Old 12-11-2019, 10:38 AM   #1
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Default Mixbuss compression lesson

Before I share this, I'd like you all to remember the aspects of mixing that remain opaque to you. We all arrive at understanding in different ways. I share stories like this so we all are reminded that there's always something new to learn.

I thought I knew what I liked with mixbuss compression. I've always strapped V-Comp on the mixbuss and mixed into it. This is a hefty compressor, so I'd set the threshold at the lowest point and still get 5db gain reduction according to the VU meter. Eight times out of ten, this seemed like the right choice. I give vintage style compressors a bit of play between 2 and 5db if I can't hear any audible weirdness. The ears are the final arbiter of taste.

I've had a couple mixes that needed to be punchier and I couldn't figure out why it wasn't. It would build up in the "mud-range" and roll off highs. I think I was watching Warren Huart compress a piano with R-Comp and he'd managed to get the needle to bounce at -3db GR. I liked how it made the piano mids ring like bells without adding mud.

I don't know why I thought to try it on the mixbuss, but I swapped out V-Comp for MJUC on the "punch mixbuss" preset. That's the Bill Putnam 176 emu. Suddenly, the mud dropped out and the mix woke up. (I still need to get it to sit just around -3db max, but that's par for the course.)

TL;DR:

This was a breakthrough for me regarding compression. It's such an important tool, but it must be applied in context or it's going to rub out all the fine detail you've worked so hard to obtain. This isn't really news, but it's surprising how often we forget to apply this principle. I'd venture to say, the only principle of processing anything is how it sounds in that particular mix.

We certainly build experience that aids us, but it's only helpful if it sounds the way we want. If not, toss it out. At least, that's my plan going forward.
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Old 12-11-2019, 10:53 AM   #2
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The 2254 the Vcomp is modeled on is a feedback diode-bridge compressor, while the MJUC is a vari-mu style multiple tube circuit. So from my quick research they are completely different circuit typologies.

This is probably more responsible for the differences. You may get similar results however using pre and post EQ. You could set up an inverse parameter linked EQ chain around the compressor to test it out easily.
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Old 12-11-2019, 11:30 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Fergler View Post
The 2254 the Vcomp is modeled on is a feedback diode-bridge compressor, while the MJUC is a vari-mu style multiple tube circuit. So from my quick research they are completely different circuit typologies.

This is probably more responsible for the differences. You may get similar results however using pre and post EQ. You could set up an inverse parameter linked EQ chain around the compressor to test it out easily.
This is my point. I had chosen the wrong compressor for the mixbuss.
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Old 12-16-2019, 01:05 PM   #4
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Hey, I just learned this lesson sometime this year. The SSL G comp has been my go to for a few years, but once I started experimenting I haven't touched it since.
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Old 12-16-2019, 01:32 PM   #5
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I've been getting into the JS Master Limiter lately as my mixbus compressor. If one's not enough I add 2, 3, 4 or more. It's clean and powerful. But it depends on source material. For my situation, it has helped conga & drum kit, tremendously.
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Old 12-16-2019, 03:00 PM   #6
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Nice to hear others have experienced this as well.

I've recently begun experimenting with parallel mix compression (Scheps rear bus technique) and the key to that is a compressor in dual mono. The only one I had that had that function was MJUC, which was fine till I got IK Black76. That really added serious punch.

So vari-mu on main 2buss and 1176 on the rear bus is a really good recipe for a vintage rock sound. (When I say "vintage" I'm talking roughly 1964-1975.) Lots of fat mids, soft highs, and elastic low-end.
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Old 12-16-2019, 04:04 PM   #7
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Dan Worrall just did a video on bus processing for fabfilter, very interesting as always. https://youtu.be/P_gnekvbMt8
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Old 12-16-2019, 07:03 PM   #8
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Yeah, I was using H-Comp, R-Comp & V-Comp, but when I scrapped the comps and plowed into the Limiter I got a powerful clean sound that is very open. YMMV
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Old 12-17-2019, 12:54 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kirk1701 View Post
Nice to hear others have experienced this as well.

I've recently begun experimenting with parallel mix compression (Scheps rear bus technique) and the key to that is a compressor in dual mono. The only one I had that had that function was MJUC, which was fine till I got IK Black76. That really added serious punch.

So vari-mu on main 2buss and 1176 on the rear bus is a really good recipe for a vintage rock sound. (When I say "vintage" I'm talking roughly 1964-1975.) Lots of fat mids, soft highs, and elastic low-end.
This is a great topic.

My thoughts change on what is "appropriate" or "working" for the various styles. I tend to use buss comps as thickening and tonal tools more than straight "peak grabbing" tools. Sometimes I'll reach for a Comp rather an EQ, depending on the situation.

Kirk,
I do like the Rear Buss technique quite a bit. I use an 1176 channel and an API2500 channel for these purposes fairly often. I will say that you can play with having linked and unlinked L/R as well as playing with M/S set-ups for these Rear Busses... it's VERY interesting and sometimes makes thing "pop" in ways that you just can't get elsewhere. I may have been known to do a "Dirty" Rear Buss as well... something that is gritty/hairy... think Culture Vulture. It can add some excellent body to your music that is just hard to do without once you hear it.

By most often used plugins for these purposes (not all at once):
2BUSS:
TDR Kotelnikov - invisible; only if needed - I like dynamics

REAR:
Stillwell Rocket - 1176
Waves API2500 - likely soon to be replaced with Aqua Pink3, or at least an alternative
MJUC - Mu/Tube
PSP OldTimerME - this thing is old but beautiful (I find that 1-2dB is gorgeous on most music)
Dirty - Vertigo distortion, Kush, Soundtoys, Tape, anything that I think helps bring out texture (as long as the song needs it).

I never got along with the Vcomp.
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Old 12-17-2019, 03:38 PM   #10
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Waves API2500 - likely soon to be replaced with Aqua Pink3, or at least an alternative
Worth checking this out: https://www.sknoteaudio.com/wp/index...ssor-enhanced/

Unfortunately Sknote don't offer demos, but do have a no questions asked returns policy.
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Old 12-17-2019, 03:41 PM   #11
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On the subject of mixbus compression, I've been watching a lot of Eric Valentine's youtube channel recently, and he has turned me on to the technique of leaving the vocal out of the mixbus compression completely. So you have a music bus that gets compressed and the vocal goes straight to the master output.

I'm finding it works really well, because it's one less moving part to account for with mixbus compression, and it keeps the vocal right where you want it.
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Old 12-17-2019, 06:27 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Judders View Post
On the subject of mixbus compression, I've been watching a lot of Eric Valentine's youtube channel recently, and he has turned me on to the technique of leaving the vocal out of the mixbus compression completely. So you have a music bus that gets compressed and the vocal goes straight to the master output.

I'm finding it works really well, because it's one less moving part to account for with mixbus compression, and it keeps the vocal right where you want it.
I'm watching his stuff too. He's kind of a mesmerizing dude. Also dead ringer for a younger Bobby Whitlock.

I think you'd have to plan ahead for this to work properly. You'd need to track the vocals with this in mind, I mean. Not a bad approach.
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Old 12-18-2019, 12:37 AM   #13
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I think you'd have to plan ahead for this to work properly. You'd need to track the vocals with this in mind, I mean. Not a bad approach.
Actually, I think the opposite is true.

When the vocal goes through the mixbus compressor, its level is affected by everything else. eg. a big bass drum hit will duck the vocal.

When it bypasses the mixbus compression and goes straight to the master, it sounds more like how you tracked it, without everything else affecting it.

Both ways can sound cool, but the latter is easier to manage, especially if you're going for a loud pop kinda deal.
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Old 12-18-2019, 10:02 AM   #14
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Actually, I think the opposite is true.

When the vocal goes through the mixbus compressor, its level is affected by everything else. eg. a big bass drum hit will duck the vocal.

When it bypasses the mixbus compression and goes straight to the master, it sounds more like how you tracked it, without everything else affecting it.

Both ways can sound cool, but the latter is easier to manage, especially if you're going for a loud pop kinda deal.
I'll have to try that. Classic rock/blues is my genre, so I like a nicely glued mix. Certainly worth a shot.
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Old 12-18-2019, 10:22 AM   #15
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I'll have to try that. Classic rock/blues is my genre, so I like a nicely glued mix. Certainly worth a shot.
The way I would describe the difference is between having the vocal as part of the music, or having it float in front of it... if you know what I mean?
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Old 12-18-2019, 10:50 AM   #16
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Both ways can sound cool, but the latter is easier to manage, especially if you're going for a loud pop kinda deal.
Sometimes a loud pop kinda thing, the vocal is dominant and pushing the drums down. I guess it goes both ways. Personally, I think if the mix buss compressor is doing some of what is described in this thread, there is simply too much mix buss compression going on but just IMHO/taste.

I tend to have a rule that if any compressor is going more than a couple dB, I need a good reason for it - I have good reasons all the time for things like individual tracks like a vocal, or NY compression but when it's a buss compressor of any type, I tend to get concerned if over a dB or two of GR. Again just a personal ramble.
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Old 12-18-2019, 11:39 AM   #17
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Sometimes a loud pop kinda thing, the vocal is dominant and pushing the drums down. I guess it goes both ways. Personally, I think if the mix buss compressor is doing some of what is described in this thread, there is simply too much mix buss compression going on but just IMHO/taste.

I tend to have a rule that if any compressor is going more than a couple dB, I need a good reason for it - I have good reasons all the time for things like individual tracks like a vocal, or NY compression but when it's a buss compressor of any type, I tend to get concerned if over a dB or two of GR. Again just a personal ramble.
I'd agree. This is largely what I was saying in a roundabout way. I like about -3db at the loudest bits.

The issue I was having with V-Comp was that I had the input at the lowest point and was still getting 5-6db GR.

I had two choices: 1. Turn everything down. 2. Choose a different compressor/limiter.

I decided to go with option 2, as 1 isn't as easy as it sounds.
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Old 12-18-2019, 11:49 AM   #18
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I'd agree. This is largely what I was saying in a roundabout way. I like about -3db at the loudest bits.

The issue I was having with V-Comp was that I had the input at the lowest point and was still getting 5-6db GR.

I had two choices: 1. Turn everything down. 2. Choose a different compressor/limiter.

I decided to go with option 2, as 1 isn't as easy as it sounds.
Yea, I've chimed in on several compression threads (and some limiter threads) where people are trashing comp/limiting or just having problems - those things have input/threshold controls for a reason and very often even .5 to 1 dB is valid - especially if going through several along the path.

The biggest thing I see is people somehow equate smaller GR meter moves with not doing something, but where compression is concerned, very small amounts here and there are what make things work well. That doesn't mean I won't knock 5-7 dB off a loud vocal because I want "that sound" but from a buss perspective, I rarely do more than a dB or two and a master limiter it might even be .5 just to catch a stray peak. Also, nothing says a comp/limiter has to be working/above threshold all the time.

That said, it is really easy to toss on a master buss compressor, set it just right, mix for a few hours and it ends up being slammed and we don't know we did that along the way - for that reason, I often leave my buss comp visible as a reminder.
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Old 12-18-2019, 11:51 AM   #19
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Great thread, nice to see people talking about real things , better then themes and new features of reaper here.

ANyway,
i´d like to share some things i normally do on the mix buses.

I always have two mixbuses, mixbus 1 goes to bus 2 , bus 2 to master out. I ended up doing this to reduce the PDC from outboard and some plugins combined.

My typical chain is

Bus 1
ProQ-3 - Just for any particular issues on the final mix
Satin from U-He OR roundtone 4 from SKnote (some tone shaping, high end roll-off)
Green3 Eq From Acustica Audio ( for creative coloring - If needed)
ML4000 Multiband compressor, just ON, no compression here, only if needed. I like the sound that comes out of this algorithm, something good to my ears happen in the lower mid range.

Bus 2
Outboard Elysia xpressor 500 + Elysia xfilter
here is where most happens, in the analog domain

Master out
DMG Audio limitless - for me one of the best limiters out there
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Old 12-18-2019, 01:42 PM   #20
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Sometimes a loud pop kinda thing, the vocal is dominant and pushing the drums down. I guess it goes both ways.
Oh yeah, definitely. It can go the other way.

Even with subtle mixbus compression I've been liking having the vocal bypass it, if the vocal is supposed to be the focus of the song. It's early days though, so this could easily end up as an experiment I discard at a later date.

How much the mix is being compressed totally depends on the material, and the compressor I'm using. Sometimes it's fun to have a raucous tune audibly pumping and hitting a ceiling at the loudest parts. A gentle tune through a variable ratio compressor (ie. vari-mu style plugin) can be compressed quite a lot before it even sounds like it is. Sometimes compressing a few instrument busses separately works better, and sometimes none at all is just the ticket.
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Old 12-18-2019, 06:06 PM   #21
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Yep, and as much as I preach less is more, I won't hesitate to flat line a track compressor if I feel the need (especially if I want that saturated growl effect). It also wouldn't be the first time I've forgot about the buss compressor completely and slowly pushed it further and further while mixing sub tracks until everything falls apart.
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Old 12-19-2019, 12:33 PM   #22
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Good stuff here.

Kirk,
So when having issues with V-Comp, why couldn't you select all and pull everything down by a few dB? Am I missing something there?



Karbo is right, the layering of compression across the mix is where the "magic" comes from. The basic idea of multiple comps working in sequence. Each doing a small amount of GR will create a better an often more "finished" sound than a single comp working "harder".

Good to hear that people are pulling their vocals out of the Music Comp. I agree... that can be maddening. Especially on anything with a big bottom.

I use something of a Michael Brauer idea on my vocals:
Lead Vox sends to:
> Comp 1 (small amount of GR) usually VCA style
> Comp 2 (small amount of GR) usually Vari-Mu
> Comp 3 (larger amount of GR) usually 1176-style

All three comps are different flavors, so that I'm EQ'ing a bit as well. I find that this works REALLY well. So I have 4 channels to blend together to get the strength and EQ that I need.

I guess that I am more like Pepe... but with the inclusion of the Fx buss to prevent textures from being squished.

MASTER buss
>> VOX buss
>> MUSIC buss
>> FX buss

The one thing about compression that I know: I have so much to learn.
It's an amazingly deep topic.

This opened up my eyes and ears:

https://www.attackmagazine.com/featu...f-compression/
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Old 12-19-2019, 01:35 PM   #23
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Kirk,
So when having issues with V-Comp, why couldn't you select all and pull everything down by a few dB? Am I missing something there?
Yeah, I was thinking stick a gain plugin before it to knock a few dB's off.
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Old 12-19-2019, 04:23 PM   #24
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Yeah, I was thinking stick a gain plugin before it to knock a few dB's off.
Well, it's not that simple. My individual tracks never go directly to the master. I have a number of submixes that feed the master. So I'm generally compressing only on the subgroups, rarely on the tracks. "Turning down" affects these submixes.

Like I said, V-Comp's input was as low as it goes. I thought I’d try swapping out the compressor and that sounded so much better to me. So I left it. You have to experiment.
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Old 12-19-2019, 04:48 PM   #25
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Well, it's not that simple. My individual tracks never go directly to the master. I have a number of submixes that feed the master. So I'm generally compressing only on the subgroups, rarely on the tracks. "Turning down" affects these submixes.

Like I said, V-Comp's input was as low as it goes. I thought I’d try swapping out the compressor and that sounded so much better to me. So I left it. You have to experiment.
Something sounds screwy if you are getting a lot of gain reduction with the input at minimum and the threshold all the way up...
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Old 12-19-2019, 05:12 PM   #26
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Something sounds screwy if you are getting a lot of gain reduction with the input at minimum and the threshold all the way up...
No threshold control on V-Comp. Fixed attack.
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Old 12-20-2019, 08:26 AM   #27
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Kirk,
I'm still not following you on the problem.

What is the negative side of turning down all the submixes?

Not having a threshold is irritating at times. So is it a gain-staging issue? It's been a while since I've looked at V-Comp in particular, but I want to say that most of those older Waves emulations sound better when the signal hits it around -18 to -12dBfs.

Regardless, changing comps or styles of comps needs to be something that I keep in my mind to help me not get too closed minded about my approach. I don't like the idea of me having a static mix template.
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Old 12-20-2019, 09:32 AM   #28
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Kirk,
I'm still not following you on the problem.

What is the negative side of turning down all the submixes?

Not having a threshold is irritating at times. So is it a gain-staging issue? It's been a while since I've looked at V-Comp in particular, but I want to say that most of those older Waves emulations sound better when the signal hits it around -18 to -12dBfs.

Regardless, changing comps or styles of comps needs to be something that I keep in my mind to help me not get too closed minded about my approach. I don't like the idea of me having a static mix template.
It just sounds different to me. It's not negative or positive.

I also think like a guitar player. Every amp has a sweet spot. You have to crank it up to find it. If you don't find the tone you want after doing that, you're using the wrong amp. So you switch your Fender for a Marshall. It usually works. Not scientific, but this is music, not chemistry.

Your last paragraph is the real crux. I have a mix template to organize things, but it's in no way static. I add reverb sends as I need them. I try different groups of instruments and vocals.

I use this template because I can be paralyzed by choice. If I can do anything, I'll end up doing nothing. It's overload for me.

So a mix template helps me focus. It helps me map out the beginning, middle, and end. Then I can let my creativity loose inside those boundaries. If I have to alter the template here or there, that's allowed.

I'm not telling anyone what to do, here. I'm just sharing a discovery I made that maybe you guys might find interesting.

I realized I did my best creative work when I had limited resources many years ago. See the link for a better explanation:

https://buffer.com/resources/7-examp...o-amazing-work

As for the compressor, in my experimentation I realized that V-Comp simply wasn't "moving" as much as I'd like. And it wasn't due to how I'd set it. It was how that compressor functioned. I needed something more reactive.
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Old 12-20-2019, 09:57 AM   #29
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I realized I did my best creative work when I had limited resources many years ago. See the link for a better explanation:
It's true and one of the reasons I tend to be against keeping every possible "go back" route and/or every possible option there is, it just doesn't really make the music/mix better much of the time. The vast majority of what I can accomplish, whatever that is, is from all those years of having pretty much nothing and everything I did was improvising due to lack of options - I would not trade that experience for anything.
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Old 12-20-2019, 10:41 AM   #30
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It's true and one of the reasons I tend to be against keeping every possible "go back" route and/or every possible option there is, it just doesn't really make the music/mix better much of the time. The vast majority of what I can accomplish, whatever that is, is from all those years of having pretty much nothing and everything I did was improvising due to lack of options - I would not trade that experience for anything.
I didn't necessarily mean lack of financial means, although that's always a concern. I have a background in theatre, so shoe-string budgets are an accepted reality. If you're limited in what you can do with lights, set, costumes, etc., then you're forced to accept what cannot be and just get on with the work.

Once you commit to one thing, it shapes the rest of the piece. This is good. Paint yourself into a corner and figure out a way to escape. That's where a distinct artistic voice lives. You have to go there to discover it.
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Old 12-20-2019, 10:42 AM   #31
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I didn't necessarily mean lack of financial means, although that's always a concern.
Me either other than without it, you don't have those options - When all the advice says "the right way is this way" and you have none of that at your disposal, you get creative real fast. It's all the same thing really, the lack of options making you more creative vs option vapor lock.
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Old 12-20-2019, 10:58 AM   #32
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Me either other than without it, you don't have those options - When all the advice says "the right way is this way" and you have none of that at your disposal, you get creative real fast. It's all the same thing really, the lack of options making you more creative vs option vapor lock.
Agreed. I mean, I still end up in vapour lock, but I'm seeing a therapist to address these. Lol.
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Old 12-20-2019, 01:15 PM   #33
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Necessity is the mother of invention.

Restriction is the mother of creativity.
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Old 12-20-2019, 03:06 PM   #34
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As for the compressor, in my experimentation I realized that V-Comp simply wasn't "moving" as much as I'd like. And it wasn't due to how I'd set it. It was how that compressor functioned. I needed something more reactive.
I'm following you now. Thanks.

I agree about the limited choices helping spur creativity. I prefer fixed frequency EQ for this exact reason.

That's a fun article. I have to admit though... when it comes to compressors, I can never get my list down to 2-3 comps. I'm always have around 10-12 comps. I must be a sucker.
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Old 12-20-2019, 04:53 PM   #35
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I'm following you now. Thanks.

I agree about the limited choices helping spur creativity. I prefer fixed frequency EQ for this exact reason.

That's a fun article. I have to admit though... when it comes to compressors, I can never get my list down to 2-3 comps. I'm always have around 10-12 comps. I must be a sucker.
I don't think anyone would suggest you limit which compressors you use. Variety of circuit is important. If you like the sound of a certain compressor, use it. If that means you have stacks of different types, cool.

I have something from just about every type: vari-mu, opto, fet, diode-bridge, and clean digital.

I tend to use vari-mu most often. I don't know why. I do have to control myself when a new emulation is announced. Kush AR-1 is constantly testing my willpower. I very much enjoyed that demo. It just didn't beat MJUC by a far enough margin to drop that kind of money. I still have hope that Waves will somehow get hold of the rights to the actual RS-124.

You never want to limit your palate of tonal colour, but streamlining your overall process is extremely helpful. Pick your battles.
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Old 12-22-2019, 10:06 AM   #36
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interesting stuff, marking it for reference
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Old 01-13-2020, 12:39 PM   #37
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I don't think anyone would suggest you limit which compressors you use. Variety of circuit is important. If you like the sound of a certain compressor, use it. If that means you have stacks of different types, cool.

I have something from just about every type: vari-mu, opto, fet, diode-bridge, and clean digital.

I tend to use vari-mu most often. I don't know why. I do have to control myself when a new emulation is announced. Kush AR-1 is constantly testing my willpower. I very much enjoyed that demo. It just didn't beat MJUC by a far enough margin to drop that kind of money. I still have hope that Waves will somehow get hold of the rights to the actual RS-124.

You never want to limit your palate of tonal colour, but streamlining your overall process is extremely helpful. Pick your battles.
I'm the same way: I like a few select options from the various topologies.

I've been on a VCA kick lately.
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Old 01-13-2020, 03:12 PM   #38
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I only ever use ReaComp for compression, limiting, saturation, everything. I don’t do a whole lot of what others would recognize as compression, though.
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Old 01-14-2020, 10:04 AM   #39
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I'm the same way: I like a few select options from the various topologies.

I've been on a VCA kick lately.
VCAs are a bit fast for my taste. I've got Stillwell Major Tom and PSP BussPressor, but I don't really get on with them. I can't sort out the sound. They seem to crush the #$%^ out of everything then pump their dead bodies. Same for CLA-76, only it distorts like crazy. (I get on a bit better with IK's Black 76. I was able to use it on a guitar last night and was very pleased.)

Have you tried the Black Rooster SC-5 series? I demoed the Blueface over the holidays and I found it quite unique. It wasn't as colourful as I like, but I think if I needed a smoother DBX 160VU, either of these would be nice alternatives.
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Old 01-14-2020, 10:05 AM   #40
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I only ever use ReaComp for compression, limiting, saturation, everything. I don’t do a whole lot of what others would recognize as compression, though.
Okay, I'll bite. Splain how.
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