Department of Commerce Limiters

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iC
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Department of Commerce Limiters

Post by iC » Sun Jun 03, 2007 6:40 am

Does anyone know of an historian site or such for the variety of these limiters floating around? Are they all vari-mu?
Maxson, MaGuire, Federal (Military, not D.O.C.?)... why Department of Commerce?
Any insight?
thanks all,
Kevin Reilly
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Post by emrr » Mon Jun 04, 2007 7:54 am

The Federal is a distinct military contract unit that came in varying audio bandwidths for voice grade broadcast and PA work.

The DoC's are voice-grade units made for goverment contract intercom and PA systems. They really are 200 Hz to about 5kHz on the ones I've worked on and modded. You can get the low end better by a degree, but not the top. The transformers just won't do it; I've listened to them out of circuit and they're not capable.

They are all vari-mu. None of them are 'audibly worth' what they 'cost' unless you feel flush and are in love with what they do. I kept some DoC around when they were worth $100. They all went away when they were suddenly worth $400. Nowdays...jeez. There are some crazy people out there. This perspective all comes from being a total antique audio junky; I can think of a million other things to spend my money on personallly. YMMV!
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Post by AstroDan » Mon Jun 04, 2007 5:22 pm

I bet you're really shaking your head at the Level-Loc. :)
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Post by emrr » Mon Jun 04, 2007 7:33 pm

Never had a level-loc or an urge to have one. I build things, so I'd make one if I really felt the need.

On the subject at hand, I have 7 vintage tube limiters and the DoC's did very little for me that couldn't be achieved by putting a bandpass filter in front of one of the others. Now that the DoC's sometimes bring more $ than any of the full range units, I can't imagine why to bother.
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What's up DOC?

Post by iC » Tue Jun 05, 2007 6:07 am

Speaking from experience....
Why to bother?
Ignorance and a sense of adventure.
Combining those two makes for rash decisions.

Thus my search for more information. (and good info, too, emrr!! thanks!)
All i have been able to find on my maguire peice is that the company made the tommygun.... but no schematic, no context, no reason why...

As economics continue to dip, duck parry and thrust, folks are creating worth for not all things worthy....if one can handle it, a smashed duck bill may be all you have to deal with...?
wow.
must drink coffee to make any semblance of sense.

Thanks emrr, i'd love to hear more.....
"There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly."
R. Buckminster Fuller

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Post by emrr » Tue Jun 05, 2007 11:47 am

Of course the sense of adventure is worthy, so long as you have open eyes and ears. If you can find one to hear, then why not? But my experience tells me not to spend much on these, and also told me it was time to sell them a long time ago. At the time I sold mine, the same money went straight into Gates Stalevels and SA-39's, and Collins 26U's. Pretty much a lateral move at the time. Put a bandpass filter in front of them and it's practically the same experience, and these days for less $ sometimes.
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Tape Op issue 73

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Post by joel hamilton » Tue Jun 05, 2007 12:12 pm

I have a maxson DoC, and I love it. I use it ALL the time. It has become the main part of a parallell voc chain I will put up almost as a matter of course.

The Maxson does something NONE of the other tube limiters/comps I have will do.
I have to disagree with the idea that just putting filters in front of any other vari mu will get you there. The dynamic drive character of the maxson is COMPLETELY different than my collins 26w, or 26-1U, or gates 6144 or either of my federals or either of my sta-levels...etc...etc..etc...

The DoC drives the hell out of a source, bt in a way that really flatters the voice IMHO. the inherent bandwidth "issues" are actually assets if you use the comp on sources that primarly are operating in the useable range. I have had many people ask me if I modded mine, to make it more full bandwidth, just because iof the sounds I am getting with the thing. It is amazing at giving the illusion of huge without swamping the mix bus, or as an additive mult of a main vocal to give the voice some vintage tube "rip" just inside my primary chain. If I am using a Voce EVC1 into a pultec EQP1 into a sta-level, and I have a mult before any of that to the maxson, the maxson really gives me a "sit" that I wouldnt be getting with say, one of my LA2A's or any other tube limiter. a multed room mic with too much cymbal? mult to the maxson....

I have two whole walls of vintage compression these days, and the maxson, the federal, the sta-evel and all the gates and collins stuff is a heavy part of the way I mix.

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Post by emrr » Tue Jun 05, 2007 3:43 pm

See? Joel likes them. As I said, YMMV. I just couldn't recommend someone buy one of these, since the last few I've noticed on ebay have been $1700-$2300 in untested condition. You might love it, you might wonder WTF you just spent your $ on. From my POV, I'd build a copy for a few hundred dollars if I wanted that thing they do, since I do that sort of thing in the first place. I did a few months of trials with mine and really couldn't find a thing they did that I couldn't also get out of something else more versatile. I frequently put a bandpass filter in front of another tube limiter for a similar effect, and I've never felt any regrets about unloading my DoC's. Other than maybe the meteoric rise in price. :oops: I've had home-made PA type tube limiters that did about the same thing as a DoC, and they were very simple and built with less than $100 worth of parts by somebody in their basement 50 years ago. So, again, just my POV.
Doug Williams
ElectroMagnetic Radiation Recorders
Tape Op issue 73

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Post by honkyjonk » Tue Jun 05, 2007 5:30 pm

Joel,

Can you say the Digitech S100 reverb is totally tits? I've been wanting to sell mine.

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on track

Post by iC » Tue Jun 05, 2007 9:07 pm

Awwww, leave joel be.... the discourse is cool.
The fact is a machine is a machine. some cost more than others. Some look cooler than others. some work better than others.
all can provide something missing like others...
How about history though?
Like ...EMRR, where are you gleaming knowledge on rebuilding dated units not necessarily designed for what could be considered a "high end of audio capture/manipulation".
Joel, why the Maxson, save what you heard... or rather how did you hear?
Histories both personal and ummm, historical. or is this prying?
"There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly."
R. Buckminster Fuller

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Post by iC » Tue Jun 05, 2007 9:09 pm

And not to point out just you two.... i am really interested context from all.
"There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly."
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Post by emrr » Wed Jun 06, 2007 6:52 am

I stared at schematics and broken gear for 5 years or so until it started making sense. I've been rebuilding and restoring mainly tube broadcast and recording gear for 10-11 years now, aznd running a studio for 14 years. I have a studio full of it and none of it would work if I hadn't restored it. Joel and I have or have had many of the same relevant pieces in our studios; I have an RCA tube limiter / de-esser that he sold here not long ago. I collect data like a fiend, spend $ on literature very frequently. I reverse engineer lots of schematics when there's none present; I hand drew the schematic for the Maxson I had since none were available at the time. It helps that I took drafting in high school back in the paper and pencil stone ages. There's not and probably never will be any centralized repository for this knowledge. You have to start picking up little pieces until you start getting a sense of the big picture. I used to wonder why this info was not easily found or shared; now that I have a big pile of it myself (after much $ and time) I realize there's just not enough time in the day to do so. I can barely keep up with the rest of my scehdule as-is. Sucks, but unless I have a staff of six dedicated to freely dispersing historical audio info, it won't happen.

Something like the DoC's or any military specified gear would have never been considered by recording or broadcast people at the time they were made, so there is virtually no cross-over of knowledge, and there's a lot of misinformation and assumption about what some of that type gear is for, and what it does. This is all based on the assumption that with modern recording, we now have the leeway to use 'lesser' gear and get away with it. We sometimes need to restrict bandwidth these days. At the time this stuff was made all attention was focused on geting 'more' out of the equipment, and 'lesser more colorful' gear was not considered to have much place.

The biggest issue to me seems to be the totally blurred line between price and quality; you have special effect pieces like the DoC's that now cost a relative fortune compared to other very 'hi-fi' gear, and no real simple way to verify the cost / performance curve of these antique items. At the same time there's a lot of relatively unknown antique gear that was indeed 'cost-is-no-object' product in its day, and it costs far less $ because there's no 'fad or fashion' surrounding it. I can almost guarantee no one has ever sold a DoC limiter on Ebay and included pictures of the transformer specifications, which are printed on every transformer. Why? Because no one would buy one for everyday recording work if they did. Not to say they're not useful in some context, but there's lots of vintage gear of a similar nature (and equal or lesser price) that is far more suited to general purpose recording than these. Hell, RCA 86 limiters sell for less than these on a frequent basis. That just makes no sense, just like the fact that 86's sell for less than half of what BA-6's sell for. It's all about fashion and rumour in the financial context. Of course an RCA limiter doesn't so what a DoC limiter does, but you'll sure get more day to day use out of one, and that should have some bearing on what the average person of limited means should spend to have these things.

If you've used one and love it, then fine. If you are out to speculate $ on a new toy you've heard is cool, you might be sorely dissapointed.
Doug Williams
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Tape Op issue 73

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Post by joel hamilton » Wed Jun 06, 2007 7:08 am

"If you've used one and love it, then fine. If you are out to speculate $ on a new toy you've heard is cool, you might be sorely dissapointed."

Perfecty put, Doug.

I have been doing this recording thing for a good chunk of time now, and I have tried whatever weird thingy at whatever studio I have been working at on some project or other. That gave me hands on knowledge of what I would be getting into before plunking down a bunch of cash. Sometimes I will go out on a limb, just to try some neato looking box that I have never heard of, but more often than not, I will have had some amount of experience with a piece of gear before buying it. If you have pals that have been engineering for a while, they will tell you this unless they are mental: as late as 1996, you probably really only bumped into stuff like an 1176 , an la3a, an la2a, and some verbs and delays. Not 10 billion different comps at one studio, BUT: you may have bumped into those things plus ONE tube limiter, like a fairchild, an altec, a gates of some type, or a collins of some sort.
After doing a session at the magic shop, and hearing the way the collins 26-1U worked on a few things I tried it on, I was sold. I bought one and had the same release time mods done to it that matt welles had done to the one at magic shop.
That is ust one example of many. This also gets you "ahead of the curve" as far as buying something before it becomes the hippest thing to have in the rack this month.

The hunt is part of the fun. Just start looking around, and letting people know you are looking.... I have sworn off ebay, but I still talk to people all the time about weird gear that I am interested in, or have found to be interesting.

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