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Looking at adding another 2-bus comp to my chain. I'm going to get them both sooner or later but just wanted to hear some opinions. Please chime in and share your experiences on either of these.



DonnyThompson Sat, 04/06/2013 - 06:13

I've worked on Neve consoles and with Neve peripheral OB gear quite a bit in the past (the real thing not the plug ins) and I was certainly plenty happy in doing so.

I mixed on an SSL G Series Console a few times. Have also had the opportunity to work with API, Trident, Harrison, Fairchild, UA, etc.

(I never actually owned any of this stuff... my studio was considered "mid grade" with gear like Neotek (Elan), Amek (Scorpion), Soundcraft (DC 20-20) Yamaha (O2R) etc., but, I did work on the high caliber equipment mentioned above as a hired gun engineer working at other studios besides my own)

I would agree with Kurt that SSL tends to be more "transparent", while the Neve and API stuff does have its own "sound"... but I think you're still probably looking at six in one hand / half a dozen in the other, sonically.

In short: I don't think you're really gonna go wrong with anything of true pro quality, and in saying that, I don't believe we are telling you anything you don't already know, Chris. You're living proof of what can be accomplished by having a highly skilled engineer on high caliber gear.

I suppose that perhaps the question you need to ask yourself, is what you expect to get out of any gear you'd buy.

If you're looking for coloration within the application, well, IMO, you've already got a lot of that going on in your Neos and your OB rack with your LA2's, 1176's, etc.

So maybe something a bit more transparent would be in order as it would give you the choice of which to use, depending of course upon the application at hand.

IMHO of course.


anonymous Sun, 04/07/2013 - 17:48

Everyone likes those SSL bus compressors. But then for those that like that API sound, you've got that. Neve limiters are also quite desirable. But with your system, that kind of coloration might not be what you want? Your system is already meticulously assembled and quite transparent. So I think you should look into the GML limiters? DBX VCA's have been used in his previous limiters with his input and output circuitry that we all know is stellar and relies on higher voltage rails than most others. George was one of the first to pursue high voltage rail preamps and EQ's along with his limiters. Right up your alley. I've used a Manley Variable mu and I wasn't wild about that. I know their stuff is good but it does not wow me. At the same time... I think it's Manley that is now making all of the GML stuff? Both great quality. Both quite different.

I guess that's what Kurt is talking about also? But that's not really George's version of an SSL. That's George's version of George's version. I guess they both use VCA's? And probably the same ones? And George's also gives you the option of peak, fast RMS and slow RMS sensing. I just can't get my head around " Crest Factor "? Reminds me of the Spectra 610 Sonics Comp Limiter, which I also could never figure out what it was good for LOL? I sold off my pair from a bulk purchase of used audio gear. All I could do was get them to pump in a nasty way I didn't care for much LOL. Almost the same with those API 525's. Though there are folks that swear by those. I just swore at them.


KurtFoster Sun, 04/07/2013 - 18:22

i can't find anything on it now ... they used to be advertised in the back pages of Mix and EQ ... one space SSL compressors racked up by George Massenburg ... they even had the weird square meter.

for rucks Chris, you should get a Valley People dyna-mite. they're cheap and unique. as far as i'm concerned a DBX 160 or a dyna-mite are the only vca comps i like. everything else is opto.

audiokid Sun, 04/07/2013 - 21:41

There is a single rack strip?

I think the SSL is going to be it though but please try and talk me out of it lol. My STC-8 is relatively close the 8900. I know its not a GML and George would cringe hearing this but its somewhat similar, so I'm told. The STC-8 might have a bit more colour which is more like sliky sheen. before I bought that, I was looking at the 8900 but finally jumped on the STC-8. I love it.

I do want the API because I need something colourful and useful for Rock and Bluesy Stems including 2-bus tasks but the SSL might be the better choice after the STC-8. I hate trying to decide.

mberry593 Tue, 04/09/2013 - 09:34

McMurphy, post: 403278 wrote: Reminds me of the Spectra 610 Sonics Comp Limiter, which I also could never figure out what it was good for LOL? I sold off my pair from a bulk purchase of used audio gear. All I could do was get them to pump in a nasty way I didn't care for much LOL. McMurphy


I had a 610 & I didn't like it on anything! I even sent it back to the factory assuming that it must be defective. When it came back, it was different but still unusable. There must have been something about this that I just didn't get because others seem to have had good experiences with them.

Kurt Foster: "a pair of LA3's & LA4's would be nice"

Let me tell you about my experience with these things. I loved the LA-3's right from the start. I still do. They just seem to be so perfect for everything. I never had a problem with an LA-3. This is from over 35 years of experience with them.


Back in the 1980's, I got a job designing a facility & I wanted to use some LA-3's but they didn't make them anymore so I specified LA-4's. IIRC I had 6 of them. When the operators started using the facility, they immediately complained that some of them sounded horrible. I looked into it and found that indeed some were fine but others sounded terrible! I pulled one of the terrible ones and put it on an analyzer. It had very low distortion below threshold. Also, at large amounts of gain reduction, it had very low distortion. But, at around 6 dB of gain reduction, the THD was several percent. After some trading around, I found this to be a function of the photocells that they used. Some were much better than others. UREI sold replacement photocells as selected parts but they were selected to make the gain reduction metering track the actual action, not for THD. The only alternative was for me to buy a large number of photocells and hand select them myself for distortion. I did wasn't that bad. Most of the ones I bought were pretty good. So, beware if you buy a hardware LA-4, it may require some attention.

There is a problem with all of this. You are lucky if you have something that is really, really, obviously bad. That way you know that it needs some attention. If you are unfortunate enough to get one that is just a little bad, you might not even know it. You might even mistake the distortion for some 'character.' I was lucky to have a number of different LA-4's to compare and contrast. If you have just one, you might not know if it is ok.

audiokid Wed, 04/10/2013 - 07:30

Pan, do you own an API 2500?

mberry, thanks for that info. I have 3 UA with bad VU meters dead and they are only a year old. Just sent them off for warranty.

I have a chance to get a used SSL that I want but the input light is dead on it. It shouldn't effect the sound of it, apparently it functions perfect other that that. I never buy used. hmm

Davedog Thu, 04/11/2013 - 13:30

I'm in the middle of my rewire for the studio and had a friend over who's a bigtime pro helping and getting the new ADC bays set up and everything truly pro in its signal flow. Set up now so I can easily come out of the box into the Toft for some analog love.....

Anyway...He's all about the SSL bus comp. He's building a clone with a bunch more headroom than the SSL has. Why? Because he can. You'd like this guy Chris. He's talking hybrid and does serious Pop music. Like you he thinks this is the HARDEST stuff to do right.

But most of his racks are handmade clones with improvements. BTW....His Dad builds amplifiers. I have one.

audiokid Thu, 04/11/2013 - 22:43

Dave, I'm so happy you are taking this step, you won't regret it!
Thanks for your suggestion but I have a good deal on a second hand SSL G XLogic, so I'm just waiting to rack it.
Even though I'm somewhat inclined to believe clones might be as good or even better/different, I think there is a sound to the real SSL that the others might not have down exactly. Some say the real one can squish the bottom when pushed hard, I tend to think this might be one of the best assets why it works so well. I actually need to tame my bottom end down because the NEOS is so HUGE coming out the other side lol. That bass and space is where all the magic lives.

Thanks for thinking about me and chiming in on this, I really appreciate it. Maybe your friend can send me one in exchange to promote it here. I would love to compare it? Please pass that on!

I'm definitely having fun in analog world now, no return for me. Welcome back Dave! That's how I see it. Yup, welcome back to how it was before audio got all sterilized sounding.

Davedog Thu, 04/11/2013 - 23:16

I never didn't believe in it, I just didn't have the studio set up to use the OTB nor did I have a mixer with the sound of this Toft. Not saying its going to rival anything like a true summing situation but it WILL be something I can use in my future productions. A couple of drum 2-bus's on the last record I did were sent back out through the DBX160SL and then those two tracks integrated back into the drum mix. A bigger sound for sure. Much fuller and more dynamic. Its a trick we used to do back in the day when we would sub-mix tracks to op-en up more tracks for more stuff......

As far as the bus comp, another buddy has a 2500. Its pretty good but like Kurt I think for your situation the SSL is going to be the candy.

Paul999 Fri, 04/12/2013 - 21:50

I'd be interested in hearing what these sound like. Of course I've read the reviews on both. I love everything API that I've used. Definite color and a good one at that. I like the new SSL eqs contrary to what the snobs say:). When I've used SSL bus plugs I've found them too aggressive and we know that's a fair comparison because plugs are obscenely accurate:)

I've had a Manley vari-mu on my 2-bus for half a decade and don't feel the need to change but I always wonder what I'm missing.

audiokid Fri, 04/12/2013 - 22:13

We definitely need to all start comparing our mixes and sharing things more, even if its in private. Since I actually got the stuff I use, I believe about 10% of what I read on forums now. Hearing is more believing. What I'm planning, and have been already regardless of being scrutinized, shamed or praised, is sharing tracks online here. It really helps me more than I think it does others. Gives me confidence in a way that keeps me on my toes , keeps my bias at check. Know what I mean?

I've got the SSL G on order (I hope the deal goes through) and I'm planning to get a 2500 ASAP. Once I'm familiar with these two staples, I'm going to do some comparisons for us all. I think it will be fun and helpful.

The Vari Mu is on my list but not sure about it yet. I've heard from many that is kind of a Jeans and T-Shirt , which sounds pretty cool to me too.

Paul999 Fri, 04/12/2013 - 22:25

Ha! Jeans and T's. never heard that. I describe it as silky highs that ad this slight Shhh sound to the highs. It thickens lows and glues things together. I've done 3 mixes this week without it and it is seriously tough gluing things together with a plug in comp.

I like sharing mixes to. I guess I need to break down and get a sound cloud account:)

Paul999 Fri, 04/12/2013 - 23:29

Cool I use drop box with clients all the time.
My mu enters the equation as soon as I start mixing.

My studio is almost complete. I am up and running though because with my client load a week down is almost unbearable. I have made a desk/console cabinet for my gear that is far more efficient then ever. I purposefully did not put a finish on it because I know I'll be tweaking things. After a few months. I'll finish it when it stabilizes.

I am waiting on some RME Convertors I've purchased(not high end to you but more then adequate to my ears).

What did I do. Built a better reception desk, built console cabinet, built a "tool room" at the studio for repairs to instruments, tool storage and general tools.

I have eliminated patchbays from my system. I find them totally unintuative after a decade of being tethered to one I feel free. I now have my live room snakes wired into my consoles direct. This gives me 12 D&R pre/eq channels. I can use the eqs as I mix at the push of a button. As well 8 audient mic pres with various API eq's and compressors set up on inserts as well as a couple 1176's. In addition I have 8 tonelux spaces. I have a PCM 70&90 on their own converter channels as well. And my mu stays on the focusrite 2802 2-bus. It is a very convenient system. I basically can easily select a preset labelled each peice of hardware with logic's plug in. Running about 40 channels of I/o

Davedog Sat, 04/20/2013 - 10:51

I have a friend who records a lot at a studio with a good population of Manley products. A couple of dual-tube pres, a VoxBox, a Slam, A Vari-Mu and an ELOP. For some reason the mixes arent sterling but I've heard the tracking raw and its outstanding. I almost bought a Vari-Mu on this last upgrade but settled on the DBX 160 SL which is a very nice comp. Not a lot smoother. I guess its a 'best' in this case.

So Chris and Audiofreek are in the same Great White North town. Do you guys know each other? And Chris...Mr. Freek has a ViPre. Go hear it. Really. The way the transformer works and the variable rise time settings will make every mic a multi0tonal weapon of choice and you've never heard a 57 until you hear one through one of these.

That would be another best for my room. And for all you naysayers on U87's.....old ones sound better than new ones. And sending yer U87 to be fiddled with by Klaus is the best investment on an already expensive mic you can make.

audiokid Sat, 04/20/2013 - 11:49

Thanks for the info Dave. If I recall, there is a Vipre on the Sluts right now. Ya Audiofreek is in the same town. We plan to meet.

A Vari Mu, ya! The Knife is on my list but not for a while. I'd love to hear from more using it, especially engineers doing the hybrid thing. Hybrid is a combination of mixing and mastering technology, best of both worlds. I'm finding opinions not to be completely accurate to my process unless it comes from users in hybrid mode. Mixers love the Vari Mu and Mastering guys favour it less. Hybrid is a combination of the two.

Most ME say a Vari Mu its a good one but something less used. I see it as an essential flavour for hybrid though so I can't always trust ME opinions. I see it ideal for stems and occasional mastering tasks.
The more I Neos ( I like that term lol) , the more I find people not wanting colour added to their sound. Majority love the BIG vibe transparent to what they already finished. This is where the clean with a vibe becomes baby steps. Its easy to go to far. Its becoming very detailed to me now. Fun fun, but man, do I have to be listening close at this point.
An STC-8 is a monster for this so I'm I'm playing with combinations. Any tips there?

This SSL is touchy. Im getting onto it after about 30 mixes. Its like an 1176 without the big mojo. I'm backing off more and more with this and finding it to be very sweetening. Its easy to sqaush a mix. Its a good one for guitars and drums. I love how it lifts the bottom end into a mix while adding a bit of silk. The key is , less is more with this.

I did a mix for Donny using the Kultube on the 2-bus and man is that thing underrated. I cannot understand how so many people miss that company.

Got to try an API 2500 next.

thanks for chiming in everyone. Please don't stop.

pan60 Sat, 04/20/2013 - 13:00

audiokid, post: 403749 wrote: Been comparing mixes with the SSL G for the last 2 hours. I wasn't sure about it until I combined it with an STC-8 . Now we're getting somewhere!

Keep us posted for sure.
I have the API 527's linked and like them to the point the API 2500 as my interest.
The A-Designs NAIL get most my two bus duty.

Davedog Sat, 04/20/2013 - 13:38

I would also suggest trying the DBX 160SL for your hybrid system. It has a tremendous amout of controls and since clarity and transparency would seem to be watchwords for this setup, it is the kind of box that might deliver something nothing else will. I use mine to run 2-bus mixes back back out and back in the box. It is a 'glue' device and the brick-wall limiter is sublime in a digital world. All of these comps are serious high-end stuff and the 160SL is no exception.

kmetal Tue, 04/23/2013 - 00:31

d dog, just out of curiosity i looked up the 160sl, and the sweetwater description says it 'emulates the performance of the classic 160, 160a'. figuring a pair of either ranges from say 800 to 1600, what do you think the improvements are on the 160sl, that makes it worth it's money? just curious what your thoughts are, i don't own any of 'em but just wondering what your thoughts were about that.

p.s congrats audiokid, hope ya love it! you aren't dealing w/ small potatoes. (been lurking thread)

Davedog Tue, 04/23/2013 - 01:48

I love sweetwaters quick descriptions.....(really? not really) I guess they would be talking about both being VCA compression. The original 160 was simple simple simple! And they sound great. Sweetwater also mentions the 165A in their very helpful sales pitch...I think it has to do with a lot of the similar functions....overeasy, peak stop,slow/fast RMS detection....All things built into the 160SL. The 160SL is the DBX with ALL the bells and whistles. I guess this would explain its price tag. If you like the way VCA compression works on your material, there isn't anything much better than this box. And according to DBX, the 160SL/160S can do all the previous versions of 16xxx compression they ever released. You'd have to have all of them side by side to really know for sure but I can tell you this thing is a real piece of gear and works as it should with a high degree of fidelity.

audiokid Tue, 04/23/2013 - 08:54

Hi Dave, I know some SW reviews are hit and miss so a few years back I posted some info there about a product I use and wondered if it would in fact be edited or left in full. It was entered exactly as I put it. Either they liked it or they don't edit any of them, good or bad.

Nice suggestion on the 160SL, I've been looking at that for a few years. I ended up with the STC-8 for that task but would still love to have one, or at least try it out one day. I've read they add just enough of that DBX VCA sweetness which might make a really good combination.

audiokid Tue, 04/23/2013 - 18:32

Just bought an API 2500 to complete my mixing basic's now. I'm a happy guy and somewhat re-leaved for now. I love this hybrid flavouring concept. You guys lay it down and I help spread out the splatter with an nice ambient dining experience lol. Well something like that. smoke

And now I just discovered the 176 Retro http://www.retroins… which is an 1176 on steroids. Looks like an amazing piece for vocals