Is a compressor/limiter the right gear for me?

Discussion in 'Compressors / Limiters (analog)' started by MC208, Mar 30, 2018.

  1. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

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    Having done a few videos my self, I should say that I always mix my audio in my DAW and then import it to the my video editing software. The tools are of highest quality and easier to work with.
    That said, there are a very different things about compressing in the way directly after the output of a guitar or after the preamp or post in the DAW.
    First any compressing done on the way in couldn't be undone. Done before the preamp or after will give different results because of gain staging. Also I would never use a compressor guitar pedal after a preamp but before, as a effect would be acceptable if there is a reason. For exemple if an effect placed after the comp pedal needs a more EQ level to be fed to and produce more constant saturation or level reacting effect.
    The compression done after the preamp would, in my opinion, need to be of higher quality or special sonic qualities because inbox comp are so more precise and noiseless these days. So I feel you need to have a reason to use an outboard compressor (sonicly, character etc..)

    The performace you present is kind of classical music, maybe jazz and/or blues influenced.. What's mostly different in this style is an approach of fidelity of the playing which mostly offer more dynamic end results compare to modern music. That's why you had many comment saying it's just fine without compression.. Of course if your song goes to a mastering engineer, he might use a bit of compression to even out the peaks and obtain a level that stands up against other album of your genre. But at mix time, I'd be very carefull about compression.

    In the end you are the judge of what you want to hear. being the performer and producer. if the sound you aim is more modern, feel free to compress the hell out of it if it sounds good to you... Nobody can make that decision for you. ;)
     
  2. MC208

    MC208 Active Member

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    Thanks for the information and suggestions. Most of the videos produced are of an instructional nature, not really performance. But I guess I'll continue on without a compressor.
     
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  3. MC208

    MC208 Active Member

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    I'm looking at the idea of a limiter again for recording instructional videos. I'm not sure if it's the right piece of equipment but here's the problem. It's very easy for the guitar to spike depending on on hard the guitar player plays something, likewise, it can go very soft. And I find myself having to constantly monitor the levels, and constantly adjusting them. For the purpose of instruction (talking and demonstrating), I do like to normalize because it just gives everything a bigger presence. but when I get spikes in the audio, normalization doesn't work well. Would a limiter allow me to set it so that nothing gets recorded louder than say -10 db, and then in my NLE, I can normalize it to 0 db for a nice big full sound on the video?
     
  4. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

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    You are recording digital? Then simply set the maximum so it doesn't clip and use the tons of dynamic range you have, then you sort it out in the edit, or post-production. Perhaps simply riding a fader, or maybe a compressor to retain at least some dynamic range. Limiters on record are pretty pointless - as you have the ability to record more dynamics that the playback systems can handle. Normalisation is a crude device to bring average levels up, as you say, till the highest peak reaches your normalisation maximum. Compression brings down the dynamic range, but in general - record every source separately synced, and sort out the balance when you are in a controlled environment. Compression, limiting and effects are bad news to use on the master source material. I never record via any form of processing - as it's often a case that you cannot undo the damage. A brick wall limiter might have a place if your recording is totally wild and uncontrolled.
     
  5. MC208

    MC208 Active Member

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    How is that done? I'm using a ZED10FX mixer. I try to set the level so it doesn't go above what I want it to, but the guitar is so annoying because it constantly does. Never stays at a consistent level.
    I don't know compressor, or limiter, but just something I could put in that would keep the recording from having spikes that I don't want. This isn't a music performance, it's an instructional video. I know hardly anything about this stuff, but I do know that when my recording levels are lower, and then I normalize in the software, it sounds infinitely better. When I try to record at higher levels to avoid normalizing, then it sounds worse.
     
  6. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

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    You bash the guitar at the point where it peaks and back off a bit. My tascam interface distorts quite easily on the instrument inpout, so you hit hard, watch the red light and back it off so no matter what you do it can't peak . I presume you are panning voice hard left and guitar hard right then blending in the edit/PP?
     
  7. MC208

    MC208 Active Member

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    Yes that's correct, voice and guitar and panned left and right when recording, there' also a piano that's panned in the same direction as the voice
     
  8. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

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    The piano could confuse things as you'll lose the separation?
     
  9. MC208

    MC208 Active Member

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    I panned them that way because typically the piano isn't going to be playing when the guitarist is talking
     
  10. MC208

    MC208 Active Member

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    I went ahead and picked up a DBX 166A unit off eBay and connected it to the main outs from my mixer, and to the inputs on my camcorder. Can anyone recommend a really dumbed down tutorial on how to use the unit to accomplish my needs? I'll use one channel for voice and the other channel for the guitar. Main goal is to prevent spikes in audio, so I think that's where the peak limiter feature will be used (just one knob, I can handle that one!). Someone on my video forum told me not to bother with the expander/gate feature. So that leaves the Compressor feature to figure out.
     
  11. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

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    It's going to take some practice to get it right. The settings are going to depend on the specifics of the signals in question and the desired output results.

    You're correct, the peak limiter will deal with keeping peaks under control. The compressor section is slower. It doesn't have attack and release controls like many compressors but it has "content dependent" automatic attack and release. So at least that's less for you to think about. I would use "over easy" for the voice and probably not use it for the guitar. It creates a relatively gradual transition from 1:1 ratio to whatever you set. Beyond that you'll have to experiment to get the right ratio and threshold for the source material. You need to be able to hear the results in real time and take some care to set it correctly, which is why I would lean toward doing it in post.
     
  12. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

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    I would avoid setting the limiter on the 166 series to anything other than maximum (+20dBu). It's the analogue equivalent of going over full scale on a digital system (a pair of diodes connected to a +/- static voltage set by the limiter knob), and despite the soothing talk in the manual about soft limits, it sounds just as bad.

    If you want to use the dbx166A to reduce peak excursions, set a high compressor ratio with fast attack and release times, and then carefully adjust the threshold control downwards starting from maximum until you reach a setting that you think suits the programme material. Then notch it back again by a couple of dB.

    A warning about the 166 series: the contacts on the push switches go dirty very quickly, resulting in the acoustic operation jumping all over the place during use. To correct this, I would unplug the mains, take the top cover off and give the switches a good soaking in a decent-quality contact cleaner while operating them vigorously. Concentrate on one switch at a time, and let the unit dry out well before re-applying power.

    You may have to remove the LED board to get proper access to the switches, but it's not difficult to do. I often perform switch cleaning on 166XLs that I encounter, but for some reason have never met a 166A that needed instant attention.
     
  13. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

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    The 166A doesn't have attack and release controls.
     
  14. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

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    There is none on the LA2a either and no one as ever complained ;)
     
  15. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

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    Right, but I'm responding to Boswell's suggestion to set the attack and release controls.
     
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  16. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

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    It must be the original 166 and the 166xl that have the attack/release controls, where the "cut down" 166A does not. It's the xl I see the most of. Equipping them with BB op amps in the signal path and replacing the original VCAs with That devices turns them into remarkably respectable units for the money.
     
  17. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

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    The original black 166 also lacks attack and release. The 266 varieties always had them.
     
  18. MC208

    MC208 Active Member

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    So you're saying NOT to use the peak limiter feature to catch peaking, but instead use the compressor feature? I messed around with the unit a little bit the other day testing the noise gate feature to see if it got rid of some hum we're experiencing. It did, so I ordered a dedicated noise gate pedal to take care of that. I think it will be better than using the gate in the 166A. Anyways, I will try your suggestion with the compressor, by following your instructions and see how it goes.
     
  19. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

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    OK, but Boulder correctly pointed out that the 166A doesn't have the same compression attack and release time controls as the 166xl that I was basing my comments on - it just has a fast/slow button. Worth a try, though, at least in the fast mode (MODE button out).
     
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