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Post new topic My name is Bill and I'm a Compressaholic
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Author Topic:  My name is Bill and I'm a Compressaholic
Bill Terry


From:
Bastrop, TX
Post  Posted 23 Nov 2020 1:54 pm    
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I've been following the other thread about compression on steel tracks, and that led me to scannning the plug-in list in my home studio setup earlier this week. At that point I realized just how many comp plugs I have.. not to mention a few odd outboard compressors.

That sort of started me on a YouTube binge the last few days, mostly interviews with mix engineers, studying what they use and like, and I've found that the questions they most often address are about what are their favorite comps, and how do they use them. i.e. on the mix bus? (almost always it seems), what comp do they use on vocals, drums? etc. etc.

What I realized is that I'm not alone, apparently anyone even remotely interested in home recording has a ton of 'em. What I guess I knew, but was made more evident, was how they get used for so many things besides 'leveling'.. in fact, I'd say the pro guys I've seen on YouTube are almost always looking for a color, or vibe, or whatever you want to call it, in some cases the actual compression itself is minimal. I think John Macy mentioned on the other thread that he sometimes uses an 1176, but just for the analog color, no compression at all.

What I'm finally trying to learn to do, is how to listen. I forget which interview it was, but some famous guy was saying that one of the hardest parts of becoming a good engineer is learning how to hear what can be subtle things the comp may be doing (or EQ, or whatever) and relate it to what you're trying to achieve. I guess it's an experience thing, but it's something you have to concentrate on and learn how to do, it just doesn't happen organically for most folks.

I'll confess, I listen to some of these online demos with 'before' and 'after' samples (through quality audio systems) and say 'Huh? It sounds the same to me.' I think I'm better than I was, but I can see I still have a long way to go.

So I'm guessing this disease isn't particularly unique? How many of you guys own a whole herd of comps? I almost made this a poll. Smile
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post  Posted 23 Nov 2020 4:41 pm    
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When mixing we reduce the dynamic range of a voice or instrument to make it easier to hear. Mechanically, we are reducing the loud bits, but that enables us to lift the lows so that nothing gets obscured by a spike in something else, thus making a pasture into a nice lawn.

Of course if you can hear any of the compressors working it's game over and you have go to again. I put just a few dBs of 2:1 in everything to start with (although I can quit any time). You can't hear it but you know it's there, like having your foot over the brake.
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John Macy

 

From:
Denver, CO/Rockport, TX
Post  Posted 23 Nov 2020 5:20 pm    
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Hi, I’m John, and I’m a compressaholic, too. I have 40+ channels of hardware compressors, and have no idea how many plugins. Some are used daily and some are one trick ponies that get used every now and then, but am thankful I have that color on the palette. If I could only own one for the rest of my life it would either be an 1176 or a Distressor, as both can be subtle or a junk yard dog. (Wouldn’t you like to go back to that Showco sale and buy everyone they had, Bill?).
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Bob Womack


From:
Virginia, USA
Post  Posted 24 Nov 2020 5:25 am    
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When I were a wee lad just getting started as a recording engineer way back at the dawn of the '80s I had a taciturn chief engineer named Russ who was, um, a bit crusty. One day while we were chatting about mixing techniques he came out with this one: "If I ever come into your control room and find you with a compressor across the mix buss I will personally choke you." Spoken quietly, matter-of-factly. So, during my formative years that's how I learned to mix. My first consoles were a pair of Neve 8058s and an 8024.





You tracked onto the multitrack with a high-threshold limiter in for safety and subtly leveled with the faders as you recorded.

Then that chief engineer moved on. In 1989 we bought a Solid State Logic 4048 with its marvelous buss compressor.



Everyone in the industry talked about the way just a smidgen of buss compression glued everything together. I tried it and liked it and have used it ever since. Really, just 3-4db of compression is nice. But here's a secret: I still build my mix without any mix compression and just add it in after the fact for the glue. And I have Russ to thank for that.

Bob
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Bill Terry


From:
Bastrop, TX
Post  Posted 24 Nov 2020 5:28 am    
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John wrote:
Wouldn’t you like to go back to that Showco sale and buy everyone they had, Bill?


Absolutely... If I only knew then what I know now. Smile

I had a buddy that worked on one of the Showco road crews back in those days, and he told me they routinely put those in the amp racks (full of Crown DC300s or other amps of that era) for their big systems. Knowing what I know now (not that it's that much BTW) I can see why they picked that comp for the application. It'd be perfect.

I suspect that the idea was with a high powered live system, protect speakers from somebody kicking over a mic stand or whatever, but I'm guessing..


Last edited by Bill Terry on 24 Nov 2020 5:39 am; edited 1 time in total
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Bill Terry


From:
Bastrop, TX
Post  Posted 24 Nov 2020 5:37 am    
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Bob wrote:
In 1989 we bought a Solid State Logic 4048 with its marvelous buss compressor.


That SSL buss compressor comes up in almost every interview I watched. It was a game changer apparently. Great story and photos Bob!

You mentioned that you don't add the buss comp until the mix is done, which is how I've always sort of worked (not to imply I have anything like the experience of you pro guys), but apparently it's now quite in fashion for a lot of these mix engineers to get a 'feel' for how the mix is going to work and start with some buss comp 'during' the mix.

I'm sure there's not one right or wrong way, it's just what works for the engineer, and that's the fascinating part about hearing all these guy describe how they work with comps.

Thanks for your input Bob!

EDIT: Just checked out your website Bob, lots of good information there. I'm going back when I have more time.
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Bob Hoffnar


From:
Austin, Tx
Post  Posted 24 Nov 2020 9:19 am    
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Learning how to hear this stuff is the tricky part. I use the db meter in my monitor controller to make sure I’m hearing what the compressor is really doing.

I’ve also caught my self making subtle adjustments on a track for way to long before I realized that I was adjusting the wrong compressor.

I pretty much only use hardware compression. I’m training myself and at this point I still use my eyes with plug ins and my ears with hardware. I have some very nice compressors.

RNeve 5043 (selling it soon)
Neve 2264LB
UA 1176 reissue
Tube Tech CL 2A

I’m in the market for a VCA comp to replace the 5043 in a couple months. I want something super pristine for classical music. I’m looking at a tube tech LCA 2B if the work keeps coming in. Once you get to that level they all are astonishing in there own way.

It seems like the big deal these days is analog summing mixers that sorta function as compressors. I’ve got a ways to go before I dip my toe in that world.
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John Macy

 

From:
Denver, CO/Rockport, TX
Post  Posted 24 Nov 2020 9:47 am    
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Bill, my mix buss always has a custom stereo Pultec EQ (with API gain blocks instead of tubes) or a NightPro EQ3D Stereo EQ, an API buss compressor that is built into the API console, and an original SSL 384G compressor. I always use one of the EQ's, and depending on the style of music, one of the buss compressors or sometimes both. Many times a little touch of both the API and the SSL gives you something very cool that either alone wouldn't. Kinda like opening your spice rack to season a great meal.

I have integrated into a hybrid setup using an API The Box console, which gives me 4 pure analog channels with API EQ and 16 summing channels, which I bring in 8 stereo stems on.

And Bob, we have on of those Tube Tech,s and they are wonderful for sure!
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John Macy
Denver, CO/Rockport, TX
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post  Posted 24 Nov 2020 10:41 am    
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I can attest to the quality of that SSL compressor.
I don't know what was in it but it worked.
Maybe it was a much subtler version of the multiband device that radio stations put on their output.
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Bill Terry


From:
Bastrop, TX
Post  Posted 24 Nov 2020 11:01 am    
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Quote:
Learning how to hear this stuff is the tricky part. I use the db meter in my monitor controller to make sure I’m hearing what the compressor is really doing.

I’ve also caught my self making subtle adjustments on a track for way to long before I realized that I was adjusting the wrong compressor.


LOL... ditto on all that...

John, those Pultec EQs come up in discussions time and time again. Gotta be something good going on there I guess, they're held in reverence. LOL..

Seems like even with the MANY options of software plugs available there's always going to be a market for hardware comps, and other outboard gear. Something about turning knobs is part of it I think.

I'm building a 500 series rack right now, and I'm starting with some CAPI preamps, great stuff based on everything I'm reading. Jeff Steiger, the guy that owns the company has an old API 3232 console from 1976 in his basement. He basically uses his console as a reference, and designs preamps with lots of API goodness built in. Oops.. different thread maybe?

Where I was headed with that, does anybody have any favorite 500 series comps? I'd like to have an 1176 type FET compressor in a 500 series format, but there a lot of them, and I'm sure not all are all that great.. Any suggestions welcomed, not just FET/1176 type, anything that you like would be good to hear about?

BTW, I appreciate all the feedback from you guys with so much experience. This is great!
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Bob Hoffnar


From:
Austin, Tx
Post  Posted 24 Nov 2020 1:18 pm    
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I have two Pultec EQP-1A3’s also. It’s one of those Emmons PP sort of things. You keep hearing “sounds just like a PP “until you go ahead and play a PP yourself. There is something special about a real pultec.

For 500 series Compression I would look at ams neve and api. For fet style purple audio is awesome.
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Bob Hoffnar


From:
Austin, Tx
Post  Posted 24 Nov 2020 1:53 pm    
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[quote="Bill Terry"]
Quote:


Seems like even with the MANY options of software plugs available there's always going to be a market for hardware comps, and other outboard gear. Something about turning knobs is part of it I think.



The cool thing about plugins is recall and versatility.
I look for nothing but sound in hardware. The 2264LB is a particular sound. I am into them just doing one thing right. I have not heard a plug in that can compete with that just one thing right sound of a hardware comp. I'm sure they will get there at some point though.
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Bill Terry


From:
Bastrop, TX
Post  Posted 24 Nov 2020 1:59 pm    
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Yeah, recall is a nice feature, no doubt, but I agree that as good as DSP is these days, it's close but maybe not quite there when it comes to emulating the real thing, at least in a lot of cases.

I looked up those Pultec EQP-1A3's... ouch. But everything I read indicates that these are true to the originals, right down to component selection. If I was in it full time for a living, I might consider it, but dude.. that's like two good push/pulls. Smile
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Bob Hoffnar


From:
Austin, Tx
Post  Posted 24 Nov 2020 5:00 pm    
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I have a long history of buying stuff I can't afford.

They do have a 500 series pultec that looks pretty awesome. Once this covid thing eases up a bit we should do a recording geek hang.
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Bill Terry


From:
Bastrop, TX
Post  Posted 25 Nov 2020 6:53 am    
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Bob wrote:
I have a long history of buying stuff I can't afford.


.. don't we all? LOL...

Re Hang: Yeah, man lets' do it.. you still in South Austin?
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John Macy

 

From:
Denver, CO/Rockport, TX
Post  Posted 25 Nov 2020 8:53 am    
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Next time I’m back down there I’d love to hang with y’all!
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John Macy
Denver, CO/Rockport, TX
Engineer/Producer/Steel Guitar
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Bill Terry


From:
Bastrop, TX
Post  Posted 25 Nov 2020 9:06 am    
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Yeah buddy! I'd love that.. maybe we could coax Tommy D to join in?
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John Macy

 

From:
Denver, CO/Rockport, TX
Post  Posted 25 Nov 2020 12:58 pm    
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That would be cool. We will be heading back down right after Christmas!
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John Macy
Denver, CO/Rockport, TX
Engineer/Producer/Steel Guitar
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Bob Hoffnar


From:
Austin, Tx
Post  Posted 26 Nov 2020 8:08 am    
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Count me in !
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Bob
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John Macy

 

From:
Denver, CO/Rockport, TX
Post  Posted 27 Nov 2020 6:43 am    
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One of favorite engineer friends calls the SSL buss compressor “The Seductress”, as it constantly tempts you to hit it a little harder. A little bit goes a long way!
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John Macy
Denver, CO/Rockport, TX
Engineer/Producer/Steel Guitar
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Bill Terry


From:
Bastrop, TX
Post  Posted 27 Nov 2020 6:56 am    
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All the mentions(on this thread and in other places) about the Pultec EQ1A had me digging a bit, and I found some reviews of several plugin versions.

I always wonder how close these kinds of things are to the original, but this one got pretty good reviews, so I checked out the demo and thought it was pretty useful:

https://www.noiseash.com/rule-tec-eq1a/

They've got Black Friday going for $29.90, so I went ahead and bought it. Kind of hard to describe what this does, but it's a nice thing on the mix bus for sure. The controls are 'odd', but they provide some presets to get you in the ball park, i.e. several 'Mix Bus' variants, 'Drum Bus', 'Snare' etc.

EDIT: At least I didn't buy another compressor. Cool

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