Monday, June 18, 2012

Favorite Compressors

OK, if you listened to Podcast #10 this might be a little boring for you because I'm going to basically transcribe the list of compressors we talked about. Actually we covered quite a few mic pres as well and what the heck, it might just prove useful to have all this stuff written down. Feel free to jump in on the comments and let us know what you think about these models or add some that we didn't mention.

We didn't have a full panel, just Jon Dayton, Anthony Kosobucki, and Gordon Wood. When some of the other regulars are on hand we'll bring it up again and see what we can add to the list. Also it should be noted that at this point we are in no way sponsored by any of these manufacturers, and even if we were our opinions would remain the same.

Alessis 3630 - Dual comp/gate. This is what Jon started out with in his portable rig. They're similarly priced to some of the Behringer stuff out there and better looking. The knobs aren't detented which makes it at leas feel like you can make subtle adjustments and the meters are clear and easy to read. For a $100 comp it's hard to beat.

ART TCS - The TCS (Twin Compressor System) is a discontinued unit but one of the greats. Gordon has hunted down a rack of them for his A rig and with good reason. They're selectable for either opto or VCA type compression.
ART Pro VLA II - This is not a mic pre but a super compressor that's known for it's affordable price and super smooth action. It's like having an angel watch over your lead singer.

ART MPA Gold - This is a mic pre and not a comp. Although with the tubes in there if you push it it starts to get that nice tube compression. They're not overly expensive as mic pres go but eyebrows went up all around the room when we found out he had a couple of these in the rack.

Behringer MultiCom - This is Behringer's quad comp/gate/limiter that's sort of the moped of the group. That is, if you own one you wouldn't want your biker friends to see you riding it. It is what it is, entry level gear that serves it's purpose. It's not going to win awards but it's better than nothing when you're starting out, and when you get a little bigger you keep it around to protect your monitor amps or just to have four more channels on hand.

DBX Family (160A, 266, 1046, 1066) - We'll cover these as a group. The 266 is a beloved old friend but not the most up to date comp and many would pass it over for something else, but to find one cheap on eBay or at a gear sale is a beautiful thing. The 160A is a formidable beast even though it's only got three knobs on the front. Again, not the priciest or nicest in the land, but anyone would be glad to have one or two around. The 1046 is a quad comp/limiter that is worth making the jump if you're tired of your Behringer. And last but not least is the 1066 with a terrific gate/expander on it (Mick Huges loves his) and that great DBX comp/limiter times four. You can get a lot done in a little space when you start to stack those in a rack.
Drawmer - Picture Homer Simpson saying, "Mmmmmmm... Drawwwwwwwwmer" here. The two we have all worked with and loved are the DS404 quad gate (awesome for drums) with tuneable internal side chain, and the DL441 quad comp/limiter. They're a little spendy, but when it's time to go from $50 a channel compression to something a little classier, you could do way worse than saving up for a Drawmer.
Focusrite - We won't get too far into this but Focusrite makes mic pres to beat the band. For a couple hundred bucks you can get a USB interface for your computer with world class pres in it and the product line goes right on up to 56 input monsters. If you record a lot or a little, it's a worthwhile investment.

JoeMeek Twin Q - Look up Joe Meek on Wikipedia some time. There, now you have a link. It's an interesting read. The green boxes that come from Joe are pretty special. They're strange, they can be hard to handle, but on certain things they're the juice box. The Twin Q has a transformer or differential input mic pre, optical compressor and parametric EQ times two.  Works great on kick and snare.
Presonus ACP88 - Remembering back to when these came out it seemed great to have all that dynamic processing in just two little rack spaces. Using one, you find out that you'd better know exactly what you're doing and what you want out of it because it'll be ignoring you or squashing your signal if you don't. The gates are terrible. That is all.

RNC - This one didn't come up in the discussion but it's worth mentioning. These little half-space comps didn't claim to be anything other than what the initials stand for... really, nice, compressors. Not the best, just really nice. People even made "skins' for them in the form of swappable face plates that gave interesting names to all the knobs. Check em out.

And that's all the comps we have time for this week. As I said above we'd love to hear what you use, what you love, what you want, and what you hate. Hit us up!


  1. I work with the ACP88's predecessor, the ACP8, in a venue where I mix a lot... I think the gates on it are fine. What's your beef with 'em?

    1. Well, 8 gates is better than no gates so it's not like I'm totally panning them. But they just feel like they slam open and shut like a screen door in a wind storm, no finesse.

      If you look at it by price, an ACP88 is just another $50/channel comp/gate. Something like the Drawmers or even DBX is a step up the food chain. I like to be able to switch a gate to an expander, have side chain right there on the face plate.

  2. No love for BSS? their quad units are my first choice, especially for a gang vocal festival scenario...I'm bummed i missed this one, sound like it could have gotten heated for sure!!!

    1. We'll need to revisit this one of course. Next time our resident gear horse is on the panel.


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