Mastering & Mixing tools for Acoustic Music

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by Thomas_Vingtrinier, Nov 2, 2005.

  1. As I am just about to shell out some serious cash, I wanted to make sure I have not forgotten any options. Basically, I am looking for a compressor, an Eq and a reverb unit that would be appropriate for most of my recordings (classical, jazz and world).

    As far as the compressor is concerned, my choice today would go for the Millennia TCL-2. I have also heard good things about the GML and the Fearn, the latter being maybe too colored for my use. This would be complemented by Sequoia Advanced Dynamics for limiting, which is in the same league as the UAD Precision Limiter when properly tuned (at least to my ears).

    The reverb unit is a no-brainer: Lexicon 960L

    I have less experience regarding the Eq and I am looking for advice. For a digital Eq, Algorithmix Orange & Red have impressed me a lot (except for their CPU usage...). Regarding hardware, I played a bit with the Manley Massive Passive: very sweet and open with a very nice silky touch, but it kills quite a lot of the ‘atmosphere’. Avalon stuff did not make it for me neither. Any opinions?

  2. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Wow, you are talking some serious cash...

    For EQ, the Algorithmix plugs are just plain awesome sounding. If you want to save CPU, you can use the Waves, but they don't sound anywhere near as clean on the top end. For an Analog EQ, check out the Millennia, perhaps with the Telefunken Tube mods. The solid state side is very clean and uncolored, but then you can use the tube side to sort of beef up the sound on the recordings that need it.

    The TCL-2 is also a good comp, but I also enjoyed using the Vari-Mu of manley. Certainly has more color, but when I didn't want color, I used digital compression. The UAD-1 has provided me a number of different options in the digital domain and if you have the bucks, there is some great stuff inside the TC 6K (esp. MD4 and their newest verb- although I prefer Lexicon to TC). For analog limiting, I like the Inward Connections limiter (formerly VacRac). Lets the first transient through then clamps down instantly meaning you get very transparent limiting at high amounts of gain reduction.

    With any of that stuff you've mentioned, you can do well. Beyond a certain point it is personal preference as to the particular sound you're looking for.

  3. Thanks for a quick reply Ben. I haven't heard much of the Millennia eq, but I am quite fan of their products (HV3D-8 here). I'll try to borrow one from the retailer. Would you or others think of any other contenders for the analog Eq?

  4. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    I don't thing you could go wrong with a Weiss EQ2 MKII. for your equalizer. I love ours and it really works great on acoustic music. The Manley is GREAT but it dose have its own "character" and that may or may not be what you are looking for.
  5. Hi Tom,

    I have not played with the Weiss yet, but I know about its reputation. I may be wrong, but the Weiss is often used as a very transparent Eq, hence being kind of redondant with the Algorithmix plugs. What do you think?
    And yes I expect the analog Eq to have some character & color and I love the Manley for its sweetness, but my feeling so far has been that it does not respect the 'atmosphere'' or 'feeling of space' of the recording. I have not tested it in my own environment though so my opinion may be biaised.

  6. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    We use the Weiss and do not own the Algorithmix plugs although I have tried them on demo. Yes you are correct the Weiss is totally transparent and that is why I like it so much. I too think the Manley puts a slight vail over the sound and seems to collapse the sound field but it does impart a beautiful warmth to the sound. I have a producer friend who has a whole stack of Manley equipment and that is where I heard the Manley eq. I have never auditioned the Manley in my own studio.

    I wish you only the best in your quest for the perfect sound and my only advice is to audition the equipment in a space you know well before deciding to purchase it. I have had too many people offer me too many pieces of equipment that they said were GREAT only to audition them and find them wanting after using them in my own studio.

    Best of luck!
  7. Let me thank you both for your replies and encouragements.
    This is indeed quite a lot of money that I am about to spend and it is important to feel no stones have been left unturned in this quest (as you rightly put it Tom). I will organize shortly a listening session with most of the contenders and let you know of my conclusions, if you are interested.

  8. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Hey Thomas -

    A couple things:

    First - nice list. Everything you're talking about is primo stuff.

    I've also been searching for a good EQ for some time and have done a LOT of playing around with various pieces. I've tried both the Algorithmix plugs, all the Waves (and Ben's right, they simply don't even come close to the Algo stuff) and more recently the Weiss and the Z-Sys digital time-coherent EQs.

    In both cases, the hardware boxes simply blew me away. Yeah, the Algo stuff is VERY nice and sounds amazing, but as good as they are, I still prefer both the Weiss and the Z-sys. Personally, I'm just trying to decide which one to get now.

    If you go analog, I agree with Ben again. The Millennia IS the finest analog EQ I've ever heard. There are the options of 2 different sounds. (Though the tube sound isn't the "thick, fat, chunky" sound, it's more of a euphoric and less transparent sound. If I were to purchase this box, I would leave the tube engaged for almost everything - it just sounds SO nice!)

    As for compressors, that's a tough one. Obviously, you're going to want/need something that will not kill the sound (sorry DBX, you're out...) I've been playing with a Summit DCL-200 lately and I have to admit, I REALLY like it. It might be worth a look-see. I prefer it as a compressor over a limiter. For limiting, I agree, the Sequoia stuff (advanced dynamics) does a GREAT job. As for digital compressors, I just never can get into a compressor plug-in. I haven't used one yet that I just HAD to have. Some do a decent or even good job, but not enough to sell me. I still like knobs and metal for my compressors.

    For the reverb processor - try the TC. Actually, try the Kurzweil 8 channel processor. For the money, I can't imagine much better. For a LOT less than the Lexicon, check out the TC3000/TC4000. They're VERY nice and affordable too!

    Let us know how you decide to spend the $$$. (Oh, and if we hear of a bank robbery in downtown Paris, our mouths are sealed... 8) )

  9. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Another EQ to throw into the mix is the Cranesong IBIS. It is another great sounding box with a lot of flexability. I've only used one a couple times (and unfortunately not right next to the Millennia so an A-B wasn't possible), but I found it to be very musical. Perhaps not quite as transparent as the Millennia, but nice still. There is also a "color" knob on it that enables you to dial in an amount of what basically sounds like a tape saturation sound (similar to the HEDD).

  10. drick

    drick Active Member

    Hi Thomas. Lots of good gear mentioned already; I'll throw in my $0.02, provided you handle the rest of the budget! :lol:

    The Weiss has a really sterling reputation, but I'm still kind of surprised you're considering it: It's a digital EQ, which means your analog signals go through a converter on the way in and another on the way out. Because it is digital, the Weiss can do some very good surgical EQ, but if you're starting in Sequoia, why not just use the Algorithmix stuff and skip the signal routing and conversions?

    Since you're a Millennia fan, I'm surprised that you're not thinking about NSEQ-2. This is the only EQ I've ever felt ok about having in my analog signal path. To me, most EQ's make the sound worse before I even start adjusting them. With the controls flat, the NSEQ-2 comes much closer to a wire than most anything else. It is not really a surgical EQ, but it's a useful sweetening tool, and it's hard to make it sound bad no matter what you do. I have the detented pot version, which allows me to log and repeat settings, without having to pay for the full-up mastering version.

    On the compressor side, I'm surprised noone has yet mentioned the Crane Song STC-8. This box can do simply amazing amounts of compression and limiting without sounding like anything is happening at all.

    What can I say about reverb that you don't already know?

    David L. Rick
    Seventh String Recording
  11. Hi David,

    First of all, thanks for the 2 cents, any help is appreciated!

    Of course, the idea is to minimize the number of ADDA conversions. Here I would send the audio in AES directly from Sequoia to the Weiss, and I guess this is how the others are doing this. Having said that, I am still confused why the hardware is sounding MUCH better than the plug. Is it that the Weiss algorithm is much better than the Algo’s? Is it that the processing power of current CPUs still cannot compete with dedicated ASICs? Or is it just due to the quality of the digital interface (jitter)? In the latter case, there should not be any difference after mixdown… Any educated response on the subject would be appreciated; I am really trying to understand.

    I guess I have not seen it much in studios here in Paris. Also, and I know it is stupid of me, Millennia is associated for me with mic preamplifiers like Schoeps is associated with mics (although they also make preamps). I had the same attitude a while ago when I bought my first serious LP turntable. It was a Linn LP12 and it is still standing in the studio, alive and kicking, with all the latest upgrades and everything (amazing stuff if you have a chance to listen to it). It took me more than 2 years to listen to their others products (loudspeakers, amps, preamps, etc.), and now the studio is equipped with +100k$ of their stuff… I have become a big fan of the Komri loudspeaker ( and I just can’t wait for the active version to be released.

  12. drick

    drick Active Member

    Are you saying that you've directly compared the Algorithmix plugins to the Weiss? I haven't done that, because the Weiss is completely beyond my means. I still saving up for the Algorithmix orange, actually. I guess if I were shopping for an outboard digital EQ, it would probably be the Z-sys, which is sort of a poor man's Weiss. I would be interested in hearing your impressions of the difference between the Weiss and Algorithmix EQ's. To be fair, you would need to run the later through the Weiss box with its controls set flat, in order to eliminate clocking differences.

    Why does the Weiss EQ sound so good? Well, I can't give you every reason, but I'll give you a few.

    This is an oversampling EQ, so one can make high-frequency shelves without the shape being warped near Nyquist frequency. It has both linear phase and minimum phase modes; some material will certainly sound better with one mode or the other. It can make very, very high-Q adjustments. In linear phase mode, I think this is done with a technique called "interpolated FIR", which results not only in lower DSP load, but also in less accumulation of round-off noise. (I believe I was the person who first brought this technique to Daniel's attention.) There are probably a lot of other tricks in there that I don't know. I do know that the processing is done in floating-point math, on SHARC DSP chips. The box has a superb clocking system. It has POW-R dither. The list goes on...

    Most importantly, Daniel Weiss is a brilliant perfectionist. He doesn't settle for making anything just "good enough", and it is that constant and cumulative attention to detail that makes for such great products.

    In contrast, if you're a plug-in designer, you don't get to design the algorithm and then go find hardware that will run it. The computational engine is already fixed, and you have to share it with the rest of the DAW software. Because of that, there are likely to be some algorithms that you either scale back, or simply don't attempt. The Algorithmix stuff has a reputation for being sort of a CPU hog, which probably means they've made fewer such compromises than most of the competition.

    As for the Millennia NSEQ-2, I'd say it doesn't compete directly with the Weiss. It has more in common with boxes like the Masselec, and Avalon, I suppose. But the NSEQ-2 architecture is rather unique, in that there is only one active gain stage in the direct audio path. This gain stage is switchable between JFET and tube. So it's very, very transparent when flat. You can't get really surgical with it -- use the Millennia when you want the "least possible" EQ rather than the most.

    (BTW, the original NSEQ architecture was designed by Fred Forssell, but he is no longer associated with Millennia, and last I heard was back to working on his rather fine preamp designs.)

    Best regards,

    David L. Rick
  13. No, I haven't. But it seems that Jeremy and Thomas have had this chance and I'd love to hear their opinions too.

    Thanks for the interesting reading on Weiss algorithms. Looks like they are not only based on a brute force convolution (FIR) as I initially thought. As for the Algorithmix, I still do not understand why do they not propose an external DSP card. This would place them in the same league as the Weiss (by getting rid of the compromises that you are referring about) for a fraction of the price...

    Looks like this is the route Weiss is taking:they have a project called 'Power House' where they have this box filled with up to 5 programmable DSPs. A sort of super UAD card if I understand properly. Hopefully, the EQ1 could one day be available as a plugin without any compromise on quality. I had the same dream for the Lexicon 960L...

  14. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I should say a couple things regarding the EQs I guess.

    I haven't had the opportunity to compare these directly side by side. However, I have had the opportunity to play with the Algo, Weiss and Z-sys stuff extensively on their own. As such, I find the Weiss and the Z-sys to be VERY comparable. Actually, the Weiss is rather affordable, it's not far more expensive than either the Z-sys or the Algo (if you package both EQs together...)

    The DYN version is, of course, but it's a different beast altogether.

    My money would still be on the hardware boxes. The Algo stuff is good, but I find it to be limited in flexibility. I could only use it with a couple software packages, where the Weiss, I'm not limited.

    I like Sequoia, but what if, in the near future, I decide to go with Sonic or PT (yuck) or some, yet to be determined or programmed software? I like the concept of the external box.

    I simply can't bring myself to spend THAT kind of money for a plug-in when there are good hardware boxes around for the same money (or less - let's not forget the Z-sys Z-qualizer - @ $1000!)

    I'm going to get in trouble for stating the above (as I've already been mildy harrassed by a certain plug-in manufacturer for another post on this board where I recommended a $40 package over their nearly $3000 plug-in), but I feel kind of strongly about it. Yeah, they do sound good, but do you get what you pay for?

    The truth is, you can't go wrong with ANY of the hardware your talking about. It's all a matter of taste. In any case, you could likely purchase ANY of them sight unseen and be pleased with your purchase for YEARS if not forever.


    (PS - please forgive any possible mis-types above. I have spent the entire evening enjoying the finest exports from Thomas's fine country in large quantity (y) ... Thanks for having such AWESOME grapes and sharing them with the rest of the world Thomas!!!)
  15. This has also puzzled me a lot. Why don't they make it a VST plug to (dramatically) extend their clients base and hopefully reduce their prices???

    Too bad you guys are so far away from here. I have quite a few bottles here that could be of some interest... :twisted:

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