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DBX 160VU matched pair Dynamics Processors (HW)
Old 15th February 2015
  #1
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DBX 160VU matched pair

I have a chance to purchase a matched pair of the 160vu. I am a record producer (composer) and my studio has a bunch of instruments that i track when creating. I have it mixed elseehere. So the DBX is more as arsenal for tracking music/vocals. I take the approach of setting up the chain and leaving it with minor tweeks.
My current comp/limit set up is CL1b, Vintage La2a, MC76, dbx160x, 4 Melcor Cl-20 on console. I record drums, synth buss, vocals, e guitar cabs, e gtr sims, acoustic guitars etc.
Hope to get some advise from users if the VU may compliment what I have and it's uses.
Thx
Old 16th February 2015
  #2
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Would love some thoughts....
Old 16th February 2015
  #3
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Dbx 160VUs shine on kik drum, snare and bass. I'm sure they can be effective on vox and other instruments but that's not their sweet spot IMO.
Old 16th February 2015
  #4
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Thanks. Any uses for a matched stereo pair? Any other thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
Old 16th February 2015
  #5
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Well, I do have a pair. One is a paralell bass compressor and the other is a paralell kick and snare compressor. So, sorry, never used them elsewhere. If you find something let us know! Good luck.
Old 16th February 2015
  #6
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RoundBadge's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fidelis View Post
Well, I do have a pair. One is a paralell bass compressor and the other is a paralell kick and snare compressor. So, sorry, never used them elsewhere. If you find something let us know! Good luck.
that pretty much where my pair lives to.
I also saw Jim Scott recently printing a kick/snare compressed track through one.sounds good.
Old 16th February 2015
  #7
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There are some people that like them on vocals. In TapeOp Sanford Parker said:
Quote:
Issue 86, Sanford Parker:

"You take a [dbx] 160 and turn the threshold all the way off, then you turn the ratio all the way down so there's no compression at all, and then turn the output all the way up to where it distorts. Then you send it to another 160, or any other [compressor] - I usually use an [Empirical Labs] Distressor. Then I dial back a reasonable amount [of level] to tape and that's the one I use for my compression. It's cool because you talk into the mic and it sounds completely fine; but as soon as you scream, it starts to hit the output of that 160 and breaks up - to me it just sounds natural. I've recorded vocalists that had no idea I even put that on there. It's so funny too; there're so many vocalists who say, "Man, I might have to do one song a day... my voice... I hate recording." And we run through the song and every time it's like, "Dude, I sound great! This is way easier than I thought!" And I'm like, "Yeah, you sound great man!" [laughs] I don't ever say a word."
I was at a studio this week and used one 160 on bass and one on lead vocal, and they sounded great. I would have used the LA3A they had, but I had already dialed in into a lead guitar and it sounded so perfect there I didn't want to change things.

160VUs are great. I had a pair on loan for a while. As mentioned above BD, SD, bass all sound great through a 160VU.
Old 16th February 2015
  #8
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Thanks, Drumsound.
So you did the lead guitar on LA3A and the bass and lead vocal on 160vu? Cool vintage vibe!
Would love to know what chains you used with the 160VU for the bass and lead vocal and what type of singer you used it on. Also, any insight of the LA3A use would be cool too!!
Old 16th February 2015
  #9
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The session last week was at Miliken University. The studio is very nice there. We used the school's Amek Angela II preamps on everything. The bass mic was my Beyer TGX-50. The player was using a Music Man bass. I just wanted to even out the dynamics a bit, and I always liked the 160 on bass when I borrowed them in the past. The singer sang through one of my Beyer M88s and was singing with the band, behind gobos. It was an evening session and when we went to cut the vocal I liked the sound of the M88, but moved him out into the room and used the room mics set up for the drums along with the M88. I think I was hitting the 160 a little hard, but he wasn't singing loudly. I was a Beck cover, and very mellow (something form the break-up record).

The guitar that I used the LA3A was playing lines and leads, no chords. He was playing a Lew Paul through a Fender Hot Rod DeVille and one of the school's Cascade Fat Heads was the mic. He had a good amount of reverb coming from the amp. Playing like that can be a little "s*****" so I wanted to smooth it out. A friend had lent me his LA3As years ago, and told me "guitars of all kind are great with these." He's a guitarist and steel player, and when I've been to his studio we used the LA3A on Steel. So on my session we patched it in and I got some really smooth lovely compression happening. It totally eliminated that s***** thing that was bugging me. Opto comps and guitars can be wonderful. and LA3As are great optos!!!
Old 16th February 2015
  #10
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I owned a matched pair of 160VU for many years.

OK, this may be controversial in this thread, but:

I think the 160VU has become "cool" more because of it's age than because of it's sound. Given your list of compressors, it's hard for me to imagine I would reach for a 160 very often, at all.

Once in a blue moon, the 160VU will work well. But for a vocal, I can't imagine if beating what you already have, ever. Maybe for bass once in a while and on *exactly* the right acoustic (with zero boom and a little thin to start with) maybe.

I don't know what the price is for the 160's but I would spend the $$$ elsewhere. In fact, after realizing how seldom I used my matched pair, that'e exactly what I did.

Just my personal experience and yours may vary!
Old 16th February 2015
  #11
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Drumsound - thanks for the detailed information. I appreciate it. Very cool set up and sounds like a fun project. Also I'll keep an eye out for an La3a. Do you think the la2a would do a similar job on electric?

Getalife2 - thank you. No controversy as it makes sense considering what I already have. My thought was I could get the pair for a reasonable price, sell it if need be. However, since I so dislike 'setting up' before sessions and am more a producer, I could have my kick and snare or bass dialed through this 160 and not touch it. Same for a recently acquired 160x. This way I turn them on, tweet a tad for the day and just make music. Hope that approach makes sense. Whilst I do this, I could free the high end comps for mostly vocals or critical instruments.
Old 16th February 2015
  #12
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Yeah the 160's can be a bit touchy. I usually have to fiddle a bit to get the compression just right.
Not sure I ever tried much stereo work through them.
Old 16th February 2015
  #13
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My 160vu lives on my kick in channel (to tape)! I almost always use a sub kick track aswell, 160 vu is almost like a HPF! the ultra low end seems to be missing! it will make your kick stay right in your face though! be carefull the metering is quick!!!! happy tracking
Old 16th February 2015
  #14
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My favorite on bass guitar! I sometimes like it on the kick and snare... just barely kissing it.
Old 16th February 2015
  #15
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Yeah, if you're going to use a 160VU, the biggest thing to remember is that the meter is CRAP at showing gain reduction for anything transient whatsoever.

If you remember that, it is lots better. For instance, on acoustic guitar, you barely want to see the needle move most of the time and peak at maybe -2, which is actually like 5-7 dB or more, depending. On something like a tambourine, it's comically bad.

Remembering that makes a big difference. Of course on bass, and to a lesser degree, vocals, it's more legit. But don't even begin to trust the meter on transient material.

Ears.

And as far as set-it-and-forget-it working style. I'm all over that. Just smart to make it easy on yourself to be creative and not fiddly. You can always geek out, but should be only when you want to. Setting up your hardware to default to an easy workflow for yourself is no different than setting up a great template for your DAW. It's what smart pros do!
Old 16th February 2015
  #16
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Thanks Getalife. Yes I'll keep those notes in mind. As you said, Ears
Annex2 - can I ask what your whole bass chain is? Thx
Old 16th February 2015
  #17
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Go for it. They really are great on bass/kick/snare. Slap bass especially, and dry 70s style kick and snare. Try this for fattening up a not-so-present bass track:

Mult the track and apply a steep hpf around 300-500hz. Send to dbx160 and SLAM it. I mean get that GR meter consistently hitting the left side. Blend this track under the original bass track. The 160 contributes something very unique when you use it like this.
Old 16th February 2015
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ1973 View Post
Annex2 - can I ask what your whole bass chain is? Thx
Currently it is my Radial JDI DI to my modded/updated vintage Gates tube preamp to DBX 160vu and done. In the past I have used Neve preamps in this chain with great results as well.
Old 16th February 2015
  #19
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Bass guitar is most common, and if you set the threshold just right it can be excellent.

As a previous poster mentioned, kick drum, or snare, or any drum you want to really squash is a good candidate for them. Personally, while I like them on individual drums, I don't like that sound on overheads or on the drum buss. But if you like a squashed kit with pumping and lots of cymbals, you might like it.

Experiment. They are classics for a reason. I owned a DBX 162 (the stereo model) many years ago, and because it was my only "pro" compressor it was used on almost everything at one time or another.

Dean

Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ1973 View Post
Would love some thoughts....
Old 16th February 2015
  #20
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tekis's Avatar
I've used the 162 or a pair of 160's as a parallel drum compression patch to good effect. 160's are quite "colored" when compressing. But if you like the color, then there's not much out there that does what they do. I also like them on acoustic guitars. While they're not "known" as vocal compressors they sometimes can be great on certain vocalists. In tracking, I tend to set them conservatively.
Old 16th February 2015
  #21
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I owned a DBX 162 for years, and mostly agree with your assessment. I wouldn't use it on voice, ever. But on bass and individual drums, I like it.

Also, times have changed. Back then, I strived for a transparent compressor sound and it frustrated me, but these days people want to hear the compression. So it fits in a lot better. I would never call them transparent.

Dean

PS - Like you, when the going price became well over double what I had originally paid for it, I sold off my 162 as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Getalife2 View Post
I owned a matched pair of 160VU for many years.

OK, this may be controversial in this thread, but:

I think the 160VU has become "cool" more because of it's age than because of it's sound. Given your list of compressors, it's hard for me to imagine I would reach for a 160 very often, at all.

Once in a blue moon, the 160VU will work well. But for a vocal, I can't imagine if beating what you already have, ever. Maybe for bass once in a while and on *exactly* the right acoustic (with zero boom and a little thin to start with) maybe.

I don't know what the price is for the 160's but I would spend the $$$ elsewhere. In fact, after realizing how seldom I used my matched pair, that'e exactly what I did.

Just my personal experience and yours may vary!
Old 17th February 2015
  #22
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Seamus TM's Avatar
 

I like 160vu on amps, bass, drums.

My real thought here is:
"4 Melcor Cl-20 on console."
What's the story with that?
Old 17th February 2015
  #23
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Oh Melcor - Well Melcor was a company that RCA used products from to build their post 'Elvis' Bill Porter console which was pre-API. The console was supposedly designed by RCA engineers with help/input from Chet Atkins and Les Paul. Story has it that Saul Walker started API 2520 OpAmp was 'inspired' by the original 1731 Melcor OpAmp. Intact, he apparently took off with around a dozen Melcor Engineers and created the original APIs which then went into the RCA studios and replaced my console. My console is 1 of 4 that were made by RCA for their studios around the country. Apparently mine started in RCA NYC and ended up in Oakland (via Hollywood). There is a gutted out version of my console at Nashville Studio B (CMHOF). These consoles came with RCA/Melcor products including 32 Melcor Eqs and 6 Melcor Limiters. The Eqs are very musical 2 bands and the limiters are like 525.
Here is something we recently mixed on my console and the CL20 limiters are on the vocals as well as live drum buss on top of UAD plugins.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kg9enIuu_yA
Attached Thumbnails
DBX 160VU matched pair-img_0858sm_3.jpg  
Old 17th February 2015
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ1973 View Post
Oh Melcor - Well Melcor was a company that RCA used products from to build their post 'Elvis' Bill Porter console which was pre-API. The console was supposedly designed by RCA engineers with help/input from Chet Atkins and Les Paul. Story has it that Saul Walker started API 2520 OpAmp was 'inspired' by the original 1731 Melcor OpAmp. Intact, he apparently took off with around a dozen Melcor Engineers and created the original APIs which then went into the RCA studios and replaced my console. My console is 1 of 4 that were made by RCA for their studios around the country. Apparently mine started in RCA NYC and ended up in Oakland (via Hollywood). There is a gutted out version of my console at Nashville Studio B (CMHOF). These consoles came with RCA/Melcor products including 32 Melcor Eqs and 6 Melcor Limiters. The Eqs are very musical 2 bands and the limiters are like 525.
Here is something we recently mixed on my console and the CL20 limiters are on the vocals as well as live drum buss on top of UAD plugins.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kg9enIuu_yA


Thanks!
Nice piece!
Old 18th February 2015
  #25
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KRStudio's Avatar
 

160vu or161vu can be really cool on stereo buss for electric guitars.
Old 18th February 2015
  #26
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edvdr76's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ1973 View Post
I have a chance to purchase a matched pair of the 160vu. I am a record producer (composer) and my studio has a bunch of instruments that i track when creating. I have it mixed elseehere. So the DBX is more as arsenal for tracking music/vocals. I take the approach of setting up the chain and leaving it with minor tweeks.
My current comp/limit set up is CL1b, Vintage La2a, MC76, dbx160x, 4 Melcor Cl-20 on console. I record drums, synth buss, vocals, e guitar cabs, e gtr sims, acoustic guitars etc.
Hope to get some advise from users if the VU may compliment what I have and it's uses.
Thx
I have a pair that usually get used on kicks and bass guitars. It's also a great compressor on those stubborn vocals that won't sit in a mix right, or when you wanna glue harmony vocals to the lead singer.
Old 18th February 2015
  #27
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Drumsound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ1973 View Post
Drumsound - thanks for the detailed information. I appreciate it. Very cool set up and sounds like a fun project. Also I'll keep an eye out for an La3a. Do you think the la2a would do a similar job on electric?
I have no real experience with an La2a, but I know there are folks who will use them on guitars. You've got one, give it a go and get back to us!
Old 18th February 2015
  #28
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Synchronia's Avatar
 

What about the special stereo link cable for 2 160VU? Is it still available?
Old 18th February 2015
  #29
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Annex2's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Synchronia View Post
What about the special stereo link cable for 2 160VU? Is it still available?
Contact Studio Electronics in Burbank, CA. They list them on eBay all of the time, at least the ones for the DBX 165's.

Last edited by Annex2; 26th February 2015 at 09:24 PM..
Old 18th February 2015
  #30
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Thanks!
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