I'll bite. While I'll be the first to admit that it's really simple (and more appropriate)
to do something like this with Google docs (they have excellent survey tools, and free!),
I think it's all too easy to be cynical when someone asks for help. I can only offer
advice within my experience, but I hope the OP (and others) find some benefit from my
answers. After all, this is a community isn't it?
1 a) If you were only
allowed to chose 3 compressors to work with in a studio (for tracking or mixing), which 3
compressors would you chose and why?
SSL K-Series compressor. Open, fast, and
doesn't colour the sound. Simply serves up what you put in, but compressed.
Empirical Labs Distressor. When I want some drive, there's little as good. Bitey,
aggressive, and the righttype of colour. Wouldn't use it on everything, but a gem at what
SSL Bus Compressor. Mix into it. Glue. 'Nuff said.
b) For what reason/purpose would you chose these compressors? (e.g. Does it add a certain
character to the sound? Is it because it is transparent? Is it for a certain type of
“effect”? Is it because it is versatile?)
Do you track with compression for certain instruments? If so, please give an example.
I'll usually use compression when tracking on everything, with the exception of
accoustic instruments (where I tend to use limiters instead just to catch peaks).
Generally on low ratios to leave me some "space" when mixing. Just a little squeeze, to my
ears adds a coherence to the recorded signal.
2 b) When tracking with
compression, in instances such as the one you gave above, are you looking to commit to
adding the characteristics of that compressor, or are you simply looking to alter the
dynamic range? (Or both?)
Usually just dynamic range. I look to add
"colour/tone" at the mix stage rather than the tracking one.
3. Do you find that your approach to compression at the mix stage changes from at the
Yes. When tracking I'm looking to make as much as the incoming
signal as I can. When mixing, I'm looking for shape, grab, and colour in the context of
4 a) Do you have any special “creative” uses for certain
compressors? E.g. Do you use a certain compressor for pumping room mics? Do you use any
for parallel compression on certain instruments?
SSL Listen Mic Compressor.
Nothing like it for parallel compression on drums.
Distressor. An "effect" compressor
if there was one. Aggressive, driven when pushed.
4 b) What kind of
sonic effect does this have on the sound?
This question is far too
wide-ranging. After all, the biggest difference will be from the source, not the
5 a) Do you have a favourite Optical Compressor? Please
Not really, although I do have a soft spot for the Joe Meek SC2 on
5 b) How would you describe its characteristics?
transient-light, rounded, nicely fuzzy.
6 a) Do you have a
favourite Vari-Mu compressor?
There really are not that many of them out there,
and generally they're all pretty pricey. I wouldn't imagine that too many people actually
have experience with them. I for one haven't clocked up very much mix time with them.
6 b) How would you describe its characteristics?
7 a) Do you have a favourite VCA compressor?
7 b) How would you describe its characteristics?
with transients at slower attack times, pumping like a king on shorter ones. Grabby,
in-your-face, and "glue".
8 a) What kind of applications have you used an
1176 limiter/compressor for?
Lots of bass. Bass, and more bass. Very good when
you have a "spitty" singer with fast transients.
8 b) Optional
If you have used several different models of the 1176, how would you
describe the difference in sound between them?
This is a pointless question. 2
of the same version sound different depending on maintainence, temperature, tube
condition, etc etc. Anyone anal enough to have factory-calibrated units of all of the
different versions might be able to answer this for you, but I'm not sure what you'd learn
9) Can you give your thoughts on two different types of mix bus
compressors you have used and the difference in sound/performance?
I've used a
number of them. SSL, API, Neve, Focusrite, Manley.... I'm in the fortunate position where
I get to play with lots of toys. If you're looking for more info on this I'd suggest a
search through the reviews of a great magazine like SOS. Either that, or give FX Rentals a
call and ask to go down and try some as part of your degree. You'll probably get lots of
good answers from people who regularly use one bus compressor, but demo'ed many before
their purchase decision. Generally people will have a single "weapon of choice".
10. How do you think the use of compressor/limiters in studio recordings has
changed from the early days to current day use?
Massively - simply because
technology is so much more affordable so people have more compressors.
people do before this? They rode the fader.
In earlier recordings limiters were more
readily available and were used to protect from "overs" before hitting tape. SSL were the
first people to have dynamics on every channel of the desk as factory standard, and this
in itself in a small way changed how poeple approached compression in a mix. Desks pretty
much always had EQ on, but compression is a later addition as a standard feature.
11. Would you agree with the statement that, if faced with the decision between
not being able to use any EQ when recording/mixing or not being able to use compression,
most engineers would rather have compressors? (and why?)
I would disagree
completely. You can always use a fader to control dynamic range, and some producers still
choose to do this rather than compress a signal. However, being unable to change the tone
of a sound at the mix stage is a much larger issue in typical situations.
Good luck with your dissertation. Feel free to PM me if you'd like further info.
Head of Business, Solid State Logic.