Skip to main content

Here is an email question I received from a friendly reader of the RO forums. Before I give my opinion, I think it would be helpful for him to hear some other opinions as well. Anyone want to chime in here and help him out?


Hi Jon,

I check out some of the pro audio forums on a regular basis. It's a rare occasion when I post on any of these forums though. Over time, I've come to have much respect for your opinions on gear. It seems you and I may have similar tastes in certain gear.

Anyway, I noticed a response you posted a few days ago regarding compressors for vocals. I too currently own 4 distressors, but I don't like them for tracking vocals.

I seem to recall other posts of yours in the past where you stated you like the 1176LN, LA-2A , and TUBE-TECH CL1B for vocals.

Would you mind describing, as best you can, the tonal differences between them?

Thanks in advance.


mixfactory Fri, 12/14/2001 - 22:33

I am one of the guys that suggested the Tubetech CL1B(and by the way I own all three). I normally choose the Tubetech for vocals, because it intrudes less on the effect of the right mic/pre combination. Yes its colored but its very transparent. I normally use very light compression(high threshold, medium to slow atttack, medium to fast release, manual mode). And I also ride the "knob" for more manual control. The LA2a is cool, but sometimes its a little to much color. The 1176 I would use more if I was mixing, it definitely imparts its own character(also remember there are different versions which all affect different frequencies), It is not transparent in the least, but sometimes on the right singer its perfect. Again the word is sometimes, I would say nine times out of ten, if I am working with a singer I never worked with before, reaching for the CL1B would be my first choice. Hope this helps some.

anonymous Thu, 12/20/2001 - 22:09

I've used a lot of things with mixed success over the years and have found that, the better the singer, the less important is the gear used. However, most people I work with ask for a really compressed vocal sound these days (they must all be listening to the same records), so I'll often use two different comps in series with complimentary caracteristics.

Out of what I own, I often end up with a Neve 2254 first ,acting as a slow/soft VU leveler, followed by either an 1176 (harder/edgier/guy) or an LA-2A (more air/girl). The second comp is set-up to react faster to tame the quick changes. I hit both units more gently that I would a single one and it often ends up sounding at the same time more controled and more natural.

I've also used LA-3 and LCA-2B with great results when working at studios that had them.

However there's this girl singer I often work with. You can stick any odd mic in front of her with no comp or eq whatsoever and she instantly sounds like a produced record. These are the sessions where I'll usually get all kinds of nice comments from everybody on the quality of my engineering work, especially the A&R person. Funny...


mixfactory Fri, 12/21/2001 - 07:22

I often track vocals with no compression(just use the unit for a little color) and ride the changes. But you also need the right combination of singer/mic/preamp. This is really the key to a great vocal recording. Also I tend to record most vocalists(if I can get away with it in omni no pop filter/no standing waves). Most modern mics sound better in omni than cardiod.

anonymous Fri, 12/21/2001 - 23:46

i know you'll mostly find them over the left and right, but, either of the pendulam audio comps(es-8,6386) offer compression of the highest grade in every situation i've tried them. expensive, but very close to(and not as expensive as) the fairchilds we all wished we owned or had access to (and usually available to rent if you live near a bigger city).worth a try.

erockerboy Sat, 12/22/2001 - 12:05

For the LA-2A fans out there... our Manley ELOP sounds quite "LA-2A"-ish to me, and you get TWO channels for a fraction of the rack space. Try it, ya might like it.

Another neglected oldie but goodie is the UREI LA-22. It's their 2-channel solid state unit in a single rack space. A very usable, transparent vocal comp. I've had it for years, and keep finding new uses for it... and since it doesn't have the 'buzz factor' of some of the other UREI stuff, you might be able to find a used one for 'cheep'.

Happy huntin'!

coldsnow Sun, 12/23/2001 - 10:30

On the LA2a sound alikes. Check out the Peavey AMR VCL2. It is also an el-op model. Two channels all tube class A, 4 tubes per side. To me it is very similar to the LA2a and manley el op. Two space rack unit, El-Op panel, and cost under $1K. Great for warm beutiful sounding vocals as opposed to my Purple edgy vocals comp. To me it is the best bargain in comps (even better than the RNC although very diffent).

Guest Sun, 12/23/2001 - 15:08

UA 1176 with occaisional DBX 160 VU (bought from J Attack actually!) after it.

Sometimes a distressor or ADR Vocal Stressor is used too.

That's what I HAVE, as for the BEST, I am sure there are some rare v expencive units out there that are "the best" (built in EMI desk compressor? Fairchild? etc... )



MadMoose Mon, 12/24/2001 - 21:19

My default if I know I want color is the UA 1176. If I want to even things out a little bit and give it some character I'll reach for my Demeter VTCL-2a or a real LA-2a if there's one around. Recently I've been using my Summit DCL-200 for vocals because while it has color the act of compression seems to be very transparent. Like Jules, if I use my 160VU's I usually have something else in line with them.