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What is the best rack compressor for (metal) bass

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by socialleper, Nov 8, 2018.


  1. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    DYI recording question- I have access to sims of the UA1176 "limiting amplifier", the UA LA2A "leveling amplifier", and Manley Vari-Mu "limiter compressor."
    For people that have experience with with the real versions of these units, or plug-in simulations of them, which do you think works best on the electric bass? I was only partially joking about the "metal" part of the title. I am playing in an aggressive band, but thankfully one where the guitar players don't insist on eating up the entire mix. I am making heavy use of the low range my Spector Euro LX5 has to offer. I am playing finger, with a light gain tube screamer clone to dirty up the attack. I want a defined attack that isn't clanky, and a warm low end that is more focused in the lo-mids than sub-bass.
    Thoughts? Tips?
    Thanks.
     
    Rickter likes this.
  2. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    Bumping.
    I should know better than to post things late at night or on the weekends. TB is what people do when they should be working during the day.
     
  3. And I

    And I

    Feb 19, 2009
    Witchtown, MA
    there is no right or even good answer. every bass and every player sounds different, every song is different, every band has a different mix of sounds... to use compression at all or which one to use depends on the recorded signal that you are working with, the sound of the band that it is being mixed with, and the specific differences in dynamics that you are trying to tame or lessen with the compressor.

    if you are playing through a tube screamer, you are already compressing the bass signal. chances are there is little dynamic range in the first place, as overdrive will smooth a lot of that out. if you're looking for a more low-mid focus, then roll off the low-end on the bass with an EQ.
     
  4. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    Understood. That's why I was being specific with the what I am using and the music I am doing.
    I was using the the LA2A and am wondering if it isn't "right" for what I'm doing. It is an old school tube comp that squeezes and warms the tone. My intuition tells me that this may muddy up my tone, but maybe I'm not using it the right way. That's why I asked.
    My TS clone isn't a common beast. The Dunwich Amps design is far more evolved, with a 2 band eq, so it doesn't compress the attack that much. It works a little like a B3K in that it can actually enhance the bite of my attack.
     
  5. MYLOWFREQ

    MYLOWFREQ Supporting Member

    May 13, 2011
    New York
    It's really hard to tell without hearing your recorded bass... you want your attack to be prominent in metal music IMO. I'd adjust each comp separately, and compare them.
     
  6. LowFactor

    LowFactor

    Jul 6, 2018
    Nashville
    They are all great compressors. I've used the real versions of all three over the years live and in studios. The Manley is probably gonna be the smoothest of the three. Used a lot on vocals... the LA2A is a classic compressor for a lot of bass recordings. If you have a really aggressive tone may be a good choice to smooth things out a bit ina mix. The 1176 should have the most character to add to the tone and be the most aggressive of the three.
    Are you just trying to level out your playing or add something to the sound and squash it more aggressively?
    I generally go for the 1176 for rock or modern country/pop type music. LA2A for more old school stuff. Hope this helps.
     
    Rickter and socialleper like this.
  7. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    I think I want to hit the gas and the breaks at the same time. I want to smooth out the playing without losing the initial snap when I need it. I agreed that the LA2A is good for a more vintage sound. If I was doing more of my stoner\doom stuff, that's what I would use. The recordings I'm currently working on a are little more modern. Probably closer to Slipknot or Lamb of God; only I want the basse to be more prominent. I'm trying to split the difference between a Ryan Martinie\Mudvayne tone and a Alex Webster\Cannibal Corpse tone.
     
  8. LowFactor

    LowFactor

    Jul 6, 2018
    Nashville
    I'd go 1176. Maybe 8:1 on the ratio. About 6db of reduction... Attack at about 3 to let the initial attack come through. Good luck on your recording
     
    socialleper likes this.
  9. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    Cool. I will give that a try.
     
  10. LowFactor

    LowFactor

    Jul 6, 2018
    Nashville
    If it's software there are probably also some presets that may give you a good starting point. Some companies even have presets from some of the big recording engineers....
     
  11. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    I'm using these sims in T-RackS, which does have some presets. I used their EQ and used their prest for "The Bass." I tweaked both a bit.
    Any thoughts on the Manley VariMU?
     
  12. LowFactor

    LowFactor

    Jul 6, 2018
    Nashville
    The hardware version is great. Manley stuff is very clean and natural sounding.
     
  13. hipass

    hipass

    Mar 18, 2017
    My experience when tracking bass is generally to track with 1176's or Distressors depending on whats around,
    but generally it's a FET style unit - FET style comps can be pretty quick and aggressive opposed to other mentioned units you listed.
    On input I'll generally only run about 3dB of gain reduction with a medium attack and a med quick release. I'm really only trying to "calm" the dynamics as opposed to actually levelling them..
    Having said that, the Distressor is a supper forgiving little box and at low ratios, it's capable of quite a lot of gain reduction without having too many artefacts.

    So I guess, I'd go with the 1176, just go gentle.. Ohh and another thing, just like everything else in audio land, there are very distinct differences between all the 1176's, versions and there is a truck load now, and they're all different, in their own right..

    I've zero experience with Manley gear, other than what I've read, and that is the Vari Mu is similar to the La2a in that, it can be used on anything but, is generally a go-to for Vocals.
     
    socialleper likes this.
  14. Rickter

    Rickter

    Nov 30, 2006
    Nashville, TN
    I can't speak to the actual hardware versions mentioned as they are way out of my price range. My only contribution would be to add that based on your description of what you're going for, I would likely stick with an FET style compressor, preferably a multiband.
    I used to have the BBE Bmax-T preamp and while I loved the fattening of its optical compressor, it "softened" the sound too much. Currently I'm using a Duncan studio bass compressor on my pedalboard and have found its sidechaining ability to be very helpful. I watched a video for Alex Webster playing through Conquering Distopia's "Kuftra At Dusk" and saw he was using the same pedal. More or less sealed the deal for me. With that said, I would suspect that if you are using plug in compressors you may be happier with a good multiband compressor plugin. Just my two cents.
     
    Zoobiedood likes this.
  15. GMSweet

    GMSweet

    Oct 12, 2007
    New Hampshire
    Disclaimer: I have not used the hardware versions

    I believe I have all of the IK Compressors: The 1176, LA2A, Vari-Mu, Fairchild 670, BUS, the SSL White and Black Channels. I also have the SKNote Disto-S Distressor emulation which if you can spare the $50 I suggest you give it a shot. I'm more of a Gospel, funk, R&B player so my goals are a bit different, but if was tracking you, I would likely start with the Distressor EL8-X flavor which may also allow to dump the TS clone (maybe). The Distressor can go into 1176 and LA-2A territories and provides options for 2nd or 3rd harmonic distortion.

    The other thing to think about with bass compression, I usually multiple compressors applied at different times to get the sound. I "track" with very gentle compression (2-3 dB reduction) using the SSL white channel if I'm in SONAR or the Harrison Mixbus channel comp, I have a channel compressor on the track in mixing which is either the Disto-S or the LA-2A, and I send the bass tracks into a bass bus that usually has the Fairchild 670 on it. Each compressor shapes just a little bit get to the desired result. I sometimes experiment with as second bass bus for parallel compression with a heavily squashed sound mixed in very low - my results are very mixed with this.

    If I was to buy a hardware compressor today, I would look for a Distressor or possibly a Kush Audio Tweaker based on videos of it.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2018
    socialleper likes this.
  16. hbarcat

    hbarcat Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2006
    Rochelle, Illinois
    I've had some experience with the Waves plug ins like the CLA-2A, CLA-76, CLA Child 670, and others. I typically use them for simple, very mild compression and usually stick to the presets. All I want to do with this step is tame the volume levels a little bit. For my needs, this pre-processing is so basic and subtle that I don't really notice much difference in various versions.

    My main compression tool to get the bass sounding exactly the way I like it is with multiband compression. I've tried various versions (often the Waves F6 and C6 but there are many excellent alternatives like IK Multimedia) and have fiddled with the settings endlessly and have found that the precise control over the tone of the bass to be had from combining multiple bands of EQ with compression is a necessity that can't be duplicated with traditional compression.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2018
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  17. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    I only put the note about hardware versions because I figured a lot of people here aren't messing with VST plugins as much. I also wanted to avoid a "this company's version of compressor X is better." Thank you for your input.
    I am surprised that T-RackS doesn't have a Distressor clone. It is a very popular piece of gear these days.
    I remember telling someone years ago that recorded bass never sounds like live bass because thr recording studio is a perfectly controlled environment. Now I realize it is also in part because the bass is processed like crazy. A live signal might get 2 rounds of compression. In the studio it can be 4-5.
     
  18. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    I have a digital multiband compressor in my plugins. I haven't played with it too much yet. I will take a look at it.
     
  19. hbarcat

    hbarcat Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2006
    Rochelle, Illinois
    I was blown away with the results when I first tried a multiband compressor and quickly changed my processing methods to using traditional compression as a "pre-process" to smooth out levels and then using the multiband comp as the main compression and tone shaping tool.

    One thing I've found is it takes vast amount of experimentation to achieve good results. There is so much power available with even minor tweaks that it's very easy to make the bass sound worse rather than better. And the results vary greatly depending on the character of the bass signal (strings, pickups, preamp, etc..) along with how the other instruments are being processed. Additionally, it's usually necessary to go easy on any EQ processing that's also being applied. Multiband compression is essentially a combination of EQ and compression working interactively. If you don't dial back the traditional EQing, you run the risk of making the bass sound too thin in some bands and too thick in others.

    I started with the presets and discovered that 90% of them were useless in most situations. The ones that were useful needed to be fiddled with on a situational basis.


    P.S. I've never used any hardware processing so can't comment on that.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2018
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