My usual vocal chain is Shure SM7b, Api 512c, Wavearts Track5 (which I only use the Gate section) and Izotope Nectar. Recently I took my API Lunchbox and SM7b to a friends house to record. He didn’t have any plug-ins on his computer and I realized he needed compression on his vocals. When I bought my Lunchbox and 512c I also bought an API 527 compressor. It’s always been in the Lunchbox but I rarely use it. In fact, I’m ashamed to say I just use software compressors, mostly presets and never really figured out how to set my 527. That’s what this post is all about. This is a question to Wire to the Ear readers. What would be a good setting on my 527 compressor for vocals. What’s a good starter setting and what should I adjust?
I’ve already asked a friend (Cesar B. de Guzman aka @cyndiseui) on Instagram. I set my 527 as he thought would be a good start. He makes a lot of music but what do you think?
“527 is a VCA comp that has a very fast attack response. U could do this ratio 1 til 3. Attack 3 o clock. Release 8-9 o’clock. Set to new if you want something sparkling style or old as punch vintage type… The only thing you could adjust yrself is threshold. Technically you could leave from 2 to 3 db down from the threshold as a starter.” – cyndiseui
Here’s a few photos from this weeks studio upgrade. I’ve waited too long to add an API Lunchbox to my life. Within a few minutes of hooking up the 512c mic pre I was ear to ear smiling. Ableton’s routing makes things extra awesome because I can send any channel out to the Lunchbox and back with just a few clicks. The 512c also has seperate Mic and Line inputs with a toggle switch. It’s all very convenient and sounds absolutely awesome. I sent some softsynths, drum machines and iPad all quickly through the 512c and 527 compressor and back. The overal mix simply shined clearly. Once I added vocals also through the new toys and a new Shure SM7b mic everything turned into magic. Why did I wait so long?
“Founded in 1968, Automated Processes Inc. (or API) are manufacturers of high-end recording studio equipment including stand-alone preamplifier designs, equalization units and mixing consoles. They are perhaps most noted for their modular approach to equipment manufacture with their trademark lunchbox design which allows preamplifier, compressor and equalizer modules to be added to a recording studio design as budget allows. These modules include the 512c preamp, the 525 compressor, the 527 compressor, the 550a and 550b semi-parametric equalizers, and the 560 graphic equalizer.” – Wikipedia
I’ve used these API units in Lunchbox form and they are amazing. I once did a A/B test comparing my mic with 5 Powercore plug-ins vs a lone API 512c compressor. No matter how I tweaked things the raw 512c killed it. The new Channel Strip puts the very best API has to offer in a single rackmount unit. Expect a street price around $2700. If you do vocals and your sticking with making music for the next 10+ years it’s worth the price.
“The Channel Strip is made up of a 512c mic pre, our famous 550A EQ, the 527 Compressor and the 325 Line Driver, combining many well-known and highly coveted pieces in one package. Each processing piece can be switched in or bypassed individually and a Flip switch allows the compressor to be placed after the EQ if desired. Additionally, The Channel Strip includes an insert point, sidechain input, multiple metering locations as well as the famous API 2520/transformer combination.” – apiaudio.com
A real analog kick processed by some monster hardware boxes. Record it 65 ways and give it away free. That’s what Wave Alchemy just did. Hey, it got me to their site to look around.
“65 24-bit 100% royalty free kick drum (Jomox AIRBase 99) samples which have been recorded through an A-grade signal chain including devices such as the Thermionic Culture Vulture, Empirical Labs Distressor and API 512c pre-amp.” – wavealchemy.co.uk
For years many musicians, producers and music fans have been crying foul about the “Loudness War“. This is when a mastering engineer compresses and limits the dynamic range of a song to make it louder to the point of ruining the music. Many times it’s not the engineer’s fault as he or she is just following directions from the label or the band. It makes some sense you would want your album to be louder than others as it would stand out but when everyone is doing it the end effect is music is simply ruined.
Things have finally boiled over with the release of the new Metallica album Death Magnetic. Apparently it sounds so squashed that even their metal head fans can’t stand it. To add fuel to the fire a version of some of the album tracks appear mastered more tastefully in the newly released Guitar Hero 3 (video game).
“Music released today typically has a dynamic range only a fourth to an eighth as wide as that of the 1990s. That means if you play a newly released CD right after one that’s 15 years old, leaving the volume knob untouched, the new one is likely to sound four to eight times as loud. Many who’ve followed the controversy say “Death Magnetic” has one of the narrowest dynamic ranges ever on an album.” – wsj.com
I’m pleased this is getting attention because I personally can’t stand the smashed sound. It’s fine when it’s part of the artistic endeavor (such as any song by Justice) but other than that I find it seriously unpleasant.
The Wall Street journal has a great interactive graphic online comparing the sound quality of an old and new Metallica track: click here
If your a Metallica fan (I’m not) you can sign a petition to have the album re-mastered: click here
Read the full Wall Street Journal story: click here
Wikipedia’s entry for the Loudness war: click here