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anyone use a DBX 163x compressor on Vocals?
Old 12th March 2007
  #1
Here for the gear
 

Talking anyone use a DBX 163x compressor on Vocals?

Hey guys!
I wanted to try using an older DBX 163x compressor to record a few vocal tracks, and I was wondering if anyone out there has used these little guys on vocals, and how much do you usually compress the vocals with these things, and what LEVEL SET & COMPRESSION SLIDER settings that typically like tom use for vocals?

Thanks guys!
Old 12th March 2007
  #2
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firby's Avatar
 

I use them on stuff all of the time. I set the makeup gain to 0 and set the compressor on the "o" in compressor. For a little compression set it on the first "o" In the word Compression or more set it on the second "o".

that should do it.
Old 12th March 2007
  #3
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lowswing's Avatar
 

don't like it on vocal but it kick ass for snare
Old 13th March 2007
  #4
Gear Maniac
 

I am not trying to tease you on purpose, but I always giggle a little when people ask for setting advice on the 163x. I mean it only has one knob and one slider, so you should be able to discover pretty quickly what it will do to source x or y. Its kind of like "I'm thinking of putting a 60w bulb in the lamp next to my be for reading. What setting would you recommend?"
Setting the slider at any one point may or not make a whole lot of difference since the level of you signal going in is going to vary from source to source. On the other hand asking whether or not people like it on source x or y makes some sense. Hard not to like it on bass. Haven't tried it on vocals yet but might...
Old 14th March 2007
  #5
Gear Maniac
 

awhile back I picked up a 163 and a 163x, usualy they end up with the 163 on kick and the 163x on snare when I mix live. their both not too bad on vocals.. but not ideal for it
Old 14th March 2007
  #6
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I wouldn't use them on vocals. As far as budget comps go, I'd probably pick the RNC for vox.

I don't have 163s anymore so I can't do a direct shootout but I remember not liking them very much... love 160s, x or xt, might want to check those out, they are a bit more expensive but I doubt you'd ever get rid of them...

These are very cool and actually are useable for vocals. Depends what style you're recording but I've had very good results for hip-hop.
Old 14th March 2007
  #7
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firby's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by lancebug View Post
I am not trying to tease you on purpose, but I always giggle a little when people ask for setting advice on the 163x. I mean it only has one knob and one slider, so you should be able to discover pretty quickly what it will do to source x or y. Its kind of like "I'm thinking of putting a 60w bulb in the lamp next to my be for reading. What setting would you recommend?"
Setting the slider at any one point may or not make a whole lot of difference since the level of you signal going in is going to vary from source to source. On the other hand asking whether or not people like it on source x or y makes some sense. Hard not to like it on bass. Haven't tried it on vocals yet but might...
Mine are set up on overheads. Now I know that that is a simple compressor and what not but there are four compression circuits in that box. Also there is TRS on the back for stereo linking. Mine are stereo linked to my drum overheads. I control how hard I hit it from the direct out (fader) on my mixer. The 163x is not a one trick pony its more of a 2 and 1/2 trick pony. Its a good compressor seeing how I spent 60 bucks for the pair racked. I do like them. I wouldn't sell mine for less than 200. But I would be willing to trade ....
HA
Old 14th March 2007
  #8
They are killer for bass. They add a nice dirt!
Old 15th March 2007
  #9
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by firby View Post
Mine are set up on overheads. Now I know that that is a simple compressor and what not but there are four compression circuits in that box. Also there is TRS on the back for stereo linking. Mine are stereo linked to my drum overheads. I control how hard I hit it from the direct out (fader) on my mixer. The 163x is not a one trick pony its more of a 2 and 1/2 trick pony. Its a good compressor seeing how I spent 60 bucks for the pair racked. I do like them. I wouldn't sell mine for less than 200. But I would be willing to trade ....
HA
Agreed they are exceptionally flexible for a one slider box, just not complicated to discover all the different posibilities. I have a pair that I like to link as well but I recently picked up an original 164 stereo version which I have been keeping permanently patched into my motu 828 as a send. That is a nice box for the $75 I paid for it.
Old 17th March 2007
  #10
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firby's Avatar
 

Damn that sounds nice. I would go an extra 15 bucks to have a two channel 164 as well!
Old 17th March 2007
  #11
Gear Nut
 

I have two of them and love them on vocals. They also sound cool on clean guitars.
Old 30th September 2015
  #12
Gear Head
 

If you like the way it sounds, use it!
Old 5th April 2016
  #13
Anyone know if it's possible to modify the output amp on these? I only use my pair on some accordion synths and some odd tracks here and there but I just find them so noisy. Wondering if there's a mod for that? I don't like it on a lot of sources but what it works on it just works.
Old 5th April 2016
  #14
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noah330's Avatar
I had a pair. I had upgraded the opamps and the filter caps and there was a huge improvement.

They can work pretty good on a lot of sources.
Old 5th April 2016
  #15
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kennybro's Avatar
I've got a 164 stereo model of the original 163. It's pretty cool on some sources like drum overhead. Got some 163's laying around too. Thing is, if the one-knob squeezer series doesn't sound good right out of the gate, don't waste time. Swap it out. They do that one thing, and that's all.
Old 5th April 2016
  #16
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mikeka's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nu-tra View Post
They are killer for bass. They add a nice dirt!
Yes, excellent on bass!
Old 6th April 2016
  #17
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12ax7's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by vsthalion View Post
Anyone know if it's possible to modify the output amp on these?
DBX 163X
Old 8th December 2017
  #18
Here for the gear
 

Matching the pair of DBX 163x

Quote:
Originally Posted by noah330 View Post
I had a pair. I had upgraded the opamps and the filter caps and there was a huge improvement.

They can work pretty good on a lot of sources.
Sooo....perhaps you or someone in this thread can explain why it seems like my pair of 163x’s is no longer outputting the same volume. I use them on overheads. They used to match (in stereo strapping mode), now the output of one is much lower. Did something get fried? Do they need to be biased or something technical like that??
Old 8th December 2017
  #19
Here for the gear
 

Plus....lol...I got a pair of these off eBay a few years back. Spent around $100. Apparently the secret is out, because they ain't that cheap anymore!
Old 10th December 2017
  #20
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vernier's Avatar
Wow ..way old thread. Yeah, was me that made 'em popular around here. As for a problem, have no idea where or if they could be repaired. As for using it on vocals, yes.
Old 6th December 2019
  #21
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nowaysj's Avatar
 

I’m going to shift mode from useless eater to useless repeater here, but I read in another thread on the illustrious GearSlutz that the illustrious David Pensado, that deshelled snail, said that the 163x is a secret box for rap vocals.

((((((((((((((

And to those throwing shade for questions about how to use the 163x, I don’t think you’ve ever REALLY used it. I find using a “traditional” compressor with threshold, ratio, attack, release, and gain controls to be far easier to use. You decide at what level the compressor circuit kicks in, you decide what factor you want to compress the signal by, you set how fast the compressor reacts, and how fast it lets go. Eazy Peazy, Lemon Squeezy, as they say.

The 163x is like black magic, to me right now, I don’t have much experience with it, but it behaves in very unpredictable ways. The “MORE” slider is not just more compression, despite what the front of the box says. And the “LEVEL SET” doesn’t appear to be just a make up gain control. I can’t figure out where the “LEVEL SET” amp is in the circuit solely based on its behavior.

Sometimes it seems like it acts as an input gain into the compression circuit, so turning LEVEL SET up increases the amount of gain reduction. Bbbut, sometimes it acts simply as makeup gain, working after the compression circuit, and not affecting the amount of compression.

My deep understanding of this box comes from a couple sessions with them. One being last night!

But seriously folks, last night I was chasing my tail with this box in a bad way, and could not win!

If I recall, I was pulling pretty hefty compression on a bass synth, can’t recall, maybe I tried to turn up the LEVEL SET to make up the gain lost in compression, but turning up the LS acted like it was input gain, increasing the amount of compression indicated on the meter, and therefore reducing the output volume??? Or maybe it was the opposite of that scenario? Either way, I was increasing one to decrease the other and it had the opposite effect, so, I got into this feedback loop of adjustments...

I backed off and started my exploration again for the fifth time and did get to a good balance with LS set to like -15, or -17 dB (I’m assuming dB!), the MOAR fader set to the spine of or the middle of the C. It was a hot signal, the cutoff of a lp filter set to keyboard track and set right at the fundamental with enough Rez to kick the filter into self resonance at that fundamental pitch, so I was getting a really heavy sine over the saw and triangle waveforms of the Osc. If you’ve done this, you know that as the keyboard tracks the cutoff while your ascending, descending or jumping around with a six osc’ed unison with actual natural Vco detunage, you can get some insane peaks! Like serious! But let me tell you, the 163x’s sounded GREAT on this bass patch. I patched it through a few different bottom of the barrel compressors, like rnc level, and they did not sound good on this patch, but the 163x’s sounded great. Really.

And further, I bought these a couple of years ago, with the intent to mod them, a la poor man’s SSL. I am indeed a poor man, and I loves me some SSL. Never got around to it, but I did test them out at that time and they were noisy! I was kind of gutted, so they’ve sat, unpatched (and I’ve been working on other things during that time). So I didn’t have high hopes when I patched them in last night, but they were quiet! Seriously, that stereo channel is tickling -70db but that is with an old 80’s poly vco synth on there, so that -70dB could be from the synth itself, either way, that noise floor is fine for me, I was peaking that channel into my converters at like -6dbfs last night, after compression, so there is a lot of gain in that signal!

I think when I previously tested these out when I first got them I plugged an active bass or passive guitar, and or both, into the front of the box, into the Hi-Z input. Maybe that input is really noisy? Don’t know. But I patched them last night with trs cables, pretty sure the back inputs are unbalanced, or are supposed to be, maybe they’re modded (got them from 2 different sources) and designed for line level, but whatevs, my patchbays and patch cables are balanced, no troubles so far going out to unbalanced devices, but I plugged into the back inputs with a line level source (synth), and I’m at or below - 70dbfs.

Welp, adding to the 163x lore! And I was testing them out with the thought of selling them, but hells of no, they really sounded great. Though wish I could control attack time... is the attack time program dependent? How would the JW mod affect the attack time? But for this bass synth patch it did provide a nice snap on the front edge of each note (essentially a bass arp pattern with a gate like amp structure, even though done on an adsr) that wasn’t there from the vca of the synth. Caused the bass notes to sound louder, like psychoacoustically, like bam, here I am, now follow me down into the mix, where I’m not taking up as much space as physics dictates I should!

The 163x’s are going to get prominent placement next to my desk. All of my desk rack space is full, but was thinking of a vertical custom enclosure for them.

Any issues with putting them on top of each other, rather than a 19” rack wide, and then boxing them in 3/4” pine or oak enclosure? Like any heat issues with a tight wood enclosure and not a rack? My studio’s ambient temp is in the low 60’s f, I’ve had them sitting on top of each other for 12 hours and they feel just, and I mean just, above ambient, but then their enclosure is aluminum, it seems, so maybe they’re heat exchanging really well in the open air (they’re just sitting on my desk right now, again, stacked), maybe not so we’ll with no airflow?

Words. Peace.
Old 7th December 2019
  #22
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Brian M. Boykin's Avatar
It automatically makes up the gain as you add compression. The “level set” is the goal you want it to make up to. So if set to 0 the compressor will make up the gain to what you sent in, or unity gain. +10 and it would make up the gain to +10 of what you sent to the compressor. -10, well, -10 of what you sent to the compressor. These are good little compressors and even better after minor mods. I have two I use to compress bass guitar. They’re set up in series so I can really squash the bass if I want.

Here’s the manual.

The JW mods take them to a new level. I did them myself based on Posts JW and others made. The info is out there OT just send them to JW. He’s easy to work with and turns them around quick. I’ve had him do other gear I was too afraid to touch. I highly recommend the Aphex 651 modded by him. An absolute vocal crusher with no real artifacts.
Attached Files
File Type: pdf DBX 163X Manual.pdf (1.80 MB, 6 views)
Old 9th December 2019
  #23
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vernier's Avatar


Every track ..vocals, guitars, drums, bass, was recorded through a 163.

And mixed through two 163.
Old 9th December 2019
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vernier View Post


Every track ..vocals, guitars, drums, bass, was recorded through a 163.

And mixed through two 163.
My God! That is an attention-getting trashy sound. Well done!
Old 12th December 2019
  #25
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nowaysj's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by vernier View Post


Every track ..vocals, guitars, drums, bass, was recorded through a 163.

And mixed through two 163.
Like sandy molasses, man!

Is this recorded to and mixed from tape?

Taking 2 of these 163x's, taping them together side by side, so the MOAR! faders move vertically rather than horizontally, the mad scientist in me thought of channel gain faders on a console. Then I imagined 24 of these, side by side, in a console arrangement, and each channel's gain is set by the amount of compression on the More slider, lol, a sort of self compressing mix/er.

Some of the golden eared, old time engineers around here are rolling over in their pre-coffins at the notion.

Like nails on a chalk board to them, I'm sure!
Old 12th December 2019
  #26
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12ax7's Avatar
 

I especially like the dbx 163x for use on the vocalist's headphone feed while tracking:

Somehow, the vocalist always seems to be encouraged by listening with it.
(I have no idea why that might be.)
...But at mixtime, all bets are off (so I usually print both feeds, and sort it out later).
.
Old 12th December 2019
  #27
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badmark's Avatar
163a on vocals here. And sometimes as a stereo pair on other things.
Old 12th December 2019
  #28
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nowaysj's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian M. Boykin View Post
It automatically makes up the gain as you add compression. The “level set” is the goal you want it to make up to. So if set to 0 the compressor will make up the gain to what you sent in, or unity gain. +10 and it would make up the gain to +10 of what you sent to the compressor. -10, well, -10 of what you sent to the compressor. These are good little compressors and even better after minor mods. I have two I use to compress bass guitar. They’re set up in series so I can really squash the bass if I want.

Here’s the manual.

The JW mods take them to a new level. I did them myself based on Posts JW and others made. The info is out there OT just send them to JW. He’s easy to work with and turns them around quick. I’ve had him do other gear I was too afraid to touch. I highly recommend the Aphex 651 modded by him. An absolute vocal crusher with no real artifacts.
Thanks, I really do want to take a look at this manual! I know different things are happening at different levels in this black box.

I likely am going to do the JW mods. I'm afeared to do them, not that I'm going to cheeze them up, though that is a distinct possibility, but that I'd lose... I don't know what to call it, the crunchiness, the ballseyness, the grittiness, the roundness, none of those quite describe the character of this comp. I need more time with them to judge! I have two, but I'd like to keep stereo capabilities, so it's all or nothing for now.

Also, I'd send them to JW, just to give back to him for all of the information he has shared here, freaking stellar guy, but I'm so poor, I'm losing the ability to afford meat. That level poor. But I have had a lot of gear go down in the last month and other gear that is actively going down right now, so I'm going to fix/mod them all at once, with one order of components hopefully from one supplier to save on shipping.

And more 163x lore:

So I wanted to check the hi-z input on the 163x, I thought it might be noisy, as my first impression of this comp was that it was noisy, but listening through back panel inputs/outputs revealed it to be quiet enough for me. So plugging in the front hi-z input with an active bass, it was just as quiet as the rear inputs. So I don't know what happened in my initial test, this 163x is quiet. I do have the other 163x that I haven't checked the hi-z input on, maybe that is noisy, we'll see?

But I wanted to mention that the bass signal at max volume out of the bass, and again, this is an active bass, it could only pull 1-2db of compression and then only if the bass string was smashed. There is a rear hi-z trim where you can set the input gain, or maybe threshold level of the compressor (don't know, haven't read the manual yet!). I easily adjusted it so the bass could pull ample compression.

I don't know if the dude (assuming) I bought it from had the hi-z set at the same level as the rear input, I bet he did because the rear input worked perfectly for line level, and the front hi-z input seemed to be set at the same level, expecting a line level, way to low for a hi-z input. Anyway, trimming up the hi-z had no adverse effect on the noise level, at least none that I could discern through 500 watts of bass amplification. I didn't record the bass signal from the hi-z input out the rear output, to really analyze the signal.

More data points for my bottom of the barrel brothers and sisters out there.
Old 12th December 2019
  #29
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vernier's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by nowaysj View Post
Like sandy molasses, man!

Is this recorded to and mixed from tape?

Taking 2 of these 163x's, taping them together side by side, so the MOAR! faders move vertically rather than horizontally, the mad scientist in me thought of channel gain faders on a console. Then I imagined 24 of these, side by side, in a console arrangement, and each channel's gain is set by the amount of compression on the More slider, lol, a sort of self compressing mix/er.

Some of the golden eared, old time engineers around here are rolling over in their pre-coffins at the notion.

Like nails on a chalk board to them, I'm sure!
HEE!.. no, I'm an old timer too. Anyway, this was recorded on 4-track cassette and mixed to cassette.
Old 12th December 2019
  #30
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Brian M. Boykin's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by nowaysj View Post
Thanks, I really do want to take a look at this manual! I know different things are happening at different levels in this black box.

I likely am going to do the JW mods. I'm afeared to do them, not that I'm going to cheeze them up, though that is a distinct possibility, but that I'd lose... I don't know what to call it, the crunchiness, the ballseyness, the grittiness, the roundness, none of those quite describe the character of this comp. I need more time with them to judge! I have two, but I'd like to keep stereo capabilities, so it's all or nothing for now.

Also, I'd send them to JW, just to give back to him for all of the information he has shared here, freaking stellar guy, but I'm so poor, I'm losing the ability to afford meat. That level poor. But I have had a lot of gear go down in the last month and other gear that is actively going down right now, so I'm going to fix/mod them all at once, with one order of components hopefully from one supplier to save on shipping.

And more 163x lore:

So I wanted to check the hi-z input on the 163x, I thought it might be noisy, as my first impression of this comp was that it was noisy, but listening through back panel inputs/outputs revealed it to be quiet enough for me. So plugging in the front hi-z input with an active bass, it was just as quiet as the rear inputs. So I don't know what happened in my initial test, this 163x is quiet. I do have the other 163x that I haven't checked the hi-z input on, maybe that is noisy, we'll see?

But I wanted to mention that the bass signal at max volume out of the bass, and again, this is an active bass, it could only pull 1-2db of compression and then only if the bass string was smashed. There is a rear hi-z trim where you can set the input gain, or maybe threshold level of the compressor (don't know, haven't read the manual yet!). I easily adjusted it so the bass could pull ample compression.

I don't know if the dude (assuming) I bought it from had the hi-z set at the same level as the rear input, I bet he did because the rear input worked perfectly for line level, and the front hi-z input seemed to be set at the same level, expecting a line level, way to low for a hi-z input. Anyway, trimming up the hi-z had no adverse effect on the noise level, at least none that I could discern through 500 watts of bass amplification. I didn't record the bass signal from the hi-z input out the rear output, to really analyze the signal.

More data points for my bottom of the barrel brothers and sisters out there.
I’ve constructed a very nice OTB studio buying older gear that’s ripe for mods and either modding it myself or sending them out to be modded. I have several JW modded pieces of gear here that are irreplaceable and a lot of gear still to send off to him. You can buy endless pieces of gear to manipulate what you hear in the room to get what you want to hear in the mix, or you can manipulate in the room what you want to hear in the mix and buy gear that records what you hear in the room without manipulating it into something you don’t want to hear in the mix. Chew on that for a while. One way you buy just what you need and your done, the other way you buy forever.
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