View Full Version : Recommend Dual Tube Compressor

11-13-1999, 07:55 AM
Looking for recommendations for a dual tube compressor, which will be used primarily in a hard rock recording environment. $1000 or less is the price range I am looking at, if that is possible.

Thanks in advance

Kenny Gioia
11-13-1999, 04:47 PM

Honestly if your budget is that low, you should probably avoid a dual tube compressor.

Anything in that price range with tubes is a joke. The tubes might warm your sound but the electronics will destroy your sound.

The really nice compressor is actually a steal for $200. No tubes though. Your better off buying a mono unit like the Anthony Demaria. Or avoid the tubes and get a Distressor. Or Save up and buy the pair.

I would just hate to see you throw a grand away for nothing!!!!

I hope this helps

Peac :)

11-13-1999, 07:13 PM
go for the fmr audio really nice compressor, it's a stereo unit, 1/3 rack space, not a tube compressor but this damn thing just kicks some serious butts and the best thing is it's only us$180! i just got two myself and love them.


Nick Batzdorf
11-13-1999, 10:10 PM
I wouldn't call the ART Pro VLA compressor a joke by any means. You might also look at the new compressors Peavey showed at AES (if they're ready).

11-14-1999, 03:33 AM
Stick with your original plan!
Find an old stereo Gates comp!
They were used for years in radio stations, and still are in some cases.
you can't believe the warmth the give your signal. It's the closest thing you can get to a Fairchild, And you should be able to find one for around $1200.00
Once you have used this, there will be no solid state substitute for what it does!
Good Luck!

11-14-1999, 08:23 AM
I've recently started using the ART PRO VLA and I've been stunned by the quality. It really delivers an incredibly smooth sound, and I don't know of ANY compressor under 1g that sounds that good.

And I've used just about every compressor for under 1g that they make, including DBX, Behringer, Aphex, DOD, etc. To boot, I'm VERY picky about my compression; I listen very closely to every nuance and can spend well over an hour adjusting parameters on a single instrument.

The Pro VLA doesn't have adjustable attack and release times, although you do get to choose between "slow" and "fast." But the quality is so good I don't mind; you don't need to spend much time setting up parameters. It seems to work pretty well no matter what you put through it.

I guess you could say it "warms" the sound, though I'd be more inclined to call it an extreme sort of smoothing out. It actually seems to enhance subtle details in a way that doesn't make them sound compressed. It does have a bit of noise, and that's the only difference I can hear between it and a compressor which costs five times as much. But the only reason I say it has noise is because I can see it on Pro Tools. The funny thing is, though, I can't hear the noise. Unlike solid state devices, the noise seems to be more in the lower frequency range -- or at least not as concentrated in the upper mids.

You can get one new for under 500 bucks.

Steve MacMillan
11-14-1999, 09:42 AM
I would look at a pair of Aphex 661 ($1300-$1400). In my opinion they are the most for the least.


Kenny Gioia
11-14-1999, 11:04 PM
I'd like to correct myself. If you can find an old stereo Gates comp for $1200.00 I would say it's worth it. Sorry I didn't think of it.

By the way. The ART Pro VLA compressor is a joke. It may give you the compression you want but A/B it in and out. Stereo Imaging gets screwed. The same goes for there mic pre. Sounds good by itself but do 32 tracks compared to the Old Neve stuff.

Peace :)

11-15-1999, 07:31 AM
Hmmm. Maybe the Pro VLA does screw up the stereo image. I don't use compressors during mixdown -- only peak limiting. I use the VLA on the original sound because I've found it's far better to make a digital recording of a warm sound than to try to warm a digital signal on mixdown.

I HAVE, however, used BOTH the ART Tube MP and the VLA to record X/Y mics on an acoustic guitar without any stereo image problems at all. It sounded wonderful.

If you use your compressor primarily at mixdown you might want to heed Produceher's advice, although I've never heard anyone else make the claim that the VLA screws up the stereo image.

However, if you use compression during the original recording, I can tell you that I've been using the VLA quite extensively for several weeks now and I'm delighted with it. I've only used it in a stereo mode once and it worked fine, but maybe I was lucky.

I have not used the Aphex 661 mentioned above, but I've heard it and it's quite impressive, but it's only a single channel and you said you were looking for a dual. However, you could probably get TWO of them for about $1,100 (they retail for $750, but you can pick them up for about $550).

11-15-1999, 03:16 PM

I was very unimpressed with the ART. As I am with all of their equipment. I think that whole company is a joke, I can't believe they stay in business.

And if all your using the compression for is peak limiting then why the hell spend the money for a p.o.s. when you can get a nice dbx cheaper?

Solid State- I reccomend you check out the Drawmer DL-241, very very smooth, under $600.
Or maybe the new focusrite platinums? Anyone used those?

TUBE under $1000- As said before, the Gates
it also may be possible to find some of the older dbx tube stuff going for around that price.

I personally would save the dough for a tube tech or a manley.

11-16-1999, 07:35 AM
Wow. I guess I'm about 180 degrees out of phase with you when it comes to Art. I think that dollar-for-dollar they make the best stuff on the market.

It's interesting that you mention Gates. I'm the Production Manager at a TV station and our audio production room was equipped with a Gates mixer, Gates cart machines and a Gates compressor when I started there in 1984. The Gates stuff was reliable, but I never thought the compressor was anything special at all. We still have it, but it's now in a room where we store old equipment and it doesn't work very well any more, so a live A/B test would be useless. However, we DO have some old 1-inch type C tapes it was used on from about 1988 which are in excellent condition. I don't know. I STILL think it sounds pretty bland, and I don't think it comes anywhere close to the Art.

I guess it just depends on what you want the compressor to do to the sound and I think the VLA has an incredible sound. Over the years, I've learned to focus less on technical statistics and more on the aesthetic/intuitive aspects of the sound -- because that's what people ultimately hear. And I guess everyone will have different tastes. Obviously, you and Produceher don't care for Art at all and think the whole company should be condemned. Conversely, I have a very high opinion of Art and their compressor gives me the sound I've been looking for. So I'd recommend it.

It's also worth pointing out that the Art stuff is very durable. I know some guitarists who have Art guitar preamps which are over eight years old and have taken some incredibly rough treatment and still work perfectly.

By the way, I DON'T use the compressor for peak limiting. As I mentioned in my post, I use it when recording the original tracks. The VLA doesn't have peak limiting anyway. On Pro Tools, I use the peak limiter on the system, though if I've recorded and mixed right the level barely crosses the threshold.

At the TV station (the Pro Tools system I work on is at a university, though we're getting one at the station), unless we're sending a dub to another station, the limiter on the transmitter takes care of that function. It sounds better and tends to have less noise. When we send a tape to another station, we simply crank the ratio on our TL Audio compressor to infinity.

Jonny Atack
11-17-1999, 03:02 AM
I agree with ProTool1 and Produceher -- save $ for gear that you'll use and keep over all others for years and years. Like Tubetech and Manley and Demaria. I bought 2 Tubetech CL1B mono comps used for $2000 a couple years back and since then my other comps just collect dust except when I need more than 2 comps at a time. Maybe I'll sell the old Drawmer 241s and dbxs and get a Manley to have a different color. If you don't want to spend that kind of money then get the Really Nice Compressor for $180 -- the most bang for the buck around.

11-17-1999, 07:31 AM
Well I don't mean to make any enemies here but I think going with a Gates compressor is insane, unless you can pick it up for 100 bucks. Gates stopped making equipment around 1973, so any unit you got would be at least 25 years old. That may not be super old for a microphone, but that's ANCIENT for most pieces of electronic gear, especially a tube compressor.

Have you ever dealt with equipment that age? I have, and it's a pain. First of all, it's often very difficult to find parts. Sometimes even the manufacturer doesn't make the parts any more and you'll very frequently pay a premium for them. I had to pay almost a thousand bucks to get a new motor for my Struder 2-track open-reel deck. Now it needs new heads and I've been quoted 899 dollars.

And that brings up another question: Do you have the technical expertise to keep it in spec? I can't replace the heads on my Struder but the engineer who works here can. But if I was running my own studio I probably wouldn't have an engineer. And here's another problem: do you have a service manual? Do you know where to get one? You won't be able to keep an OLD tube compressor running without one.

Do you want to spend a thousand bucks for something that might not even be in spec when you BUY it, let alone a few months down the road? I think that's crazy.

Look, here's what I suggest: get around to a few studios and LISTEN to what different compressors do, then make your decision.

And by the way, although I haven't personally heard the Art VLA, Art equipment is fine. I know MANY audio people here in town who have had excellent experiences with it. I have an Art Effects Processor in my rack and I chose it because I thought it sounded WAY better than my Digitech, which cost about 3 times as much. What's more, the VLA did get some incredible reviews in trade publications; I remember Jim Miller raved about it in Electronic Musician. Some people have said it sounds like a vintage Neve. Obviously, a few people posting on this thread hate Art equipment, but don't make a decision based on that. Listen for yourself.

Nick Batzdorf
11-17-1999, 10:18 PM
ART products tend to be built to meet a price, which is neither good nor bad.

Having said that, the Pro VLA is surely the best product they've made. But comparing it to a rack of vintage Neves or something is patently absurd. The unit sells for about $500 for two channels.

I'm not even saying that it's the best compressor for under $1k, just that it's a tube compressor in that price range that's well worth having. You can use it on a professional recording without being embarrassed.

By the way, I've never had any problems with the image (it has a Link button); perhaps there was something wrong with the unit Produceher was using.

11-21-1999, 03:41 PM
(Buy Manley, but yeah, you won't get a Manley for $1000)
I use a focusrite platinum voice channel, and it's good for what it is and what it costs, but it's still crap compared to the real good stuff. It does a reasonably unobtrusive job in it's milder settings, but if you try something with it, it'll trash your sound, so I wouldn't recomend it for anything more than voice-over jobs and the likes. If you want a good inexpensive compressor, especially suitable for stereo strapping, get the Behringer Composer. No! I'm not kidding! Your material will be intact, since it doesn't impose much of its own sound, and you can actually compress quite a lot before it starts pumping, and even after it does, it sounds ok to me. Another bonus, you can use really fast settings without getting distortion. The attack is very fast, try it on a drum group and you'll see! (you can totally take the attack away from the drums to bring out a the room behind them to get natural reverbration, this works on anything with the composer)

OK, enough sales talk, one thing though, the composers I've used has all been old units, I haven't tried any past the MDX2000 range. (And I wouldn't buy any of the composer models with the built in exciter/refresher/whatever)

In my everyday work, I use stuff like Teletronix, UREI, Manley, Fairchild, Focusrite, NEVE, .., I've had bad experiences with compressors from DBX, ART, BSS, Alesis (sure, there are some good models from theese manufacturers, but for the stuff in the lower priceranges, I'd go for Behringers composer, at least it doesn't colour material in a bad way, and it doesn't distort very easily)


11-21-1999, 03:43 PM
Oh, yeah, I forgot, I'll give you a good tip when it comes to listening to compressors.. Listen to the HFs, listen to the overtones, to the stuff above 13000, to the high trebles, what happens with it? Thats an easy way to tell if a compressor is a no-go, if it doesn't keep the sparkle. Surprisingly many of them don't...


Kenny Gioia
11-21-1999, 09:11 PM
I really didn't mean to insult anyone when I recommended steering clear of the Art Stuff.

In fact I've recommended their compressor and mic Pre's to few of my friends who were putting their studios together.

I actually do believe they are worth the money.

But. I usually assume people on this board have thrown down between $15,000 - $30,000
On their Pro Tools System (as I did) and therefore I would tell those people to stay away from ART.

I consider myself to be a Pro Engineer and it pains me to watch people throw 10's of thousands of dollars on editing gear and then only 100's of dollars on recording gear (Mic's, Pre's, & Compressors).

If however you are using an Audiomedia III card I would say go for the ART Stuff. But if you're using a Mix Sysyem at 24 bit please spend some money on a Neumann Mic, A Neve, API, Avalon Pre and a distressor compressor.

Other wise you haven't spent your money wisely. (in my opinion)
Also the imaging problem I had, had nothing to do with the Link button. The image just got smaller and nothing seemed quite as defined. Try it for yourself.

Peace :)

Jonny Atack
11-22-1999, 01:02 PM

What do you use the Distressor for? I've heard various good comments about it, but it looks like a 'specialty' unit for doing things like creating unusual envelope textures, etc.

Hypersonic, which Manley do you prefer?

11-22-1999, 03:41 PM
-Jonny Atack,

well, when it comes to manley, possibly all the stuff that they do is great... But, my own experiences are limited to the vari-mu compressor, the massive passive, the LA2A limiter and the voxbox. My personal favorites are the vari-mu and the massive passive. Together they form a mastering team which is close to unbeatable. When you want to use fast & hard VCA-style compression, or when you wanna get fat pumping compression, The vari-mu is the wrong tool, but for squeezing a group together, or for strapping across the mix, it's amazing. One of the best experiences I've had with the vari-mu was when I recorded a small string ensemble in a livingroom type studio for a soft organic poptrack. I set up a m/s configuration using a U87 and two akg ck1 capsules, and grouped it through the vari-mu. I can't describe the sound, it was just so perfectly real and in your face, and the m/s phase coupling and tracking was dead-tight.
(A warning though, I've heard that there has been some variations in how good the individual vari-mu units come, but I don't think it's a problem, In the unlikelyhood of you not being happy with a unit, they will certainly look it over for you, and make the necesary adjustments.)

As for the massive passive, I can only say, it's so different from any eq you've ever tried, you just have to try for yourself to find out.

(Man, I gotta stop my sales-pitching on theese pages...)


11-24-1999, 12:27 AM
Look for used API or NEVE in that budget.

Or save you money and get Avalon 737's Manley VB, Focus or Summit. If you go this route you won't regret it.

I heard an HBB pre the other day that sounded really good on rock drums and guitar for less than $1K right into a Roland VS880!

Tad Banzuelo

Eric Bazilian
11-25-1999, 02:16 AM
There's always Compressor Bank...some real good tube compressors in there. Only drag is you don't get to twiddle those knobs.

They sure do sound good,though. And $495...

Yeah, I know...I still always use my heat generators when tracking...but the CompBank sure works great on playback...

Eric Bazilian
11-25-1999, 02:16 AM
There's always Compressor Bank...some real good tube compressors in there. Only drag is you don't get to twiddle those knobs.

They sure do sound good,though. And $495...

Yeah, I know...I still always use my heat generators when tracking...but the CompBank sure works great on playback...

11-26-1999, 01:27 PM
I once saw a UREI 1186 stereo tube compressor on Digibid.com auction for $1000, it ended up selling for $1,900. I researched the price on this excellent unit and found out that they go for about $1,700 (if your lucky to find one.)

Kenny Gioia
11-28-1999, 09:32 PM
Jonny Atack

"What do you use the Distressor for? I've heard various good comments about it, but
it looks like a 'specialty' unit for doing things like creating unusual envelope
textures, etc. "

I use the distressor for everything. I think it's the best compressor to come out in the last 10 years. I can make it do an LA-3a which I love for Vocals. I can make it do an LA2a for bass, which it does great.

I compress loops and even kicks & snares with it. The only compressor I prefer on Real Kik & Snare are the Neve 2254 but try pricing those babys.

I would buy a dozen. Better yet I'm trying to convince SSL to put them into there new K series. (Just Kidding) Just try em. I don't know anyone who doesn't like them.

I use my Neve 1272 thru the distressor on every track I record. And when I don't need compression I just put into 1:1 setting with the distortion settings just to warm things up.


11-29-1999, 03:28 AM
I use the following sterio compressor set ups:

SSl compressor
Tube tech lca2a
2 x distressors
Joe meek (digital i/o version)
Berhinger composer

Camilo Orozco
11-29-1999, 07:00 AM
Who makes the distressor???

Jonny Atack
11-29-1999, 05:00 PM
Thanks Hypersonic and Produceher for your insights, which confirm other comments I've heard about these comps. I'll get these units in for a test drive.

11-29-1999, 06:54 PM
I've got a stereo pair of just about everything in here, and if you can stretch your dollars a bit, you wouldn't ever be disappointed with the Distressor. It has compared favorably with every single vintage piece I have... you can actually get its sound so close to some of the older units (LA3A/1176) that you won't wish for the original pieces. I've been using them for drums, bass, guitar, acoustic, etc... they can get by on just about anything you throw into them.

Another great utility compressor that wasn't mentioned is the original Aphex Expressor, the 651 model. You can find these used for $250 each these days... I had my pair modified by Audio Upgrades in LA, and they are good for just about anything you need. Even just stock, they are very transparent and fast... but you can get them to pump pretty hard if you push them.

I agree that the REALLY old vintage gear is the wrong choice--I have an RCA BA6A that is to die for, but it's impossible to maintain. Try to get as many different "sounds" as you can in your budget, so you have many "colors" to choose from... it just depends on what you'll typically be compressing, really...

If my budget was $1000, I'd probably get Compressorbank first, and then a pair of the 651's. If you MUST have the tube sound, I'd actually say go for a single Distressor before anything else. It's not tube, but you can easily tweak it to provide "warmth," plus it will be able to handle so many other things. You'll never catch peak transients on an ART compressor the way you could on a Distressor.

just my 2 cents...


11-30-1999, 12:19 AM
Imperical Labs make them. Try looking them up on mercenaryaudio.com.