1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
     
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

old dbx Model 163 OverEasy Compressor/Limiter - does it stand up to newer units for bass guitar?

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by GeeBass, Feb 23, 2018.


Tags:
  1. GeeBass

    GeeBass Supporting Member

    Jul 14, 2004
    North/Central NJ
    Hope this is the right forum for this.

    Specifically for those technically knowledgeable on compressor/limiters - a few questions - re: dbx Model 163 OverEasy Compressor/Limiter

    Been interested recently in exploring using compression, to help generally smooth out my passive and active 4 & 5 string electric basses - thru my 2 x 112 rig - for live performances only.
    Wasn’t looking to go super high end/pricey at first – just something good to try out, and not too large – so was leaning more toward a better ‘pedal’ type unit – MXR, Boss, etc.

    I just accidently ‘rediscovered’ a long-forgotten purchase – a dbx Model 163x OverEasy Compressor/Limiter, from maybe 25 or more years ago - in mint cond.
    For reference - specs from manual are copied below – and the diagram descriptions of the front/rear panels are also attached.
    It’s the half-rack space, simplified version of the dbx Model 160, with just the 1-slider adjustable OverEasy Compression/Limiting.
    Back then, a dbx 160 user suggested the 163x as an easier-to-use alternative - since I’m not a big knob-tweaker, and generally need to dial in my rig quickly with a few quick adjustments.

    SO – after all these years - how does the dbx 163x actually stack up, performance and specs-wise - to the more current ‘modern’ compressor/limiters available today?
    - Is the 163x still a decent choice worth using for my intended use, and spec-wise is it still basically still in step with more current units?
    - Or, is it really pretty much out-classed by the modern units, with more adjustment options, and I’d be better off getting a new one for my needs. If so – please explain, and suggest a good newer unit for my needs.

    If the dbx 163x IS still worth using, what is the best way to hook up this unit in the signal chain?
    - After my bass and before the amp input - via the ‘Hi-Z’ input jack w/ ‘level set’ dial, on the 163x front panel? I think this is how I was originally told to hook it up for bass guitar use.
    - using my amps pre-out and amp-in jacks (or effects loop) - via the line-level input and output jacks on 163x rear panel?
    - any particular advice or recommendations for settings for the slider control - for live bass guitar use?

    Thanks in advance to all the knowledgeable compressor/limiter folks for their info & comments!

    dbx 163x Specs:
    upload_2018-2-23_3-5-18.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Feb 23, 2018
    Squittolo likes this.
  2. TheEmptyCell

    TheEmptyCell Bearded Dingwall Enthusiast Banned

    Go read reviews at Ovnilab.com and see for yourself
     
    Squittolo likes this.
  3. boomertech

    boomertech Frank Appleton Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 8, 2009
    Syracuse, NY
    Designer/Owner of FEA Labs
    The 163x is a different type of compressor that was designed to operate over a huge soft-knee (overeasy) range. Here are some quotes of things I have said about it in different threads:

    "That dbx 163x is an extreme soft knee compressor. It is designed so that most of your signal will be compressed by different amounts (similar to the ratio curve in my avatar), that's why there is no ratio control. I believe the 163x is also designed with program dependent (automatic) attack and release circuits, which would explain the lack of those controls."

    "I have been REALLY diving into the dbx163x lately. The 163x was the beginning, or very near the beginning, of the dbx "over easy" compression. The 163x has a 'soft knee' that goes from 1:1 to infinity:1, over a 30-40dB range! They really went to the extreme 'soft knee' or vari-ratio concept with this box. So you can adjust it to where nearly all of your signal triggers compression, quieter signals will get low ratios and louder signals get higher ratios. This kinda is like my new fave of dual-slope compression I described above, but the 163x has an infinite number of ratio slopes! Super cool concept! My avatar pic is something very similar with vari-ratio over a 30-35dB range. I don't believe the newer dbx units have the extreme 30-40dB 'over easy' range of the 163x, but soft knee or 'over easy' is a great way to compress.:thumbsup:"

    -Frank
     
    Squittolo, Snaxster and TheEmptyCell like this.
  4. Jim C

    Jim C Is that what you meant to play or is this jazz? Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Bethesda, MD
    I have 2 and they are great for the money.
    As Frank explained, the "over easy" 1 knob feature is really good for those that want to play and not experiment with knobs.
    For live work there are better, but not be a huge amount.
    FWIW, the only down side is the AC cord.
    I have one for sale (with the uber rare rack mount kit) as I never have used them both.
    Easily compares with the Duncan or the EBS opto comp.
     
    Squittolo likes this.
  5. IMHO yesthe 163X still does a great job and ez to use. I have played through the 163X for so long that it is almost an organic extension of my playing whenever I get plugged into one. I have actually grown to hate playing thru a comp most of the time but if it is called for.....
     
    Squittolo likes this.
  6. GeeBass

    GeeBass Supporting Member

    Jul 14, 2004
    North/Central NJ
    Thanks for the feedback so far on the dbx 163x. Let me add that although I am a very experienced pro bassist, I've had very little previous hands-on experience with compression used with a live bass guitar rig.

    I just hooked up the 163x, and balanced out both the Hi-Z input level and the output level according to the manual - and messed around with the 163x at home through a decent practice combo amp.
    I have the bass guitar plugged directly into the front Hi-Z input.

    Even with very low 'MORE' slider compression settings, where only the first 2-3 LEDs would light up upon the loudest notes, I notice a loss of pure high end from a '64 P bass with fairly fresh Fodera nickel roundwounds.
    I also notice a much thicker-sounding low end (bordering on almost too thick), but with some of the defining finger-style attack missing, particularly on the E strings lower notes.
    I even notice the loss of high end when the slider is set at the leftmost (lowest) setting, with none of the LEDs lighting up.
    The combined enhanced lows and diminished highs really seems to alter the tone/response quite a bit.

    More experimentation with this unit is definitely going to be needed - but does what I've described sound like what I should typically expect, playing bass guitar through the 163x?
    Given the seemingly decent frequency response specs, I wasn't expecting that the tone and attack would be altered quite so much - particularly the loss of high end.

    Am I possibly adjusting/setting up the 163x incorrectly somehow - which is giving me these kinds of results?
    Or is this just what is to be expected, and either I need a better quality compressor/limiter unit for live bass guitar applications - or maybe compression/limiting on bass just isn't for me?
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2018
    Squittolo likes this.
  7. boomertech

    boomertech Frank Appleton Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 8, 2009
    Syracuse, NY
    Designer/Owner of FEA Labs
    Then this isn't a perceived loss of highs due to the compressor acting on mostly low frequency energy. Try putting the comp in an effects loop on the amp if possible.

    -Frank
     
    Squittolo likes this.
  8. boomertech

    boomertech Frank Appleton Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 8, 2009
    Syracuse, NY
    Designer/Owner of FEA Labs
    Also, the high Z input is only 390Kohm. That might be causing a loss of highs from your bass. Try a buffer between your bass and the 163X.

    -Frank
     
    Squittolo likes this.
  9. GeeBass

    GeeBass Supporting Member

    Jul 14, 2004
    North/Central NJ
    Thanks for your thoughts on this Frank.

    I don't have a lot of knowledge re: input ohms - but the 163x manual said the Hi-Z input was suitable for electric guitar and bass - and back when this 163x was made, pretty much all pickups were passive.
    I do have active basses too beside the Precision, but haven't had a chance to try those into the 163x yet - but for the passive basses, what type of 'buffer' unit are you suggesting I use after my bass?
    Do you mean something like a Sadowsky outboard preamp box? I like preamps on J-basses, but not so fond of them with P-basses - so wondering what type of buffer could be used?

    For comparison, what would be the ohm rating of typical bass head input jacks - with which I'm not experiencing this loss of highs when bass is plugged directly in.

    I still also need to try the 163x in the effects loop of a few various heads I have on hand, as suggested - and see if that helps to make an improvement over the Hi-Z input.

    SO - how exactly ARE the 163x users reading this thread hooking it up - with their bass into the Hi-Z front input, or using the rear panel line level in/out jacks into their effects loop of their amp head?
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2018
    Squittolo likes this.
  10. Jim C

    Jim C Is that what you meant to play or is this jazz? Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Bethesda, MD
    I spent some time this weekend with the 163 vs. Duncan vs. Opto Stomp
    My Ashdown ABM 500 has a VU meter; while I doubt this is calibrated to any real standards but I do think it is accurate as a comparison for different dynamic range attack characteristics

    Passive P bass; with either of the 2 pedal comps, the needle would stay at a few dB below the red on all strings (and different fretting combinations) on all strings but the E
    The E would swing into the red; adding more compression would tame the signal and compression would become audible
    With the 163, and all things being equal, I could keep the needle out of the red and not hear compression
    Will have to try this at rehearsal this week to see what it sounds like in the mix

    Frank, it would be interesting to see if this was visible on test equipment with pedals other than your FEA models

    I did use the front Hi Z input on the dbx between the bass and input jack and I did hear a slight loss of high end that didn't occur (with the other two) although not very much and easily fixable with a very slight EQ bump

    I will try this again with an active Stingray when I get a chance
     
    Squittolo likes this.
  11. GeeBass

    GeeBass Supporting Member

    Jul 14, 2004
    North/Central NJ
    I spent a little more time with the 163x this weekend, still using my bass through the Hi-Z input - this time with a passive Jazz Bass with roundwound strings.

    I am still hearing a bit of loss of high end using the 163x - but I'm also noticing an unwelcome bump up in low end response as well.
    When amp is EQ'd to my liking (flat as possible) with bass plugged straight in - when I then add the 163x between the bass and the amp, I find I need to reduce the amps bass control in order to achieve a similar low end response.
    Is this typical - that low end is boosted due to overeasy compression use - as well as the loss of high end?
    I'm trying to determine if this is happening because of set up of the input or output levels incorrectly - or if this is just a typical outcome of using the 163x unit.

    Frank - can you describe the type of 'input buffer' you are referring to above for the Hi-Z input? What is the ohm rating of a typical bass head input jack?

    I'd also still like to hear from the other 163x users - how are you wiring up the unit? Are you running your bass into Hi-Z front input, or using the rear line level in/out with your amps effects loop?

    Thanks to all so far - for your info and feedback!
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2018
    Squittolo likes this.
  12. Squittolo

    Squittolo

    May 13, 2011
    Italy
    I own the 163a model, that is very similar to yours. I run ALL my basses (P bass, J bass, MM modella, active, passive etc..) into the rear line input and then I run the output of the 163a into the input of my Ampeg PF20T head. I used to try the front hi-z input, but it was too hot for my taste, near distorted sound (even with the trimmer set to minimum level). Next, I move to the right the slider of the 163a until I reach a compression of about 10dB on the VU meter LED, and finally I set the output level of the 163a at about -20db, which is the result of a quick comparison of the overall volume of my bass rig with or without the compressor plugged in (no bypass switch on the 163a). I try to set the output level of the compressor just to have the same overall volume or just a little higher than the overall volume obtained with the PF20T alone. Hope this will helps.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2018
  13. Jim C

    Jim C Is that what you meant to play or is this jazz? Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Bethesda, MD
    One thing to consider is that many of these units are very old.
    I believe that they use discrete components and the values of these could have changed dratically over time.
    In other words, some of this older gear will sound very different from unit to unit.
    Frank will be along to confirm or correct the above.
    One of mine sounds slightly different than the other but you would not be able to tell without an A/B test.
    OTOH, they are old and I may just be lucky.
     
    Squittolo likes this.

Share This Page