Hi, I'm Streaky. Today, I'm reviewing the Spectra Sonics Spectra 1964 Compressor Limiter.
This a compressor limiter from Spectra. Now I love the look of this. It looks pretty old school, doesn't it? It doesn't get more old school looking that. They used to build desks and bits, and bobs like this. They built this basically in the sixties. Hence the name 1964. You can tell by the design looks retro-ey. And stuff they've made look the same. Apart from it's slightly bigger, because it's got some really fancy knobs on it with these Elma switches, which have partial. I don't think the originals had that. Obviously, that's what you want when you're in a mastering scenario like me. So you can recall stuff easily and know it's going to be the same every time. So that's the major change from the original. As I say, it's a limiter compressor, which means you can use it either as a limiter.
So it's very fast, super fast. You can use it as a limiter, or you can sort of slow it down a bit with the threshold, the slope and the release, and use it more as a compressor. So you get more of that vintage-y sound. But in a mastering scenario, you really want to use it as a peak limiter. Now what spikes my interest on this? There's a mastering engineer, you've probably heard of called Pete Lyman in LA. He's a real analog boy. I respect his opinion. When I saw a video of him saying that he had a couple of these and they were from the sixties and that they're hard to get hold of. And they're his secret weapon. Obviously, needs check those out straight away. So I found some, and I've got them. And they now distribute them in the UK and Europe. But mainly they're American.
So the front, let's run through this quickly. It's a mic and line input. So you can use this as a mic-pre as well. It's a normal reverse on the phase. Then you've got input pad, which -10, -20 and -30. You've got a Phantom power for the mic input. There is a threshold which is obviously where you're grabbing the sound for the limiting or compressing. There's a slope which changes the effect of the sound. You can have that on zero to a hundred, and then you can see the gain reduction that you've got going on here with the compression and limiting. There's a threshold here. So you can see exactly where you're grabbing the sound. And then there's an overload in case you're smashing that out and don’t realize this is sort of bit of a warning light. That's on the input side of things.
There's another overload on the output. On the meters, there's a little pad on the meters so that you can actually see what you're doing if you need to release. We all know what a release does. if you don't, if the more release you have, the slower it's going to let go of something. It's going to release it. And the effect of that on a compressor or a limiter means that it's going to add more sound of the box, but the problem is with that, sometimes it slows the track down and its smooth things out. So on certain material you want to add longer release times and faster release times if you want something that's snappy.
Output is obviously the output. These switches are lovely by the way, really nice. They look cool. On the back, there's two of these, this is left and right, so you need two of these. You've got a XLR line in and out. You've got one where you can just put wires straight in, rather than having a connector. You've got a ground and you can link it. So you can link the two together so that they're in stereo link rather than running independently. There's a mic in there, so you can use this as a mic pre to sort of limit or compress the mic. That's it. Super simple, pretty light. As you can see, pretty thin. But pretty wide, because they have to get these big, chunky, new knobs on. The insides probably like that, just to do the wiring. Pretty well-made. Pretty solid. Looks great.
How does this sound? So the way that I've been using it in a mastering scenario is as a peak limiter. Now, most limiters in mastering, I don't use analog limiters. Because in the back in the day, when I started for about first 10 years, I'd use a Maselec analog limiter, which was the thing to use. Everyone used it. Had a great sound and it got you a certain level going back into you’re A/D converters. But then the L2 came along and all these finalized boxes and stuff. People started getting things louder in the digital world. So to compete with that, you have to add about 60 bit of gain after an A/D converter. So I used to end up using the Maselec limiter more as a compressor and just smashing into it. Because it was really bringing joy and the sound down and pulling it together. It sounded great, but I couldn't use it as a limiter. So you have to be in the box, which is the way everyone does it now.
So when I heard that this was a peak limiter, I was thinking, oh, well, that's dull. Because I'm not going to be able to use that, pointless. But what's happened is, with this peak limiter, what it's doing, it's just shaving the tops. So what other mastering engineers have found, secret tip, is they put this at the front of their chain. So what they're doing is, this really causes so fast and because it's not massively colored. Because you're not using loads of release time, it goes through really fast, but it's just shaving the tops of the peaks off with the amount of threshold you're doing. So what you do, you just have the threshold say, it's just touching it. So it's only taking like half a dB, a dB off. But what it's doing is it's just going through all those frequencies and just nipping off those little tops.
So as it goes into all your other analog gear and any plugins, they're reacting in a different way because they've suddenly got a lot more level coming from all the other frequencies. So instead of it just one frequency determining where your compressor's doing, for example. That's where your threshold is for the compressor. The compressor has got a lot more to deal with now. So that's the theory on it, but how does it work in practicality? Because obviously as soon as I heard that and they were saying that they were getting people that were using it again, this perceived loudness, I'm obviously all over there all night because that's my game. So, I've been using it for about a week. So the threshold basically is on zero because by the time I get into it my gear, the threshold light is just flashing slightly.
I have the slope on zero. I don't want to have any kind of compression sound. The more of that on you get more compression, these green lights are just flashing down to about half or they're all on basically. But then it's just flashing between zero to -1. So I know I'm just shaving the peaks. The release time, I've got totally on zero. So I just want it fast. I want to go through my equipment. I don't want it to be changing the sound too much on the way in. I just want it shaved those pieces. So I've lined it up with a 1k tone and I've found out that it's actually with the sentence I've got and I've got literally the output. I've got it on the lowest it can go. And it's seems like this is adding a dB when I punch it in.
With that in mind, I'm going to do some demos now for you. So I'm going to play you through. What I'm going to do is after I've recorded it, I'm going to just put the match, the input. I'm going to put it up the before, up a dB so that you know that the before and after are matched the same. I don't want to do it out before recording. Because obviously it's going to pump more level into it and that defeats the object. I'll play those demos now, then you can see I've found that, when I've been working on various different tracks with it, I think guitar music, it works really the best on, which is probably why Pete Lyman really likes it. Because I know he does a lot of that kind of music.
I don't know whether that would have changed the cost of how they make it. Just take the bells and whistles off and just keep as a straight forward peak limiter. If that brought it down by 500 each unit, they might sell some more. But that's just my thought. Here's the demos. If you want to download these for you to listen to then go to Anoraks. There'll be in the Anoraks, in your Anoraks members area. So it goes to anoraks.co link below. And in there are all the stuffs that I do on YouTube and all the things that loads of presets and all that kind of thing. So go to anoraks.co.