DBX 166 by John Eppstein
The dbx 166/166A/166xl is a single rack space stereo dynamics control device featuring separate gate, compressor, and limiter sections. The sections can be linked for stereo operation off one channel's controls. Each channel feature a Gate Threshold, Compressor Threshold and ratio, and limiter threshold. The current "xl" version adds release for the gate and attack and release for the compressor. There are sidechain inputs for each channel.
Lotsa features. You'd think the bang for the buck would be a bit better than a 5. But its not and here's why.
First off, none of the versions sound very good. The old ones might sound a little better than the newer, fuller featured ones, but none of the 166s are that hot. They're definitely not in the league of the original 160, 162, or 165.
And the features...... Ah, the features.......
The gate section is utterly useless, with or without the release control. The attack is too slow for any reasonable use unless you want the beginning of your sound lopped off with a dull knife.
The limiter section is likewise useless, primarily because it sounds horrible and the lack of anything other than a threshold control make it unsuitable for anything but the most crude sort of limiting. When they call it a "peak stop limiter" that's exactly what they mean. This might be useful for speaker protection in a live situation if you don't have anything better but for recoding it doesn't cut it.
The compressor section works as advertised. It has a switch for hard knee/over easy and a switch for auto mode. Unfortunately the actual sound of the compressor section is mediocre.
This unit appears to be intended for live sound applications in nightclubs that don't have the budget for anything of better quality. As so, it does fill a niche. But for any sort of more demanding application or for recording I'd steer clear. For recording especially there are units available that may not have as many "features" but are miles ahead in audio quality in the same price bracket.