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DBX 160a What is it like?

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by Paul999, Mar 1, 2012.

  1. Paul999

    Paul999 Active Member

    I have a lot of experience with high end compressors like distressors, manley, 1176's, API etc. I am looking for some utility compression that you can use for "less important duties". For example when I have a dense mix happening and I need to squeeze in a keyboard or some other element I need something to really contain the source.

    I also have plenty of experience with "live type" low end compressors. I know I am not looking for too low end although I have a behringer 4 channel compressor that kills other more expensive compressors on some sources(if you don't push it too hard)

    From what I've read about the DBX 160a people complain that it is either too much or too subtle. This totally sounds like my kind of compressorsmoke How is this on keys, solo's, backing vox, and bass guitar?
  2. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Its that typical dbx compression and that one has both the hard and soft knee selection. Pretty simple stuff. It will compress the crap outta whatever you want it to. I think they're a little dark and they kind of mess with the bass response a bit. I think the 160xt sounds a bit better. I have 903 rack models and they are the same as the xt(supposedly). I like it very much and I dont hesitate to use it on whatever at tracking. I would also recommend for a utility type of extra compressor, a Symetrix 501 for a single channel and the 525 for dual with a gate. I use them on bass at tracking all the time for just that little bit of tightening up the bass notes. An Ashley is also nice and if you want something exotic but cheap look for a Valley People Dynamite.
  3. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    +1. I have both the Symetrix 425 and the Ashly CLX52. They are not super high end but quite nice to use none the less. FWIW, I think the Ashly PEQ's are under rated.
  4. Paul999

    Paul999 Active Member

    Thanks guys. I think I'll give one of these a go. Cheers!
  5. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    Dave, cut it out, all you're doin' is driving up the prices on e-Bay!
  6. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    I KNOW! I really hate me for that.....
  7. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    I'm still not over what you did to the ATM25 market....

    BTW, to the poster: You can't go wrong with any version of the 160, or the Symetrix or Ashly stuff, for that matter. They are all built like a Sherman tank.
  8. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Two th-umbs up for the Valley People Dynamite and the dbx 160x.
  9. Paul999

    Paul999 Active Member

    Just out of curiosity how you guys compared these to high end compressors? If so which ones?
  10. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    The dbx vca is always going to sound like the dbx vca. It is different than anything else. As far as comparison to "high end compressors" I suppose it would depend on which "high end compressors" we are talking about, as well as the source they're being used on. Really, all "good" or "decent" compressors supply a kind of 'glue' for tracks (in most cases) as well as being a tool to fix things that are unwanted. I personally try to track without anything so I can get to the 'glue' part of using compression.

    So in comparison to "high end compressors" the dbx stuff, as well as the Ashley, Symetrix, Valley People, and even Rane....each have enough of an individual sound to be useful. I'll also throw in the ART MPA as another budget compressor that has its own kinda 'thing' and is good enough to sit in a mix with LA-2A's, 1176's, Red 3's and the like.
  11. Paul999

    Paul999 Active Member

    I know that was a tough question bordering on stupid :) but that gives me what I need to know. Thanks!
  12. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    We use an Avalon 747 during tracking and mixdown and it's by far the best compressor we have to compare to. Sonically they're from different realms. The Avalon maintains more openness through the spectrum, even when it's putting the smackdown on the signal, but the dbx 160 isn't overly dark or uncontrollable by any means. It's as subtle or brutal as you ask it to be. Even the 166XL is a very useable dual compressor at a fair price. I guess we also have a really nice compressor in a Focusrite Green Range Voicebox. They're all perfectly good tools. As you know better than I do, sometimes you need a feather duster- sometimes you need a crowbar and a sledgehammer.

    To their credit and maybe detriment, dbx made the meter calibration very accessible. I think sometimes the people who might complain about them have a unit that someone has screwed around with the meter calibration and properly screwed with their perception of what the compressor is doing.

    The dbx design spawned a ton of cheap VCA knock-offs over the years and is probably what your B-ringer was 'modeled' after. And I would think the dbx is a significant upgrade in component quality alone.

    I'd also add the old dirt cheap Yamaha GC-2020 to the list of very useful general purpose compressors. If I could, I would have more Valleys, but we do live sound as well and they're awesome for that - especially kick and snare. Although as I think about it, there's a dbx160x as the last thing on the mains between the FOH mixer and the amp racks. We have several 160X's and no 160A's to compare them to. They might be more popular with the live-sound crowd than studio guys. I rarely see a big PA that doesn't have a rack full of 160's of one form or another at the monitor mixer.
  13. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I utilize my DBX 160 A alongside my DBX 166 & 165A's. And I utilize them right alongside my UREI/UA 1176's & LA-3 A's.

    If you are talking about real high-end compressor/limiter's that utilize something similar to the DBX VCA, you need look no further than the George Massenburg compressor/limiter's as he utilized the DBX VCA's & RMS detectors. Only his input and output electronics are different. Nevertheless, audio still has to go through that DBX VCA. They are extremely useful and very musical to use, gracefully.

    Personally I'm not fond of the Ashley's
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  14. AudioHipster

    AudioHipster Active Member

    Hey the 160a is a VCA compressor, it is an excellent compressor for this type of compression... does bass very good... from soft to a hard-on...
  15. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Of which, we all have one for that limiter.

    Remember, VCA's sound like VCA's which some people like and others simply loath. Which is pretty funny to think about when a purist like George Massenburg utilized those nasty sounding VCA's in his otherwise very transparent sounding limiters. In fact those DBX 202 VCA's, which were in abundance in my previous console along with just as many Valley People improved upon VCA's. The Valley People VCA's I thought, actually sounded better than the DBX 202 VCA's, back in the day. And you could swap between the DBX & Valley People device because they were the same pinouts. So I ended up relegating most of the DBX 202 VCA's in my console (part of the automation system) to the least used inputs on that console. While at the same time, I was utilizing the DBX limiters just the same. I just didn't want too many in-line VCA's. Which was actually unavoidable if you are utilizing VCA based compressor/limiter's while going through the console automation faders. And if you didn't want to go to the console VCA faders, you would have to " flip " the input module routing to route through the non-automated passive monitor fader which was a rotary on the Sphere and a little short linear one on the SSL & Neve's, which we all did from time to time when we didn't like the sound of the VCA on that particular source. But that would also switch out any automation you had for that track source. So sometimes we would even have to ride faders manually even on automated mix just to avoid some of the foibles of VCA sound.

    Always a DBX lover
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  16. AudioHipster

    AudioHipster Active Member

    Thanks RemyRAD

    DBX has always been known for noise reduction... and they do it well, reading your post makes me want to start using some of the older compressors that have not been turned on for long awhile, we have compression limiters & gates... built in every channel on the Amek Recall RN desk, and i am sure it is VCA based, smilier to the DBX 160a i would think. (altho the desk seems to use's the fader controls like it's riding the volume as well?), i notice it can really tighten up a flabby bass tone. Cheers Doyen
  17. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Yeah, DBX came on the scene with their noise reduction system after Dolby. So was sort of like Hertz vs. Avis. We all knew what the foibles were of the DBX noise reduction. It would make your frequency response of your recorders twice as bad as whatever it already was while reducing your noise 30 DB. Meanwhile, Dolby A would only reduce your noise level 10-15 DB while still keeping the response flat. That is it would be flat, if absolute accuracy in record to playback level matching was passionately adhered to. Yet even then, things still sounded not like what was going in. I remember Paul Wolff and I sitting around and talking about if DBX had only gone for 15 DB of noise reduction instead of 30 DB, it would have been much better sounding than the spectral style of processing of the Dolby A NR. And we could have all modified our DBX noise reduction units to have done that but we didn't. Personally, I'm just lazy. I know Paul isn't but he never did it either. Besides, by the early 1980s, we were already recording digitally and so it became moot. Anybody want some DBX Type I's? I think it would be funny to try it on a digital recorder or computer recorder? You wouldn't get an increase in noise reduction but you would decrease your resolution by 50%. It might sound cool? It might be perfect for metal grunge guitars? Anything to get you the sound you want is a healthy thing even if you want unhealthy sound.

    Did Mr. Fuzz create the fuzz box? Or did he work for the police?
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  18. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    I've used them live for years. Not exactly your question though...but live they sound great on vocals and help them stay punchy after a long gig when the singer gets tired. Never had any problems except for causing feedback when cranked too high.

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