Gotta love that tune. Gotta love how that drumsound gets mixed in with a room sound every measure after the guitar riff. Mixed by the hands and ears of engineer Ken Scott. Mixed in real time like a live performance. One of the not so secret ingredients, other than the towels on Ringo’s toms and snare drum, was the use of the old Fairchild 660 compressor/limiter. Here’s what Ken has to say about using it:
I know it would vary for each number and that we tended to hit them fairly hard. We set them to sound right in any given situation, no hard and fast rules. My best recollection is that the drums were never put through the Altec compressors, only a Fairchild. Oh yes, the Fairchild was used on the initial recording. When you are working on 4 track and later 8 track you have to make decisions right up front and commit to how things are going to sound, right from the beginning.
That fab sound
I must admit I have never worked with a Fairchild 660 in my life so I’m not sure how it sounds like. But by listening to Beatles records for all my life I have grown accustomed to its sound. And I believe the old Fairchild 660 has something to do with that special sound.
To recreate that kind of compression in Reason we need to use a device with lots of character. We have a couple of devices to choose from: the SSL channel strip compressor, the Mastering Compressor, the MClass Compressor, Scream4 and Pulveriser.
SSL channel strip compressor
The SSL channel strip compressor is a great compressor to have available on every channel. And from what I’ve heard from some SSL experts it sounds like a true SSL compressor. That’s great but even when pushing the input hard and setting the Ratio to the maximum, the release to it’s shortest setting and with a low threshold it’s very hard to make it really pump hard. In short: the SSL is too subtle for our goal of getting that fab Beatles compression sound.
Same story as the SSL channel strip compressor: the Mastering Compressor sounds like the real deal but is way too subtle for achieving that famous 60’s sound. And it’s a mastering effect, so we can’t apply it to only the drums for example. Only if we would make an audio export and import that track back into Reason. But then again, it’s too subtle for achieving the compressor sound we’re looking for.
(like many Reason users I leave the Mastering Compresson on all the time, except when I’m bouncing individual tracks to disk)
The MClass Compressor is a very flexible compressor and quite capable of that pumping compression sound when we use a loud input signal together with a low threshold and high ratio setting. It’s nice that it has an Attack parameter which is something the SSL compressor is lacking (the Fast button on the SSL is the only option for getting a faster attack, but you get nothing in between). The MClass Compressor can produce very subtle compression sounds as well as that hard slamming and pumping sound which adds that obvious compression character to a signal.
The Tape setting of Scream4 can produce a tape-like sound plus compression. And it sounds really good too. It sounds way more dirty than the MClass compressor and although you can only change the amount of compression this parameter in combination with the Damage Control parameter creates a very old sounding type of compression sound. Just put the Speed parameter (P1) a little lower and you’ll enter that 60s zone.
The only issue with Scream4 when using it for compression is that it changes the phasing a little. Therefore, when you blend its signal with the unaffected signal using a parallel channel for example you’ll get that strange frequency ‘phasing’ loss. It’s most noticeable in the low end. So be aware of that!
There’s an obvious Reason why the compressor section in the Pulveriser is called Squash because it’s super easy to slam all the life and dynamics out of an incoming signal. Push the Squash beyond 40% and things will turn out super sick sounding. And sounds like fun to me!
Although it lacks an attack parameter it’s a very flexible compressor. And because a Blend parameter was added to Pulveriser you can mix the original signal with the compressed signal. Plus the Pulversiser has a Dirt section for adding distortion to the signal. So it’s super easy for creating all kinds of un-HIFI sounds.
All compressors in Reason have a different sound. It’s time well spend to experiment with them all. You might also include the old COMP-01 compressor too. I tend to use the SSL channel strip Compressor and Pulveriser the most. I use the SSL for its subtle compression and the Pulveriser for its noticeable character.
By the way, that song I mentioned in the beginning of the post refers to me.
It’s my birthday too, yeah
I was born on the 3rd of July 1968. So I guess it’s obvious why I love these kinds of things. I hope you do too!