Go to http://www.cranesong.com and check out the Trakkers. I have a pair of them, and it's like having a rack full of different vintage & modern copmressor/limiters. Save your pennies, though, they don't come cheap.
I just went through the same process and ended up with an Avalon 747.
1. under 2000 dollars
2. full control of attack release threshold etc,
3. built in side chain where you can select two different frequencies to either compress more or less.
4. great eq onboard.
5. you can switch between class A solid state and tubes on the output stage.
The negatives is that it can't be used as dual mono and it isn't the most aggressive compressor. Neither of which made a difference to me.
So far I would buy it again.
Man, I keep seeing people talking up the Drawmer 1969 and Cranesong STC-8 as "awesome" 2-bus comp's.
Am I the only one who's not in love? I own both of those, as well as the underappreciated Alan Smart C2 which smokes either of the aforementioned units on the 2-bus, IMO. The Drawmer is a cool instrument compressor, but on the occasions when I've tried it on the 2-bus, I always ended up reaching for something else. "BIG" switch or not, the '69 seems to "shrink" my stereo field in a way that I just don't like. Other ppl love it tho, is it just me? The Cranesong is a pretty cool and flexible piece, but just doesn't have that SSL character like the Smart.
Then again, don't listen to me... lotsa guys absolutely HATE the "SSL compressor sound".
I'd like to play with an Alan Smart. The '69 is not very aggressive, but it adds a certain "glue" that I like. I'm using the '69 pre and comp for bass right now and hitting the tape hard and it sounds huge. It's big fat and comfy.
Word!!! the 'Al smart' is the bomb for stereo bus comperssion. It is transparent in the fact hat it does not have the tel tale signature 'sound' or 'sonic footprint' such as a farichild or Urie...... however it deos have a easily recognisable comrpesiona characteristic. For the novice user of this compressor, thye need to be extermley aware oft he vicious nature of the 'Al smart' C1/C2 compressors. They ahve a tendency to flatten the mix if used incrrectly. They are like taming a beast from the wild... once you have the hang on it you can feed it from your hand!!....
I have had excellent results froma vintage neve 8024 with e stereo bus pluged into a Al smart C2 and then into an Avalon 747. THe slow and easy charactertistic of the 747 counteracted the Hype and punchy nature ofthe c2 and provided a mix woth dynamics and punch yet still did not peg the meter. also you get a nice version of avalon passive Eq for mix sweetening. which can be a real bonus unless you have aGML 8200 around!!!!.
the main thing is to rknow your tools and how they react to the mixes that you are doing.
Also another fave is the Manley Variable MU. pluggingth C2 into this babay is like pouring honey or treacle over a mix!! it really is the big $$$$$ tone.. and guess what it even works over a mackies stereo bus!