Outboard Processing Gear?

What kind of outboard rack gear do you use for your synths and drum machines? I’m talking about compressors, Distressors, exciters, preamps, tube stuff, etc.

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I use mostly with aux sends from my mixers. The Strymon Deco and Blue Sky are both great for adding simple stereo image and depth to elements in your mix. Deco also does nice saturation/distortion. The Elektron Heat is a boss for all things distortion and parallel processing. I also often have certain things lightly overdriven with the Boss BX8 gain.


I’ve got a Big Sky and a Heat :grin:. I’m trying to see what all the fuss is about with regard to the Neve stuff, Distressor, Fatso and other compressors. Or are those mainly for processing acoustic instruments and mics?

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The type of stuff you’re describing is more for mixing & mastering, polishing / shaping tone of whole mix, rather than processing as part of sound design.

If that’s something you’re interested in, the SSL Fusion looks very appealing as a one stop shop to me.


That’s an interesting point. I don’t think just for acoustic, but some are designed just for mic level in. Strymon gear can take both line level and mic level. So, if I ever want to sample or just run something straight in (instead of using an aux send), it’s fine. Some hype is just the quality of the components, others is just the quality of the circuit design, some are both. I watched a ton of videos before I bought my stuff and got them all at bargain prices used online.

I forgot, I also have an FMR Audio RNC. The two modes are radically different. The Super Nice Mode (cascading compression - it’s not a preset) is verrrry clean, but pushes hard. Almost no artifacts at all. Just squished audio. With the mode off, you get a dirtier, grimier sound. It also takes line level in. I’ve never not used it since I bought it.


Thanks Munro.

Fatso is great with lots of stuff. We use it on acoustic stuff a lot, but also works really well with drum machines and digital synths generally.
If you are asking about mojo stuff, my favorites in my collection are
Thermionic Culture Phoenix: gorgeous 2 bus compression that makes a mix sound like a classic album
Henry Amps Michaelangelo:
Beautiful stereo program EQ. Makes it on every single master I make with few exceptions
SPL Iron:
Similar to the Phoenix, but slightly more flexible and modern sounding. Like a velvet blanket over your mix.
Rupert Neve Designs Master Bus Processor: almost always on my 2 bus while mixing, great one stop shop for finalizing things and sounds really concrete and modern.

If we are talking fx processing,
Kurzweil KSP8:
The ultimate weird 90’s fx processor. Can do absurd things to sound, practically a karplus style modular if you are into that sort of thing. The paramaters of the fx algorithms can be pushed waaaay beyond the typical limits of such fx and goes weird really fast. Underrated box that should be a classic, not too expensive these days either.
Roland RE 501:
Makes everything beautiful. Period.


Awesome, exactly what I was talking about! Thanks! Gotta do some reading now.

And then some saving if you want to buy any of those units $$$$

Are talkting about outboard only? I would uad cards with really good emulations of ssl bus comp or pultec eq or la2 comps

I am using a 500-Series rack (Fredenstein Bento 6S) loaded up with a few Preamps etc. to color my stuff on the way in, and sometimes I run stuff back out from my DAW through it and re-record it back in.

In my eyes, most of the “outboard gear” products are designed for mic-recordings of acoustic / electrical instruments, i.e. classic rock stuff, but it works just as well for Synth stuff if you keep an eye on input/output levels - as someone already said, most of this stuff is either expecting MIC or “instrument” (DI) levels. Most will work with line level as well, though.
For my modular/Eurorack stuff I usually have to turn Gain all the way down and sometimes even put an attenuator module in between.

I currently have these modules stuffed in there:
1x 1173 style preamp by Golden Age Project + EQ expander followed by
1x 1176 style compressor by Fredenstein
(this is my DI chain for recording bass guitar but it also works a bunch on synth basses and kicks etc.)

1x DIYRE CP5 color-enabled mic pre /w a “discrete saturation” colour card installed
(this is hooked up to a condenser mic in case I want to record some hand-held percussion like shakers etc.)

2x Bart HRK MPQ568C Preamps which have 2 (!) “colour” card slots each and high/low EQs… currently running a “British console” and “Soviet pentode tube” colour card each.
(this is my stereo “f`ck up” chain, more often than not I´ll run some stereo bus stuff through here to distort the ever living crap out of it)

None of this is particularly high-end, and I don´t think it needs to be - not for what I do with it :wink:

All in all, I think this is just my GAS talking, though… pretty sure I could do most of this with plugins as well (except the bass DI preamp/comp thing).

Decapitator by soundtoys is pretty freaking awesome!


I saw the 500 series stuff in the new sweetwater catalog yesterday and was wondering what that was for. I’m sure alot of processing can be done ITB but I get so much more satisfaction out of touching analog gear, and obviously the sound is better. Thanks for your reply!


You can think of the 500 series as a more space-saving variant of most other outboard gear, but it has a shared powersupply and input/output connectors in the “case” instead of each unit having their own PSU.
obviously, this often comes at the price of usability, since the control panels get very crowded easily. small fingers are a plus here.

IIRC, originally 500 series modules were slotted into the big API consoles, so the channel strips were made up of different modules.

of course today there are tons of other manufacturers besides API and the prices for those things have come WAY down.

(of course if you believe some people -gearslutzcoughcough- then anything below 500€ pricetag is “garbage” and “unusable”… lol)

For my Volca Kick and Tom Cat, I process this with a Vermona Retroverb.
I dig the sound it gives this lower end percussive gear.

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I put stuff thru Analog heat into mixer. Current two aux sends are kaoss pad3 and neunaber wet reverb. The humble kp is great low in the mix doing weird filter things. The neunaber is my favourite reverb, three knobs can create all sorts of good reverb types. Also have deco and flint sometimes. Lots of guitar pedals, used to be an unhealthy amount but sold quite a few. Lo fi loop junky, moog 104MSD, wombtone, superego etc are all good inserts on channels.

And for more transparent I have a DAV pre amp and compressor I bought over ten years ago.