$150 budget rack compressors

LazerBeakShiek

200M Subscribers
$150 dollar VCA compressors. What would you direct a podcaster/performer/voice over/etc. to?

If a beginner home recordist was looking for a rack compressor, what would you recommend? People want maximum serviceability, and the ability to do the tricks. And do it without ruining the input signal (Alesis 3630 im looking at you, WTH).

I placed a hard limit of $150 dollars. Then came up with some common brands that have proliferated the market. Since compressors require no maintenance or service, I advise you to buy used.

ART Pro VLA, Attack specs at 1 ms ...its got tubes. Goes to infinity and beyond! er well infinity at least. Im not sold on ART. XLR TRS( non VCA)
2msAttk.jpg

FMR RNC 1773 Attack is .2ms, but its a slower more musical type of the device. It colors the sound in a positive way. It would be perfect for duty on a Keyboard's outputs. Use it on vintage type waveforms. Roland MSV1 JV04 SRX07 or the like, and probably leave it there till you are sick of it. .2 Msec is just enough to get the transients to pop on MAX setting. Low ratios arent great for limiting duty. Hard to beat on vintage applications. ***Star*** this one and put it in yer favorites. Nice Job FMR! TRS insert, unbalanced. stereo. 25:1 max ratio.
2msatk.jpg

Alesis 3630....It does a speedy .1 MSec attack supposedly. But with a 40 ms release..This thing is garbage. It degrades the input in a nonmusical way. Useless. Destroy!
.1msAtkwith 40msrelease.jpg

Behringer 2100/2200 ...It says 1 msec attack. infinity. Not exactly respectable specs. It was not exactly transparent, and had a dimming result. Id pass. XLR TRS
1msattk.jpg

DBX 1066 , the 1066 is the best out of the 166-266-X66's. The DBX does not disappoint with specs or features. Great Attack .04 Msec. THATs what Im talkin about baby! Infinity. Expander gate. This is not the rich 160XT with a Jensen output transformer. This 1066 is a cheaper system and there is some loss through it. That kills it. Cause it has the numbers to be a champ. It doesnt sound like anything. The attack and release curves are not designed to add color. XLR TRS
.04msatk.jpgScreenshot 2022-04-28 131930.jpg

Aphex 661/651 .. Has the specs and numbers of a champion. Aphex kicks out a .05 msec Attack and a .04Sec release..Holy Shit thats fast hardware! TUBES! Transparent! This can do all the compressor tricks. It can redefine the sound with the HFX Aphex exciter circuit. Because after hard compression the first thing you want back are the highs . This EQs them, adding highs back in. Oh, on the inside. Each part has a jumper to defeat the parameter. So the tube, or HFX part is completely removable from the circuit. Has complete input gain and output gain knobs, for saturation tricks. XLR TRS TS link. Mono. 50:1 max ratio

Screenshot 2022-04-27 063925.jpg
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The Aphex 661 or 651 are probably the best deals going. The FMR RNC is a runner up, but cannot do the tricks the 661 can. What can you add to this list?
 
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Hmrc

Member
Behringer apart (....for various obvious reasons)....
-Aphex
-FMR
-DBX

about Art , really at 100-150 bucks repairless ?
 

LazerBeakShiek

200M Subscribers
All prices are current.

About the FMR products. I dont like how the FMR RNC or RNLA do not handle +4 balanced. I thought they were TRS +4 , but they are only TRS insertable. So FMR compressors are unbalanced. Shame because the RNLA and RNC are of the greatest sounding compressors. Very impressive sounds.
 
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CoolCat

Well-known member
Symetrix before the covid, supplychain, inflation....had 528E that were amazing for $80 or so. Built like tanks and were $800-$1000 new, mainly large systems it seems. It had the channel strip for a voice and one of the best noisegate/enhancers Ive had, compressors invisible when used in small doses and just a great unit. They went up to $250 and blah balh blah over time, maybe with a recession coming prices will come back down.

the RNC is great and easy and small. Had the Aphex too its a fav sound for me but I have had a few units just "old age" noises or dead channels...1990 was a long long long time ago. Aphex were amazing for $59 and that range, kind of like Symetrix in my mind...awesome deals sub $100. Maybe even ok to $200 but then theres Brand New stuff like RNC that even pro's say are great performing pieces.
 

bouldersoundguy

Well-known member
I wouldn't get too hung up on specs.

The ART works well on a lot of things, including vocals. I've used it successfully on bass and pedal steel. It might not work on some things, but I've found it useful.

The RNC is pretty nice, but I've found it to be "puffy" sounding. Again, that will work on some things an not others.

The 3630 is junk. I had one.

I've had bad luck with the older Behringer compressors. They sounded grungy even in bypass.

I haven't used the 1066 much, but I'd really only resort to that if I was seriously short on space. I'd much rather have any of the 166 models. I use an original Project 1 266, and I can make it work on most things. It's not spectacular, but it's passable.

I have not used any of the Aphex compressors enough to comment.
 

Folkcafe

Active member
I just did a quick search on Ebay and boy it seems that prices are up by quite a bit. Was going to suggest you stretch a bit to something like a Drawmer MX30 but those like most are way past your budget. Decent compressor and pretty transparent brick wall limiter. I've used a couple as a safety to keep from clipping over the years and they work well. Seems like a bad time for new and used.
 

LazerBeakShiek

200M Subscribers
Had the Aphex too its a fav sound for me but I have had a few units just "old age" noises or dead channels...1990 was a long long long time ago. Aphex were amazing for $59 and that range, kind of like Symetrix
Aphex is awesome.
I have not used any of the Aphex compressors enough to comment.
For what they cost , Aphex is a great deal. Their AGC is top drawer. The compellor is part of that set. The whole thing works together and is impressive. I copied WHBC's station channel..yeah like 1992-93? They rented eveything. I had to replace or upgrade some pieces , but quality and worth are good words for them. It can color the microphone input or be transparent.
Pic of my channel strip.
20220430_135834.jpg

I own or owned the ones I listed. Im not just shitting on em.

RNC on my Fantom X w/ SRX07..sweet
20220430_154740.jpg

Drawmer is a nice brand, expensive no? My Aphex channel was like $200 bucks on ebay(whole thing), still is probably..
 
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RFR

Well-known member
I have an Aphex Compellor. Came from a tv station. Good enough for leveling out on air broadcasts, good enough for me
 

jamesperrett

Active member
My first compressor was the Drawmer LX20. It is still in my rack - unlike a few others that I've tried in the intervening years. It is a soft knee compressor with a fixed ratio but they've chosen the characteristics well so that it works on a wide variety of sources. It looks like there are some advertised that are within your budget.
 

LazerBeakShiek

200M Subscribers
I have an Aphex Compellor. Came from a tv station. Good enough for leveling out on air broadcasts, good enough for me
Its an AGC. A pre-compressor, compressor.

My first compressor was the Drawmer LX20. It is still in my rack - unlike a few others that I've tried in the intervening years. It is a soft knee compressor with a fixed ratio but they've chosen the characteristics well so that it works on a wide variety of sources. .

Interesting, I know nothing about it..Balanced/unbalanced?
Screenshot 2022-05-01 202642.jpg
I see its got independent attack and release. Knobs say .1Msec atk and .1 Sec release. The release is nice and tight, so you can narrow the dynamics. Then you got a output that does reduction, so you can push against it with a preamp. Get some satch..(saturation).
 

CrowsofFritz

Flamingo!
My vote is on the ART. Seriously good stuff for the price. I’m wondering why you would need a super fast compressor for vocal work?

ART is no joke. It’s only tangentially related, but their MPA II beat out Neves, SSLs, APIs in a blind test. It consistently performed well to the listeners.

 

LazerBeakShiek

200M Subscribers
The Art VLA has a set Attack and Release. It is fixed. The fast setting is 1 or 2 Msec. It does go to infinity on a Knob for ratio. You want to make it fast to catch pops and transients, then use the release to narrow it dynamically. Isolating the part of the sound you want and magnifying it in the mix is what compression is about..You need complete sweepable controls.

The VLA II is an Opto Vactrol..the VLA II has a photocel, albeit you get control knobs for attack and release. No infinity in the VLAII.

Higher the ratio the harder the brick.

Never tried the VLAII.

FUNNY----> I was told the VLA was an 'ON VCA' . whatever the fuck that means.....It was a typo, they meant NON-VCA.
 
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jamesperrett

Active member
The LX20 is unbalanced. It was designed to work with the unbalanced insert points that are normally used on budget (and not so budget) mixing desks. It seems to use a sensible grounding scheme and has never given me any problems with noise or ground loops.
 

bouldersoundguy

Well-known member
If I've got a selection of compressors, I don't need every single one to do everything. The Pro VLA (original) does a lot of things really well, which is good enough for me. Not having fully variable attack and release has never been a problem.
 

bouldersoundguy

Well-known member
The people who don't, probably want the most options for their investment.

An Easyrider wont cut it.
Yes, if you've got only one or two, you need them to cover all bases. But if you're mixing anything bigger than a duo, you'll probably want more than four channels of compression, so it starts making sense to trade doing everything for some variety.
 
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