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Hardware compressors around £400

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Re: Hardware compressors around £400

Postby Random Guitarist » Mon Jan 11, 2021 10:33 pm

James Perrett wrote:The only time you need compression going in . . .

It's not just about need though is it? there's what we like, and what is convenient and easy. SOS's own review of the comp-3a said:

'"I did have the Waves and UA plug-in equivalents, so I compared it with those. I found that, using the software versions, I was able to get very close to the same settings. In terms of the gain reduction, the plug-ins were probably a tiny bit faster acting — just a hint more grabby. But I much preferred the tonal contribution of GAP’s Comp-3A. But the biggest difference was that with the software it just took me that much longer to arrive at a sound I was happy with, and that alone makes hardware like this appealing."

So long as the OP isn't blowing a big chunk of their disposable income on the hopes of a magic bullet then maybe the H/W is the right thing. But I'd still suggest trying plugins first.
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Re: Hardware compressors around £400

Postby CS70 » Mon Jan 11, 2021 10:36 pm

Random Guitarist wrote:For me the thing it gives me over software compressors is it seems to just sound 'right' without a lot of fussing over settings. A bit like digital modelling and amps, the modeller can sound great, but the amp gets there more easily.

I agree, and I think it's the knobs. It's just faster and more intuitive to rotate physical knobs while playing or the sound is decaying than reach for the mouse, locate the virtual knob and do the same. You can sweep thru sounds more quickly and find what you like faster.
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Re: Hardware compressors around £400

Postby Scouser » Mon Jan 11, 2021 10:54 pm

I have only really used software compression and do find it can take lots tweaking and when you are doing that with a mouse ! So yeh knobs seems a better quicker more intuitive option.

Also I thought that hardware compressors might bring more in terms of tonal contribution, than their software equivalents ?

I didn’t realise what James says

“The only time you need compression going in is when you are doing a tape based session where you need to limit the dynamic range “

I thought I might use it to better control dynamic performances going in ? Now I’m confused, it doesn’t take much.
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Re: Hardware compressors around £400

Postby The Elf » Mon Jan 11, 2021 10:57 pm

Scouser wrote:I thought I might use it to better control dynamic performances going in?
This is precisely not the reason to do it! Control the dynamics after recording when you have the luxury of hindsight!
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Re: Hardware compressors around £400

Postby desmond » Mon Jan 11, 2021 11:00 pm

Scouser wrote:I have only really used software compression and do find it can take lots tweaking and when you are doing that with a mouse ! So yeh knobs seems a better quicker more intuitive option.

There are may ways to control plugins that don't require a mouse.

Scouser wrote:Also I thought that hardware compressors might bring more in terms of tonal contribution, than their software equivalents ?

Not really.

Scouser wrote:I thought I might use it to better control dynamic performances going in ? Now I’m confused, it doesn’t take much.

Input stages, convertors and 24-bit recording are so good these days, you don't need to limit/compress on the way in to optimise signal levels. If it takes you a while to find a software compressor setting on your acoustic guitar that works, *take that time* and then set up a preset - now you can instantly recall your default compressor setting easily without much extra effort.

If you're looking for flavour, rather than compression, I'm not sure a £400 compressor will magically make your guitar tracks any better - and having printed it to the track, you wouldn't be able to undo it, so you'd end up spending *more* time twiddling the compressor settings as whatever settings you make will be critical and permanent in your recording.

Personally, I can think of better ways of spending £400. Maybe a controller to let you control your plugins with knobs, rather than a mouse, might let you get more mileage out of your plugins..?
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Re: Hardware compressors around £400

Postby CS70 » Mon Jan 11, 2021 11:02 pm

Scouser wrote:I have only really used software compression and do find it can take lots tweaking and when you are doing that with a mouse ! So yeh knobs seems a better quicker more intuitive option.

Absolutely!

Also I thought that hardware compressors might bring more in terms of tonal contribution, than their software equivalents ?

Not particularly. I have tested my hardware MC77 and the plugin and they are very much interchangeable. Same with the the optical compressor in the LA610 and the UAD equivalent.

“The only time you need compression going in is when you are doing a tape based session where you need to limit the dynamic range “

I thought I might use it to better control dynamic performances going in ? Now I’m confused, it doesn’t take much.

It's what I was referring to above. With 24 bits (say 20-21 effective) you have a gigantic dynamic range: nobody can sing or play so loud to exceed it - the only thing you can do is to set up the initial gain level too high (but that's just a mistake).

So if you set your level at an average of -18, -20 dBFS, you can shout or drum at your heart's content and you will not ever go near 0dBFS, while the system noise floor will still be way below anything audible (the ambient noise will likely be much higher).

Tape had a lower dynamic range, so even setting up the initial gain "right", you may risk to overshoot.. hence, compression in input in the old days. Or with 16 bits digital recording, for a similar (not identical) reason.
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Re: Hardware compressors around £400

Postby desmond » Mon Jan 11, 2021 11:05 pm

(If this was another popular audio-related forum, we'd have absolutely talked you up to needing to buy a £1200+ boutique compressor by now.) :bouncy:

It's one of the many reasons why this place is so great. People recognise that you don't automatically solve ill-defined problems by simply buying more gear.
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Re: Hardware compressors around £400

Postby CS70 » Mon Jan 11, 2021 11:10 pm

desmond wrote:(If this was another popular audio-related forum, we'd have absolutely talked you up to needing to buy a £1200+ boutique compressor by now.) :bouncy:

It's one of the many reasons why this place is so great. People recognise that you don't automatically solve ill-defined problems by simply buying more gear.

Damn, don't tell me!!

I have had that 47 in my shopping cart for a week now in the hope that someone else buys it and I'm slowly convincing myself I absolutely need it to make even better records! :lol:
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Re: Hardware compressors around £400

Postby desmond » Mon Jan 11, 2021 11:32 pm

Look, if your heart is set on it, who am I to talk you out of it..? ;)
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Re: Hardware compressors around £400

Postby Arpangel » Tue Jan 12, 2021 9:12 am

Initially you said you’d like a little colour, then you mentioned transparency? :think:
My advice is don’t waste your money, £400 isn’t going to get you much over using a plug-in, if you absolutely must have hardware, something cheap, like the FMR RNC, and dare I say it a Behringer Composer (it is transparent) will do the job, they are hardware, they have knobs, and give you all the expected joy those things bring.
IMO, unless you’re going to spend thousands on something classic that you are very familiar with and know without a doubt the sonic benefits it can bring to you, I wouldn’t spend anything, there are some good software compressors that come with most DAW's that will sound great, and cost you nothing.
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Re: Hardware compressors around £400

Postby jaminem » Tue Jan 12, 2021 11:11 am

Alternative (and apparently not as popular) opinion

Benefits of compressing on the way in:
- Getting a 'sound' you like - usually by driving the compressor - yes you can do that afterwards, and that's fine, but committing to something on the way in, does sometimes effect the way you work in a positive way by avoiding the 'so many many plugin in options not sure which to chose and takes loads of time to do it' creative blocker
- As others have said - you need to know what you're doing, but you ain't gonna know what you're doing unless you practice - so benefit 2 is it helps you learn how to compress on the way in!
- Controlling singers with piss poor mic technique and big transients - yes its better for them to learn good mic technique but I'm not giving them a lesson in that if they're in full flow and I just need to capture it.
- Bonus benefit HW compressors are more fun to use, generally sound a bit better (!!! opinion !!) and are more intuitive to use.

I'd echo Elf - The KT-76 or the KT-2A are good start, or if you have 500 series id build a JLM audio LA500 - really intuitive, forgiving great sounding opto compressor
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Re: Hardware compressors around £400

Postby jaminem » Tue Jan 12, 2021 11:53 am

....or the Golden Age COMP 3A
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Re: Hardware compressors around £400

Postby CS70 » Tue Jan 12, 2021 12:47 pm

jaminem wrote: - Controlling singers with piss poor mic technique and big transients - yes its better for them to learn good mic technique but I'm not giving them a lesson in that if they're in full flow and I just need to capture it.

Agree on the rest but if you can't control singers without a compressor when recording at 24 bits, it's not only their technique that's piss poor! :D
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Re: Hardware compressors around £400

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Jan 12, 2021 12:52 pm

jaminem wrote:Alternative (and apparently not as popular) opinion

Benefits of compressing on the way in:
- Getting a 'sound' you like - usually by driving the compressor - yes you can do that afterwards, and that's fine, but committing to something on the way in, does sometimes effect the way you work in a positive way by avoiding the 'so many many plugin in options not sure which to chose and takes loads of time to do it' creative blocker
- As others have said - you need to know what you're doing, but you ain't gonna know what you're doing unless you practice - so benefit 2 is it helps you learn how to compress on the way in!
- Controlling singers with piss poor mic technique and big transients - yes its better for them to learn good mic technique but I'm not giving them a lesson in that if they're in full flow and I just need to capture it.

I'd agree with all of these.

Whereas in the days of analogue tape it was pretty much essential to compress wide dynamic range sources for technical reasons before recording them, we no longer need to do that simply because digital recording systems have such a wide dynamic range capability.

And for the inexperienced it is generally 'safer' to record flat without compression, and then mess about with unadulterated signals in the DAW where you have an undo option. So I would generally advocate recording flat where the knowledge and experience is limited.

But there are definitely situations where compressing the source on the way in is an important or even an essential part of achieving both the required sound character and -- more importantly -- the required performance.

And yes, committing to 'a sound' at the time of recording can also help to move things along during the session and save time in post-production. The issue here is that making the right decision when recording obviously requires experience, so there's a bit of a chicken and egg situation.

You need to practice to gain experience... so the obvious safety net would be to split the mic preamp output so that you can record both the straight sound for 'get out of jail' purposes, alongside the hardware compressed version as you develop your recording chops...

As always with these things, there are no absolute rules. it's all shades of grey that depend on the situation, the experience, and the requirements...
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Re: Hardware compressors around £400

Postby Aled Hughes » Tue Jan 12, 2021 1:00 pm

I agree there's no need to do it as such, but I still do.

At the studio we have a nice collection of hardware - real vintage 1176s and LA-3As as well as more modern Avalons and DBXs. Frankly, unless I use them on the way in, I wouldn't use them at all, because there's no guarantee that I'll actually be doing the mixing at the studio. Also, I rarely complete a project/mix in one sitting so recall becomes an issue. Sometimes if I have the luxury of time I'll print some tracks through, but I rarely bother to be honest.

It's a similar conundrum with the AMS RMX16 reverb we have. I love its sound, but it's very rare that I actually mix through it and render the tracks in real time!

I know what they do, they are fun to use, and I've reached a stage where I trust myself to not overdo it, so yes, I like to tickle the hardware on the way in!
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