Can we talk hardware compressors for vocals?

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Larry Mal
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Re: Can we talk hardware compressors for vocals?

Post by Larry Mal » Tue Jan 05, 2021 7:04 pm

Thank you, Dok! Very kind of you to pass that along, I'll look into it.
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Re: Can we talk hardware compressors for vocals?

Post by fuzzjunkie » Tue Jan 05, 2021 8:58 pm

10-15 years ago the RNC was highly regarded at its price point. I honestly didn’t know they were still being made. It’s a good choice for lighter settings though.

The dbx-160 seemed to be the budget choice for drums and more aggressive sounds, not really suitable for vocals or acoustic in most cases.

A big step up from both, and it’s a step up in price too, is the Neve designed Portico 5043 dual compressor. It’s been discontinued since RND switched over to 500 series modules, so I thought the price would have dropped for used, but looking around they are still highly valued and priced above what they sold for new.

https://rupertneve.com/products/portico-5043/

My main point in suggesting it is that you can link the 2 compressors in stereo, or use them independently if you wanted to record vocals and acoustic guitar at the same time with different settings. It’s very transparent and some people use them for low budget mastering compression, although that’s not what it was intended for. I think they can even run them in series if you wanted to, as a limiter/compressor chain.

I really thought if you stretched your budget above $700 you could find one, but it appears they rarely go for under $1000 used. I remember used Empirical Labs Distressors used to be available under $1000, but that seems to be in the past as well.

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Re: Can we talk hardware compressors for vocals?

Post by NBarnes21 » Thu Jan 07, 2021 2:03 pm

The Warm 1176 is really great, hard to beat the value on that- while I haven't done any critical A/B'ing to a real one, I have used both, and didn't feel like the Warm one was lacking anything, it just did what I'm used to an 1176 doing. Hope that helps!
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Re: Can we talk hardware compressors for vocals?

Post by Larry Mal » Thu Jan 07, 2021 3:30 pm

Thank you gentlemen!
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Re: Can we talk hardware compressors for vocals?

Post by JM Convert » Thu Jan 21, 2021 2:39 pm

Larry,

I sent you a PM about this.

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Re: Can we talk hardware compressors for vocals?

Post by øøøøøøø » Fri Jan 22, 2021 6:39 am

marqueemoon wrote:
Sun Jan 03, 2021 11:46 am
Hopefully Brad will chime in with some solid advice in this area. I bet as bit rates have gone up and plugins have improved more people have dumped some nicer compressors that can be had for not much more.
Thanks for the mention!

I didn't have much to offer here for a reason to which you've alluded: in the "affordable" arena, I feel we've arrived in an era where there are a lot of advantages to plug-ins over hardware (but OP specifically mentioned not being interested in plug-in recommendations).

For vocals, about the least-expensive entry to a truly great hardware compressor would be firing up the soldering iron and building an 1176 kit from Hairball Audio. This will set you back about 600 bucks and a couple of afternoons, if you're handy.

If your budget is lower and you just want a hardware compressor to play around with, that's certainly relatable!

The DBX 160X/XT/A mentioned above is a pretty useful compressor, though I have never tried one on vocal (and would not be particularly interested to do so). I do like one on kick drum from time to time.

What about the old Symetrix 501?

FWIW, I still think that strictly on the merits a plug-in like the FabFilter Pro-C2 would be a much more useful way to spend 150 bucks, but I can certainly relate to the desire to have something tangible in the rack.

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Re: Can we talk hardware compressors for vocals?

Post by Larry Mal » Fri Jan 22, 2021 7:21 am

Thanks, Brad!

I will certainly look into those software compressors, I always like plug ins. That being said, though, I have an array of plug in compressors that I tend to like at the moment, Waves stuff, some other stuff. I feel I'm OK there.

Really, though, I guess I just miss the immediacy of a good hardware compressor. Maybe it's an emotional thing, but when I've had access to great hardware compressors I've found that I can just dial it in and it's like, bam, there it is. They can just tend to make the magic happen quickly and clearly .

And you are in concurrence with everything I've read about the DBX 160- stuff, people tend to say that it's good on bass guitar and such. I never see anyone prefer it for vocals.

It may be that I might want to consider expanding the budget a bit and just doing it right once and for all.
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Re: Can we talk hardware compressors for vocals?

Post by mbene085 » Fri Jan 22, 2021 7:53 am

Larry Mal wrote:
Fri Jan 22, 2021 7:21 am
Really, though, I guess I just miss the immediacy of a good hardware compressor. Maybe it's an emotional thing, but when I've had access to great hardware compressors I've found that I can just dial it in and it's like, bam, there it is. They can just tend to make the magic happen quickly and clearly .
Do you think it's more of a workflow thing? Are you mainly wanting to track through it, or are you also planning to rout stuff out of your DAW, into the hardware, and back while mixing?

If it's mainly for tracking, is it about dialing it in and committing to it more so than the physical knobs?

Because, depending on what you're looking for from the experience, maybe you'd enjoy a UA Apollo Twin. UA is pretty legendary for the accuracy of their hardware emulations and the nature of their DSP means you can treat it like a hardware unit, where applying it while tracking commits it to "tape", and you can send tracks through it afterward but they have to be routed out to the UA unit. And, unlike hardware compressors, you wouldn't incur an extra round of D/A and A/D conversion while doing so.

The advantages are that you can get more hardware emulations per dollar, and it would come with the Unison mic pre as well, which models a bunch of preamps (including physical parameters like input impedance that interact with the mic in ways pure software emulations don't). Just like an outboard pre, you're committing that choice to tape, so it does have more of an analog-style workflow in that sense.

I know you're on mac, which lets you use aggregate devices, so the two Unison mic preamps would also expand on your Scarlett's I/O instead of being an either/or.

Of course, this might be completely antithetical to what you're trying to accomplish, but I thought I'd throw it out there since my new Antelope Audio interface does a similar thing with its DSP, so I've been reading a lot about people's workflows with it, and it's a love/hate thing for people because of how similar it is to using outboard gear, for better and for worse.

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Re: Can we talk hardware compressors for vocals?

Post by Dok » Fri Jan 22, 2021 1:53 pm

I was just thinking the other day that ART makes some decent hardware compressors for just a few dollars that might be worth checking out. Don't be fooled by the price tag, they all tend to get pretty favorable reviews.

https://www.sweetwater.com/c790--ART--C ... XJlIjpbXX0
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Re: Can we talk hardware compressors for vocals?

Post by fuzzjunkie » Sat Jan 23, 2021 10:12 am

In the budget vain, back when I first began recording on a Yamaha cassette 4-track, my one and only compressor was a Boss RCL-10. It was a half rack compressor/limiter in their mini-studio series of effects. I also had the RPQ-10 preamp/parametric EQ. There were other effects in the series, like delay, reverb, even a chorus ensemble module, but those 2 were my signal chain for a couple of years.

They had decent sound quality for budget effects. The compression was fairly transparent, at least going to cassette tape. I have heard that the reverb is good if you like a reverb with knobs, but chaining several of them together; they had a sort of daisy chain power setup, could induce noise.

https://www.vintagedigital.com.au/boss ... io-series/

When I wanted to take a step up when I got a reel to reel deck I looked at the Joe Meek line, and that was more of a character compressor. Summit Audio had a mini-series as well that was above budget or entry level and more of a project studio tier. Friends that had the full sized Summit gear said they were lacking compared to the pro level units though. I never compared them to the Boss or Joe Meek. I think the Boss RCL-10 would be comparable to the RNC though.

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