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Good hardware compressors are expensive. Having that sustain when you're playing is not the same as applying a compressor plugin mixing because you incorporate the use of the compression using your playing techniques.
A good hardware compressor can give you everything from the nicest strat type jangle to super sustained resonant feedback playing leads and you can do it all at lower volumes.
I used to have an old UREI LA4 which was super cool. I wish I had hung on to it. They sell for around $700 today and the plugin versions are nothing like the real thing. I do have a DBX, but the version I have isn't so hot. Its preamps give allot of ambient noise and is you place it in front of a drive circuit it becomes super noisy. The Yamaho Rack unit I have is pretty quiet. I've used it recording bass before and it does a nice job. You can run the stereo channels in series and put a guitar through it and get some really nice squeezed tones.
Lately I been using an ART SGX 2000 for tracking. Its a bit dated but its got allot of cool effects built in. What I like is it has two effects loops built in. One is mono and one is stereo. I have a second guitar preamp in one loop and an alesis midiverb in another. I can punch these in an out as needed with a button the front.
I also found the dual expression midi pedal board that matches it. I'm able to assign any of the effects parameters to the expression pedals and tweak the effects as I play. I've had it for about a year and have barely scratched the surface on the tones I can get tracking.
The built in compressor does the job but its pretty basic and has a neutral tone. I may try putting a stereo rack compressor in the effects send and see what kinds of sounds I can get. It does have a preamp tube in there for drive and clean tones that can be selected, but its not a high voltage circuit so it doesn't give you the same tube warmth and compression a high voltage circuit does. With an additional compressor plugged into the front end I believe I will be able to drive the circuit and get some better tones.
I'll probably have less issues switching instruments as well. There is quite a difference in tones when I switch between a single coil pickup guitar and say a humbucker and a compressor can make up for the differences in pickup impedance. I wouldn't have to tweak the hell out of a preset I built for one guitar and have the other instrument closely match. Presently I have multiple presets built based on the pickup types, EQ saturation etc.
It would be simpler if all I have to do use tweak the amount of gain to match saturation and leave most of the other settings alone. My ideal setting for allot of my guitar work is to have the gains set so if I play light, I get relatively clean guitar, and if I dig into the strings the drive/ saturation follows the intensity of how hard I pick. This is what a good tube amp combo does and I find it most flexible for my playing technique. Having no dynamic difference between soft and hard notes is OK for clean guitar, but it makes for allot of white noise playing driven chords and leads.
Compressors can get you there and you can never have too many different types. They all have different flavors and experimenting with different types tracking can be a whole lot of fun. You just have to realize it does come at a cost and be willing to accept those losses in a mix. Hardware comps will be written to the track and you have to be sure you want that exact sound as you track. You also want to be sure you don't overdo it and go mild with the effect. You can add more compression mixing, but using an expander to undo the compression is very difficult and again comes at a big cost.
The RNC is really a fantastic value. Clean, clear. It simply works. It's not really based on a dbx. Mark does his own thing. Really nice mode is 3 comp algorhythms stacked for a transparent compression. All their stuff is good.