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The DBX 160(vu) A/B test
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gardinen
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#1
19th August 2009
Old 19th August 2009
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The DBX 160(vu) A/B test

A friend of mine let me borrow his original DBX 160 (vu) to A/B test it against the UAD-2 plugin version.

I've used three samples, in mono, that I've recorded myself; guitar, bass and drums.

Equipment used is Fireface 800 with Cubase 4.5.2 and UAD-2 Quad and of course the DBX 160.

There's the digital and analog DBX sample with included screenshot of the settings used. I've volume checked them by phase-reversing. They're in 24-bit mono wavefiles.

I've set the DBX to pretty extreme settings so that you really can hear it working hard.

Let me know what you think. And PLEASE let me know if I've done anything wrong that would lead the test unfair.
Attached Thumbnails
The DBX 160(vu) A/B test-dbx-160.jpg  
Attached Images
File Type: png Bass.png (143.6 KB, 366 views) File Type: png Drums.png (143.4 KB, 2443 views) File Type: png Guitar.png (143.6 KB, 481 views)
Attached Files
File Type: wav Bass 160 HW.wav (3.56 MB, 375 views) File Type: wav Bass 160 SW.wav (3.56 MB, 292 views) File Type: wav Drums 160 HW.wav (2.43 MB, 366 views) File Type: wav Drums 160 SW.wav (2.43 MB, 306 views) File Type: wav Guitar 160 HW.wav (4.77 MB, 241 views) File Type: wav Guitar 160 SW.wav (4.77 MB, 210 views)
#2
19th August 2009
Old 19th August 2009
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The only difference I really heard was the first couple of notes on the bass examples had a tiny bit more low end than the software but after that they sounded exactly the same.

The drums were basically identical, as well as the guitar.

Any differences may have been percieved or real but all in all, I'd say UA did a bang up job with their modeling. I love the comp for bass duties.
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19th August 2009
Old 19th August 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Never1 View Post
The only difference I really heard was the first couple of notes on the bass examples had a tiny bit more low end than the software but after that they sounded exactly the same.

The drums were basically identical, as well as the guitar.

Any differences may have been percieved or real but all in all, I'd say UA did a bang up job with their modeling. I love the comp for bass duties.
Yes, in the bass example there were some differences. If you check the waveforms of the two, you will see that one of them has a bit higher spikes than the other (don't remember which anymore e)

For me though, they both sound great, or identical to each other. In a blind test I would NOT be able to tell the difference.
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19th August 2009
Old 19th August 2009
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Interesting thread. I actually like both the HW and SW versions. They sound most different on the acoustic guitar.

Any way you can post the dry and unprocessed tracks?

P.S. I have the DBX 165VU and it gets a lot of use. I plan to add a UAD down the road because they seem to do a good job of emulating hardware.
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19th August 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gardinen View Post
Yes, in the bass example there were some differences. If you check the waveforms of the two, you will see that one of them has a bit higher spikes than the other (don't remember which anymore e)

For me though, they both sound great, or identical to each other. In a blind test I would NOT be able to tell the difference.
I checked and you're right, zooming in I noticed some differences in the way the transients are handeled but what you see and what you hear are different things. Just clicking back and forth, I feel they all sound pretty much identical.

I'm very impressed.
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19th August 2009
Old 19th August 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 79_Limited View Post
Interesting thread. I actually like both the HW and SW versions. They sound most different on the acoustic guitar.

Any way you can post the dry and unprocessed tracks?

P.S. I have the DBX 165VU and it gets a lot of use. I plan to add a UAD down the road because they seem to do a good job of emulating hardware.
Sure, here you go!!
Attached Files
File Type: wav Bass.wav (4.01 MB, 86 views) File Type: wav Guitar.wav (4.77 MB, 74 views) File Type: wav Drums.wav (2.43 MB, 81 views)
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19th August 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Never1 View Post
I checked and you're right, zooming in I noticed some differences in the way the transients are handeled but what you see and what you hear are different things. Just clicking back and forth, I feel they all sound pretty much identical.

I'm very impressed.
That's true.
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19th August 2009
Old 19th August 2009
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Tell you what I'd like you to do, do a rock mix on a console using 24 160VU's and compare that to an ITB mix using 24 plugs. Comparing sounds one at a time in this A/B fashion means nothing to the end user. Consider the full context, or be doomed by your inevitably suspect "conclusions"...
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19th August 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by princeplanet View Post
Tell you what I'd like you to do, do a rock mix on a console using 24 160VU's and compare that to an ITB mix using 24 plugs. Comparing sounds one at a time in this A/B fashion means nothing to the end user. Consider the full context, or be doomed by your inevitably suspect "conclusions"...
Okej, interesting thought. I just wanted to check the main difference of the two, that's all. And perhaps share it with others.
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19th August 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by princeplanet View Post
Tell you what I'd like you to do, do a rock mix on a console using 24 160VU's and compare that to an ITB mix using 24 plugs. Comparing sounds one at a time in this A/B fashion means nothing to the end user. Consider the full context, or be doomed by your inevitably suspect "conclusions"...
The problem with any of these tests is that, if we were to go all analog through a console with outboard gear, we're introducing tons of variables. Even similar units will sound "different" and in my estimation, the sonic shortcomings or strengths of mixing OTB has a lot to do with the inaccuracies of the medium. Digital is precision analog is not; meaning setup a pair of dbx 160's and they will probably sound different but the plugin settings will always match on two separate channels.
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19th August 2009
Old 19th August 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by princeplanet View Post
Tell you what I'd like you to do, do a rock mix on a console using 24 160VU's and compare that to an ITB mix using 24 plugs. Comparing sounds one at a time in this A/B fashion means nothing to the end user. Consider the full context, or be doomed by your inevitably suspect "conclusions"...
?

Show me a studio with 24 dbx160VU or anyone in it's right mind wanting to do so.
I think the OP has done a nice A/B test. We know that the dbx 160 is a classic useful HW comp and the plug is impressive in it's accuracy to emulate its behaviour.
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19th August 2009
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I just bought this plug a week ago and it is fantastic on drums
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19th August 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nu-tra View Post
I just bought this plug a week ago and it is fantastic on drums
Yes, I was really surprised as it's a great drum buss compressor and good on snare too.
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19th August 2009
Old 19th August 2009
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Good test!
Interesting results.

Still, I like how my DBX units look in my rack!

I have a pair of 161s that are modded with Reichenbach output trannies and they sound REALLY nice on drums!
The front ends turn the balanced input into an un-balanced signal just like the 160s.
It was just two resistors and a cap.

Again, cool test!
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19th August 2009
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Very interesting test, thanks for posting these files!

I find the difference to be quite pronounced between the HW and SW. I use UA 2192 converters for all my DA needs and I really think that it brings out stuff that you just won't hear with lesser converters, I know that this was true when I used my Digi 002 for all DA incl. iTunes,etc

The HW version of the bass sounds much more 'alive', more 3D than the SW and to my ears it's the same for the acoustic guitar example. Drums are done at very extreme settings where I don't think that the details or even the brand of compression matters much.

There's no doubt that the SW is doing a very good job emulating the 160VU character though. For me though the real difference is the way that a HW compressor is treating the sound when tracking. That's the way I use my 160VUs - mainly 'just a tad' for bass and drums, sometimes acoustic guitars and the occasional vocal.
The difference I hear in these examples is similar to the difference I hear when recording say a bass thru my hardware Sans Amp PSA-1 vs. using the Bomb Factory PSA-1 plug-in. Basically the sonics are very similar, no doubt that you immedeately regognize the sound that's is being emulated. But the HW has more site and depth, again its more 3D.
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19th August 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doorknocker View Post

The HW version of the bass sounds much more 'alive', more 3D than the SW and to my ears it's the same for the acoustic guitar example. Drums are done at very extreme settings where I don't think that the details or even the brand of compression matters much.
The first time I listened was through headphones on my macbook playing through Itunes. Now I opened it up in PT and heard "bigger" differences and would have to agree with you.

But... The differences are still pretty slight and I feel UA did a fine job.

I always tend to track with whatever flavors I need for this reason. You get way more depth out the final mix, ITB... but the plugins are getting closer everyday.

Speaking of the 160vu, does anyone know much about the dbx 118 mod that can be done to get more of a 160vu behavior out of it? We have one kicking around and I use from time to time. It is vibey as hell.
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19th August 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doorknocker View Post
Very interesting test, thanks for posting these files!

I find the difference to be quite pronounced between the HW and SW. I use UA 2192 converters for all my DA needs and I really think that it brings out stuff that you just won't hear with lesser converters, I know that this was true when I used my Digi 002 for all DA incl. iTunes,etc

The HW version of the bass sounds much more 'alive', more 3D than the SW and to my ears it's the same for the acoustic guitar example. Drums are done at very extreme settings where I don't think that the details or even the brand of compression matters much.

There's no doubt that the SW is doing a very good job emulating the 160VU character though. For me though the real difference is the way that a HW compressor is treating the sound when tracking. That's the way I use my 160VUs - mainly 'just a tad' for bass and drums, sometimes acoustic guitars and the occasional vocal.
The difference I hear in these examples is similar to the difference I hear when recording say a bass thru my hardware Sans Amp PSA-1 vs. using the Bomb Factory PSA-1 plug-in. Basically the sonics are very similar, no doubt that you immedeately regognize the sound that's is being emulated. But the HW has more site and depth, again its more 3D.
Interesting note. I don't know if it's because of the Fireface's AD/DA or my own ears that I didn't hear any difference on the guitar and bass samples accordingly. Probably both

Anyway, in the meantime I'm pretty happy with what is available in the studio currently, which is the UAD-2 version. And it's no slouch either.
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19th August 2009
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i still dont like what plugs do to transients

thanks for the test
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this is interesting.

It seems to me that software compressors are not as good as holding the lower freqs together. The characteristics are very similar - but does anybody else notice that most soft comps do not prodive the same solidity in the bass?
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10th October 2009
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On the drum track, I hear the most difference at the beginning of the sample. The cymbal wash is more "unstable" in level with the software, it kind of pumps more, and the software is a tad brighter. Close, though!

On the bass, I can really hear that digital compressor sound. You know, how it kind of thins things out sometimes. It appears more when the bass notes run up the neck. The hardware is able to retain the "weight" of the low end whereas with the software, the low end thins out a bit. But very subtle. I notice that the software kept the transients more, for better or worse. I guess worse since it doesn't sound any different or punchier, just takes up more sonic space.

On the acoustic, I hear the software really clamping down more on the initial strums. The hardware sounds much more transparent and dynamic despite the two waveforms looking almost identical! Astounding!

The hardware wins on all the counts. The plug-in is certainly not bad at all for ITB. Impressive.

-Noel
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11th October 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nbenford View Post
On the drum track, I hear the most difference at the beginning of the sample. The cymbal wash is more "unstable" in level with the software, it kind of pumps more, and the software is a tad brighter. Close, though!

On the bass, I can really hear that digital compressor sound. You know, how it kind of thins things out sometimes. It appears more when the bass notes run up the neck. The hardware is able to retain the "weight" of the low end whereas with the software, the low end thins out a bit. But very subtle. I notice that the software kept the transients more, for better or worse. I guess worse since it doesn't sound any different or punchier, just takes up more sonic space.

On the acoustic, I hear the software really clamping down more on the initial strums. The hardware sounds much more transparent and dynamic despite the two waveforms looking almost identical! Astounding!

The hardware wins on all the counts. The plug-in is certainly not bad at all for ITB. Impressive.

-Noel
After listening again to the samples after some time now, I sure agree that the hardware sounds better. The software sounds great IMO and is a good alternative to the hardware. BUT if you had both or access to both, I would use the hardware at all times.
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11th October 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Never1 View Post
The problem with any of these tests is that, if we were to go all analog through a console with outboard gear, we're introducing tons of variables. Even similar units will sound "different" and in my estimation, the sonic shortcomings or strengths of mixing OTB has a lot to do with the inaccuracies of the medium. Digital is precision analog is not; meaning setup a pair of dbx 160's and they will probably sound different but the plugin settings will always match on two separate channels.
I believe a hybrid setup is king nowadays. I have most of the uad plugs, LM, and many others that I feel do a great job. I now track with plugs through outboard gear and either apogee or UA2192 converters. That analog stage along with the tools (plugs) gives me that sound that I DO hear with an analog mixer. Lately I have been using analog comps and uad pultec pro on lead vox or plugs and a pre and have really been diggin it. I also like the vca plug but to me it sounds even better coming otb into a nice pre back itb. I hear,well see, a lot of complaining around here but I think there are so many options now. We should all be happy and enbrace them all!!!!!
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11th October 2009
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the software sounds like its working harder and has less top end. In all of those tests, IMO the hardware was much better.

Thanks for doing this!
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15th May 2012
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Hardware sounded better because it had more top than Software, also the transients were tighter on the drum example on HW
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Ive had a pair of 160vu for a long time and was very impressed with the plug in. Damn, I hate to say that!
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But don't get mad at me, If the SW sounds that close, I don't think its worth spending the money for the HW
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15th May 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Never1 View Post
I checked and you're right, zooming in I noticed some differences in the way the transients are handeled but what you see and what you hear are different things. Just clicking back and forth, I feel they all sound pretty much identical.

I'm very impressed.
I use the 160vu a lot, and the first (and only) thing I noticed was the transients. But I agree that overall, really nice job.
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