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DBX 128 / 119 / 118 - Applications, tips, mods etc.
Old 13th November 2009
  #1
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DBX 128 / 119 / 118 - Applications, tips, mods etc.

Have finally got round to getting myself a DBX 128, been meaning to get one for ages. Used it on a session the other night on the drum bus (tried it on room mics too) and fell in love. I'm now considering getting hold of a 118 or 119 as well which i believe will offer a very similar sound and vibe.

So to those of you out there that are users of the 128, 119 & 118, what do you find yourself using them on. Seems like they excel at drum bus compression and room mics but what else have you had great results with?

I would also be keen to hear (and i'm sure that others will be also) of any other tips or modifications that apply to these compressors.

Many thanks in advance.
Old 13th November 2009
  #2
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DamnYankee's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dialectic View Post
Have finally got round to getting myself a DBX 128, been meaning to get one for ages. Used it on a session the other night on the drum bus (tried it on room mics too) and fell in love. I'm now considering getting hold of a 118 or 119 as well which i believe will offer a very similar sound and vibe.

So to those of you out there that are users of the 128, 119 & 118, what do you find yourself using them on. Seems like they excel at drum bus compression and room mics but what else have you had great results with?

I would also be keen to hear (and i'm sure that others will be also) of any other tips or modifications that apply to these compressors.

Many thanks in advance.
I would recommend using the Search function - there's several threads about this very topic and LOTS of great information about the VCAs, mods, etc in them.
Old 13th November 2009
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DamnYankee View Post
I would recommend using the Search function - there's several threads about this very topic and LOTS of great information about the VCAs, mods, etc in them.
I understand that there are other threads that focus on the modifications of these units but it wasnt my intention to cover old ground.

As stated in the OP, I was primarily interested in what other sound sources/applications people tend to use these compressors on but felt that it may be interesting for people to post on other matters relating to these compressors, including mods, if they chose to do so.
Old 13th November 2009
  #4
The 118 is one of my secret weapons on rock guitars, love the dbx smash. I like the 128 because it's got the makeup gain, useful when using these color boxes for deep compression. I also like 'em on drums, rooms, etc. Stereo synth also but vox, piano, rhodes, not so much. I've got a 128 and 2 118's and used to have a 117, 119 and several more 128/118. Good to have in the toolbox but not something I want for everything.
Old 14th November 2009
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bkbirge View Post
. I like the 128 because it's got the makeup gain, useful when using these color boxes for deep compression.
Regarding the 128's makeup gain/Play Level Match. I can only get mine to work when the 'Play' switch is pressed in on the Noise Reduction section but that cuts out all the top end from the signal. Am I doing something wrong?
Old 14th November 2009
  #6
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Can anyone shed any light on the Output Gain/Play Level Match matter?
Old 14th November 2009
  #7
Mine seems to work without the noise reduction.
Old 14th November 2009
  #8
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Hmmmm... ok I shall have another look at mine.
How have you got yours hooked up at the back. Are you connecting via the 'Record' or 'Play' Ins/Outs?
Old 15th November 2009
  #9
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Fellow 128 users... bumpety bump.

Whats the deal with the connections and Output Gain/Play Level Match?

Is my unit at fault, have I got something hooked up wrong or is a mod required to use the gain control without the 'Play' button pushed in?
Old 16th November 2009
  #10
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Anyone else?
Old 17th November 2009
  #11
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I can't believe that this thread has had 190 views and only 1 person has given feedback....oh well, worth a try.
Old 17th November 2009
  #12
Install voltage regulators. Without them there is a large amount of hum in those.
New chips, huge psu caps all help.

Or, just buy a 161 cheap.

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades
Old 17th November 2009
  #13
Mine don't have any hum and the only mod done on them so far is I put a power on indicator light tapped off the power transformer on the 118's. I have thought about doing some of that though, thanks for the tips Jim, I may have to get around to it now.

Dialectic, I'll have to get behind my racks and machete the cable jungle but I think I've got it hooked up for the play ins/outs. It's been awhile since I even looked at it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post
Install voltage regulators. Without them there is a large amount of hum in those.
New chips, huge psu caps all help.

Or, just buy a 161 cheap.

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades
Old 17th November 2009
  #14
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Mertmo's Avatar
 

I have a 128. It's been a while since I used it, it's been stored, BUT if I remember
correctly...

Regarding the noise reduction section and the buttons: Let's say you have the "play"
button pushed in. Push one of the other buttons in JUST SLIGHTLY so that it triggers
the "play" button to release, but the button you are pushing doesn't actually push in
and engage itself. Now there are NO buttons pushed in. This will give you your high
end back, and the compressor will work and sound correctly, with the following exception:

the playback level match knob, or makeup gain, does NOT work.

this has been my workaround for years. Maybe I'm stupid and never figured the whole
thing out, I never really found tons of uses for the 128 personally. Although last time I
used it I did think it was sounding pretty fantastic. I could see myself using it more in
the future.
Old 17th November 2009
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post
Install voltage regulators. Without them there is a large amount of hum in those.
New chips, huge psu caps all help.

Or, just buy a 161 cheap.

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades
I will certainly consider these mods. Many thanks for the tips Jim

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mertmo2 View Post
BUT if I remember correctly...

Regarding the noise reduction section and the buttons: Let's say you have the "play"
button pushed in. Push one of the other buttons in JUST SLIGHTLY so that it triggers
the "play" button to release, but the button you are pushing doesn't actually push in
and engage itself. Now there are NO buttons pushed in. This will give you your high
end back, and the compressor will work and sound correctly, with the following exception:

the playback level match knob, or makeup gain, does NOT work.
The noise reduction can be disengaged by simply pushing the 'bypass' button on the noise reduction section but as you point out, when the noise reduction is turned off (by whatever means) the 'Play Level Match' no longer functions

Quote:
Originally Posted by bkbirge View Post
I'll have to get behind my racks and machete the cable jungle but I think I've got it hooked up for the play ins/outs. It's been awhile since I even looked at it.
I have tried hooking up my 128 via the 'Play' Ins/Outs and the 'Record' Ins/Outs.

When connected via the Rec Ins/Outs the 'Play level Match' has no effected at all as it simply controls just the 'Playback' signal.

When connected via the 'Play' Ins/Outs I can get the 'Play Level Match' to function but as stated before, only when the 'Play' buton is pushed in on the noise reduction section.

I have refered to the manual for the unit which explains that if using the unit to playback material that has been encoded with DBX noise reduction then the 'Play' button should be pushed in and then the Play Level Match control can be used should the audio level be different to that of a non encoded signal in bypass mode.

In a nut shell, judging by my experinces with the unit and the manual, the 'Play Level Control' can only be used when the DBX noise reduction is turned on which when playing back a non ecoded signal is going to filter out the high end.

However, bkbirge as well as others on a seperate thread have reported that they use their 'Play Level Match' when compressing a signal?

Are these units modded in some way or am I missing something here?
Old 18th November 2009
  #16
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Just used the 128 for processing some rock guitar today, absolutely loving this unit. Seems to me that it is really well suited for:

Drum bus
Drum Room mics
Bass guitar
Electric guitar - for both extreme processing on certain heavy rock style tracks and used more subtly for funk, reggae etc for a more vintage vibe.

Not had chance to try it out on vocals yet but I'm curious. Anyone had good results using these units on vox?
Old 18th November 2009
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dialectic View Post
Just used the 128 for processing some rock guitar today, absolutely loving this unit. Seems to me that it is really well suited for:

Drum bus
Drum Room mics
Bass guitar
Electric guitar - for both extreme processing on certain heavy rock style tracks and used more subtly for funk, reggae etc for a more vintage vibe.

Not had chance to try it out on vocals yet but I'm curious. Anyone had good results using these units on vox?
I have a DBX 128 and 119 and for Drums and Guitars its the 128 but the 119 works better on Vocals and bass it seems the Attack and Release times are different to the 128
Old 18th November 2009
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by redroom View Post
I have a DBX 128 and 119 and for Drums and Guitars its the 128 but the 119 works better on Vocals and bass it seems the Attack and Release times are different to the 128
Do you tend to use it on vocals alot or just when the track requires that particular vibe/character?

I am considering getting myself maybe a 118 or 119 at a later date and am curious to know how different they are soundwise. From what I've read I believe that the 118 and 128 are pretty much the same unit but with the 128 featuring the noise reduction element. Can anyone confirm this?

Ive managed to locate both the 118 and 128 manuals and reading the specs they do seem to be the same compressor with the same attack times etc. However, cannot seem to find any manual or documentation for the 119. Anyone got the info out there for the 119?
Old 18th November 2009
  #19
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DamnYankee's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dialectic View Post
I understand that there are other threads that focus on the modifications of these units but it wasnt my intention to cover old ground.

As stated in the OP, I was primarily interested in what other sound sources/applications people tend to use these compressors on but felt that it may be interesting for people to post on other matters relating to these compressors, including mods, if they chose to do so.
Well, let's start with the obvious:

1. they were designed for home audio/reel 2 reel applications and run -10 db.

2. Secondly, some of the dbx 119's have the dbx 200 VCA as found in the 160VU BUT the circuits are completely different. They do have that old dbx-esque sound.

HOWEVER, be forwarned of a couple things:

1. they are NOISY without a complete overhaul of the power supply (see Jim Williams).

2. When you start really cranking on the compression, you'll experience a corresponding reduction in output loss (and you're already starting out with -10db).

In a nutshell, these can be used in situations where you're going to use light compression and are on a restricted budget. I can tell you I use one of my 119's on my TV audio signal to level the audio between programs and commercials and it works great.

But in the studio, there are much better alternatives out there. I've moved to dbx 903 gold canned compressors, paid $125 each and $75 for the dbx 900 rack/powersupply and haven't looked back.

As an FYI, Tom Scholz/Boston stated he used an EV RE-15 thru a dbx 119 on his acoustic guitars on his on his first Boston album. You'll see the box in some of his old studio pictures.

I hope that helps,

DY
Old 23rd November 2009
  #20
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So what is the general consensus on the 128's Play Level Match?

Is it possible to use this control as an output gain without activating the noise reduction section and removing the top end from the signal being processed?
Old 23rd November 2009
  #21
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DamnYankee's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dialectic View Post
So what is the general consensus on the 128's Play Level Match?

Is it possible to use this control as an output gain without activating the noise reduction section and removing the top end from the signal being processed?
I believe Play Level Match has to do with the noise reduction section during playback.

Jim Williams is considered THE dbx compressor upgrade expert in here. As he has advised in other threads, you'll be much happier purchasing a dbx 161 instead of putting your time, money, and hassle of augmenting the power supply AND creating a gain control/output circuit AND trying to wire that new circuit into the existing circuit. And even after you do all that, it still won't be a dbx 160VU/161VU.

DY
Old 5th December 2009
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DamnYankee View Post
I believe Play Level Match has to do with the noise reduction section during playback.

Jim Williams is considered THE dbx compressor upgrade expert in here. As he has advised in other threads, you'll be much happier purchasing a dbx 161 instead of putting your time, money, and hassle of augmenting the power supply AND creating a gain control/output circuit AND trying to wire that new circuit into the existing circuit. And even after you do all that, it still won't be a dbx 160VU/161VU.

DY
I am more than happy with my DBX 128 and not really bothered if the 'play level match' doesnt function without the noise reduction being engaged (though it would have been an added bonus!). This is what I believed to be the case as I explained in previous posts but others seemed to think that it operated as an output control of the compressor and I just wanted to make sure that mine wasnt faulty.
Old 30th December 2009
  #23
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lozion's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dialectic View Post
I am more than happy with my DBX 128 and not really bothered if the 'play level match' doesnt function without the noise reduction being engaged (though it would have been an added bonus!). This is what I believed to be the case as I explained in previous posts but others seemed to think that it operated as an output control of the compressor and I just wanted to make sure that mine wasnt faulty.
So it still seems to be a mystery....
Old 28th November 2010
  #24
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from a standpoint of someone who is a experimental musician who is just looking for a cheap compressor for its tradition use, some color and a cool sound would one of these be the way to go? I feel like from a audio engineers perspective these things might be trouble but for someone like myself would this be a good call do you think?

Either way I just picked up a 117 for 30 bucks and I'm really excited to try it out. Just curious what you guys think of these boxes from this perspective.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #25
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alphadore's Avatar
 

118 and 128 sonic differences???

I am in the market for some vintage DBX compression vibe. I don't know whether to go for the DBX 118 or 128. From what I hear in the forums the 128 is better for drums and is more "Aggressive" and the 118 is better for vocals....

What exactly does more aggressive mean? Faster or Slower Attack than the 118? Faster or Slower Release? Does it snap or grab? Or do both units have the same parameters and the 128 just sounds grittier?

Thanks! I think this would help me and anyone else in the market for these units!
Old 5th October 2012
  #26
Gear Head
 

I have a DBX 128.

I don't like it so much as a compressor but I use it to give harsh sounds some tape-like warmer and more natural sound. It cuts off some of the highs in a nice way:

level at 2V (so, no threshold completely down)
Compress at infinitive

strange settings, but it works for me. and not all the hiss from the compressor.

very good on piano-simulator modules for instance !
Old 2nd June 2013
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post
Install voltage regulators. Without them there is a large amount of hum in those.
New chips, huge psu caps all help.

Or, just buy a 161 cheap.

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades

Can someone explain me how i would install a voltage regulator in the dbx 128? How should they be implemented? which one will work?
Old 9th March 2014
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lozion View Post
So it still seems to be a mystery....
FROM THE MANUAL: (this is not a Make-Up Gain)

"Adjust this control if the playback level from a dbx II encoded tape is considerably different from the playback level on a non-encoded tape played back in the bypass mode. This setting is not critical"
Old 5th February 2016
  #29
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Churchil's Avatar
I've got two 118s and a 119 running through Pro Packs to bring the level going in and out of them to +4. I love them. Bit noisy but not a problem in most rock application, where they are unique and very crunchy or, sweet.
Old 5th February 2016
  #30
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I have the 128, not got around to using it yet as ive had to sort my setup -up, but when I bought it I checked that it was a stereo unit.

Could others chime in to say whether the other units like the 118, 119 are stereo or mono unit's.

I remember once seeing two 118's being sold on eBay by the same seller ,and they were side by side next to each other and I instantly thought mono.

Louis
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