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Advice on Altec Pres & Compressors. Help anyone?
Old 4th February 2003
Here for the gear
MephistoOdyssey's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Advice on Altec Pres & Compressors. Help anyone?

Hello all

Does anyone know anything about Altec vintage pres and compressors? Are they good how do they compare to other vintage gear like UA or telefunken etc. as far as sound and quality?
Thanks much
Old 5th February 2003
7rojo7's Avatar
🎧 15 years
I remember seeing something 2 months ago. Do a search on Altec. If they work, they're a standard great old tube mic pre, like RCA. they'd have to be at least 40 years old so they may need some work. Make sure you can find the parts.
Old 5th February 2003
Lives for gear
hollywood_steve's Avatar
🎧 15 years
altec pres & compressors

Their compressors seem better known to most folks. The most common Altec tube preamp was the 1566a. Many of the less upbeat opinions of these units could be due to preamps in near-death condition. I have one that was refurb'd to like new condition and it is the best $250 mic preamp I'll ever come across. It stays tight and fairly clean until you really start to push it, and then it breaks up in a very useful and controlled way. has some info and photos on the 1566a and the 436/438 compressors.

[email protected]
Old 5th February 2003
Gear Maniac
radiovoiceone's Avatar
🎧 15 years

The tube stuff is nice if you bring it up to spec by recapping.
Some of the later transistor stuff is pretty nasty.
Remember, it was designed for sound re-inforcement, not recording but it does have a distinct flavour.
Old 14th February 2003
Gear Nut
drummerman15's Avatar
🎧 15 years
I have the Altec 436c Tube Compressor (recapped) and it is definitely a "go-to" item for me. I use it on bass and vox mainly. sometimes the kick. You can pick one up on ebay for about $500-600. I saw a Mix Magazine article last year that had an interview with Joseph Jack Puig and, in the photo of him in his control room, there have to be 10 or more Altec 436's or 438's in his arsenal.
Old 14th February 2003
Gear Addict
🎧 15 years

I have (2) Altec 1567A tube mixers, (3) 436 compressors and (2) 1612A limiter amplifiers. The tube mixers are great on vocals and bass. The compressors are really great on guitars and bass, albeit certain bass tracks don't work as well as others. For example:they love a Hofner bass! The limiters are REALLY cool. They have a slow attack/release and a fast attack/release. But, dig this: FAST attack/release position provides first quarter-cycle attack (typically 10 microseconds), typically 0.8 second release. SlOW position responds withing two cycles (typically 33 microseconds) and allows typically 2.8 second release. When using the slow postion on a mult of overhead drums you get this amazing crazy backwards sounding swishing, pumping effect because of the insane attack/release setting. They are solid state but impart a *warm* tone, if you will, unlike most tube units. Don't know why, but it's geat. On the right source they can also function 'somewhat' like an 1176.
Old 14th February 2003
Gear Nut
drummerman15's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Hey Benjy, I also have a 1612 Limiter that I haven't even used yet. I have a little work to do on the barrier strip connections, but after reading your post, I'm gonna get to work and get it up and running squashing some sound.
Old 15th February 2003
Lives for gear
Zep Dude's Avatar
🎧 15 years
I have several 458a tube pre's. They don't suck. Like all vintage tube gear, they're great on some stuff but not necessarily perfect for every scenario. A great flavor to have if you don't already have (or want more variety of) any vintage gear. Recently I've been using one with a Royer as a second mic (alongside a 57 going into a Neve) on a guitar cab. Bring it up under the 57 and you've got as much fatness as you could want. They are the equal, yet different, to other high quality vintage tube pres like Langevin 116/117, RCA BA-21 etc to a point where it's just personal preference which you might choose in any situation.
Old 17th February 2003
Lives for gear
mig27's Avatar
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
1612a's rule!

I can confirm benji's comments on the altec 1612a limiters.
They are definitely fast as hell and have a very distinctive sound.
Great on drum mults as benji says.
I also had great success on acoustic guitars, but the altec will always add it's own (favourable) flavour.

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