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Compressor for Spoken Word Recording

Member for

16 years 10 months
My work has 3 capture rooms for recording video and audio of demonstratios. Originally I recommended compressors but the "pros" setting up the rooms did not head my advice. Well, now we have captures that have too many volume peaks and some clipping. I told you so does not quite cover it.

I have cheap mono compressor and tube pre at home so I have a little experience. I just need someone with a little more experience to help me find somethign a little better to work with.

Here are the specs I have to work with...

$100-$300 per Compressor

Low noise floor since this is spoken word.
I am currently using a dbx 266XL in one room as a test but this POS adds buzz galore. I am having to run signal really low to get now buzz.

2 Channel since we are outputting the audio in stereo.

Any advice anyone can give would be greatly appreciated!



Member for

16 years 10 months

TeddyG Sun, 05/28/2006 - 17:37
I would have probably recommended one of the DBX machines, like you have, but..? Do you know why the DBX is buzzing?

I wonder how you have the system set-up where you are trying to use the DBX? No sense recommending another compressor until you get that one working(Unless it's hopelessly broken and I must assume some other problem...), as it should be fine for your needs, far as it goes.

Have you tried you own units, that you mention, in your studio? You could go r-e-a-l far with this or maybe what you have is "close enough" and you might just get a couple more of those?

Still, I'd rather see you get the DBX working in one room, first, anyway...


Member for

17 years 5 months

JoeH Sun, 05/28/2006 - 18:54
You call the DBX a POS and blame it for the buzz in your system....hmmm.....

It's possible the unit is defective. If not, then the compression/gain change is exposing a problem with your ground/wiring, dimmers, mic cable, or all of the above.

If all you're doing is VO compression, then just about any good/decent comp/limiter on the market should do ya fine.

Member for

16 years 10 months

wsiler Sun, 05/28/2006 - 19:07
Sorry guys, The POS comment was me just venting over the extemely long day of listening to hundreds of audio files... Apologies.

I factored in the possibility of interference but I cannot isolate the power source further. At this point, I would need a line conditioner to isolate the machine further. The DBX in question did come out of a rack...

The signal chain is....

Lapel mic to Input on mixer board...
Stereo send from board to Compressor CH1/CH2
Comp CH1/CH2 to Returns on board...
Stero Outs from board to Capture Device...

Same signal chain sans compressor nets no low level buzz....

Now, to further explain, the buzz is not apparent when listening via the headphone jack on the mixing board at any point...

When checking input metering at the capture device, I see the buzz as well as hear it... This happens regardless of the level of setting of output gain on the compressor...

Thanks all!

Member for

16 years 10 months

TeddyG Sun, 05/28/2006 - 23:21
1. Can you try inserting a computer-type UPS, in front of your system's power supply? Do you have one available? If it's a line problem(An AC problem) this may help? These are great things to plug everything into anyway -- they make them r-e-a-l big, if needed.

2. Email/phone DBX. Their tech support has been helpful to me, maybe they can help -- If you/they/anyone thinks it's in the DBX, itself. Again, normally the DBX comps are fine(Darned near "standard issue") for such use.

3. Should this be #1? Or #2? I'm tired... Again, bring in your comp from home(Cheap or not) and try IT. If the "buzz" is still there, it is more likely a studio/hookup power problem. If not, of course, you might, then, better suspect the DBX......

4. Then again, using "wrong/bad" cables to your DBX or ANY "outboard" unit..? I guess this should be #1..?

5. Now wait. You don't hear it on the outs of the board(Post comp or NO comp) but you Do hear it on the input of the "Capture device"(?), with comp... How MUCH comp? Comp does bring up the bad AND the good? But, again, you don't hear it on the board outs......? Wait..? What headphones?

6. I think it's aliens.......

Ga' night,


Member for

16 years 9 months

moonbaby Mon, 05/29/2006 - 07:46
There is definitely something wrong with this picture here. You use the connection terminology "sends" and "returns" when explaining your terminations. Please tell us that you are NOT using the Aux(effects or monitor) Sends and Returns on the mixer! Maybe it's simply a language barrier here, but if you are using these Sends and Returns on the mixer, STOP! Compression and EQs are not meant to be connected in this manner. You should be using the Insert point jacks on the individual channels (or buses). Only...
Furthermore, like Teddy pointed out, if the compressor is looped through the mixer, and you don't hear this buzzing through the phones or other outputs of the mixer, it ain't the compressor...period. "Regardless of the output level setting of the compressor"? OK.I suspect that there is a ground loop problem in your connections to the power source(s) that shows up when all the gear is connected. I normally do not recommend this as a regular procedure to do, but to troubleshoot your problem, try lifting the ground of the compressor's AC connection with one of those little 3-to-2 AC lift plugs you can get at almost any hardware or Radio Shack store. If you do this and the buzz goes away, there's your problem.
You need to be sure that the power/grounding source of ALL the interconnected audio components is the same. I believe that is your problem.
It is also possible that the buzz is caused by a poor signal cable, or lighting problem, and that the make-up gain action of the compressor is making this audible. Improperly wired lighting control systems, especially for video stages can cause problems like this, too. I have owned soooo many dbx compressors in the past, I should have stock in Harmon, and while their cheaper units can display some unwanted artifacts, buzzing isn't one of them. You need to check your whole wiring and powering scheme out to get to this issue...