and get something special - plus if you buy second hand it will totally hold it's value and maybe even appreciate in value!
You really think that the UAD plugins beat a ~$1000 1176 clone? Honestly asking, as I haven't ever used UAD plugs.

I bet that STA Level sounds fantastic. Hopefully one day I'll own such a box.
Old 3 days ago
  #13
Gear Addict
 
biksonije's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by thehightenor View Post
Personally I'd keep saving - do it once do it right is my moto.

At the $1000 mark you'd be better off with a UAD card and their 1176 and LA2A MK2 collections, I have a couple of mid priced compressors I these plugins sounds ever bit as good if not better.

I'd wait and get something really truly special that will shine of everything you track through it such as,

Tubetech CL1B
LA2A
Retro STA Level
RS124

Get a big "toob" comp with lot's of iron in it :-)

I demod a few and ended up with the Retro STA Level and it's a made a massive difference to my recordings that totally blow away plugins. I track through my STA Level - vocals, bass, acoustic guitar - heck even hi-hat overdubs sounds great!

Mine cost me $2,200 second hand so you're almost half way there - hold out, keep saving and get something special - plus if you buy second hand it will totally hold it's value and maybe even appreciate in value!
A $1.000 mark. You know?!
Old 2 days ago
  #14
Save up a little for a Buzz DBC 20. Very nice sounding unit. It’s dual mono or stereo and not too far from your budget. A used one might even be close to what you can spend now.
Old 2 days ago
  #15
Gear Addict
 
mrmike186's Avatar
 

I would start with nice preamp. You mentioned willingness to solder. Why not a capi preamp, fc526 compressor and bt50 EQ for close to $1000?
Old 2 days ago
  #16
Lives for gear
Another +1 for Daking FET II [or anything Daking]. I paid ~$850 used for mine.
Old 2 days ago
  #17
My two main compressors are an Emperical Labs Distressor and a Sebatron Smac.

I use the distressor mostly for tracking instruments and vocals .It gives a tight FET style compression . I like it on snares the most as you can set it to accentuate the crack with some precision..
The Sebatron smac I use for some tracking but mostly for sub-mixes , mixing and on some sessions I have used it to master material. It gives a nice 'opto glue' that I can't get with any plugin.
Old 2 days ago
  #18
Distressor is a great first comp. Very veratile, especially if you get the EL8X. Also holds its resale value. Can be clean or colored depending on the settings.

1176 style is great, there are many clones out there that all sound a bit different - pretty much any one of them will sound better than a plug-in. However 1176 is more colored.

But for a first comp - distressor would be great. There are usually some used ones up for sale - get it and use it for a few months and you can sell it for the same amount if you don’t like it.
Old 2 days ago
  #19
Lives for gear
 

Personally, I strongly disagree that $1,000 or less isn't an amount worth spending on a hardware comp. I paid about that much for a Peavey/AMR VC/L2, which I've grown to find essential for both tracking and mixing. I also have a DIYRE OLA5 ($350), Hairball FET/500 Rev A ($425), and the Audioscape G-series bus comp ($650), all of which sound much better than any plugins I have.
Old 2 days ago
  #20
Gear Addict
 
mrmike186's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Whoopysnorp View Post
Personally, I strongly disagree that $1,000 or less isn't an amount worth spending on a hardware comp. I paid about that much for a Peavey/AMR VC/L2, which I've grown to find essential for both tracking and mixing. I also have a DIYRE OLA5 ($350), Hairball FET/500 Rev A ($425), and the Audioscape G-series bus comp ($650), all of which sound much better than any plugins I have.
True but if it's polishing something going through a turd mic and preamp...
Old 2 days ago
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Whoopysnorp View Post
Personally, I strongly disagree that $1,000 or less isn't an amount worth spending on a hardware comp. I paid about that much for a Peavey/AMR VC/L2, which I've grown to find essential for both tracking and mixing. I also have a DIYRE OLA5 ($350), Hairball FET/500 Rev A ($425), and the Audioscape G-series bus comp ($650), all of which sound much better than any plugins I have.
I half wonder if the appeal of hardware is the requirement to actually listen instead of relying on presets.

Of course it's not that you can't with plugins, but if you're using a mouse* the average attack or release knob is going to be about the size of the top of an eraser on most plugins**, all of which requires different parts of the brain firing to control using your fine motor skills, distracting you from the critical listening process.

I've mixed both ways: I do find that my hardware only mixes had a certain sound that was appealing: less processed, more open, despite all of the units being sub-$1000 gear exclusively.

I often wonder what quality units would do, but it's an expensive A/B, that's for sure, and after investing all of that, your justification biases will naturally come into play and it's hard not to convince yourself otherwise.

* Console1 comes to mind here, but an industry standard modular interface is needed to really make this practical; while I like Softube's plugins, I like a lot of other ones too. These look promising, but would require probably a lot of trial and error and manual mappings:
Palette Gear: Hands-on Control of your Favorite Software

** why the majority of plugins are restricted to a tiny window in every DAW I've ever used is beyond me. There should be a scalable vector-based UI option that can expand to be as large as you need.
Old 2 days ago
  #22
Gear Head
 
Thunderbird's Avatar
 

Quote:
True but if it's polishing something going through a turd mic and preamp...

Are you Irish ?

Why do you think you need 3 mics and preamps ?
Old 2 days ago
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gravyface View Post
I half wonder if the appeal of hardware is the requirement to actually listen instead of relying on presets.

Of course it's not that you can't with plugins, but if you're using a mouse* the average attack or release knob is going to be about the size of the top of an eraser on most plugins**, all of which requires different parts of the brain firing to control using your fine motor skills, distracting you from the critical listening process.
I think there is something to that. Like you, I've found that I seem to be able to get a result I like more quickly by incorporating outboard pieces into my mixing than by staying totally ITB, despite the fact that I don't own anything particularly slutty. I can't think of any reason why it shouldn't be possible to program a compressor that does its job just as well as its hardware equivalent. Still, I vividly remember the first time I heard a Distressor (at the Empirical booth at NAMM many years ago) at a time when I didn't own any hardware comps, and I remarked to the rep "wow, I can actually hear the attack and release controls working", and he was like "right??". There was something different happening there.
Old 2 days ago
  #24
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Whoopysnorp View Post
I think there is something to that. Like you, I've found that I seem to be able to get a result I like more quickly by incorporating outboard pieces into my mixing than by staying totally ITB, despite the fact that I don't own anything particularly slutty. I can't think of any reason why it shouldn't be possible to program a compressor that does its job just as well as its hardware equivalent. Still, I vividly remember the first time I heard a Distressor (at the Empirical booth at NAMM many years ago) at a time when I didn't own any hardware comps, and I remarked to the rep "wow, I can actually hear the attack and release controls working", and he was like "right??". There was something different happening there.
For sure.

I find with plugins, it's more of a discipline thing than anything for me: it's really easy to do too much, to the point where you're adding compressors on inserts, on multiple busses that feed into other busses, just because you can or because Braun or CLA does something like that, so it has to be good... when really just a fader or trim adjustment would've made all the world of difference.
Old 1 day ago
  #25
Gear Nut
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrmike186 View Post
I would start with nice preamp. You mentioned willingness to solder. Why not a capi preamp, fc526 compressor and bt50 EQ for close to $1000?
I think I already have some decent preamps: Seventh Circle J99, T15, and C84, Audient ASP880 pres, Trident S20, GAP Pre-73, and ART Pro MPA II with better tubes.

None of these are really high end, I suppose, but I thought I was at a point where adding outboard compression made sense. Do you disagree?

The Distressor keeps coming up here and in similar threads, I guess I didn't realize how FET like it could get. Maybe this is the right option. But there are so many cool sounding units!
Old 1 day ago
  #26
Nothing you choose will be magic. It's how you dial the things in that will be magic.

Also, all compressors are not the same in what they're good at. You might like one for the purpose of adding a sense of weight and attack to a bass guitar or kick drum, or tom. But that same comp might not be so good at taming quick transients. One comp might sound good but be more difficult to dial in just right. It really all depends and there is no reason to think that just because a compressor is hardware that it's better than software.

If you're just looking for an all around decent compressor that happens to be hardware then I think the Distressor is a reasonable choice. I'm also impressed with the compressor on the Ruper Neve Designs Portico 2 Channel, very versatile. But those are just a drop in the bucket. There are many options.

It might be wise to experiment with some UAD hardware emulations and see how you get along with them. They're pretty amazing, and they don't cost as much as the equivalent hardware. After you get a feel for how things work and what they can do for you it might then be useful to look into hardware, if you simply must have metal boxes and plastic knobs to turn.
Old 1 day ago
  #27
Gear Nut
 

If I were to chose one from your list, I would go with the Distressor. I just got the Kush Audio Tweaker recently, and the Tweaker is absolutely wonderful and perhaps as versatile as the distressor, but I simply don't know it well enough yet as it's quite in depth and complicated for 1 channel of compression. Sometimes it takes me 10 minutes to dial in the right sound on the tweaker, but the Distressor is amazing because it's so intuitive and simple to use. I rarely find myself turning knobs for more than a minute on the distressor. It takes me like 30 seconds of knob turning to find the right compression curve and then I'll spend another 20-30 seconds messing with the dist modes and hpf and that's it. The Tweaker has been kicking the crap out of my usual drum compressior (Dbx 165a) as of late, so the results are worth it, but the distressor is just so insant and gratifying to use. Still haven't done a shootout between the 3, but I'd say that the distressor definitely has a bit more 'zing' to it. It lets more of the top end through compared to something like an 1176.
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