SH Spotlight Golden age of music: The difference between an analog compressor and analog limiter

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Steve Hoffman, Apr 2, 2007.

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  1. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter


    Correct.

    The dynamics that are left on the tape are untouched by my mastering. I only wish other mastering engineers left it alone as well.:mad: :cry: :thumbsdn: :shake:
     
  2. Sean Keane

    Sean Keane Pre-Mono record collector In Memoriam

    Steve, I know you can't stand digital compression. My question is- If digital mastering can sound good and have a warm analog sound (though some would say that is nowhere near the truth), then why can't digital compression mimic analog compression?
     
  3. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    I don't understand the question. Digital mastering? What is that? If you are speaking of what I do, that is ANALOG mastering dumped to digital at the last minute. I don't do digital mastering unless the source is digital.
     
  4. Sean Keane

    Sean Keane Pre-Mono record collector In Memoriam

    Okay. I'll put it this way- If digital recordings can sound good (as you have stated), then why can't digital compression sound good?
     
  5. Sean Keane

    Sean Keane Pre-Mono record collector In Memoriam

    I could put it other ways, but then even I won't understand the question!:laugh:
     
  6. markytheM

    markytheM Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toledo Ohio USA
    Sean, I've never heard a digital "anything" sound as natural as it's analog counterpart. I'm guessing that Steve likes to record the right way. I don't believe he uses compression (analog or otherwise) when mastering.


    Peace Love and don't dig-it-al,
    Marky
     
  7. David R. Modny

    David R. Modny Senior Member

    Location:
    Streetsboro, Ohio

    From "Long Time Gone" - David's autobiography:


    "Bill Halverson: I got up there while they were setting up to record
    Crosby's "Almost Cut My Hair" and he [Crosby] wanted to do it all live and
    I kept saying no, he couldn't do that. We set everybody up live and
    did it anyway. We were willing to take those risks. The feeling of the
    song sometimes demands that you do it all at once. "Almost Cut My
    Hair" needed that edge. I listened to it a couple of days ago and it
    still holds up as a performance. Back then I was living in L.A. and
    commuting to San Francisco. I lived alone in a motel, which didn't
    make for a very good marriage, but it wasn't a particularly good
    marriage anyway. That first CSN album was made on a real primitive
    board and machines and not only was I the engineer but I made
    coffee and cleaned the ashtrays and cleaned the backboards. I
    was a lot faster in those days. Now I rely on a good assistant.

    "Stephen Barncard: There I was, at the very beginning of Deja Vu.
    What a great time to drop in. It was one of the most scary and
    fascinating things I had ever seen in my life. With that much musical
    talent in one place burning up calories in the room, it was staggering.
    I had been in studios before, but nothing like that. I ended up doing
    a lot of tracking...I learned a lot from the guy and we never had a run-in
    or any kind of bad time. I thought he was creative. The major thing I
    learned from him about this particular group of individuals was a
    certain way to approach recording. First of all, you keep the tape
    rolling at all times. Record every fart, bleep, and squawk that happens.
    If you get it live, you try to get the first take. You try to save
    everything. You don't clip the beginnings and you don't take a lot of
    time getting the drum sounds. Live. That's why they got a live
    recording guy in the first place, for his background. There are various
    techniques of getting things recorded in the studio. One of them is being
    very social and just making sure everything's covered. Another is
    to try and anticipate what might happen, keeping an eye out for things
    that might happen and making yourself very sensitive to the setting,
    more than anything else. You don't worry about what kind of microphone
    you are going to use. If you can't get to it, you don't stop the session;
    you don't stop the music because something technical isn't to your
    liking. That was another thing Halverson taught me, by doing.
    On "Almost Cut My Hair", which was recorded totally live, we had
    one shot at it and I hadn't patched in the limiter. I watched Halverson
    hot-patch the limiter in an interval just before the vocal got to where
    it *had* to be in and he had the levels preset. Now, in anybody's book
    on recording live vocals, that's a pretty dangerous thing to do. He made
    it. He got it right on, and he needed that limiter because Crosby really
    belted it out later in the tune. That was an example of being on your toes,
    thinking on your feet, moving fast, the live recording technique that
    these guys always demanded."
     
  8. Andreas

    Andreas Senior Member

    Location:
    Frankfurt, Germany
    Steve has not said that "digital compression does not sound good". He said that compression at the mastering stage is what he never applies.
     
  9. Emilio

    Emilio Forum Resident

    In other words, even if CDs don't have the physical constraints of vinyl, compression can still improve the sound - or do you use it mostly because some of your remasters are also released on vinyl?
    Could you give us an example of a particular part of a song where you can clearly hear a limiter at work?
     
  10. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Analog compression if used judiciously can improve the sound, yes. It can make a mix sound more linear; all music occurring in the same "space".

    I don't like digital compression at all. I don't like digital EQ at all.
     
  11. bdiament

    bdiament Producer, Engineer, Soundkeeper

    Location:
    New York
    Hi Steve,

    "Surprised?"
    No. Shocked is closer to it. ;-}

    Could you (or anyone else) please point me to something that indicates this?

    To the best of my knowledge, Bob Fine on the "Living Presence" series set his levels based on the loudest sound the orchestra made and didn't touch them after that.
    Having worked for years with George Piros, I know he never patched any sort of dynamics processor into his cutting chain.

    I'm not as familiar with Layton and Moore's work on the "Living Stereo" series, not having as many of these in my collection, but I always thought they took a similar approach.

    Next, I expect to hear that Keith Johnson compresses too. :sigh:

    I would appreciate any leads on this.
    Thanks in advance.

    Best regards,
    Barry
    www.soundkeeperrecordings.com
    No compression/limiting here, ever!
    www.barrydiamentaudio.com
     
  12. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Barry,

    Do you have a Mercury Living Presence LP? Good, go put it on the turntable and measure the dynamic range. Oops! 30 db on a good day! Same with an RCA-Victor Living Stereo LP.

    That's just the LP record. The actual master tape might have more but the tube mic pre clipped way before 40db of dynamic range hit the console.

    Trust Steve on this! Play a Mercury or RCA-Victor classical CD from that golden era and look at your VU meters if you don't! Still great music and great recordings.
     
  13. bdiament

    bdiament Producer, Engineer, Soundkeeper

    Location:
    New York
    Hi Steve,

    Of course I trust you.

    As to the LP, I am red faced as I type that I have these on CD only (don't have a turntable - I know, I know - long story ---- it is hard to listen to any form of CD if you also listen to vinyl --- know what I mean?).

    Perhaps George rode the gain during mastering for vinyl (I know that is the only way he'd do this). What about the original recordings though?

    Best regards,
    Barry
    www.soundkeeperrecordings.com
    www.barrydiamentaudio.com
     
  14. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Barry,

    What I wrote above:

    "That's just the LP record. The actual master tape might have more but the tube mic pre clipped way before 40db of dynamic range hit the console."

    Check it out on one of your CD's. Note the "congestion" and saturation on the peaks, etc. Part of the limitations of the gear at the time.
     
  15. bdiament

    bdiament Producer, Engineer, Soundkeeper

    Location:
    New York
    Thanks Steve,

    I just re-read your post.

    :sigh:

    Now that you mention it, clipping/congestion is evident during the bigger moments.
    Next, I sit down with some CDs and some analysis software (Spectrafoo - it reaches way down into the signal).

    Still, this is not the same as the engineer actively deciding to insert deliberate compression/limiting into the recording chain. That's how I took the initial statement I responded to and why I asked for more info on this.
    (Artifacts from their gear are one thing but actively squeezing is something else.)
    Or are you saying they did?

    Oh man. :confused:
    What's next? Were the Beatle's vocals Auto-tuned?
    I'm not prepared for the world to end. :cry:

    Best regards,
    Barry
    www.soundkeeperrecordings.com
    No compression, no clipping, no kidding
    www.barrydiamentaudio.com
     
  16. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

  17. Jamie Tate

    Jamie Tate New Member

    Location:
    Nashville
    Great thread Steve!

    Obviously there's a lot of confusion over compression and limiting. I'm glad Steve has made a point of saying nearly all recordings use them, even those we generally think of as audiophile recordings. Just because it's used in the recording doesn't mean it'll sound flat, lifeless or compressed.

    Also, don't worry too much about distinguishing between the two. Just understand both reduce the dynamic range and a limiter is only a compressor with an extremely high setting (10:1 ratio or above), whose effects will obviously be more audible.

    Think of a waveform like you've seen posted in so many threads. A compressor kind of floats along the top and nudges the louder waves down a bit whereas a limiter will give those higher peaks a flattop haircut (think Herman Munster).
     
  18. Andreas

    Andreas Senior Member

    Location:
    Frankfurt, Germany
    Thanks for the clarification. Does that mean you would prefer mixing in the analog domain even if the recording were digital?
     
  19. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Andreas,

    That is a good question. The answer is, I don't know. It would depend on the recording style of the music and the actual type of music I would be mixing. Probably I would mix from digital to digital with an analog inter-stage..
     
  20. Jamie Tate

    Jamie Tate New Member

    Location:
    Nashville
    I've been recording almost exclusively in the digital domain for over ten years. I would never even think about mixing digitally, meaning in the box or with a digital console. Yes, people make it work but it's not ready yet.

    I did a mix with my analog console, analog outboard gear (mostly vintage compressors) and mixed to a 24/88.2 recorder. Then I mixed the same song completely inside of Pro Tools using the same control room and monitors but without any of the analog gear. I had it where I thought the mix was sounding pretty good so I finished my rides and printed the mix. I compared the two. There was absolutely no comparison! I was amazed! The depth, width and weight of the sound on the analog mix crushed the comparatively anemic sounding digital mix. The balances were the same but the sound of the digital mix sucked.

    I'm not saying there aren't some amazing sounding plug-ins, there are. They have some amazing sounding compressor and EQ programs now.
     
  21. McLover

    McLover Senior Member

    Location:
    Athens, Tennessee
    Hi Steve,

    The Teletronix LA-2A is by far my favorite compressor and the one I can't hear. I have several originals in superb condition as well as several of the newly made ones. This is one of Bill Putnam's finest contributions to the field of audio engineering and an undenied classic! I got my original ones for $25 each from a radio station in Knoxville, TN back before they were popular. Still use 'em often!
     
  22. Grant

    Grant In holiday HELL

    Location:
    United States
    I understand compression, it's various types, and the various uses of them. I just want Sean to understand as well. Then we can all be on the same page when the topic arises.
     
  23. Grant

    Grant In holiday HELL

    Location:
    United States
    OK, here's my question: what is the sonic difference between an analog compressor and a digital compressor, and why is one worse than the other? It seems to me that digital compressors, particularly software plug-ins, are improving all the time.

    I have an idea of what the differences are, but i've heard some good digital software compressors...

    My question is open to any of the pros...
     
  24. Jamie Tate

    Jamie Tate New Member

    Location:
    Nashville
    They are getting better all the time.

    If given a chance I know most people couldn't identify a compressor as being analog or digital. Debating it is trivial at best. Even more so with EQ. I doubt a dB or two of EQ would be easily identifiable as either analog or digital by anyone.
     
  25. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    A warm analog tube compressor smells better than a digital compressor.
     
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