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is the dbx 166xl really that bad?
Old 9th January 2008
  #1
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zaviere's Avatar
 

Thread Starter
is the dbx 166xl really that bad?

I have a friend of a friend who is gonna sell me one for 140 in really good condition. I thought they were decent but then I searched around in here. I found plenty on the 160 and 160x and everything BUT the 166xl. the only things I could find on the actual unit was one or two comments that basically said they were a waste of money. is it not worth it. I dont have a lot of money right now but I thought this was a pretty good deal. it would basically be for vocals but not recording vocals. it would be to record when jamming and to control my drummers vocals since he sometimes likes to scream.

is it useable for drums? I was thinking of using it for that when we're laying down some tracks.
Old 9th January 2008
  #2
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the 166 should work fine to control your drummers scream.
GS is to be taken with a pinch of salt..i'm so happy to be a new member..it's fascinating reading people's opinions throughout the world..it's interesting to speculate that we are witnessing a normalization of thought on a global scale..
but it's only GS!
Old 9th January 2008
  #3
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Konketsu's Avatar
140 for a 166xl is pretty good. I know that a lot of people on GS say that the 166XL is asstacular, but I've always found it to be a useful (if rather hard/spiky sounding) compressor, and does the trick in a live setting quite nicely.

I'd snap it up for 140 bucks, even if you rarely use it.

I've never used it on an acoustic drumkit, but it works nicely on electronic percussion.
Old 9th January 2008
  #4
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The 166 is fine -- you just have to be more conservative with your levels and ratios than you do with a 160X, XT or A. At 70 bucks a channel used (vs. a minimum of around 250) it's a great deal.
Old 9th January 2008
  #5
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I use my 166XL on toms a lot. It's sort of stiff sounding, so for rock toms it does the job fairly well. The gates on the 166XL are ok, I use them occasionally.

I actually like the 166XL better than the 1066.... the 1066 kills off a lot of high end. Thinking of having Jim mod mine...
Old 9th January 2008
  #6
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Marlowe's Avatar
 

Yeah, it has more options but they don't help the 1066's sound.

There are so many other, better options out there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post
The better option is the 1066. It gives all the side control options the 166 series lacks. They use the same RMS detectors and VCA's (which can be swapped out to that 2180 series).

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades
Old 22nd January 2008
  #7
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ioanni's Avatar
The 166XL can get a little hard sounding but that could be a color. For that should be just fine. Lots of knobs to twist too.
Old 5th November 2008
  #8
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DBX 166XL compressor - 'clicks' on speech?

Hello, this seems a suitable thread for me to ramble in ...

I seem to be on a never-ending journey to find an expander/compressor I'm happy with. I don't think I have great demands though.

After a brief dark period trying an Alesis 3630 ... :O ... I've now had a new DBX 166XL for a few months but I don't feel I'm ever going to be happy with it. The main problem seems to be, on speech, you sometimes hear an unattractive 'click' at the start of a sentence. I've tried various/all settings as you can imagine, many times, but it seems to be hard to dial out on the controls.
Does anybody else find what I've described and can't avoid it?

Maybe I'm compressing 'too hard' and the 166XL can't handle it? Well, if that's the problem, that's a bit rubbish isn't it! But maybe less rubbish than the Alesis!

Any thoughts or experiences?
Anyone know a better unit that doesn't react as I've described, although probably one or two steps higher up the cost ladder?

I want to be able to set the compressor and leave it, running a generic 'radio station type' mix of speech and music through it which come in at varying levels. What I want to achieve, is significant raising of low levels and compressing (near limiting) of high levels, so that the final listening level doesn't vary very much at all and everything is nicely audible. Keeping much dynamic range doesn't really matter to me !

It seems a minefield buying one of these units. You can read reviews and opinions till you're blue in the face, only to then find your considered purchase doesn't really come up to the (fairly basic) mark.

Thanks,
Lee
Old 10th November 2008
  #9
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Hello again,

No thoughts then to my post, anyone? My problem is that I find I can't avoid an unpleasant 'click' quite often at the start of a sentence. Not just on speech, though. It's hard to describe really, but you'd find it objectionable if you heard it.

I'm just wondering if other users also find this issue and can't 'dial' it out.

Thanks,
Lee
Old 10th November 2008
  #10
Dusty Wakeman (Mad Dog studios, Dwight Yoakum) discovered this for me in an original 166 back in the mid nineties. Transients would produce a click at start of compression on transients, especially acoustic guitar. Even stock 166's do this. I suspect the xl is having the same problem. The fix was to place a 47 pf cap from the non inverting input pin of the 5534 opamp that follows the current to voltage opamp stage following the VCA to ground. Apparently a current shift would happen that needed to be damped, this fix did that without reducing the 100k hz bandwidth. My hot rodded to hell black 166 with ADA4898-1 opamps and that 2180 vca's works perfectly.
It's a design flaw for sure. Even the dbx design team I talked to about this 13 years ago were unaware of it.

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades
Old 10th November 2008
  #11
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Mike Brown's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post
Dusty Wakeman (Mad Dog studios, Dwight Yoakum) discovered this for me in an original 166 back in the mid nineties. Transients would produce a click at start of compression on transients, especially acoustic guitar. Even stock 166's do this. I suspect the xl is having the same problem. The fix was to place a 47 pf cap from the non inverting input pin of the 5534 opamp that follows the current to voltage opamp stage following the VCA. Apparently a current shift would happen that needed to be damped, this fix did that without reducing the 100k hz bandwidth. My hot rodded to hell black 166 with ADA4898-1 opamps and that 2180 vca's works perfectly.
It's a design flaw for sure. Even the dbx design team I talked to about this 13 years ago were unaware of it.

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades
The click is actually very cool on some sources. But that is a very very groovy fix!
Old 10th November 2008
  #12
Gear interested
 

Thanks Jim, that sounds like an informed and relevant view on this issue.
Assuming I take the stance of 'I'll sell this one, yet again, on ebay', which compressor/expander does _not_ have this issue and would fulfill my needs I posted about?
There surely must be one that doesn't cost, what, UK£500 or something. (I don't know off hand how that translates to dollars.)


Thanks,
Lee
Old 10th November 2008
  #13
The 166 is a great program comp with it's auto attack/release side chain design. For tracking I prefer manual attack/release to match the source. I've been living on Aphex 651 Expressors since 1990, I have 4 now. It works like there's a little man inside pushing a fader up and down who's smarter and faster than I am.

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades
Old 10th November 2008
  #14
Gear interested
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post
The 166 is a great program comp with it's auto attack/release side chain design. For tracking I prefer manual attack/release to match the source. I've been living on Aphex 651 Expressors since 1990, I have 4 now. It works like there's a little man inside pushing a fader up and down who's smarter and faster than I am.

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades
So your vote, Jim, is for a 'fixed' 166 or an 'out of the box' Aphex 651 Expressor?

Thanks,
Lee
Old 11th November 2008
  #15
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awakened's Avatar
 

its a good unit for sure, it's definitely characterized as a faster compressor. for me, it was great on toms and vox, but if you're looking for something with a little "slower," check out the LA2A on UADs plugs. amazing.
Old 11th November 2008
  #16
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Hello,
Quote:
Originally Posted by awakened View Post
its a good unit for sure, it's definitely characterized as a faster compressor.
Do you mean the Aphex 651 Expressor?
Also, how do you mean 'fast' as compared to 'slow'? Does 'fast' mean capable of working well at any setting without unpleasant artifacts?

Lee
Old 11th November 2008
  #17
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Sacalait's Avatar
I have a DBX 166 that I bought in '95 or so (when the prices for DBX compressors came 'down'). I can say it's freakin' bulletproof for sure! I find it to be a bit 'dark' on the recording end. I've tried it on the two buss and... uh, ...no. Not terrible on vocals but I'd have to give it a 'lower end' rating for tracking. Live music?.. maybe much better.
Old 11th November 2008
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by leecovuk View Post
Hello,

Do you mean the Aphex 651 Expressor?
Also, how do you mean 'fast' as compared to 'slow'? Does 'fast' mean capable of working well at any setting without unpleasant artifacts?

Lee
These are apples and oranges compressors, one is auto attack/release, the Aphex is manual, unless you get the 661 model which is switchable. The 661 also has that starved plate tube stage, but that can be bypassed via a jumper inside the unit. It's pretty easy to install a small SPDT toggle switch on the front panel to make it tube in/out. This is a great marketing feature Aphex missed out on.

The dbx is not as fast as you might think. I find transients do get past this design. The Aphex is as fast or slow as you set it, the range is the widest I've ever seen. The attack is from 50 microseconds to 100 milliseconds. The release is from 40 milliseconds to 4 seconds, the length of an LA-2A. This is why it's best suited to tracking individual instruments when the attack/release envelope can be adjusted to fit the dynamics of the source. The auto detect stuff tends to work well for program material, mixes with high and low frequencies at the same time so the comp can adjust to it. I've never heard any artifacts with the Aphex comps, the THD is also the lowest at .002%, compare to the 166 at .02%, an order of magnitude higher. The 651/661 also have the hf expander which masks the compression effect, no other comp has this feature which is why it operates so transparently. My choice: I have both. It's not that they cost very much, the 651's often go used under $200. I paid $200 for the 166 16 years ago.

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades
Old 11th November 2008
  #19
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gainreduction's Avatar
 

Jim, exactly what does the SPR-process on the 661 expressor do ?
Old 11th November 2008
  #20
It's a 2 pole all-pass filter, or a phase shifter. It's intended use is to allow low frequencies to "catch up" with the phase of the mids and highs in an attempt to correct for low end phase shift that can occur when running audio through several stages of gear. If your gear is phase linear like all of mine (each piece has a 2 hz to 200k hz bandwidth to eliminate phase shift in the audio band) you will never need it. If you run through gear with roll-offs at 20 hz or so, it may help. The same circuit with a dual reverse log pot to tune the frequency is what the variable phase alignment tools are made from. The Aphex is set at 360 degrees, making the two tuning resistors variable would allow a 0 to 360 degree adjustment.

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades
Old 11th November 2008
  #21
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gainreduction's Avatar
 

Jim.
Old 17th November 2008
  #22
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Thanks again, Jim. I've only just become aware of your reply.

The darned clicking is continuing to annoy me and is likely to continue doing so...
Does anyone know of any specific settings on the 166xl that avoids the problem, or maybe you know somebody in the UK who can do the mod Jim mentioned earlier?

I've looked a little into the Aphex 651 Expressor but it appears to only really exist in the US.

The following is more or less off topic; I don't want to distract from my main points above I need to get a non clicky powerful compressor/expander somehow or other!

I was originally quite happy with how my Drawmer LX20 worked in general, and have only been trawling through other units since the control knobs became crackly on the LX20. Drawmer told me they no longer have spares for it. The LX20 however is generally quite 'basic' and does noticably 'swallow' on low frequencies, thereby affecting the overall compression much like some other units. However, it has loads of gain and really brings up low levels.
Before the DBX and the Alesis I mentioned earlier, I also tried a Drawmer DL241, but I found it didn't significantly raise low levels during compression regardless of how I tried to set it. Presumably it doesn't have much gain in that area.

Lee
Old 18th November 2008
  #23
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glenn Taylor's Avatar
 

Funny thing. I had A DBX 1066 for sale on ebay . $179. Pretty cheap. I don't believe how cheap and dumb some of the people on there are. My ad ran like this.
"DBX 1066. In full working order." This guy e mails me today and ask's me. " Is the unit fully functional?" I pulled the auction. I don't need the cash ,that bad.
I did e mail the guy back. I told him. The unit is in full working order, but not fully functional.
Glenn.
Old 18th November 2008
  #24
Gear interested
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by glenn Taylor View Post
a short tale
That's as lost on me as it probably was on the poor buyer.
Were you trying to say that the 1066 is not a very good unit?
Old 18th November 2008
  #25
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dbx 166xl - cap mod

I just stumbled across this cap mod mentioned earlier. So I opened up my dbx 166xl which I had bought for $60. It looked new, but was probably B or even C stock for the paint blobs on the front panel. Technical specs are all fine and according to manual.

Unfortunately it's all SMD parts throughout, so swapping opamps and VCA might be a real pain. However, I got curious about adding that extra 47 pf cap(s) (should be manageable for me with very sharp tip) if it isn't factor installed already. But I'm not really sure I fully understood where that cap goes.

The 166xl has two 5532s (input/output board plus four 4560s) and six 074Cs (mainboard plus LM139...something ICs).

I tried to take a picture of the boards, but because it's all tiny tiny tiny there is not much to see. Yet, is there a more detailled description or maybe even a crude schematic of where to put the cap(s) exactly? That would be lovely.

Cheers,
Script

Last edited by Script; 18th November 2008 at 12:33 PM.. Reason: two 5532s !
Old 18th November 2008
  #26
Gear interested
 

I forgot, there are also:

2 x "dbxRMS1" on mainboard (8-pin SIP)
2 x "dbxV1" in input/output board (8-pin SIP)

The LMs mentioned earlier are wrong. They are 3046(?)
Old 23rd February 2009
  #27
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mamero's Avatar
DBX 1066 Mods

Earlier Jim Williams and a few others mentioned the DBX 1066 is a good option because there are mods that can be done (RMS detectors and VCA etc). Has anyone done this? I'm a pretty comfortable with soldering etx. Could someone please provide detailed instructions or information on what to do? Jim, could you help on this one? Thanks very much.
Old 23rd February 2009
  #28
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Beyersound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by PoorGlory View Post
I use my 166XL on toms a lot. It's sort of stiff sounding, so for rock toms it does the job fairly well. The gates on the 166XL are ok, I use them occasionally.

I actually like the 166XL better than the 1066.... the 1066 kills off a lot of high end. Thinking of having Jim mod mine...
All of the DBX 10** series is total ass! Stick to the three digit series stuff!
Old 24th February 2009
  #29
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mamero's Avatar
DBX 1066 Mods

Thanks for the reply but your comment does not answer my question. Anyone else with something productive to say? Thanks!
Old 28th February 2009
  #30
tekis
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I can't believe this is still going on!

Many years ago, I assisted on a Deep Purple mixdown session. The engineer had been mixing/monitoring with a DBX 166 on the buss. After a couple of days I asked, "Aren't you going to switch to the 33609?" He thought about it for a minute and then switched to the Neve. A couple of hours later, he switched back to the DBX. Why? Because he'd worked the mix to that device and it sounded better--to both of us.
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