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LIVE Compressor / Limiter Software

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Ervz Tia
LIVE Compressor / Limiter Software
on Dec 16, 2008 at 5:51:43 am

Hello,

I'm looking for a basic & simple software processor for a live USB microphone (or line). It's becoming popular now and there should be a way to take the quality close to broadcast level.

At least a decent dynamics processor/limiter to just pop the program audio out there.

Do you know any simple/cheap or even free software?

Thank you very much.



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Ty Ford
Re: LIVE Compressor / Limiter Software
on Dec 16, 2008 at 2:31:44 pm

Hello Ervz and welcome to the Cow Audio Forum.

"Broadcast quality" has become an interesting term. Many think there has been a major decrease in broadcast quality; that broadcast quality isn't as good as it used to be. That's another discussion.

Really good audio is the predecessor of good broadcast quality. Adding compression and limiting can be part of the equation, but they won't fix bad audio.

The audio software/hardware you'd be running would have to have enough DSP (digital signal processing) to compress/limit in real time. The new digital mics from Neumann come with a software input strip that has a high-pass filter, compression and limiting. The are AES, not USB. They are expensive, but sound better than broadcast quality.

I am not aware of any USB based software/hardware systems that do compression/limiting in real time. There may be some, but that's a lot of computing power and you may run into latency problems if you're listening while speaking. I'd probably put a hardware comp/limiter in between the mic and the input. The symetrix 528 and dbx 286a are good basic mic processors. You don't tell us anything about your specific application so it's a bit difficult to say much more.

Regards,

Ty Ford




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Ervz Tia
Re: LIVE Compressor / Limiter Software
on Dec 17, 2008 at 1:42:26 am

Thanks Ty!

Wow, a guru.
Yes, I agree, there's a lot in the "broadcast quality" term.

Actually, I do audio both ways: the legal (broadcast) and guerilla (USB) way.

What brought my concern, I guess pushing the discussion forward like you mentioned, is the quality of most broadcast on the internet.

I occasionally listen/watch my favorite podcasts and really think they can improve the quality. I know it's already a compressed medium in terms of resolution but one important thing is the overall loudness/level of the program.

You're right, I'm picturing a use of an analog mic and a channel strip (compresssor, eq...). That would be awesome!

But the fact is, a lot of them are plugged in straight via USB mic. It's easy to fix it in post but live is another story.


this is good.












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Ty Ford
Re: LIVE Compressor / Limiter Software
on Dec 17, 2008 at 1:08:04 pm

Ervz,

Here's a "Ty Ford engineered solution." Mic>dbx 286a preamp processor>Line to Mic level pad > Centrance MicPort Pro>computer

http://www.dbxpro.com/286A/286A.php
http://www.frontendaudio.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=7178
http://www.centrance.com/products/mp/

Regards,

Ty Ford

Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide






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Ervz Tia
Re: LIVE Compressor / Limiter Software
on Dec 18, 2008 at 1:47:26 am

awesome gears!

hey, nice playing too...you rock!
i also play a little guitar. (not as clean as you do!)

thanks!







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Rodney Morris
Re: LIVE Compressor / Limiter Software
on Dec 19, 2008 at 10:54:27 pm

I prefer the Symetrix 528E Voice Processor for live voice over processing. It's a bit more expensive ($500), but you can get a very good sound with it, even with something as inexpensive as an SM57. 48V-Comp/Exp-DeEsser-EQ all in one box - 2 thumbs up!

Freelance Sound Technician/Mixer


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Ty Ford
Re: LIVE Compressor / Limiter Software
on Dec 19, 2008 at 11:48:22 pm

Rodney,

I used a 528 for years. The 286a came in for review and I was not prepared to like it. It was very good, much better for the price than a lot of more expensive channel strips and easier to use (not so much a problem for me but for less experienced users).

Have you used a 286a?

Regards,

Ty Ford

Here's my published review from 1997.

dbx 286A Mic Preamp/Processor -- Big Bang For The Buck
Ty Ford
Baltimore, MD

I was not expecting to enjoy my time with the dbx 286A mic preamp/processor. At
$349.95, I was expecting a couple of rubber bands, a lot of plastic, string and a pair
of dixie cups. I was wrong. Actually I have been waiting for the price of single
rack space mic processors to take a tumble. While the rest of technology had been
dropping in price, they had been gradually drifting up past the $750 mark, with
some as high as $1,250. The Rane VP12 ($599) was the first significant shift in the
price/performance ratio and the dbx 286A beats that price.

What we have here is a mic pre/line level input with switchable phantom supply,
compressor, de-esser, enhancer, expander gate and output control. The effects
can be switched out of the circuit as a group or turned off individually with the
effects bus IN. The order of the effects can not be changed. There is also an
unbalanced TRS insert point if you want to add your favorite outboard pieces to the
chain. The insert point is between the preamp and the processor sections. All
rotary pots are multiple detent pots, which help you get back to exact previous
settings.

The front panel offers a detented, rotary Mic Gain knob with a +10 to +60dB
range. Following it are four input level LEDs (-20, -10, 0 and Clip). Next is a push-
button ON/OFF switch for the Phantom power and yellow LED to let you know it's
on. Following that is a highpass filter that drops everything below 80Hz at
18dB/octave. The Master Process Bypass button and a red LED are next.

The compression section is next. A DRIVE pot pushes the input of the
compressor and DENSITY pot controls the release time. To the right an eight
segment LED reads gain reduction from 3dB to 30dB. The de-esser is next with
frequency selector and threshold pots as well as 1dB and 6dB LEDs to indicate the
amount of de-essing.

The ENHANCER section follow with (LF) Low Frequency and (HF) High
Frequency Detail pots. The LF Detail boosts 80Hz while simultaneously cutting at
250Hz. It's a nice idea that gives you bottom without as much mud. It gives most
mics that RE20 sounding bottom, but can be over done.

HF Detail, some sort of spectral enhancement, is next. High frequencies are
extracted from a dynamic filter and are reinserted at a corner frequency starting
around 400-500Hz to 1.5KHz, depending on the input. If the level is lower, the
frequency changes very slightly. I'm here to tell you you CAN make it sound
really bad if you overdo it.

The EXPANDER/GATE section offers threshold and a ratio (1.1 to 10:1) knobs. It's
designed well enough to be adjusted to remove room ambience smoothly across
inhales during spoken word recording. If you push it too hard, or are using too
much compression, the expander sounds a bit ragged around the edges. Finally
the Gain for the effects section lets you tailor the gain of the processing section.
Thar particular gain stage is part of the processing buss and is out of the line
when the process section is in bypass.

HOW DOES IT SOUND
During my voice tests with a Gefell UM70 and Neumann U89, I was surprised at
how good the 286A mic preamp sounded. In a later session I used the 286A to
record a D28S Martin with a U89, with equally good results. It was slightly
brighter and with a little less meat than my high-priced, top-shelf preamps, but
embarrassingly close to them in quality. The SSM 2017 chip used as main mic pre
is a staple of the industry, but not known for exemplary performance. To get
answers, I called dbx and spoke to hardware engineer Eric Johnson. "We
might've biased the 2017 chip a bit differently. If you try to get 60 dB of gain, the
chip becomes unstable, so we backed off a hair. We also spent a lot of time with
layout; finding the worst and best possible places for each component. It took
several prototypes to get things as clean as possible. Originally, there was some
switching noise way down in the noise floor when the compressor was on."

Johnson noted that the compressor circuitry in the 286A is designed by Bob Orban,
and while different than that used in the dbx 166, is the same style as their 168A
compressor/de-esser unit, which is also an Orban design.

The only problem I had with the unit was a low-level buzz that came as the LF
detail knob was raised. The buzz was audible from when the LF knob was between
7 'o clock and 4 o' clock, but only very audible when the effects chain was engaged
with the gated closed or the input gain control was turned way down. With a
decent input level, the buzz was so low it could go unnoticed. When I mentioned it
to Johnson, he called me back, verifying that he had heard it on a unit there and
would look into it.

Having recently traded my RCA 44B for a Neumann U 89, I'm now using my
Clarence Kane rebuilt 77DX for torture testing visiting preamps. The 286A did
OK, but there was significant noise by the time I got enough gain out of the
preamp to get the low level 77DX up properly. The last three clicks of the mic gain
pot bring up large amounts of noise; too much to be really useful.

IN CONCLUSION
The four-language manual (French, German, Spanish and English) is simple,
explains the controls well, offers suggested settings for a variety of applications
and does not include any schematics. The 286A is a well-designed piece that
equals or exceeds the performance of more costly devices of its type. Nice job guys.

Ty Ford can be reached at http://www.tyford.com










Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide






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Ervz Tia
Re: LIVE Compressor / Limiter Software
on Dec 22, 2008 at 3:00:28 am

Great review!

I'm interested to try one. We've used DBX compressors but not the preamp ones. We are very pleased with them. I believe they have the same processing soul as the channel strip's.

Happy holidays!





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Rodney Morris
Re: LIVE Compressor / Limiter Software
on Dec 22, 2008 at 3:38:20 pm

I've not used the 286A yet. I should give it a listen sometime.

I used the 528 in my previous job quite frequently. I felt that the 528 was the complete channel strip because it also included an EQ section. Also, you can use any section of the strip (EQ, compression, de-esser) as stand-alone components due to the in/out connections on the rear of the unit.

Good review Ty.

Freelance Sound Technician/Mixer


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Ty Ford
Re: LIVE Compressor / Limiter Software
on Dec 22, 2008 at 4:43:10 pm

Rodney,

Thanks, man.

The 528 was my voice processor of choice when I used a 421 Sennheiser and later a Gefell M71.

The 286a came a long later and was simpler to wrap your head around the controls. I was OK with EQ and compression, but the OP may not be. The 286a was a nice surprise.

Regards,

Ty Ford

Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide






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