Testing a few compressors on Cody Copeland Vocals

Posted by on Mar 31, 2016 in Uncategorized | No Comments

Note:  Soooo you’ll see below that this says i was working on this article as of Feb 13th.  And I was, it’s not like I had a valentines date.  But the reality was, sometimes websites give you trouble.  The theme apparently killed my audio players, and thus, showing you guys audio samples just wasn’t going to work.  Anyways, it’s up and running now, albeit i’m a bit lazy to finish it (that and I sorta forgot the full scope of where I was going.  Anyway, read on, cause you know, compressors!  If you want the short version – the Fab Filter ProC won.

— The article, two months later…

Cody Copeland – Compressor Shoot out

Hey folk and welcome to 7:15AM on Saturday the something of February.  I think it’s the 13th… yea, that’s right.  Valentine’s Day is tomorrow (boooooo 😉 ) and Copy Copeland, a young and talented singer-song writer, will perform his first show in the Bay Area… in my backyard, very soon now.

That’s right folks, once again, Berkeley does it first.

In preparation for the event, we’ve been preparing a recording.  An EP consisting of five songs written and produced Cody himself, and engineered by… me.  We’ve had fun trying some new stuff out to see if we could produce a nice sounding folk recording in my home studio.  The first was the addition of a stereo pair of Rode condenser mics.  We recorded all the guitar tracks using those setup in an X-Y pattern.  This was motivated by me not feeling like my GrooveTube condenser was keeping up on the guitar.

This has worked pretty darn well, I must say.  Those little mics did a great job.  And the GrooveTube came back, for vocals.  And vocals, folks, is why we’re all here today.

I am feeling like I really would like to evaluate my compressors in the context of vocals.  The great, and tedious A/B/C/D/E/…/N comparison.  And this, folks, is why god invented demo software, too.

The experiment is simple, I’m going to grab a 20 second loop or so from Cody’s song, Second Wind and I’m going to play that through a bunch of compressors.  I’m actually not going to try to them them the same, for a couple reasons:

  1. Not all compressors are controllable through the same interface.  Some are very simple (one knob or two knobs).  Now i’m sure there’s some argument about what’s a compressor and what’s not, but I don’t care about your thoughts at this time 😉
  2. I’m sort of after this meta-spiritual approach as to, “which compressor draws me to the best sound”, and this notion is fed by me relying on my ears while I compress, and not so much making sure the release times are all set the same for an even compression (fuck numbers! well, just today, anyway).

The software compressors I’m going to try:

  1. UAD 1176 (which model?  uhhh)
  2. Waves C1
  3. Logic’s compressor
  4. PSP Vintage Warmer 2
  5. FabFilter Pro C
  6. DMG Audio Compassion
  7. We could try the RComp, or the Vintage warmer, but I already know I’m not going to use them for this track, so compare just to know?  We’ll see how motivated I am after I fuck with all of these.

There are some other compressors I’m potentially interested in; some are even legends in the software compressor market.  But then again, they’re legends – they honestly look and sound exactly the same as they did years ago when I was a student being introduced to thousands of things I needed yet would never afford.  Sonnox Dynamics?  Yea, might be worth trying… but what exciting things have gone on since then?  I could do more digging in that department, too.

The reality is, there’s a billion fucking compressors out there.  I mean it, a billion.  Would I really try every one of them?  Maybe over the course of a… career… but not over the course of this project.  Luckily I can apply my ‘learning’ modifier for pretty much the rest of my life.

Alright, and with that, I’m off to the compressors.  I’ll be back in a little while.  Go get coffee or something.

… <stuff was happening> <and things> <and some mexican eggs down the street>

Upgrade Woes

Aaand i’m back.  So… that was a pain in the ass.  You see, I’m fresh out of an upgrade and I’m learning all kinds of things about my new setup.  It’s like,  you get to keep part of your studio, and another part of your studio you’ve got to part ways with.  Eh fuck it, time to get down with some new ideas eh?

That said, I’m having weird issues beyond the sound stuff.  For example, my command key seems to only send ctrl.  I have no idea.  No fucking idea.  I’ve remapped my capslock key as now I can keep working with some vein still pumping subtle sanity.

And, probelms with the DAW?  Well, my PSP plugins don’t seem to work.  Or rather, they work… sometimes.  And sometimes awful horrible things happen.  I’ve never seem them act this way, but I’m fully up to date.  Guess that means the VintageWarmer 2 does not win.  However, I was able to try the rest, although the Waves plugin gave me a little trouble too.

Results

The Clean

And of course, to judge, you should hear the original. The process applied is a high pass at like 100 or something. And I’ve go an UAD Studer tape emulation, which is coloring the sound. That’s okay, this will still tell me how this compressor will fit in my standard workflow. Or at least, my Cody Copeland workflow.

 

UAD 1176

So the UAD 1176 is one of a million plugins modeling  this old hardware compressor.  I’ve played with the Pro Tools one (bomb factory i think?).  The UAD has decent reviews on the gear slutz, so why not try it?  i particularly like this compressor because it’s just so damn simple.  I mean, check out this interface:

Don’t worry folks, the software renditions look exactly the same.  That hardware one is UAD in fact, I wonder how it stacks up to the software.  Well, hear the results for yourself.

My thoughts are that this compressor gives you some easy warm and gentle saturation.  You can push it a bit too and it works.  I wouldn’t say i’m completely blown away.  In the past I’ve been a big fan of these variants on drums.

Waves C1

I bought this waves comp a million years ago.  A lot of the time I think of it as my ‘clean’ compressor.  You know, the one you use when you don’t want any color.  I like it because you can really fine tune the hell out of it, and it comes with a gate and expander too.  You can use them all as individual plugs, or you can go nuts and use them in one epic mega plug.  Anyways, listen for yourself:

This does a decent enough job.  Nothing mind blowing, clean though.  I think the air comes through real nice.

Logic’s compressor

This is the compressor that ships with logic.  In all reality, it’s like an epic mega compressor.  It’s got quite a few modes.  I don’t remember (well, I’m too lazy) too look up the mode I used.  I could write a whole article about the different sounds this comp is capable of.  In general though, especially for a comp I didn’t pay extra for, it sounds good.

Definitely some colour here.  Kinda balls out the mids a pinch.  (balls out is a term I’ve coined as now).  I feel as though the air does suffer somewhat (a loss of cripsness if you will).

PSP Vintage Warmer 2

VintageWarmer – you have been my goto magic knob for fucking years. Years and fucking years. Like the first plugin I bought, when I had no money for plugins. That 100 bucks was it, the wad, and I blew it… on you. But you just don’t work reliably anymore. This is super sad, so I hope the developer puts some love into it. But I mean, I’m not expecting much 🙁

FabFilter Pro C

What can I say about the fab filter plugs?  Well, they are nice.  All around nice – I mean, the look and feel is nice, the interface is nice, the sound is nice, the precision is nice.  It’s all just fucking nice.  I actually discovered fab filter when working on my album; I bought the multi-band compressor for some fun sub bass side chaining.  I think I like the Pro C just as much.

I gotta say, this helps the balls pop out a bit, and keeps the top end tight (crisp).  For this test I used the ‘vocal’ mode actually.  Does what it says it does I guess.  I need to explore this compressor more for sure – but for this test, I’ve got enough.

DMG Audio Compassion

This plugin I had read was decent so I thought I’d try it out.  Decent, absolutely.  Winner?  Not quite.  Overall, I feel like the compressor does what I want it too, and it doesn’t get in the way.  The highs are still crisp.  But maybe the low/mids are too clean?  I think I like the color applied by some of the other compressors on the vocals.

Conclusion(s)

Well, long story short (and i said this at the top) – the Fab Filter Pro C was the winner.  It just got me everything I wanted from a compressor on vocals.  Warmth, presence, and a crispy top.  I ended up buying the Pro C quite a while back, in fact (back when I wrote the bulk of this article, before my site took a shit).  It’s good, and I can’t wait to try it some more.  I have this feeling that it’ll be my new Vintage warmer (although if they fix the Vintage Warmer… i’ll be all about it).

I suppose in the future, I could outline what I want before I do these experiments, but I probably won’t (i’ll know what I like when I like it). I don’t have quite enough experience to know overall what I’m hoping to find.  Mostly, I just hope to find one I like more than the other ones.  And with that said, I’ve got some great female vocals to do this shoot out on in the future.  Will the Pro C win again too?  Maybe that’ll be a good time to try out some more demos while I’m at it.

Anyways, see you next time folks.   I’ve got some great articles in the works (pre-amp and microphone shoot outs, and the aforementioned female vocal shoot out).

Oh, and, you know, we’re mixing Cody’s record now… it’s sounding good.  Stay tuned.