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DBX 160 (x,xt,a) Dynamics Processors (HW)
Old 7th August 2002
  #1
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XHipHop's Avatar
DBX 160 (x,xt,a)

Ok, a smart person can get these for about $150 used off of ebay if they play the game right. Maybe about $175.

So how do they perform compared to a RNC (which people say is the best compressor in the price range). I know that their flavor is completely different (i've used the 160x and the RNC), but quality-wise, do you feel they are on the same level?

Also, out of the X, XT, and A versions of the DBX 160, which would you personally pick? What are they each best on?
Old 7th August 2002
  #2
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Jay Kahrs's Avatar
I'm not sure if the X or XT came first or what the differences between them are. But, the A is by far the last of the bunch I'd get. Something about it just sounds small in comparison to the X.

A 160 has a very different sound then an RNC. The RNC is more general purpose while the 160 is a speciality piece. Lots of people like them on drums and sometimes bass. I've also used them for very light compression on a vocal with another compressor in front doing most of the work and sometimes acoustic guitar but that only works maybe 1 out of 20 times. YMMV on that. By far the best of the 160's is the original 160VU which is a 1/2 rack wide and two space high unit that hasn't been made in many years. I have a pair that I go back and forth on selling all the time.
Old 7th August 2002
  #3
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XHipHop's Avatar
Jay, i know the 160 VU is the best out of the bunch, but it's like $650 used (if you are lucky..much more from places like proaudiodesign).

I think i'd rather get something like two 160x's, and then consider my 160 bases covered and look for some other compressors.

It's sort of like the Joemeek SC2 and SC2.2. While they are different compressors with different characteristics, they still share the same flavor.

I think i'd rather get something like the 160x (or a few) and then maybe a distressor or cranesong to emulate the 160vu sound if i need something a little different.

I mean, if the 160x even gets close to the 160vu, then $175 is a steal, isn't it?

How do they sound on electric guitar, by the way?
Old 7th August 2002
  #4
Gear Maniac
 
Mats Olsson's Avatar
 

160 X is good & useful.

/Mats
Old 7th August 2002
  #5
Moderator emeritus
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Jay Kahrs
I'm not sure if the X or XT came first or what the differences between them are. But, the A is by far the last of the bunch I'd get. Something about it just sounds small in comparison to the X.

And I thought it was just me. A pair of 160A's were some of the first compressors I ever bought (since they were the ones in production that year), and I've not used mine in several months - their sound just never knocked me out.

But since I haven't played with a 160VU over here, I want to try that and see if perhaps I'm just not thrilled with the dbx sound.
Old 7th August 2002
  #6
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sonic dogg's Avatar
I have a 903 dbx in my rack...its a very good squasher of all things ...it has a nice quality sonically...i have several dbx pieces and they've all sounded professional and have operated without mishap...i would say as a whole the quality is much better than any beringer or things of that ilk...and they're generally cheap to own off ebay or such......peace
Old 7th August 2002
  #7
Moderator emeritus
 

Quote:
Originally posted by sonic dogg
I have a 903 dbx in my rack...its a very good squasher of all things ...it has a nice quality sonically...i have several dbx pieces and they've all sounded professional and have operated without mishap...i would say as a whole the quality is much better than any beringer or things of that ilk...and they're generally cheap to own off ebay or such......peace
I absolutely agree that they're much better than a 3630 or Behringer; it's for me, it's simply that I don't get excited about what theysound like (unlike an 1176, LA-2A, Trakker, etc.). The 160A's are usable, just not special. And I have enough compressors at hand that I don't need to use anything that doesn't knock me out. That's why I want to listen to some 160VU's - to see if it's simply the sound of the whole product line.
Old 7th August 2002
  #8
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JRE Productions's Avatar
 

The 160X and 160XT are patently identicle units, and when calibrated properly sound identicle as well.

The 160VU was a point to point wiring and has a very distinct sound in comparrison to the 160x amd xt. (these are basicaly the same desing but had undergone production changes.)

DBX uses VCA's (Voltage controlled amps)to do compressions, LA2a are opto limiters that use VLA or vactor-based level amplifier. (I think?)

They sound and perform diferently. VCA's (DBX's) are more pronounced and you can hear the compression. THe opto units like the LA2a are very musical and you can squash them very hard and they still do not sound compressed. They get fatter sounding. Different uses.

Rock mixex often uses 160vu's or 160X (XT) for kick and basses or on a buss of both kick and bass at the same time.

Either style have thier own coloration.
Old 7th August 2002
  #9
Gear Maniac
 
JRE Productions's Avatar
 

BTW...if your looking for a really nice opto compressor on a budget, try the ART PRO VLA.

Unlike other ART tube products, this unit really is nice and sounds great. (I call it a poor mans LA2a) This unit is very musical and warm.

You can get them used for around 300 bucks or so.

Just a tip FWIW.

Joe
Old 7th August 2002
  #10
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XHipHop's Avatar
audio upgrades also upgrades the 160 line. what do they do and is it worth it? i'm considering upgrading a 160x and leaving one factory style and comparing the differences. has anyone else done this?
Old 7th August 2002
  #11
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sonic dogg's Avatar
Now i'm sure someone out there who's electronically literate can confirm this...but...doesnt dbx make most of the vca's used in other manufacturers products? a great explanation on jre's part about the differences in the types of compression circuits...i have a PRO VLA and being a private low-budget kinda studio i love it...I paid $400 for my VLA and MPA together and have not been disappointed in either unit....i had a single rackspace art 'toob' unit and never did come to terms with it...it lives with someone else now....as for the 160vu.....why oh why did i ever sell my pair???go ahead...kik me here...that thing would make anything you put through it breathe.....peace...
Old 7th August 2002
  #12
Moderator emeritus
 

Quote:
Originally posted by sonic dogg
Now i'm sure someone out there who's electronically literate can confirm this...but...doesnt dbx make most of the vca's used in other manufacturers products?
I believe so. And my understanding (as fuzzy as it is) is that dbx spun off their VCA manufacturing arm into THAT Corporation. Does anyone know if this is correct?
Old 7th August 2002
  #13
Gear Maniac
 
JRE Productions's Avatar
 

Sonic Dogg,

I traded a pair of 160VU's in great shape for an ADAT XT a few years back. Thought I got the deal of the century. Who's laughing now.

The VLA is a great deal for the price. I also own the MPA and feel its adequate. Not awesome, but does the job nicely.

According to Tom Cram at DBX the circuits on the 160 models were all basically the same, just the process of manufacturing changed from point to point then PCB and then surface mount etc....

Next time I talk to him I'll ask about the VCA's.

Later,

Joe
Old 8th August 2002
  #14
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Knox's Avatar
 

and the 161 vu?
Old 8th August 2002
  #15
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Isnt the 161 an unbalanced transformerless version of the 160vu?
Old 8th August 2002
  #16
Gear Maniac
 
JRE Productions's Avatar
 

The 160VU and 161VU are identical units except the 161 is unballanced RCA plugs. Many have been modded to 1/4" or 1/4" ballanced jacks. Great for inserts on boards with out ballanced send/recv.

Also a real steal is the DBX 118 (maybe its 119) its a stereo version of the 161 with no meters. I've seen them go for anywhere from 50 bucks to a few hundred.

162 is the stereo version of the 160VU I think. And then thiers the 165. These are all basically the same units according to TOm @ DBX.

The 160X and XT are later units with PCB's.

Joe
Old 8th August 2002
  #17
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mig27's Avatar
dbx 118 vs. 160VU

let me chip in here.

I own both the dbx 118 and a pair of 160VU's.
You can really tell it's the same compression technology unique to older dbx units.

I A/B'ed them in many situation and can confirm that these babies react exactly the same at identical settings.

But they do have a different coloration - which is quite understandable since the 118 has a transformerless design and runs at -10dB consumer level.

The 118 has a nice "lofi" touch, sounds darker and less precise.
Great for electric guitars tracked to DAW that lack warmth (Sorry for using the w.....-word).

the 160VU will give a much clearer attack on bass drums for example and has a nice sheen on trebles the 118 doesn't have.
This is the one I'd use on sub-groups or even mixes.

In the end, I wouldn't let go either of the two.

And let me spread the word: do yourself a favour and grab a dbx 117, 118, 119 or 128 for around $50.00 as long as their price is that low. You won't regret it.

Best of luck.


Michael
Old 9th August 2002
  #18
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AudioGaff's Avatar
Another difference between the 160 and the 161 was that the 160 had the power on anti-thump circuit. Not that big of a deal. The 161's work much better on inserts as you don't lose any gain as you do when you un-balance the 160. I have a pair of 161's for sale if any one is intersted. email me off line.

AudioGaff
Old 9th August 2002
  #19
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subspace's Avatar
Quote:
Originally posted by JRE Productions


162 is the stereo version of the 160VU I think. And then thiers the 165. These are all basically the same units according to TOm @ DBX.

Joe
The 165 is related but a different design. It was the queen mother 2RU mono unit with adjustable attack, release, and that big compression knob. The first one to add switchable soft knee/ hard knee as well I think.
On that topic, what do you 160X, XT, A users use the hard knee setting on?
Old 9th August 2002
  #20
Moderator emeritus
 

Quote:
Originally posted by subspace


The 165 is related but a different design. It was the queen mother 2RU mono unit with adjustable attack, release, and that big compression knob. The first one to add switchable soft knee/ hard knee as well I think.
On that topic, what do you 160X, XT, A users use the hard knee setting on?
I tried it a few times on a 160A, but liked that even less than I did the Over Easy setting.
Old 9th August 2002
  #21
Gear Maniac
 
JRE Productions's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by subspace


The 165 is related but a different design. It was the queen mother 2RU mono unit with adjustable attack, release, and that big compression knob. The first one to add switchable soft knee/ hard knee as well I think.
You are correct..what I think Tom from DBX meant was the compressors were all the same components internally (same VCA, transformers, etc) but the options were different. 165 you had more control. Notice for the most part they all sounded the same.

Kinda like buying a car with different exterior packages. Same car but different options.
Old 18th July 2007
  #22
Gear Head
 

how does the dbx 164 fit into the picture?

i get the impression from the schematics that it is a "preset stereo unbalanced transformerless" version of a 165 with the soft knee type compression?

they only have one" compression slider on the frontpanel (for both channels)

there are trimpots for ratio and attack release etc on the internal pcbs

- i paid $50 for mine so i might bring these controls out to pots on the frontpanel... havent plugged it in yet as it is 110v and in need a stepdown transformer or modded psu to run on 240v/.
Old 29th June 2008
  #23
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dangoudie's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by JRE Productions View Post
DBX uses VCA's (Voltage controlled amps)to do compressions, LA2a are opto limiters that use VLA or vactor-based level amplifier. (I think?)

They sound and perform diferently. VCA's (DBX's) are more pronounced and you can hear the compression. THe opto units like the LA2a are very musical and you can squash them very hard and they still do not sound compressed. They get fatter sounding. Different uses.
This is really interesting. Thanks
Old 29th June 2008
  #24
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OldMan's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mig27 View Post
let me chip in here.

And let me spread the word: do yourself a favour and grab a dbx 117, 118, 119 or 128 for around $50.00 as long as their price is that low. You won't regret it.

Best of luck.


Michael
I agree, but dbx117 needs a modification to be half as useful like his brothers.

http://www.untrue.ch/test/dbx117/dbx...er_nachher.jpg

(just an example)
Old 1st July 2008
  #25
Here for the gear
 

DBX 163x ?

I am new to recording and trying to get a small project/home studio together reading everything I can to get up to speed. I saw this thread and thought I would jump in ...

It seems you guys like the DBX 160x .... I have a 163X (seems to be mono) that I never used, I am assuming it's a keeper?

Will I need a 2nd one to be able to work in stereo or am I better served to get something different and keep the 1-163x I have?
Old 4th August 2009
  #26
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12ax7's Avatar
 

I've used all these units.

Rule of thumb: the more dbx "improved" the 160 line, the worse it got.

The best by far is the original 160 (major mojo).

Most like the 160 on bass, snare, vox.

I liked the 118 (unbalanced stereo) for top/bottom snare. It really married the two mics so they didn't sound like they were fighting eachother.

The 160X was "alright" when you ran out of the good stuff.

...But there was one exception on the 160X: Most folks never found a good use for the "negative ratio" option, but I actually found a good non-"special-effects" use for it:

I did a lot of theater for awhile. And it always bothered me that when using wireless body-mics, some actors would need alot of help until they raised their voices, at which point the body-mic would start to make them sound really unnatural.

So I started using the "negative-ratio" option, and setting the threshold at exactly the point where this problem manifested itself. Then, when they hit that break-point, the comp would kick in (big time), and kill the problem.

I'd just use my left hand to ride the threshold during musical numbers to keep the orchestra from burying them as the song got louder.

Much easier (and more natural sounding) than just riding gain on their mic.
Old 4th August 2009
  #27
Old 18th August 2009
  #28
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matskull's Avatar
 

How do the Art Pro VLA and the dbx 160x compare tonewise?

I need 2-3 more channel of comp for cheap and I red some good stuff about the VLA, never heard it though, I played with a 160x one or two times and it was ok, wasn't stunning but it worked good.

The 160x seem to have raised in price recently so it might be cheaper and easier to get a VLA instead, if it's usable...
Old 11th October 2009
  #29
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Seditionary's Avatar
 

Dbx 160x's sound amazing on some things! I love running electronic snares, etc. through a pair of them. Makes sense why J. Dilla used them as outboard gear.

They sound crispy and awesome on a snare. They are also cool on bass and some vocals -- i like to set the compression ratio to infinity to really smash things.
Old 12th October 2009
  #30
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love 160X for drums,

160A kick ass on the Bass
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