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Hardware compression (DBX 160x) with or without ITB compression?
Old 26th June 2008
  #1
Gear Maniac
 

Hardware compression (DBX 160x) with or without ITB compression?

Im moving away from simply doing everything in the box and have purchased a vintage DBX 160X which shall hopefully arrive here today or tomorrow.

Right now I am compressing totally in the box (pro tools), once lightly on a bus on the way in and then once in the mix.

With hardware now, I dont know how I should approach it. Should I compress once with the 160x lightly on the way in and then ITB while mixing? Should I compress hard just using the 160x and not compress using plugins anymore?

I of course want to get as much out of the 160x as I can, but adjusting from ITB to hardware is a learning process again, and I am just trying to think outside "the box."
Old 26th June 2008
  #2
Gear Addict
 

What are you compressing? I assume it vocals. Nevertheless it seems as if you are thinking about it all a little bit too hard. Afterall software compressors are generally emulating or mimicking the characteristics of the hardware that came before them. Treat it the same way.But remember that different compressors have unique foot prints. If i was going to use a dbx 160 on a vocal(i woudn't generally) I woud probably strap it on to an insert it protools HD.
Old 26th June 2008
  #3
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Azriel_7 View Post
Exactly stop looking for rules and look at situational requirements.
Also did you get 2 of the 160's?
Since they are mono just having one will limit or change many of your options as well.
Just one. Only using it for vocals.
Old 26th June 2008
  #4
Lives for gear
I know Mr. Pensado uses the 160x on some drums, so I'd experiment with using it on kicks and snares as well... When it sounds right, go with it.

I don't have any personal experience using the 160x a a tracking comp, but I don't see why you shouldn't be able to use it on the way in, just to keep control of things (medium ratio, relatively fast attack, low threshold so you only compress high peaks). Definatly consider putting it on lead vocals as well. Start by experimenting with extreme settings so you get a feel of how it works on vocals, then move on to something with a more "practical" approach.
Old 26th June 2008
  #5
Gear Maniac
 

I just got my 160x in the mail Today. I only have one. I have a 166 dbx comp already, but I needed something more "vintage." What I do for comping mono vox channels is something like do NON character compression with plugins. Just to tame very loud peaks with very very light settings like 2:1 ration at light thresholds with no make up gain. From there I may get EQ right or wait. Then I route that channel out to one of my outboard pieces. And add that Character.

It hurts that I only have 1 dbx 160x, I can't afford 2 right now, otherwise I would do guitars, drum busses, bkgs, parallel compression the whole nine. But for now I'll do lots of mono stuff, like kicks, but if I feel like it I'll render one track and add compression to the stereo side. Depends.

But I think you should use both plugins and hardware. Plugins mostly for things you can't do with your HW and when you run out of HW and don't really want to print effects.
Old 26th June 2008
  #6
Lives for gear
 
Switchcraft's Avatar
 

Remember compression is multiplicative. so if you track 1/2 and mix 1/6 you got 1/12 going on then and that is practically a limiter.

I would call a 160 vintage sounding, I dont know where you got that. The 160 is VCA based not is not full of character like a tube compressor would be. If character is what you consider a vintage sound, then I wouldnt consider a 160 vintage. . 160 are just good workhourse comps. I like it on elec bass.
Old 26th June 2008
  #7
Lives for gear
 
666666's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Azriel_7 View Post
...stop looking for rules and look at situational requirements...
Excellent advise.

Start fresh and experiment, see what sounds / works best for your situation.

You could try sticking the 160X in the recording path, but that can be dangerous. Once you record with the 160X inline, you are stuck with that compression... can never undo it. A lot of folks make the mistake of compressing too hard while recording and wind up with a squashed lifeless over-colored track. If you compress to tape, be sparing, be gentle, be careful, unless you know for a fact that the degree of compression and color you are achieving is EXACTLY what works best for you in the final mix.

As for sticking the 160X in the mix path... well, if you have the I/O to do it, why not? Hopefully you have good converters because that path will now be going through an extra DA/AD path. If you have "el-cheapo" converters, you may want to avoid this... a good ITB compressor may ultimately yield "better" results in this case.

Again, try everything and figure out what works best for you. Any of your options have the potential to work well. What's most important is how these tools are used / adjusted... and that will be up to your ears.

The 160X indeed has a "sound". You will either like it or you won't. For whatever it's worth, I still have one in my rack... along side many other comps that are worth 4 times as much per channel or more each.

I'd say the 160X DOES have a "vintage" sound, to an extent anyway... depends on how you define "vintage " I guess. You can hear the "dbx sound" on many 1970's recordings... seems like yesterday to me but damn, we're talking over 30 years ago... I think it's safe to call that sound "vintage". Of course the dbxs you hear on `70's recordings were the 160VUs, 162s and 165s, not the 160X, but again, the 160X DOES have that traditional dbx character / flavor in general. It ain't identical, but there's a clear sonic association. The 160X is a worthy tool if you use it appropriately.

I had a new 266A once - LOL - I threw that in the garbage almost immediately. Had a few older mint 166As once too... gave those away. The person I gave them to doesn't talk to me anymore.

In my opinion the 160X is the least expensive per channel dbx unit that is truly useable on a pro level... it's worth having around for the price. YMMV

FWIW, I remember reading an article about the recording of the last Rush album... they claimed that a lot of Geddy's vocals were recorded through a "crusty old 160X"!!! Ironically I think the fidelity of the vocals on that album are hurting a bit, but it sounds more like a digital issue to me if anything... I bet they recorded through the 160X (which was ok) but then really crushed it later in the mix with some digital plug-in compressor / limiter which caused the unpleasant character that I detect. That's what it sounds like to me.

Yeah, tools come in assorted qualities, what matters most is HOW you use them.

Old 27th June 2008
  #8
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Switchcraft View Post
Remember compression is multiplicative. so if you track 1/2 and mix 1/6 you got 1/12 going on then and that is practically a limiter.

I would call a 160 vintage sounding, I dont know where you got that. The 160 is VCA based not is not full of character like a tube compressor would be. If character is what you consider a vintage sound, then I wouldnt consider a 160 vintage. . 160 are just good workhourse comps. I like it on elec bass.
What the 'h ell' are you talking about. And are you even addressing what I was saying? So what I used a word vintage to describe an old piece of "gear." Damn I didn't know adjectives were that important in a forum?

Anyway, it's a vintage piece of gear because it's old. Duh
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