my dbx166 showed up and if first impressions count: super impressed with the packing job, brand new good cardboard box, 10 feet, yep, 10 feet of bubble wrap around the dbx, side insulation panels and another layer of bubble wrap to keep it even tighter in the box !
Its their standard mod, but all the switches feel great and it powers up just fine.
Haven't had a dbx before so not certain what to compare it to, but will have fun getting to know it !
Low ratios and use the threshold to get the desired reduction. If you're planning on putting this on your buss then I would go for the lowest ratio you can get and be knocking around 3-4db off. It'll glue, but if you're not careful with the ratio it can sound grabby and small. For the buss I'd set it at like 1:1.2ish with around 3-4db. That should glue your mix and give a nice smooth and transparent sound.
On drums, kick the ration to 2:1 and dig in with the thresh until it pumps, then back off a tad, some serious punch will come. DBX gear is designed very well, they used bad parts and having those upgraded makes these into really great pieces of gear. Just be careful with the ratio, the threshold not so much, that's where you want to get your GR from.
I see Revive mods the art tube comps so am curious ?
I can't say about this mod but I've owned 2 166s (one back around when they came out and one more recently) and 1 166A and can make some comments about the stock performance.
First, to answer your question, the gates are useless for recording, might as well not be there. Not really even useful for live work, they're way too obvious and "jerky". IMO they're an extra "feature" thrown in for people looking for an "all-in-one" box. As compressors, first, you need to remember that these are more or less "budget" dbx comps - you're not going to get the mojo of their more expensive, classic units. This being said, the compressors are quite usable for live work and not entirely unusable in the studio, especially if you don't have a selection of other hardware comps to choose from. As Jerome noted above, you need to be careful with your settings because they can be grabby. In fact the major drawback, aside from the low quality support circuitry (wehich I assume/hope is addressed by the mods) is that they tend to be pretty audible in operation, which is not something I really find desirable in a compressor unles I specifically set it up to function as an "effect", which I usually don't. I had purchased these for use in a live sound rig used mostly for small to medium punk gigs (and the occasional metal), mostly for speaker protection and overall level control and in that context they did OK. I liked the compression in the original 166 better than the compression in the 166A. I can't say how ther newer models compare. whether there's a real difference of if the model change was mainly cosmetic. I do know that all versions use essentially the same circuit. The 166A did seem slightly quieter. When I mostly retired from live work and moved them into the studio I found the results somewhat disappointing and retired them when I acquired more channels of compression. (Oddly enough I have not yet retired my ART VLA, which still finds some regular use. It's the only "prosumer" compressor that's still in the rack.) I think I still have one that I put back in my (now seldom used) live rack and gave the other to my guitar player's son on extended loan in his garage studio, as it is definitely better than what he had, which, I believe, was nothing.
One other thing - the switches on the original 166 are not very durable and tend to become unreliable with age and heavy use.
So I'd say that it CAN be useful if you're careful, but it isn't really something to judge dbx compressors by. I don't know if these use the same VCA chip that they use in their more expernsive units or not, but I suspect it probably isn't. That's a total guess, though. This ain't no 160 and for SURE it isn't anything like a 165.
One other thing - the markings on the controls are almost meaningless. Thery'll give you a rough idea maybe, but there's little consistancy between units.
I don't think this is really a comp I'd want to use on the 2-buss.
As always, YMMV.
Let us know how the modded unit is. I'm really curious. Also, which of the 4 versions is yours? (166, 166A, 166XL, 166XS?)
Tangent; I had a 1066 on a live job once that totally freaked out a couple times, turned out the wiper on the ratio pot was going open at a particular click and gain was going wide open intermittently. That was fun to figure out in a room full of people.
"On the 2-buss I generally use either the A-Designs Nail or the Daking FET III." nice !!
This whole thing is a bit of an experiment so I am really just trying to build up a small suite of real compressors (wa-2a, wa76x2, 166 and stam 4k ssl), so far, to give me different types and sounds that I will use sparingly while tracking and the rest during mixing. I use logic and it has the utility plug that lets you insert OB into your daw channels.
This is that s why I bought the delta to get 16 of good british 4 band eq. So, I will use the inserts to go out to the eq and I can also use OB comps at the same time. i Than like wiz I will likely just mix in the box, but my delta already had the master section modded by Jim so I may experiment with using it for summing too.
I do miss the Pro VLA 2, I'd like to have one back one of these days. That thing could pump and freak out in a good way sometimes, or be a little subtle and wooly with more conservative settings.
I have a Pro VLAII and I dig it.
I use it primarily on vocals and bass. I'll mult the signal out of the patch bay after the preamp. One goes to the converters and the other goes to the compressor. I'll compress 2:1-3:1, somewhere in there. 6-10 db of GR.
My goal is primarily to give the performer a more finished sound in their mix. Most of the time, though, I'll end up muting the uncompressed vocal in the mix and using the tracks that came through the VLAII.
I suppose if I had a better compressor for those sorts of sounds I'd go through that but, you know, you work with what you've got. I didn't like vocals through my Alctron 540 (GAP Comp 54 copy) and my Stam SA 4000 is pretty much dedicated to master bus duties.
Back to the OP, it's good to know the Revive Audio stuff is legit. I'm always looking at low end stuff (because that's my price bracket) and scheming on using it as it is for a while then sending it off to Revive to improve it when funds become available.