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Rupert Neve's Portico compressor SMOKES Dynamics Processors (HW)
Old 6th March 2018
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Oldone's Avatar
Can't remember if I already posted this in the thread but play with running one side into the other side i.e. fast side for transients the other side slow to add some body. It competes at times with me running an 1176 into an LA2A in much the same way. Not as smooth mind you but amazingly useful for vocals, bass, kick and the occasional snare.
Old 28th March 2018
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Pro5's Avatar
Hi guys (and thanks to Greg for a ton of useful info in this thread which I've been reading over some days!)

Another guy posted on here who has (or had at the time) Portico II Channel(s) and wondered what, if any, difference was between the comp in that and the comp this thread is about. Anything different enough to affect results? So similar it's basically the same thing but in a high voltage rail unit?

I chose the Portico II channel over the Shelford channel (both very nice) because of the flexibility of the EQ and Comp mainly, the pre, for me, is a good, stable, clean, classy sounding pre... not a 1073 no, but you can still invoke some flavour with the right kind of gain + silk + transformer driving at the output with comp settings and pads on following gear. It may not have the instant mojo of a 73 but for me it's very useful on more kinds of tracks as it's not always one (more obvious) flavour building up, especially as I don't have a ton of outboard and try to stay streamlined.

I mix ITB (ProTools + Icon which is about as close as I can get to an analog desk feel but with PT control + outboard gear for printing through) but record vox, bass, guitars through some hardware (inc the Portico II Channel which is my main workhorse as I find it layers up tracks nicely without going OTT - I can process further ITB with good plugs if I need so long as the base track was recorded well and the PIIChannel certainly makes for that!).

To guys who've had both, and to Greg if he's still around and has time away from his busy/family time to answer (I guess he may have left GS by now) I know you liked the PII channel at one point, had it in your studio, how do you feel it compared vs the smaller separates? I know they are all good, but did you feel it lacked anything vs maybe more vibey (cos less headroom) smaller /older versions? Do you still like the PIIChannel? I know you're also a fan of the 1073 so the P's pre isn't your favourite which is fair enough, if I had a room full of gear like you I'd probably mix and match much the same, but as a workhorse/main unit the P' pre is very good (for me) to get tracks into the box for further processing and sometimes feels like it's an almost ideal front end for further tweaking ITB. Of course, I'm sure I read that the Portico II pre isn't quite the same as the small older version, due to headroom and other things, but I guess they are in the same sonic ballpark.

As for hardware vs ITB, I agree with Greg and others, while Schepps and Blake mix ITB these days, the tracks they get in were recorded through great gear (mostly) loaded with a ton of analog goodness already, which is different to just recording all through a generic/flat interface pre-amp then mixing itb without ever going out to print tracks through analog or tracking through it in the first place.

Originally Posted by Greg Wells View Post
... I am using a combination of software and hardware compression. There is definitely something more satisfying as a listener to me hearing analog compression, and I can't explain why in a manner that makes sense. It's probably psychosomatic, seeing a meter move on a piece of hardware in front of me. Some of my favorite mixers on the planet, like Andrew Scheps and Serban Ghenea, are 100% in the box. I am currently incapable of making a move like that. I've never heard a plugin compressor give me the mojo of something like the Portico 543, my RCA BA-6B or the new UnFairchild.
I use plugin compression constantly, but need to use both digital and analog compression to feel like things are sounding like a record.
Firstly, I see real LED gain reduction meters moving on my ICON (D-Command) in the dedicated compressor knob section, using ITB compression as I dial in (say Arouser), and it 'feels' great, it feels more like I'm using hardware, including how I dial it in and LISTEN instead of look at screens with a mouse in hand tweaking away, Tchad Blake and Tony Maserati use these surfaces (Blake = bigger D-Control main unit, Tony = Just D-Command main unit)... (taken this photo just now for context for those that don't know what I'm talking about - it feels and looks like hardware basically)

... but I don't think it's just real knobs and meters making analog comps seem special, I don't think you're just seeing placebo. It's in the sound too that plug's don't quite have. ITB has a lid on it that's hard to break out of if you don't touch analog (even at the tracking stage). Once you've made those tracks bloom/glow even if only during tracking, or printing tracks though analog, the use of ITB comps and eqs works great to nip and tuck and bring home the final mix.

What I feel is that when tracked or printed through outboard gear, an individual track becomes like a marble (!!), full of colour but rounded off, weighty and 'self contained'. Layer up a load of processed tracks from outboard (or tracking via it) and a mix feels more like a bag of marbles, varied colours, all mixing in with each other but each in its own more defined, rounded space. Allowing a dimensional left, right, front, back and up down. It drains the fat, leaves light and shade. You can more easily swim into it (like a giant marble filled ball pool ) vs 'observing' the song on a wall.

Sometimes in fact an analog processed track may not always sound as impressive in solo vs the straight ITB one (maybe that sounds wider or has more high end) but if you add up all those ITB tracks like that, it gets more mushy, like everything is on the same plane. It's like colour painted on a flat wall (all ITB) vs the marbles I mentioned. And those colours on the wall all have to watch out for each other as they can overlap in 2D only, and if layered up get less well defined. This is why ITB needs a lot more EQ imo, eqing, saturation and other tools to try to carve each track a place, that often just comes naturally via analog tracking/printing/mixing. It's clearly a lot easier to mix analog processed tracks ITB than straight ITB tracks that have seen nothing but plugs. Even transformer and pre-amp emus don't quite do it justice (ie Kush omegas, Slate virtual pres), they do something, but it's all still within the original 2D constraints.

That's how I feel it anyway. It's quite obvious. And of course you can make great ITB mixes, and could even with enough work 'trim the fat' and round things off (I use plenty of itb saturators, tape emus etc) but sometimes it feels like plugs make things "3D" but with the front plane being limited to the 'wall' (like a monitor screen), like a 3D film that only looks 3D going backwards but doesn't pop out of the screen. Hardware meanwhile seems to bring things out, into reality, real space, in the room and then you can send back only what you need to the flat wall so there's more contrast.

I'm rambling, I know, but anyway that was just triggered by reading Greg saying he couldn't explain why he felt hardware (esp comps) did what they did. I think it's because of the above (Not that it's a technical explanation; Obviously it's more to do with transformers, harmonics, subtle noise etc).

And ITB plugs these days are better than ever, some of the compressors have got really good (Arouser for example), but I think there's limits to what they can do when working on 'already flat' tracks. They can't invent dimensionality but can work wonders on tracks recorded or re-printed through good hardware first. I think that goes a long way to explaining why Scheps, Blake and others make stunning mixes ITB. Because the tracks were given life/dimension OTB first (or at least printed back through hardware by the producer/engineer before sending the tracks). Wonder if this makes sense to anyone or if I'm just talking rubbish due to lack of sleep (again).

Anyway, the Portico II channel is great, though only mono. I'd love to get another or the comp(s) in this thread to try out on the mix bus.

Originally Posted by MattiaS View Post
Well, I'm playing with the compressors in my Portico II channels linked for the drum buss..... DAMN'!!!!.... now I WANT AND NEED ANOTHER RND COMPRESSOR!!!! hahahaha.... heh

I used the compressor in Peak mode... BUT in FB.... punchy, tight and musical... what an amazing compressor!!!

I'm really thinking about another RND unit... this time the Portico Module compressor.... any lucky guy there with a Portico II and with the 5043 module in his rack???

How do you compare them side by side???

This, basically, is what I was wondering before I wandered off into unicorn land...

Last edited by Pro5; 28th March 2018 at 11:40 PM..
Old 31st March 2018
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Pro5's Avatar
BTW I was watching (randomly) a Greg Wells vid earlier today and I see he swapped out his Portico II Channel for the Shelford, so found my own answer! haha... The shelford is tasty, especially if you have other gear but if going more minimalist I think the Portico II makes for a better main channel, less flavour perhaps, slightly more flexible (esp the eq and maybe parts of the comp), so have no regrets. I'd love to try a shelford at some point though.

I also noted he seems to have sold all his 5033 portico dual comps that he had 7? of at one point! and has some 500 series shelfords now. This will happen when a 6 year old thread is bumped I guess, doesn't take anything away from the Portico II Channel though.

High quality, flexible, classy and layers up nicely. Makes for a great/safe all in one channel as a workhorse I think. For someone like Greg who can pick and choose the absolute best pre,comp, eq for each tracked/inserted source I'm sure it makes more sense to get more 'flavoured' pieces.
Old 5 days ago
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Greg Wells's Avatar
This thread still lives! I haven’t sold all my Portico compressors. I still have some of the original red units.
When I first started investing in the early Portico series, I hadn’t produced a hit album yet and couldn’t afford crazy high end boutique pieces of hardware. Ironically, the album I made with all the Porticos, Mika’s “Life In Cartoon Motion”, became my first hit album and then I invested the $ back into the studio. I started buying old tube compressors and was running out of rack space in the control room. Slowly, the Portico compressors started to be removed from the racks to make way for more insane gear. I’m always trying out new stuff and my engineer Ian MacGregor can attest that it’s always musical chairs with gear in my studio. I remain a loyal fan of what Rupert and his talented team are making and continue to use their past and present gear.
Old 5 days ago
Greg, I wonder how have you found the feedback design on the 5043 or Portico II compares to some of the other feedback compressors you've used on busses? I actually sold my 5043 to fund another purchase, and I moved on to the A Designs Nail as a bus compressor. I wanted to have all the extra features, like a side chain HF and mix knob, and the Nail has a very creative set of controls and is bit less colored. But I got used to the way the feedback design of the 5043 reacted to the full program, the way it created more size and density while retaining the micro dynamics. I would say it's also very true of the Nail but in a different way, I still miss something the 5043 does that I haven't heard in other compresses. And it's not just the sonics of the thing itself. Someone wrote 'inset' as a description earlier in this thread. I think that's what I'm talking about. Wondering your thoughts as you've had access to more feedback compressors than I ever have. I do use SSL vcas on channels and have a Dione, quad VCA type, but that stuff is for totally different purposes.
Old 5 days ago
Gear Maniac
Now I'm just a noodler (aka. home recordist/songwriter) with a day job really.. but for me, it wasn't until I picked up a few hardware units, and got away from the glut of plugin comps with their endless supply of presets that I finally started to really understand, in a tangible way what compression is good for.

I'm mostly just tracking and writing, but splitting a signal out to a few pres and comps for some parallel tracking on the way in really opened my eyes and helped me understand the practical applications of compression, at least for tracking. Of course I can't afford pieces like the UTA unit or a functioning BA6A (or BA-6B!?) but patching a vocal in parallel through an RS124, a JLM la500a (la-3a 'inspired') and a splice (1176 a/b+d alike).. or maybe a 527 .. or all 4 (why not) has really helped me unravel some of the mystery and a lot of the weird/bad info available online as to the best uses for compression, at least on the way in .. and now when I use a plugin (arouser?) I can understand much more clearly what is happening, and why. Plugin presets can be helpful, but I found them to be an impediment to truly understanding what I was doing at first.

I got lucky in that I bought a few guitars in my youth that appreciated enough to enable me to trade them for a small (but wickedly fun) home studio .. and while the guitars were mostly collecting dust, I'm in that studio every day after work. No room has ever made me happier, and I get to practice my songwriting with some inspiring tools.

anyways.. probably OT, but appreciated the discussion of HW vs. plugin comps above and wanted to share my experience as an amateur.
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