October 29, 2006

Alta Moda Unicomp...

by Chris Randall

You never know what you're gonna hit upon travelling about the Internets. Case in point, here's a really nice looking compressor I was thus far unaware of (a fact I didn't think was possible, but there you go.) This is the Unicomp, from Australian manufacturers Alta Moda.

It's a dual mono topology, and has some pretty slick features, like the ability to switch between feedback and feed forward, a "warmth" knob to add 2nd-order harmonic distortion, and a "blend" knob, which works (if I'm reading the material right) sort of like a mix, which is something you don't normally see on a comp, but is hugely handy if you're using compressor effects on a drum buss, to perfect (I'm just throwing this out as an example) your "In The Air Tonight" drum sound.

In any case, I don't know the price, but the unit is ostensibly available from TransAudio, although it's not listed on their site, so I don't know that for certain.



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Oct.30.2006 @ 3:19 PM
Jeremy Cox
I agree with Chris. From my studio experience rock producers always have tons of $ invested in pres and compressors.
Sure rap/electronic studios have nice conversion and a few 737s, but they rarely have 60ch of wunder, neve, daking, or A-Designs and 30 different vintage compressors

The differentiating qualities of tape really come out when you hit it hard... so limiting to tape is way more commonplace than in a digital environment.


Oct.30.2006 @ 3:30 PM
I agree with CR about a good gear list. Yet not all studio clients are able to really appreciate the true value of various mics/pieces of outboard gear. That's why some studios will buy gear like a Neumann TLM147 (so they have a Neumann "Tube mic" ) or a CM labs Motor mix (wow! look at all those moving faders & blinky lights) which impress clients.

That sort of leaves the Alta Moda Unicomp on the "true connoisseur's" list of gear. Most semi-knowledgeable musos would be more impressed with an LA-2A. "Alta Moda"??? is that some sorta ice cream??

This begs the question: For smaller studios, who really influences the hiring decision most of the time - up and coming producers? veteran producers? Musos?


Oct.30.2006 @ 4:42 PM
Chris Randall
Well, that's a fair question. The one studio I've spent a _lot_ (like months and months on end) bought gear to suit its main client (which was me), and its main producer. Other big commercial studios I've been in (K2 at Battery, Brittania Row, Sony) tend to have floating gear, or hire whatever is needed. They'll have the standards, but generally just rent whatever else is needed, rather than buying outright. (More cost-effective in the long run.)

I think that the largest commercial studios tend to think this way because a major producer will not only have his own favorite stuff (like Tchad Blake with his racks of shit or whatever), but go to a room not because of its gear list but because of its room sound and console/monitor combination.

Mid- and small-sized studios tend to buy things based upon perceived overall usefulness versus cost, which is why you see a lot of Mackie 8-bus consoles which, love 'em or hate 'em, give a lot of bang for the buck, at least where recording rock is concerned.



Oct.30.2006 @ 9:21 PM
As one of the aforementioned weekend warrior attorneys, I gotta say that the Unicomp is a very pricey beast. I use my gear to entertain/indulge myself and my friends, and loan it out (gratis) to friends who are working musicians. I have a decent collection of mics, outboard and instruments -- virtually all acquired used or on some deal like the group buys run through Chris. However to pay that kind of $$ for a compressor, I'd really have to be convinced that it heralded the second coming or there was paying client somewhere that really benefitted by having it. I mean, for that $$ you could get a used pair of Distressors, a Drawmer 1968ME, and an LA4A if you were so inclined. Like anyone else who is paying out of their own pocket, I'd really have to be convinced of the value of the item before dropping that kind of money.

The real high buck guitars don't go to weekend warrior musos, they go to collectors who may or may not play them. The costs of the better mass production guitars like PRS and Anderson really aren't particularly out of line with what decent guitars cost in the 60s. A Strat went for @$315 in 1968. Applying the CPI-U for the first half of 2006 runs that up to $1890 in today's dollars. Current equivalent for a 1968 Jaguar would be @$2390. Equivalent for a 66 Gibson Johnny Smith is @$6150. And they certainly didn't discount them back then like they do today. We aren't talking about any order of magnitude difference in pricing here for garden variety PRS and Anderson guitars. If anything decent mass production guitars are more of a bargain today then they have ever been. Actually I knew a working musician who, when he realized what his 66 Johnny Smith that he played everywhere was really worth (way more than the $6150 in today's dollars conversion), went out and bought a PRS just for gigging. Seemed very happy with it too. If you want to talk about high buck instruments, God forbid you should have a child that takes up the violin or cello seriously.


Oct.30.2006 @ 11:10 PM
Echoing the above...my pro violinist friends drop $20K on their "cheap, knock-about" violins, and they aren't superstars, just in-the-trenches freelancers, teachers and recitalists.
Am I naive, but isn't it worth remembering that all this stuff is tax-deductible business expense for most people shelling out for it. Better to plow your profits into an Alta Moda than give it to the IRS...especially the way our tax dollars translate directly to blood in Baghdad.

Oct.31.2006 @ 12:40 AM
Chris Randall
Now, _that_ is the most intelligent thing anyone has said on this board in a long time.



Oct.31.2006 @ 9:05 AM
...assuming you have profits.

Oct.31.2006 @ 12:14 PM
Oh, I missed the actual price posted in the first response. I guess that is a bit above the typical well-off retired weekend warrior pricerange. Still this discussion is kind of working off the assumption that this comp is actually going to be a successful product at that price.

Oct.31.2006 @ 1:05 PM
Chris Randall
Successful at that price point is more of an academic exercise. As any long-time reader knows, I'm more than willing to point out good deals. I don't know if this is one, but an all-discrete hand-wired multi-topology dual mono compressor isn't going to be cheap no matter how you cut it. The absolute cheapest per channel for something that can even visit this ball park is a grand. And this is a pair in one box, don't forget. $2K a channel for a good compressor is quite reasonable.



Oct.31.2006 @ 1:29 PM
Well, I think pohaku evolved the discussion a bit beyond that specific box, and more toward the notion of 'high-end gear' (and how 'high-end' is it *really*) that one may or may not choose to invest in...also what makes any device 'successful' for creative work may tend to be rather subjective. In a given situation, I might get exactly what I need from a Joemeek and get nowhere with a $10K World's-Greatest-Comp.

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