The colors of analog compressors. (SSL vs 1176 vs VariMu)

Analog compressors are mythological beasts.

Since the first radios started using limiters to raise the volume of the broadcasted music, they have been implemented in studio and some models have become legendary for how they very uniquely color the sound. 
As a result, nowadays you can buy all kind of clones and plugin emulations and each brand swears by the perfect imitation of the original vibe of those historical units.
Since I’ve been producing music, I’ve become more and more passionate about some of them so I ended up with my small but very precious collection of analog compressors.
I’ve recently started to endorse IGS Audio‘s Tubecore 3U Mastering Edition Vari-Mu compressor, which adds to my stereo Hairball 1176 Rev. D Fet limiter, my modded G SLL (project by Gyraf Audio) and more analog beauties.

Amazingly fat mastering vari-mu all tube all analog compressor
(Bellezebu loves its “warmth” too!)
Analog compressors: The test!

I’ve tested them next to their plugin emulations to understand better how each model really affects the sound during my mixing sessions, and to make it clearer how each emulation/clone really behaves.

Here are the protagonists of my comparison test:

UREI 1176 models
• 2x 1176 Hairball Rev D (Linked stereo)
• Slate FG 116
• Waves CLA 76 (Blacky)
• Ik Multimedia Black 76
SSL Bus Compressor models
• Custom built G-SSL (w/Sidechain filter mod)
• Slate VBC FG-Grey
• Waves SSL G Comp
 Vari-Mu models
• IGS Tubecore 3U ME
• Slate VBC Fg-Mu
• Waves Puigchild 670
Analog bus compressor
Custom made G • SSL
Some technical stuff before going to listen to the files
orHow the test was done
Analog compressors
My stereo 1176’s

I’ve used a stereo stem of drums to drive the compressors and I’ve accurately matched both input and output levels among the same models, same thing for the gain reduction.
You can imagine how that’s a not-so-easy task to do, for the reason that each unit has a different monitoring & GR philosophy, but still I’ve been pretty meticulous.

That said, this test doesn’t want to be – at all – a scientific test for comparing noise levels, exact RMS/ Peak levels, etc.
The reason why I’ve done it, instead, is because I wanted to capture to the different coloration that each compressor is capable of, during tracking/mixing, confronting hardware vs software, and that’s why the drums have been compressed twice.
Therefore the files feature a first round of compression and a second round of compression starting at 0.31 (where the first round is sent again into the compressors).


I’ve connected everything with balanced cables and the AD/DA converters are those of my Yamaha MR816x interface.
Ps: The 1176’s and SSL’s have been fed 4db input gain more than the Vari-Mu’s because I wanted to keep the studio routing/settings of the production I’m now working on, but still the i/o gain and GR are matched between sw/hw.

The settings
1176 compression

Attack: 11 o’clock
Release: Fastest
Ratio: 20

 SSL compression

Attack: 10
Release: .1
Ratio: 4

 Vari-Mu compression

Attack: 0,3 
Release 0,3 
Input Gain: 6db

Let’s listen 
(0:00 – 0:31 – First round of compression)
(0:31 – end – Double compression)

Have you made up your mind? Which one is your favorite? I have my preferences…

Download the files (right click – save as):

Dry :


Hairball: IK: Slate: Waves:


GSSL: Slate: Waves:


IGS: Slate: Waves:


Neumann, Neve, Saturation, Coffee and Emigration • Recording “Stealing Chameleons” by Kamikaze Test Pilots

I. The Migration

In November I came to Berlin with my beloved woman, and a good ol’ friend o’mine helped us drive all the way to this magic city and we settled in a tiny apartment in Ostkreuz in F’hain, bringing all our stuff like a convoy… We were carrying mostly instruments, preamps, compressors, amps and soundproofing material. Crazy. 

II. God **** the queen!

After a few days tho, actually, we flew to Oxfordshire (UK) where I reached the crazy English/Zimbabwean band Kamikaze Test Pilots to record and produce their album “Stealing Chameleons”, in the beautiful Henwood Studios, filled with beautiful vintage microphones and instruments and a pretty nice neve console. We recorded everything LIVE and LOUD.

III. Harder! Rougher!

One of the cool aspects of recording these guys is that they are not afraid to push it till it sounds rough and basically they like to enjoy being in the studio, so we ended up experimenting quite a bit.
We were basically not only agreeing but also hyped about wanting to try not to edit stuff too much, using as much acoustic sounds as we could, delivering as much as possible the raw energy of their playing.

So we got everything cabled up, a bunch of good mics such as cascade fatheads, neumann u87s, sm7s, md421, all straight into the neve preamps and started recording takes and takes, coffee upon coffee, blasphemy upon blasphemy we ended up having some cool stuff recorded and taped into a massive studer tape recorder, ready to be mixed in my home studio Lullaby Productions in Berlin and to be mastered by mastering wizard Pete Maher.


Emigre’, one of the most beautiful and at the same time experimental tracks of this album, reflects completely this kind of laidback attitude to producing we shared… I ended up playing the accordion on this one, Valeria ended up singing la-la-la…, Ryan singing Bom Bom Bom, and the result is clearly something which goes far beyond the classic rock sound.

Kamikaze Test Pilots – Emigré

When you’re given new shoes they will shine
When you’re given good news you will shine
I know how nice it is
It’s all new, and that’s what it is

When they shout out “non grata!” you must smile
When they shout out nasty things you must smile
I know how hard it is
It’s all new, and that’s what it is

Do these guys rock?