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Hardware upward expander
Old 7th September 2019
  #1
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Hardware upward expander

I've been looking for an upward expander to increase the dynamic range of a not particularly loud sounding electromagnetic keyboard, but have really struggled to find anything that isn't downward, or a a mixture of upward & downward.

I've been using one of those 90s Roland RCL-10 ½ rack size units, but with it being downward it kills the sustain. Messing around with the release time negates the effect of it a tiny bit, but it's very noticeable. Aside from that pretty nasty issue, between making the softer notes quieter, and using the make up gain to push a guitar amps input to drive a little to make up for a lack of aggression when you dig in, the transients sound great.

I'd read in another thread about some of the small dbx comp/expander units being upward, but I know the units intended for hi-fi use are both upward & downward expanders. Does anyone know any more about them? Or anything about any other cheaper units that do upward expansion? Know there's some boutique comps that have this feature, but might as well spend that sort of money on a Wurli if I had it!

I'd also seen some mention of modifying comps to expand, however I'm quite dubious about how you would make a compression circuit amplify signal? I'd certainly be up for giving it a go on a cheap unit.

Ta for the help!
Old 7th September 2019
  #2
Sky
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In the late 70s we used dBX 3BX multiband expansion units to restore dynamic range to cassettes and LPs in consumer audio demo rooms. I don’t know how much of the restoration was upward vs. downward, but the effect is what you are describing. Perhaps saturation hardware will also add life to your keyboard sound?

I’ve seen some 3BX units on eBay for reasonable prices.

Sky
Old 8th September 2019
  #3
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Yeah the 1/2/3BX all seem to do both, and downward expansion is really killing the sustain. Using some saturation from the front end of the amp it's going through and it sounds great, just needs some broader dynamics overall.
Old 14th September 2019
  #4
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Bump! Anyone know any hidden gems that have this feature? Certainly don't have to be boutique pieces of gear
Old 14th September 2019
  #5
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I’m curious about the RND Primary Source Enhancers. Don’t know how they work and never heard them. Designed to reduce feedback in live situations but I think these may have some studio applications as well.
Old 14th September 2019
  #6
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Expanders are basically gates with a Ratio control or soft gates. If you have the Ratio set too high it could be causing the problem. When you start doing envelope shaping via a unit's settings you can use a compressor to increase sustain and an expander to decrease sustain.

One cheap unit to look at is the Aphex 651 compressor which has an additional high frequency expander control to dial back in decompression of the high end up to 6dB. That might keep your sustain while reducing apparent noise as compressing increases noise. Manuals online can be found for both their compressors and expanders and used prices for their units are super low (lots of bang for the buck). One very inexpensive unit that may be hard to find but has both compression and expansion that can be used at the same time is the CAD CMG-2 Champ.

Basically with your source you are trying to envelope shape while keep the noise floor a low as possible. You can gate or silence in the DAW when it's not playing however when it is you are looking for the best masking effect. You could just record it's noise and use a noise plug to cancel some of that out.

On the expensive hardware side and ? cost software plug (its part of the Alliance package) is the SPL Transient Designer where you have independent control of attack gain while able to increase/decrease sustain. It's a different way of doing the standard compressor/expander. Some other plug makers now do a transient designer of their own though I don't know how well they work compared to the hardware unit which gets great user comments here. Most use this tool for control of the drum buss sustain.
Old 14th September 2019
  #7
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Cheers for the responses guys.

I'm not too bothered about noise floor, the downward expander I have dragging down the decay after the transients is what I'm having trouble with. If I set the ratio anything under 1.5:1 it's not really pulling the softer transients down in the first place. But then on louder notes at 1.5:1, as soon as they hit the threshold as it decays (which on the unit I have can't be changed for the expander for some reason?) then the sustain gets pulled down and cut off with it.

Seems with an upward expander, at least the effect would be mostly inactive, and set with a highish threshold & ratio, in tandem with a fast attack & release, then the rest of the envelope can be left unchanged?

Needs to be something hardware and (very!) affordable by the way ideally!

Thanks again
Old 15th September 2019
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bassmankr View Post
Expanders are basically gates with a Ratio control or soft gates (...)
i have to disagree: gates with mild settings often get called expanders but they are not! gates are not much more than threshold dependent on/off switches while expanders are compressors which work below a threshold - one can make an expander to behave like a gate but not the other way round.

i'd never ever use a gate for classical/acoustic music but use lots of expanders to keep unwanted signals low...
Old 15th September 2019
  #9
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Take a look at the Sony srp-l210.
Old 15th September 2019
  #10
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Perfect mix dome, exactly the sort of thing I was looking for thank you. The manual doesn't offer much in terms of an explanation of how it works, although I'd hope that it's pretty self explanatory, however it does refer to it specifically as an upward expander!
Old 4 weeks ago
  #11
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Dee, think we are just getting into semantics as Gates can be a simple on off or just short of an Expander without the Ratio control. There is an old school method of using Expanders / soft gates for creative control of mic bleed that many of the new guys would benefit from spending some experimentation time with.

SwamiRob, I've had that Sony unit and basically its a bread and butter type compressor sound and that unit doesn't come up for sale that often. It just lets you put some high end back in like the easy to find Aphex unit I mentioned above.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bassmankr View Post
Dee, think we are just getting into semantics as Gates can be a simple on off or just short of an Expander without the Ratio control. There is an old school method of using Expanders / soft gates for creative control of mic bleed that many of the new guys would benefit from spending some experimentation time with (...)
not just semantics as some quick experimentation with delicate acoustic instruments/classical music would quickly reveal and it's exactly this 'old school' approach which i find pointless (again: for certain type of instruments/genre) as it does only work for more crude applications.
i'm with you though that some experimentation cannot hurt yet i suggest using the right tools; a gate unfortunately is almost never the right tool!
but hey, that's (maybe) just my thing...
Old 4 weeks ago
  #13
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If getting more than a couple musicians playing live together in the same room without headphones is crude so be it. Creative control of mic bleed is something I'd bet most of our top Engineers have learned along the way.
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