GRAMMY-nominated producer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Jake Sinclair recently produced new records for Sia, Weezer, and Fall Out Boy, while simultaneously crafting his side project, Alohaha.
Sinclair’s list of credits includes such artists as Taylor Swift, P!nk, Train, and 5 Seconds of Summer. He runs his studio off a laptop in a room filled with instruments, a few preamps, and his prized Manley ELOP+ stereo electro-optical tube compressor/limiter and not much else.
The ELOP+ is a completely re-engineered version of Manley’s coveted early 1990s-vintage ELOP stereo electro-optical limiter. The ELOP+ uses the company’s highest-performance tube line amplifier and White Follower output stage and relies on a high-voltage switching power supply designed specifically for Manley vacuum tube audio circuits. The “+” also adds a 3:1 compression ratio for greater versatility.
Sinclair wires his two-channel ELOP+ as two separate compressors. One side is the last piece in his vocal chain. The other? “I use the other channel for bass as a tracking compressor, and I go pretty squishy with it,” he explains.
While he respects the old classic optical compressors, to Sinclair’s ears, most of the newer models leave something to be desired-except the ELOP+.
“I’ve tried all of the opto-style compressors,” Sinclair affirms, “and the Manley is by far my favorite. It’s every bit as good as the classic compressors. With a lot of newer opto compressors, as you get past 3 to 5 dB of compression, you start to lose some top end, and it suffocates the sound. But I can put the ELOP+ in Limit mode, keep the filter off, and get a good 5 to 7 dB of compression without losing any high-end tone.”
That’s especially important because Sinclair doesn’t go easy on the compression. “I’m a really guilty overcompressor,” he laughs. “It’s part of the fun! It’s an effect and it also changes the way singers perform. When they’re singing, I apply the compression I intend to use in the final mix. I’d rather track it the way it’s going to be because the singer can react to it, and you get a different performance.”
To do that, it would seem, you need a compressor that can sound transparent. “Yeah,” Sinclair agrees, “and you get that signature sound that we’ve heard on millions of records; the ELOP+ just nails it.” The result, he says, is an airy vocal that sounds like it’s supposed to. “EveAnna Manley described the ELOP+ as just a volume knob,” he muses, “but it’s more than that for me. There’s some kind of tube-y glueness.”
Sinclair has reduced his use of tube devices in recent years but you’ll never get his ELOP+ away from him. “Except for microphones, the ELOP+ is the only piece of tube equipment I still have,” he admits. “Tube preamps aren’t for me. But I will always have an ELOP+.”