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Golden age project Comp-3a ?

Hi gang.
I'm again in a quest to buying new gear and again with a restricted budget.. lol

I mostly record vocal with one of my LA-610 mainly because of the dynamic nature and potential unusable recordings without having a compressor in the way in.
I'd like to have a different flavor by using at least one of my ISA preamps with an external compressor.

I've researched the DIY options but for budget comp, some clones are already well done and near the same price or lower than if I had to make one myself.

The less expensive I'm considering is the the GAP Comp-3A. (around 700$ CAD)
I like that it's an opto cell which makes it signal dependant and it has few adjustments so I'll have a hard time screwing things up... I also like the small format which will be easy to squeeze on my desk without redesigning my space.
But I'd like your opinion has to if it's a good choice and match to the ISA preamps.
ISA being transformer based and the Comp-3a also having transformers makes me Wonder...

Anyone used the Comp-3A ?

Other choices would be ;
  • Grace M102 1045$ CAD (very transparent)
  • Summit TLA-50 1050$ CAD (Said to be Noisy by many)
I'm not really looking for a specific colored sound. The ISA is already a bit colored...

Comments

Davedog Fri, 05/19/2017 - 11:49
Save up the coin for a really special pre. Or a strip. The Manley Core is excellent. as are all the others mentioned. All Manley stuff is great. I use a DMMP and love it. It gets useage on most stuff. It EXCELS at acoustic instruments in a way most pres can't quite get to. I also think you should be looking into Phoenix Audio stuff. I have a DRS Q4 MkII. It also gets a lot of use on different sources.

BTW. It's the Eureka I use on hi-hats. And that's all it gets used on.....not to say it won't work on other stuff. It's a pretty good strip for acoustic instruments as well as a damn good bass DI. Pretty basic on vocals. That being said if you put up a really colored mic, this is what you would need.

I can't stress enough how vital a high quality vocal chain is to the process. I have several quality mics..each with their own 'stamp' but the chain remains the same. Groove Tubes ViPre > LA2A clone (Drip Opto 6) > PTHD. Yeah....lots of tubes in the path. Clean and clear tubes. Nice heater in the winter kinda tubes.

I also have a Grace 502 Optical comp in my 500 rack. It is a sublime piece. I love it. I do also use the Retro Double Wide but the Grace is first call in that rack of comps.

There's a Warm audio WA76 in my rack. I've owned and used a few 1176's. This one is good. There's a range in it's settings that makes me happy, but it's not quite a real 1176.....but it's close. On guitars in a thick and rich mix you can't tell what's being used.

Sometimes after tracking I'll send my drum buss....usually the trap kit alone or the overheads alone through the DBX 160SL and back to PT. Then mix that capture in with the original tracks. Helps thicken stuff up a bit.

Save up for your pre or your strip.

pcrecord Fri, 05/19/2017 - 14:24
Davedog, post: 450382, member: 4495 wrote: I use a DMMP and love it.
This is a strange animal, 1 gain 2 channel... I wonder how they came to that design ! ;)



Davedog, post: 450382, member: 4495 wrote: Save up the coin for a really special pre. Or a strip.
That's what I'm doing.. My LA-610 does a good job for now anyway ;)

Davedog Sat, 05/20/2017 - 11:37
It's one of the oldest Manley designs. A good read on how they use the negative feedback into the gain control. It's a lovely balancing act when you really start to use this as designed. It doesn't seem like there's much there but the huge variety attained by use of the gain and the attenuation of the input is mind opening.

audiokid Mon, 05/08/2017 - 20:15
personally, I've tried / owned some nice analog comps, and opto comps seem the best for vocals. The LA2A type, add a smooth glow to the vocals that nothing else compares ITB. I feel "transparent analog comps" however, are no better (at least when it comes to cost vs benefit)... to a good plugin.
The idea I hear is to track vocals low enough to allow lots of dynamic being captured, then use the more transparent plugin comps.
Comparing both "transparent analog to plugin", under that gain structure then, plugins win out to my logic. Cheap transparent comps are simply a ripoff or a waste of money today.

imho.

kmetal Tue, 05/09/2017 - 00:44
If given the choice between the grace or golden age, grace all the way for the extra %30 in cost, you get what is undoubtedly a superior piece. Better quality thru, better resale. $700 is a lot for a prosumer compressor in the golden age. That's not to say it isn't good, but when disstrssors and tla, and grace are within proximity of the price it doesn't seem to have value.

If I were gonna go w the golden age I'd get these instead, and use the other 3-400 on an sm7, or sm81.

Art pro vla

Presonus eureka

DBX 166xl (black), 163x (half rack $75), or their 500 series stuff.


The eureka compressor is both good sounding and startlingly transparent. The pro vla gets love from all levels of engineer, and I think @Davedog has a vla he uses regularly for high hat or something. You can swap tubes to something better like JCs or whatever to further improve the sound. The DBX is just usual DBX punch and color.

I've used the summit TLA 100 and it's dark and silky smooth, somewhat of a one trick pony. I enjoy it for bright mics and or vocals, it just basically dulls them in a pleasing way. I've used it several times. It's nice. I don't feel I'd pay the price tag of 3k, but if the tla 50 does what the 100 does, at that price point, it's very interesting. Simply because all digital pluggins I know of add brightness. It's nice to have something dark and silky. Paired w a 414 or AT thru a nice pre amp, the tla can really get a nice definited sound without excessive top or mids.

Not my first choice due to price, but having the option to go darker and silkier is a great option to have, one I've enjoyed at the studio, where I otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity.

I'd say eureka or pro vla instead of golden age, or something like the grace, or maybe even joemeek sc.2 might be good for you. Clean with a little attitude.

Basically the golden age seems to offer the most diminishing returns being 2x the price of its class competitors, and 2/3 the price of the next class up.

That said, maybe it sounds amazing, and is worth it. But, on paper seems like not the Best Buy financially, or functionally.

I think compression on the way in is great! I do if often on vocals and kick. Almost always if there's some available.

(Subtle) compression interacts with the performer and can help them get into it more. It's also a phenomenal tone shaper. I use the 1176ln silverface all buttons OUT and no compression, just for its tone/distortion ability when the singer digs in. Theirs just no way to get that harmonic interaction after the fact.

I've only 'ruined' two demos song recordings w (over)compression, and one of them was 15 yeas ago, w a pluggin.

I don't feel any apprehension about eq or comp on the way in. I like getting a stage of that in at tracking. Have a more controlled waveform and get a better sound from point A. It's about capturing the moment, and being modest if unsure about settings. But Marco has been at it long enough, it shouldn't be an issue.

Just my 2cents

pcrecord Tue, 05/09/2017 - 05:23
In my opinion, I think the first reason to comp in the way in is to make sure the artist hear his/her voice very well.
I don't get professionnal signers often and most amateurs struggle with pitch too much if they dont hear themself well in their headphone mix.
Second, since amateur don't have mic controle it gets things either more difficult for them with low preamp gain or it peaks...
Third, compressing on the way in serves the lazy guy in me.. I'm not hot enough to ride the gain and having a comp lets me think of other things while tracking.
I got a full band this weekend, I love to be able to set things, push record and just keep an eye on all the gains and still being able to listen and guide the artists better perform. Wearing all the hats is how small studio goes these days ... ;)


audiokid, post: 450143, member: 1 wrote: http://www.economik.com/warm-audio/wa2a/
Altought the wa2a is 1200$ CAD, I know it would be a good choice. The only thing is I don't have much space to add a full 2U unit.
An half 1U/2U could fit below my display and left of my controler. Other than that I would need to switch a 1U to the right side and therefor put my monitor 1U higher which is almost too high for my sitting position.
But I'm not rulling out the Wa2a yet. I've done pretty dumb buy over the years and this time, I'll try to choose wisely.



kmetal, post: 450160, member: 37533 wrote: I've used the summit TLA 100 and it's dark and silky smooth, somewhat of a one trick pony
That's good to know. The TLA50 is said to sound a bit different but I'm not convinced of it because many complained it's noisy. (altought I might be able to get one used for 650$)

kmetal, post: 450160, member: 37533 wrote: I'd say eureka or pro vla instead of golden age, or something like the grace,
About the grace; that's the thing, I don't yet know if I prefer transparent or colored.
Since the LA-610 is colored enough, maybe transparent would be the way to go...


So guys, the concensus seems to go against the Golden Age Comp-3a.
Is it the brand, the sound or the design that makes a difference for you ?
A solid state comp with transformers, seemed like a good idea in my little brain.

Boswell Tue, 05/09/2017 - 07:10
pcrecord, post: 450168, member: 46460 wrote: In my opinion, I think the first reason to comp in the way in is to make sure the artist hear his/her voice very well.
I would be careful to ensure that you are buying the right unit and inserting it in the right place. I know that when I've had vocalists saying they can't hear themselves properly when there's a big variation in the accompaniment dynamics, I will record the dry track and then often put a compressor/expander in the vocal feed to the monitor headphones. Since that unit's main job is gain control, it doesn't have to be a top-quality one, reserving the quality units for mixdown from the uncompressed track.

pcrecord Tue, 05/09/2017 - 08:26
Boswell, post: 450175, member: 29034 wrote: I would be careful to ensure that you are buying the right unit and inserting it in the right place. I know that when I've had vocalists saying they can't hear themselves properly when there's a big variation in the accompaniment dynamics, I will record the dry track and then often put a compressor/expander in the vocal feed to the monitor headphones. Since that unit's main job is gain control, it doesn't have to be a top-quality one, reserving the quality units for mixdown from the uncompressed track.
Interesting option/alternative, thanks Boswell.

audiokid Tue, 05/09/2017 - 08:44
Boswell, post: 450175, member: 29034 wrote: I would be careful to ensure that you are buying the right unit and inserting it in the right place. I know that when I've had vocalists saying they can't hear themselves properly when there's a big variation in the accompaniment dynamics, I will record the dry track and then often put a compressor/expander in the vocal feed to the monitor headphones. Since that unit's main job is gain control, it doesn't have to be a top-quality one, reserving the quality units for mixdown from the uncompressed track.
That's an excellent approach, Bos. Thanks for sharing this.

kmetal Tue, 05/09/2017 - 11:44
pcrecord, post: 450168, member: 46460 wrote: Second, since amateur don't have mic controle it gets things either more difficult for them with low preamp gain or it peaks...

I know that pain. That and ultra dynamic metal singers who whisper then scream in the same sentence!

pcrecord, post: 450168, member: 46460 wrote: About the grace; that's the thing, I don't yet know if I prefer transparent or colored.
Since the LA-610 is colored enough, maybe transparent would be the way to go...


So guys, the concensus seems to go against the Golden Age Comp-3a.
Is it the brand, the sound or the design that makes a difference for you ?
A solid state comp with transformers, seemed like a good idea in my little brain.

I've never used the golden age comp 3a. To be honest you can get a real la-3 used for around the same price, or a new UA reissue, for i think 1200$ usd. Phil loved the la3 on guitars and had them modded for more headroom.

To me a DBX 160a will do the type of thing albeit with a bit different tonal qualities. Anywhere an la3 is appropriate a 160 would work too.

That said if your using this for vocals the la3 wouldn't be my first choice. If you want it for monitoring on vocals, and would use it on guitars or whatever too, then it makes sense.

Having not used the grace I can't say anything about its sound or lack of. To me in general I like to hear my gear. Particularly compression if I'm going to use OB. If transparency or cue mix is the main thing, it's nothing a dsp or pluggin can't tackle.

It's that larger than life thing, and complex harmonics that makes the OB diff. Although transparent OB comps certainly have their place, and would be useful for mic technique compensation. Usually I find if the singer is weak with technique they often done have a shining full voice from the get go, therefore I may not want the most transparent look/listen into their performance and tone.

pcrecord, post: 450182, member: 46460 wrote: Another thought I had was to replace one of my UA LA-610 by a used ISA-220 there is a few on sale on eBay right now..
With it, I would get ISA preamp, the comp, EQ and Deesser...

Thing is the 2 LA-610 are so beautiful together ! lol ;)

That's a pair that'll beat a full house!!

pcrecord Tue, 05/09/2017 - 12:06
kmetal, post: 450185, member: 37533 wrote: It's that larger than life thing, and complex harmonics that makes the OB diff.
Well I think you just nailed it for me there. (y)
I'm gonna make some tests via the line in of the LA-610 to use its comp and if it's far from my taste, I'll wait to get the money for a Warm audio WA2A. (I'll need to figure out how/where to install it...)

pcrecord Thu, 05/11/2017 - 05:11
Ok guys, for one time I've been able to calm myself and not do an impulsive buy !
I'm thankfull for all your posts, it was of great help.

I did test the ISA through the compressor of the LA-610 via Line in. The ISA has a better headroom and it is noiseless which we can't say about the LA-610.
My first idea was that the ISA is cleaner and it would make a good alternative more transparent signal path if used with an external comp..
But while testing I was able to figure out that the ISA is not more transparent than the LA, they sound different but not transparent. I ended up liking the LA more on vocals even with ITB and OTB compression.

So I decided to stop everything because it makes no point to have an external comp if I don't have a better preamp first.
I might not even get the money for a long time but I'll wait to have enough to buy a Millennia or something at that caliber.
The STT1 maybe ?? (so expensive...)

kmetal Thu, 05/11/2017 - 21:35
pcrecord, post: 450231, member: 46460 wrote: Ok guys, for one time I've been able to calm myself and not do an impulsive buy !
I'm thankfull for all your posts, it was of great help.

I did test the ISA through the compressor of the LA-610 via Line in. The ISA has a better headroom and it is noiseless which we can't say about the LA-610.
My first idea was that the ISA is cleaner and it would make a good alternative more transparent signal path if used with an external comp..
But while testing I was able to figure out that the ISA is not more transparent than the LA, they sound different but not transparent. I ended up liking the LA more on vocals even with ITB and OTB compression.

So I decided to stop everything because it makes no point to have an external comp if I don't have a better preamp first.
I might not even get the money for a long time but I'll wait to have enough to buy a Millennia or something at that caliber.
The STT1 maybe ?? (so expensive...)

You'd probably get good mileage from a Manley tube pre. Last time a checked they were around 1k usd. There is a stereo version that lives on overheads down at the studio, and it's just very nice. Very clean. Rich sounding. ive gotten good results on vocals with it, and love it for DI keys, or micing keys with an amp. It's just I nice all around workhorse pre. Something you can really add a touch of class to a lot of different things with. I believe there is some thoughts about the earlier versions being a bit more sought after due to David Manley actually doing the work on them, and maybe some other technical details? I dunno that's passing around a bit of studio heresay on my part. Either way we got the pre used i believe, besides tubes, it's run flawlessly for over 7 years.

If you want my personal idea of a best value ore amp, it's the Brent Avril stuff. At around 1200usd w the psu wich handles two units, the pre alone being 1k. There's a few different models but there's one that's basically the main components of the flagship, just maybe some more surface mount stuff, then there's others with even more alterations. But the basic single channel pre unit is basically a world class pre. The full on 1073 has the eq and significant price boost which is probably worth every penny if possible to have. There's other options that at that price point in their line but I'd rather not trade features for quality. You get the neve sound and that's undoubtedly the point. while I'm g to have no problem with it as my only pre for a bit, it may or may not be right for you. I think it's a sound that stacks just fine and is versatile enough, but maybe not quite so much as Manley or millennia. It's definitely a ubiquitous sound, something recognizable. Naturally which the bae there's talk that the early ones were somehow superior since the company has sold, but you know how things get with audio.

I think the isa pres are really good. They have something I've always liked, very 80's hifi. it happens to be a lower price tag but that's nothing to do with its quality. It really has its place along next to neves and manleys and api.

Have you considered any other channel strips besides the isa channel strip. Most companies make one. With the ability to patch into the eq and comp separately, if the model has it, it really opens your pre and mic collection up. I think the eq and compression facilities of the neve and ssl sound are often overlooked, with all the credit given to the pre. Between the electronics themselves and the actual eq and compression, theirs a lot of influence there.

I've said this a lot before, that's pres are critally important, I think their over credited as tone shapers relative to compression and eq. They became the rage and the catch word when the early audio interfaces pre amps were poor, relative speaking. People had sold their LF mixers and a lot of the digital rack stuff, ya know around the 2003 period, were it was native ITB was possible with computers. The whole Lego block 90's era project studio full of Alesis reverbs and compressors, adat machines, and he old Roland sr-16, and a mackie or something, was gone to the used bargain bins. So the first most obvious upgrade was the pre amp, and people seem to have not moved past it.

Again not to say pres aren't powerful or super important to the sound. They are. It's just there are other things like eq or compression that not only lend a hand for live mic'ing stuff, you can mix and master with them.

Given your collection I could see were a nice larger than life pre could be worthwhile as well. Just bringing options around.

pcrecord Fri, 05/12/2017 - 03:02
Thanks for the inspiring post K

kmetal, post: 450245, member: 37533 wrote: Have you considered any other channel strips besides the isa channel strip.
Can't say if I'll get enough money out of my small studio but yes there is a few.
The manley core or VoxBox
Tube-Tech MEC 1A
Millennia STT1 origin
SPL frontliner ( I don't know a lot about it...)

kmetal Fri, 05/12/2017 - 16:52
pcrecord, post: 450249, member: 46460 wrote: Thanks for the inspiring post K


Can't say if I'll get enough money out of my small studio but yes there is a few.
The manley core or VoxBox
Tube-Tech MEC 1A
Millennia STT1 origin
SPL frontliner ( I don't know a lot about it...)

Don't know much about the SPL, can't go wrong with any of the others.

pcrecord Sun, 05/14/2017 - 05:28
Thanks Chris,
I reverted to waiting for a highend channel strip like the STT1 Origin or similar quality.

But your link isn't a very good deal for us Canadians even at 650USD = 890CAD + customs 8% = 961CAD + shipping...
Brand new, it's 1199$+taxes.

I bought a lot of things on ebay but with the current dollar exchange rate, it's hard to find a worth it deal. If the seller is in Canada we at least save the custom fee. but still...
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