I began learning recording technique as an intern, assistant, and engineer at Studio Center recording studios in miami, Fl starting in june of 2002. The first compressor that I was quickly able to get fantastic results with was the DBX 160 VU. At the time it was hard wired to a Demeter VTMP tube preamp. I remember the combination sounding much larger than life, “in your face” (for lack of a better term) and exactly what the doctor ordered on most of the rappers that I was recording. I could quickly dial in intimacy or aggression for vocals, bass, and some guitar parts. This compressor has always remained one of those hardware pieces that is so good at what it does, that it has not been worth replacing with an emulation, even though they now go for roughly $800-$1100 per channel. This compressor had a attack and release settings which were determined by the rate of change of the program material itself: as the compressor traced the sound envelope it would adjust attack and release time allowing the engineer to focus on hearing compression (ratio) and amount of gain reduction. The innovation that makes these DBX compressors so smooth is the “Over Easy” initiation of compression, was introduced with the easing in of compression slowly with the softer knee of the compressor. Because I also own the 165, 160sl and several software models including Universal Audio 160VU I wanted to do gain matched, identical setting comparisons to get as close to an apples to apples comparison, to see if I could afford to replace these two beauties. What do you guys think based upon the following clips!? Keep em or lose em?
Feel free to import the clips into a session to listen at your own leisure.
Here is the PDF Manual for the original 160 VU.