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dbx 160vu.... overrated? Dynamics Processors (HW)
Old 15th July 2002
  #1
Lives for gear
 

dbx 160vu.... overrated?

I bought a pair of 160vu's a couple months ago because i got a really good deal, but have never had experience with them. I've heard everyone rave about them.... but I sort of feel let down.

I've fooled around with them for awhile, and I cant get them to do anything really cool. Its all usable results but nothing incredible.

My pair are up to factory spec so I know theres nothing wrong with them. So im definetly thinking about trading them for a distressor or something.

Anyone have advice as to get them to sound REALLY good on kick and snare? At this point I much prefer my RNC's or the tracking compressor on my fatso.
Old 15th July 2002
  #2
I had a similar experience when I got mine half a year back - 2 months of Huh? WTF?

I had 'grown up with them' back when I started and not had much recent contact with em..

They add a grainy sound that helps kick n snare through the mix..

It's not uncommon to be underwelmed by them I believe, they are kinda like roughage or bran, good for you but not the most exciting of foods...

It's perhaps the fixed 'knee' of them that makes them one trick units I understand (?)

Anyone care to add a thesis on this undeniable classic?

Moderator Jon loves his!

Old 15th July 2002
  #3
Lives for gear
 

I owned a pair for years. Kick and snare? Not in my book. Mush city, IMO.

IMHO, where 160VUs happen is on bass or acoustic guitar. Keep in mind that the meters are *real* slow compared to digital metering. What looks like 5dB of gain reduction is more like 10-15dB on transient material. Add to that the total of 60dB scale on the meter and pretty much everybody is hitting them way to hard, compared to what they think is happening.

Try this one, if you have occasion for acoustic guitar. At about 3:1, set Threshold to where Gain Reduction on the meter is *just* moving the meter 1-3dB, which is nearly nothing with that huge scale.

See if you don't dig that.


Regards,
Brian T
Old 15th July 2002
  #4
Lives for gear
 
e-cue's Avatar
 

I've only gotten these things to sound good once in my whole career on a moog bass part.
Old 15th July 2002
  #5
One with big hooves
 
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
Just like Brian, I've gotten them to work on acoustic guitars and some vocals by barely touching them. I use them on a drum submix all the time and they sound great for that. I've also used them many times while tracking kick and snare. They give a great pop to solid back beat stuff. Not natural sounding by any means. I like my pair but if someone offered me enough for them I'd probably sell them and get Distressors or Dakings instead.
Old 15th July 2002
  #6
Lives for gear
 

Yeah I'd totally take a distressor with brit mod for the pair. I cant even get a good drum crush type thing on a multed snare track with them. I'll try them again tommorrow on a drum submix and if they get beat out again by another compressor offfff they're going to go.

What could I ask for a pair?.... one has a broken meter thats hooked into the other meter, so you have to toggle between which one you want to see metered. I didnt pay too much for them, so what could I ask? They're in perfect electronic condition other then the meter... which dbx doesnt have more of.
Old 15th July 2002
  #7
This is why you shouldn't buy stuff just because other guys are crazy about it. One man's loss is another man's gain. For me on rare occasion they find there way onto a vocal or acoustic guitar where a Distressor won't work. Lately I've actually been using the 160SL for that same DBX coloration, faster and brighter off course. For the 2 buss thing, I've actually found that a 162 works better than a pair of 160Vu's. Even a pair of 160X's will get you there faster.
Old 15th July 2002
  #8
Lives for gear
 

Well I figured that even if I didnt like them... I could resell them for more then what I payed. So it was a win win situation either way.
Old 15th July 2002
  #9
Lives for gear
 
David R.'s Avatar
 

I've used one to squish bass and synth bass only. Found them good for that.

I have two Alesis 3630 compressors I'll trade you for them. The meters even work on them. C'mon. You would get four channels of that fine dfegad Alesis sound that is destined to be a classic!

heh heh heh
Old 15th July 2002
  #10
Lives for gear
 

Speaking of cheap compressors I actually prefer my dbx 166xl to the 160's. Its just amazing me that people like the things so much. At first I was in doubt about not liking them since they're so popular, but now I think they flat out suck (for how much they go for). But as always YMMV.

So I guess off to ebay they'll go.
Old 15th July 2002
  #11
jon
Capitol Studios Paris
 
jon's Avatar
 

I have four of them and love 'em, even with all the SSL desk comps and LA2As and 1176s we have. I'd sell my distressors and 1178s before my 160s. I also have 2 160Xs which I rarely use...they are less musical to my ears and don't have the hot sound and warm grain of the 160s.

They are easy to use and always work. The only thing is, since they are vintage they all sound a bit different and it's good to know which of yours sound best and for what...

FWIW I never track with them but mix with them all the time.

Mult the kick and snare and bass to one 160 (or separately to two or three depending on what you're after) at 3:1 ratio with the GR just barely moving a dB or so. Bring that track up on another fader.

Mult the stereo tom tracks to two more of them and bring them back on two more faders. 3:1 again, with the GR meter barely moving.

Your kick, snare and toms will now be punching through the mix much better. They will also be more audible on small monitors like NS10s and Auratones.

160s give pop & punch, not smash. If you are looking for smash, use an 1176 (or a distressor).

I've compared many times my 160s to my 1176/1178s and distressors on kick drum tracks at mixdown. The 160 wins every time for me.
Old 15th July 2002
  #12
Gear Addict
 
cymatics's Avatar
 

I love my 163's on percussive stuff (snare kick etc). Granted the only parameter you can control is 'more' but they do that DBX thing nicely and I got my pair for a little over $100.
My personal fave for a smashed sounding snare mult is a Spectrasonics 610. It uses an optical gain reduction element so it's not anything like a 160/165 type of sound. They are dirty sounding as all hell but they are loads of fun for over-compression effects, and a lot less dough than other devices of similar design.

- jon
Old 15th July 2002
  #13
I also have 2 160Xs which I rarely use...they are less musical to my ears and don't have the hot sound and warm grain of the 160s.

You know its funny, I actually feel the opposite. I feel that the 160X while a different sound than the 160, for today's electronic pop and rnb/hip hop it has more uses. It is lovingly known here in NYC for its "knock quotient", it can bring out the "knock" in drum sounds(especially kick and snare/rimshot). In kick and snare mults I always find them crucial in building up the sounds. Its also great on bass too, the 80's it was almost the defacto standard. Sometimes it works great on a vocal, where you need a lot of grab at the end of an agressive mult(LA3a squashed too death with a 160X at the end for some sheen works great). The only other use I found was on a drumsubmix. If set right you can get that Smart C2 flavor.
Old 26th May 2008
  #14
Gear Maniac
 

so what's the best version of the dbx 160 to get first. as far as the most mileage.....this is for tracking BTW. I would get a distressor but i just don't have the money right now!!
Old 26th May 2008
  #15
Lives for gear
If any one feels like unloading one of your 160vu's or one of your 160x's I'm all ears. Arthur
Old 26th May 2008
  #16
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
I bought a pair of 160vu's a couple months ago because i got a really good deal, but have never had experience with them. I've heard everyone rave about them.... but I sort of feel let down.
never liked the dbx's. gearslutz can build up certain gear to "must have" status....
Old 26th May 2008
  #17
Lives for gear
I have 2 161s.

I agree its now a WOW box. But its usually my first choice for bass, and the mult thing for kick and snare is great.

You really just have to touch them toget the sound. If you hammer it it will be mush.

They sometimes work on vocals.
Old 26th May 2008
  #18
Lives for gear
 
leaper's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by planet red View Post

Anyone have advice as to get them to sound REALLY good on kick and snare? At this point I much prefer my RNC's or the tracking compressor on my fatso.
As you know, there's not much to set up with these compressors. As a standard insert you can use 4:1 ratio, set threshold so that the light burns brightest with the loudest snare or kick beat.. that should be enough to keep the transient and bring out more body in the drum. That's it! If you expect something else, then you need something else.
Same principle goes for 2 bus drum compression. It can make drums more punchy and mellow out cymbals.
With parallel compression you can dig in more. It pumps very easily in a bouncy way that gives a characteristic sound to overheads.
Again, it's all rather clean. If you want distortion color look elsewhere.
I use them a hell of a lot in conjunction with a more colored compressor.
IMO they complement a FATSO nicely.
Old 26th May 2008
  #19
Lives for gear
 

I did a record with Steve Swallow a few years back and he said that's his favorite for his bass. He even has a pair for his live setup.

I like them on bass for mixing. I really have to be careful not to overdo it or too much of that pop comes into the sound.

They're going for about $1600 a pair so I dont think they're overrated at all.
Old 26th May 2008
  #20
Lives for gear
Tracking vocals

I like them when tracking vocals. I use two comps when tracking many vocalist. The 160VU is set to kick in past 0 db at 4:1 and another opto kicks in earlier with a gentle ratio. They are very usable tapping them for kick, snare. They sound god on clean electric guitars, trumpets that are too dynamic sounding and for background vocals that you want to sit nicely as a chunk together.

They are a usable tool on the right items.
Old 27th May 2008
  #21
I see them as a one trick pony. In fact they are the definition of a one trick pony imo. If you dont like that trick then you wont like them. I happen to like it a lot. They are GREAT to get a really snappy, poppy bass sound instantly. They also give kicks and snares what I describe as a "sticky" attack. Its a sound that I havent heard any other compressor really nail the same way and its something that I REALLY appreciate. I set them so that the needle barely moves at all when the kick or snare hits. I find that anything more sounds pretty terrible. I also like to use them on a mult or parallel and just mix them in.
Old 27th May 2008
  #22
Lives for gear
 
Soldier777c's Avatar
 

They are fantastic on bass, that's for sure.
Old 27th May 2008
  #23
Gear Nut
 

THIS is why there are OPTIONS for recording gear....nobody will force you to like them.
They are my hands down favorite must have compressor.
Next in Line is 1176 and then La2a.

Love the DBX on Kick, Snare, Bass, GTR, Piano, Vocals.
Yes, a 'one trick pony' but the same trick works for me on most everything I do.
Very "grabby"....generally do about 3db of compression.

jmp
Old 27th May 2008
  #24
The Distressor's "daddy"
 
Dave Derr's Avatar
 

The DBX160XTs are great, too, and much more affordable. I think the dBX 160's were the first to use an adaptive time constant that adjusted the attack faster for transients, and slower for low frequency stuff. David Blackmer of dBX who died a few years ago, was a genius and an inspiration for many, including me. He started Earthworks after he sold dBx. How I wish I could have done a Vulcan mind meld with that guy. His VCA design still dominates solid state gain control devices like compressors and gates. He had a heart of gold, and a really original mind that could approach things in unique new ways.

The dBx 160s are excellant compressors, even though theres not many controls on them. The knees and time constants just work great on so many sources.

I miss seeing David at AES and other conventions. His son Eric is a great guy and extremely knowlegeable about Audio. I believe he is designing studios and monitoring environments now.
Old 27th May 2008
  #25
Gear Guru
 
RoundBadge's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Derr View Post

The dBx 160s are excellant compressors, even though theres not many controls on them. The knees and time constants just work great on so many sources.
Yep .I find they work on so many things.just gotta find the sweet spot.
just another good tool.
when it works it works..when it don't..use another wrench that does.


..
Old 27th May 2008
  #26
Lives for gear
 
adam_f's Avatar
Folks, it's all in how you use them, there is a sweet spot!

I love my pair and would not get rid of them EVER!! They sit with my FATSO too!

Start by setting them up with your source so the leds are never solidly set on one or the other - have them bouncing back and forth (the leds should be dancing), enjoy.

I set mine using my ears, and guess what every time the sweet spot is where those leds are dancing back and forth.
Old 27th May 2008
  #27
Lives for gear
 
Empire Prod's Avatar
 

160Vu's are really cool in my opinion. I haven't found anything that does the 70's "thwack" thing on kick and snares quite like them. They are also great on bass that needs to be intelligible in the mix.
Old 27th May 2008
  #28
Gear Guru
 
RoundBadge's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Empire Prod View Post
160Vu's are really cool in my opinion. I haven't found anything that does the 70's "thwack" thing on kick and snares quite like them. They are also great on bass that needs to be intelligible in the mix.
thumbsup
Old 28th May 2008
  #29
Here for the gear
 

The DBX160xt's seem to work okay for Dave Pensado
Old 28th May 2008
  #30
Gear Nut
 
bob st john's Avatar
 

160's, 162's...i use them every day.

sure, they're a little scary if you don't know what to do with them (and yes, they can sound like downright ca-ca if you push it the wrong way with the wrong material). but give them some time...try them on everything and see what they sound best on for YOU. everyone hears it differently...

i experienced a similar shock after i added a 162 to my compliment of gear. it seemed to always be just TOO much...but then i started using it like i remembered using it...and it all became MUCH clearer. these compressors (160, 162) don't exactly work for EVERYTHING...the distressor is a much more versatile piece (i don't really like distressors but i DO think they're great units); but you have to find your own uses for them.

i agree...nothing gives you a cooler thwack than the 160 on kick/snare...or that perfect intelligibility on bass when nothing else works. you may want to try combining a compressed and uncompressed track (i.e. main track uncompressed and bring up the 160 comp'd version on another fader) and check that out...
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