Rack compressors

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by CircleOfCrows, Mar 7, 2021.

  1. CircleOfCrows

    CircleOfCrows

    Mar 28, 2013
    Australia
    Currently look at hardware compressor options as I grow my home studio. Currently been doing my homework on 1176 varients, but also keeping my ears peeled for options. I lean more towards coloured than uncoloured options, but I'm curious:

    What rack compressor has impressed you most for bass specifically? Even if it's only for a specific purpose?
    What has been the biggest disappointment/most underwhelming?

    Read a tonne of reviews/threads/ovnilabs on specifics -just wanting opinions+options I haven't considered
     
  2. Roland GR 88

    Roland GR 88 Commercial User

    Sep 16, 2013
    Ontario Canada
    Retail store manager
    I’ve been very happy with an ART VLA II for a few years. It’s affordable and sounds very good IMO. I primarily use it on a TR-8 drum machine where the stereo link function comes in handy.
    Unless you have a big budget or pay the rent with recordings I think this is a good box for an average studio.
     
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  3. fokof

    fokof One day ,I'll be in the future

    Mar 16, 2007
    Here
    UA optical variants.

    I have a LA610 and like it very much.
     
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  4. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    This generally applies to all variants and clones as well as the original model...

    1176: Good for making things punchy and intentionally cutting off the tips of transient information. Tends to fall apart for high ratio, high GR work. Are historically pretty noisy when pushed hard.

    LA2A: Good for making things fat. Program dependent attack, release and ratio make it uncomplicated to dial in (i.e. either it works for a source or it doesn't). Attack speeds, even at their fastest (dependent on the input) are quite slow, so transients tend to be better preserved than on an 1176. Doesn't fall apart as badly as an 1176 when used for high GR. If you don't want the added fatness that it provides you're out of luck as there's no way to dial it out very effectively. Definitely one of those "when it works it works, when it doesn't it doesn't" kind of pieces.

    160: VCA type compressor that works well for (mostly) transparently turning something down as it gets loud. The world's greatest kick and snare buss compression. Can get a little spongey sounding at high levels of GR. Try to find one of the M versions with a VU meter as they're easier to dial in.

    Distressor: Hit it as hard as you want and it won't fall apart. Good at absolutely crushing things you send to it. At lighter settings it feels punchier than an LA2A and softer than an 1176 to my ears. Has built-in saturation that sounds fantastic which makes it incredibly versatile. Has a very specific color that you can hear on a lot of records since its debut. Sometimes that color can get a little old, and other times it's exactly what a mix calls for.

    Any variety of Vari-Mu style compressor: Great at compressing multiple sources at the same time. Not so great for compressing single sources. Ideal as a buss compressor. Typically has very slow attack speeds which preserves transients nicely but doesn't allow for utility compression like an 1176 to keep something in particular from peaking too loudly in a mix. More of a shovel than a scalpel. These types of compressors usually have a lot of baked-in color that folks will run busses or entire mixes through to achieve as frequently as they use it for actual compression duties. An interesting, and usually expensive piece of outboard.

    Pro VLA II: Good budget friendly option with a fair amount of versatility including stereo operation with an option to link the controls of channel B to channel A for better matching of settings. Plenty of reports of factory mismatched tubes leading to weird gain staging differences when used in stereo, but these are easily replaced with a matched pair to even out stereo operation. Cheap way to get VU meters in your studio to wow clients. Sounds good for what it is, but never sounds truly great. I recently bought one, popped in a matched pair of JJ tubes and then waited too long for the Sweetwater return policy to still be an option. It sounds good, but I'm no longer liking it all that much as an input processor and I do all of mymix work ITB, so it's not needed as outboard during the mix phase either. Still, I would recommend it if budget is a concern.
     
  5. pfschim

    pfschim Just a Skeleton with a Jazz bass

    Apr 26, 2006
    SF Bay Area
    just curious if there are any LA2A clone type comps in pedal form ?
    I have/use a Cali76CB which is modeled after the 1176 (not saying its the same as .. just inspired by/modeled after) and reading silky's post made me wonder about something like it that follows the LA2A design.

    I'm very happy with the Cali76, just always keep my eyes and ears open for new approaches.
     
  6. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    Effectrode makes two VERY nice LA2A type pedals.
     
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  7. CircleOfCrows

    CircleOfCrows

    Mar 28, 2013
    Australia
    Excellent post- thank you. I enjoyed reading that.
    I pretty much have a 1176(I'm thinking rev A for flavour) and distressor on my short-list. LA-2A i haven't explored too much but I know it by reputation.
     
  8. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    It’s probably my favorite on the list of classics. It does a really good job of preserving transients and fattening things up without sounding overly compressor’y. Pretty spendy, but there are some reasonably priced clones like the One Leveling Amplifier by IGS Audio. There’s also the VERY impressive Summit Audio TLA100, which is like a refined LA2A with a few more controls. More controls on an LA2A may or may not be a good thing depending on your perspective, but regardless those TLA100s sound FANTASTIC.
     
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  9. fokof

    fokof One day ,I'll be in the future

    Mar 16, 2007
    Here
    Never heard the real TLA100 but the I use the UA emulation a lot for bass.
     
  10. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    I did some work in a studio a couple years ago that had one and it was stunning. Anything you put through it, unless you REALLY worked hard to screw it up, seemed to sound better. Bigger, fatter, more exciting. Such a great piece of gear. If money and rack space weren't an issue I would buy one just for use on a dedicated vocal channel for its color on the way into the box alone.

    I use Softube's version of it frequently for vocals and just a touch of it for some bass applications. I greatly prefer it over Waves CLA-2A which doesn't sound as smooth to my ears. Sometimes that grainy quality is good, but the Softube version just kills so I keep reaching for it and it's earned a permanent spot in my mix template.
     
  11. The classic chain for bass (and vocals) is a 1176 to cut the peaks, followed by an optical LA2A for leveling. The optical comps are not fast enough to cut the peaks. Although many classic records were made just using a LA2A.

    To use a fast comp prior to an optical comp is more important if you slap a lot or change from a soft attack to a hard attack with a pick for example.
    If I would slap a lot or it would be my primary style, I would definetely prefer a 1176 to a LA2A.

    Some of the clones are really good. Esp. the Klark Teknik LA2A clone is incredible for the money. Never tried their 1176 clone, but use a Warm Audio WA76 since many years and love it.
    I have a UA 610 MKII, too, which is great (a combi of their 610 preamp with an optical comp). I think the main difference between the clones I own and the high-end UA is the tube preamp. It sounds great, but I got it used for 1.000,-. Couldn't justify to buy it or the 6176 new.

    The first rack comp I bought was the Warm Audio WA76. It was the first time after many amps and compressor pedals, that I was really satisfied with my sound. For gigs I use the Cali 76. It is great for a pedal copying the classic fet compressor.
    If you buy a rack comp, don't forget that you need a mic-preamp with a HZ-Input to bring your bass signal to line level.
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2021
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  12. pfschim

    pfschim Just a Skeleton with a Jazz bass

    Apr 26, 2006
    SF Bay Area
    I'm very happy running a Cali76CB into a Noble DI for live and tracking work.
     
  13. JonasBro

    JonasBro

    Oct 23, 2015
    Boston, MA
    I'm a big fan of the Purple MC77