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One of my favorite classic compressors is the GATES Sta-Level, and the GATES Level-Devil. These compressors are sha-wheat on lead vocals. The Level-Devil does a Exp/Comp thing that's hard to imitate with any other gear.
Another fav of mine for electric guitar are the cheap arse dbx163X. 1 slider- one way for more, one way for less. I pick up some of these on ebay for $50 each & really sound good.


hollywood_steve Fri, 01/05/2001 - 08:01

I haven't used one in years, but I'm looking for an old Altec 322C. Unlike the more common 436 / 438 series that were inexpensive units built for intercom / PA use, the 322C was Altec's top of the line, recording quality unit. A friend had one years ago that we used to use on everything when building our little 4 track demos back in the early 80's. (neither of us knew anything about the 322 back then, it was just a garage sale toy he picked up for $20 that sounded really cool.) I picked up a 436B a couple of years ago for my studio, and although I find it useful, it's not in the same league with the 322. If anyone has a nice 322 for sale, drop me a line at

Guest Sun, 02/11/2001 - 17:20

Without question, my drop dead favorite compressor was the compressor in the air conditioning system in the '64 Chrysler 'New Yorker'. This fucking system was the balls, the 'compressor' was like twice the size of the compressors you find in today's cars, plus you couldn't get to it without pulling half the motor. If you were working on this thing, and billing by the hour, it was half a wet dream (remember, this was long before 'pollution control BS' when you could actually work on cars...and access stuff fairly easily).

The best part of this air conditioning system was that it was 'gas fired'. The fuckin' thing shot raw gasoline into the expansion chamber to heat the Freon 12 (thank you EPA and "hole in the ozone layer morons" for making Freon 12 unfuckingobtainable). You could get that car so cold you could see your breath in July!!

Is it just me, or is anyone else freezing their ass off this winter. Global warming...yeah, right. Bring it on, my fucking heating bill is murder!!

anonymous Fri, 02/16/2001 - 03:15

As Far as the AC 322 we have two of em and they rock man big time . But I think for a versitile all around not over glorified limiter I would have to go with the 1176 blue stripe . Eventhough I like the fairchild a lot you cant use em for everything although running a close second would be a RCA BA6- Mark

anonymous Fri, 02/16/2001 - 12:27

That Altec 322 is news to that a SS unit, or tubes? Rackmount? Any pics online anywhere (the ebay auction must've timed out)?

The Gates 39B is a comp that I am learning to like a lot, once it's padding heavily both on the input and output. Very smooth...

I'm also running BA-6As, a Sta-level, and an Altec 438, but my fav for my style is the Distressor--it's just so flexible. (gee, that's going out on a line, isn't it?)

Bargains in the world of compression--the Ashley SC-50 (50-100 bucks?--come on...) and an EV I just picked up (COL-1?) that really sounds amazing on a lot of things. Anybody ever seen one of these? I have yet to see another, either in print or in person...

e-cue Sat, 02/17/2001 - 04:25

"I'm also running BA-6As, a Sta-level, and an Altec 438, but my fav for my style is the Distressor--it's just so flexible. (gee, that's going out on a line, isn't it?)"

My jaw makes a thunderous crash to the ground as I stare in utter disbelief at these pixels that formulate these words on the screen.

anonymous Sat, 02/17/2001 - 11:22

Originally posted by e-cue:
My jaw makes a thunderous crash to the ground as I stare in utter disbelief at these pixels that formulate these words on the screen.

I love that sound of jaws hitting pavement, but it sounded better 40 years ago...

Actually, I've decided to dump this stuff...

I have a grand total of 300 bucks invested in the three units combined (not counting refurbishing, especially for the BA-6A)...

But with the $$$$ being thrown at these things, combined with the great sounds coming out of modern gear (with it's lack of maintainance costs), it's starting to turn into a no-brainer for me...

My friend sold a BA-6A yesterday for 3500 bucks, with several people getting into the bidding frenzy. Check it out here:

Would I trade my BA-6A for 3 slighly used Distressors and a couple RNCs? Bring 'em on...

I mean, I love these units. But do they do things that are not possible to achieve with modern gear that might cost a fraction of what the old units are going for? (I've never heard a Fairchild in person--I sure hope it's worth 25-30K)...

I love what a Sta-Level does to DI'd electric bass, but can I pretty much catch it with a modified Ampeg B-15 DI and a EV comp I just picked up for 75 bucks? Yep...The Gates 39B is killer on electric guitar, but so are a lot of modern units costing a fraction of the Gates can cost...

There now, I just gained about 85 rack spaces, too...

All of this is a moot point unless someone starts waving around stoopid money in the direction of, say, a Sta-Level, which I think is a very one-dimentional unit...I've seen these things go for well over a grand lately--not just advertised in Pro Audio Marketplace for the usual inflated prices, but actually selling at that price. Well, OK....

I bought this stuff over the years knowing that someday the temptation would become too much, and out the door it would go. But only if I could still get the sound, and I think I can...

That day happened yesterday with the BA-6A. However, there is that nagging feeling that I'll wake up in '06 and one will be going for 7.5 or so...

anonymous Sat, 02/17/2001 - 14:20

I know this is dumb but... my favorite compressor is the air between the microphone and the signal source. I have heard tell of an ancient Gates limiter (before the SA series) that used a series of light bulbs that the signal actually ran through. The hotter the signal got the brighter it got in the studio. It was supposedly three feet tall. Now that is a compressor! dseward

anonymous Fri, 02/23/2001 - 07:29

To get back to the earlier topic brought up by Bruce Harvie I would have to agree that you can get just as good of results with inexpensive compressors as you can with high dollar vintage units. One of my favorite low cost compressors is the Alison gain brain. The gain brain knows exactly how much compression you need and gives you a bit more until your ears start to bleed and then it will usually level off.
Another interesting compressor is the dbx 118 or 119. These units use similar electronics (decilinear VCA) to the much more expensive dbx 160 series. They don't have a VU meter, as many controls or balanced inputs and outputs, but they do sound good, cost about $50 and have real wood side panels. Wood side panels also seem to sound better. The worst is the fake wood finish that surfaced in the mid 70's. This stuff can actually cause a rash. I once got pretty messed up after touching a MCI JH-16 that was covered in the stuff. dseward

John Sayers Sat, 03/03/2001 - 11:46

That Altec is (I think)the original compressor we used in the 60s. There are still a few around and are really hard to get working properly as their internal balancing has to be set correctly and with the drift in the caps over the years this can change. Garth Porter (Sydney producer) has a couple and swears by them and a local TV music composer also has one and swears by it.

Now - I have found this techo freak locally who has built the most stunning valve front end power amp using a huge Mosfet output. He sent it to the national audiophile guru who gave it 9.8 out of 10. (BTW he has never given above 7 before) It turns out this young tech has completely redesigned the use of valves, his preamp is hand wired and is the ultimate in simplicity. He's currently designing a mic pre for us.

He has also managed to get hold of the original circuit of this altec and is currently redesigning it along the same lines as his valve amp.

BTW you can purchase his hand made valve amp (200watts per side, 40watts classA) for AUD$1700 which converted to your money is around US$850!!! A fuckin steal!!! but that's the price he quoted me.

I find him totally fascinating, whilst in conversation he'll pull a valve out of his pocket and start fondling it...T0TALLY MAD Love it!! :D


anonymous Sat, 03/03/2001 - 12:31

my fav vintage compressor would have to be the roger mayer RM57 and RM58 (mono / stereo). i rarely see these and would kill to find one for less than $500. rob grenoble at watermusic has some and so does mike demming at .45 in hartford. if anyone has one of these i might be willing to trade a blue stripe 1176, ser# 204, for it....

fletcher. you ever get these in ?


anonymous Mon, 03/05/2001 - 19:31

In reply to Mark Plancke's question about the RCA BA6A on ebay that Bruce Harvie was talking about- this is my compressor and it's actually all original and unmodified and works great. It was made in 1957 and was in a climate controlled room at a radio station as a backup unit to the engineers hand built tube limiter. I saw the hand built limiter and it was based on a Gates SA-39 but it had a monster of a separate power supply. The RCA BA6A has been relisted on ebay because the high bidder didn't send the payment so it is still available.
About the Altec 436 tube compressor I think they are great once they are rebuilt. It is such a simple circuit that if anything is a little off it just doesn't sound good. An excellent thing to try with the Altec is to pull the 6AL5 tube and use it as a microphone preamp. The transformers are excellent. You can substitute a 6DJ8 for the 6BC8 and it's lower noise.(Please check the Tube manual before trying this because I have only heard that this is a good sub. and have not tried it myself.
The better tube limiter which uses the same 6BC8 MU tube for the gain reduction is the Limpander which is the most aggressive tube unit I have tried. The model LE-33 uses three 6BC8 tubes and is capable of 40 db of compression+ (meter goes up to 50 db!) and still sounds sort of good. Most older tube limiters won't make your volume meter stand still with rock and roll but the Limpander will. It was also made in Oklahoma City which makes it kind of awesome. I'd love to hear if anyone else has tried a Limpander. dseward Greensboro NC