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Best hardware compressor/limiter as replacement for computer volume automation? Single-Channel Preamps
Old 10th September 2011
  #1
Gear Maniac
 

Best hardware compressor/limiter as replacement for computer volume automation?

This isn't the standard question about what is the best hardware compressor/limiter (a question which involves a number of performance factors).

Many of us now use computer automation for controling the volume of the vocal track over time, bringing a phrase, a word (or even part of a word) up here, and taking one down there. On the plus side, this has given unprecendented control of the vocal track; on the minus side, it can become a tedious time-trap for the more obsessive/complusive of us. The 'industry' has responded recently with programmes (like Waves Vocal Rider) which are designed to make the process easier (I've demoed these, and I'm not impressed).

My question is this: if you were forbidden to use computer automation, which hardware compressor would be your first choice for smoothing out the vocal in the kind of way that we seek to do by way of automation?
Old 10th September 2011
  #2
Registered User
Aphex Compellor
Old 10th September 2011
  #3
RiF
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RiF's Avatar
Distressor.
Nothing I've tried does a better job in pinning a vocal level (hardware or software) without destroying it.
Old 10th September 2011
  #4
My Tube-tech CL1B can be super transparent on vocals.
Old 10th September 2011
  #5
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HandCrafted Lab's Avatar
 

It seems question is not proper a bit - each good compressor would be good. Other thing - principle of operation of them and kind (solid state, tube, or hybrid) can change a final picture in polar way (with same league even), FET, VCA, Optical, diode based comp. stage, Variable Mu at last.... right now I have several with mentioned types of compression - incl own devices - but it really to say each device is perfect. With small addon - for own task(s), and/or kind of music.
Old 10th September 2011
  #6
Registered User
IMO the original poster is not asking for the typical "color" compressors that we all love.

If you have a highly dynamic source, using a color compressor means that the loud sections get highly compressed (therefore highly colored) and the quite sections may not get compressed at all. The differences will be notable.

I understand the question to be about automatic leveling - where transparent, fool-proof operation is the order of the day ...

You can always add a color compressor before, or after, if that's what you seek ...
Old 10th September 2011
  #7
Registered User
If you are rich you might consider an Inner Tube Dual Atomic Squeezebox
Old 10th September 2011
  #8
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HandCrafted Lab's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiwi View Post
... means that the loud sections get highly compressed (therefore highly colored) ...
Is not rule, it`s relatively - if not to push a sound path of device into saturation field, big/deep compression is not meaning deep saturation always.
Old 10th September 2011
  #9
Registered User
Agreed - so I think the question is, which compressors will "not always" produce saturation or artifacts when used as a general purpose leveling tool on wildly varying dynamics ...
Old 10th September 2011
  #10
Gear Maniac
 

Thanks for all the responses. I've just come across a used Aphex Compellor going for £300 -- the ad doesn't say what model though -- is there any particular model which would be recommended?
Old 10th September 2011
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiwi View Post
If you are rich you might consider an Inner Tube Dual Atomic Squeezebox
But, think of all the money you are saving [!!!] by not buying an automation system. You put the ASB on the mix buss, and it does it for you. If you are tracking vocals with the SB, that you can make it act like there is a finger on the fader, controlling the evenness of your track without distortion artifacts. Plus the thing sounds awesome to boot!!! Don't think you'll get any musical tone from flying faders....
Old 10th September 2011
  #12
Gear Head
 
Analogue Nubian's Avatar
 

Chandler TG1 - Comp mode on vocals has worked well for me

Old 10th September 2011
  #13
The DBX 160SL has been the only compressor I've found that does exactly what you're asking about, without sounding over compressed. Just make sure the vocal track itself is fairly even (gain wise) to begin with and you'll end up doing very little automation come final mix time.
Old 10th September 2011
  #14
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Joram's Avatar
 

Best hardware compressor/limiter as replacement for computer volume automation?

I think a Cl1-b does the job quite well.
Old 10th September 2011
  #15
Goodness...to be honest, not sure there is a total replacement for auto or riding faders.

Unless you used say...one track for loud chorus, one for quieter verses etc. That's still tweaking volumes though, like auto.

I wish there were a comp that you never had to ride the auto with, but really...you gotta put in the work for sure.

I can get close, but if trying to do with compression only, something's gonna suffer. Believe me, I have tried, and gotten lazy and used a comp to squash. Never works for me.

Maybe vocal rider?
I haven't used it though.

I guess distressor, aphex, maybe some vari mu that just naturally levels...I dunno. I always have to tweak volumes no matter what. A comp can reduce the workload, but it's not a cure IME.

Peace,
john

PS: you know, one cheapo unit comes to mind, and that's the old Joe Meek stuff. It does pretty well at leveling stuff out. However, it is also pretty dark, and isn't going to work on a lot of vocals.
Old 11th September 2011
  #16
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sr2000's Avatar
 

I've been testing out compressors lately for this very purpose and the best I've found so far is the Aphex Compellor, Jim Williams mod
Old 11th September 2011
  #17
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UPRYZ's Avatar
I'm not sure you will find any replacement for automation however, a compressor is really not the right tool for the job. It sounds like you are looking more for an AGC (Automatic gain control). The Compellor does this. There is also a Symetrix AGC that is pretty good. Maybe even see if you can try an Orban Optimod. Very radio specific but one of the best AGC's.
Old 11th September 2011
  #18
Gear Guru
 
u b k's Avatar
 

Absolutely no question: Waves Vocal Rider.

This is coming from a man who has bought one --- yes, ONE --- other plugin in the past 5 years and who has 2 waist-high racks with ridiculously priced compressors in them.

That plug does in 5 seconds what used to take me about an hour to do manually, and I have to admit it's better at it. I love having that vocal sit perfectly, effortlessly, sounding exactly like I recorded it. I strap a comp on the voice only if I need it for tone and texture.

I do still automate the vocal, but it's macro-level stuff now, up at the beginning of passages, down when the space opens up, push the chorus etc... No more down-to-the-syllable-level stuff that left me foggy for hours after I finished doing it.

Easily the most helpful tool to come into my world in years.


Gregory Scott - ubk
Old 11th September 2011
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by u b k View Post
Absokutely no question: Waves Vocal Rider.
Yes, that would be the closest thing to what the OP is asking for, only problem is, I don't think that Waves makes a hardware version of it.heh

I guess that someone could always run it off of a tiny laptop and in that way use it as hardware if they wanted to.

Waves does make certain hardware though, so who knows, sometime in the future perhaps?
Old 11th September 2011
  #20
Gear Head
 
Analogue Nubian's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SBX-80 View Post
Yes, that would be the closest thing to what the OP is asking for, only problem is, I don't think that Waves makes a hardware version of it.heh

I guess that someone could always run it off of a tiny laptop and in that way use it as hardware if they wanted to.

Waves does make certain hardware though, so who knows, sometime in the future perhaps?


that would be nice indeed
Old 11th September 2011
  #21
Gear Maniac
 

Once again, thanks for all of the responses -- which I'm following up.
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