Extensive compressor reviews and FAQ

dbx 163X: This is a one-channel rack unit in a half rack width. In several ways it blurs the line between a rack unit and a pedal.
 
It has both a line-level input on the rear panel and an instrument-level input (labeled "hi-z" for high impedance) on the front panel. The inputs and output are unbalanced. The only controls are an output level knob, a slider/fader for the amount of compression, and a small recessed trim pot on the back which adjusts the level of the hi-z input.
 
The tone is fairly uncolored and the noise level is actually quite low. Unfortunately, the lowest and highest frequencies are a little bit attenuated, especially during heavy compression. The action is smooth, with some decent punch, but it is not adjustable apart from the "more" slider. It is a soft-knee system that automatically applies higher ratios to your stronger peaks, and lower ratios for lower level signals.
 
It is powered by an attached AC cord, and it has a switch for 120V and 240V regions. It also has a jack and a button on the back for making a stereo pair with another 163X, where the controls of one unit affect the second connected one. There is no bypass switch of any kind.
 
These show up pretty cheaply on Ebay all the time. If you just want something easy to use, that sounds reasonably good, for a low price, this one will do the job. As with most half-rack units, it is actually surprisingly difficult to mount into a rack rig, unless you find a set of the factory dbx rack ears for it. So I mainly recommend it for home recording. Some people say the older 163A and the wood-paneled 163 (no letter suffix) are more desirable because the components inside supposedly have better tone qualities, but I have not tested this to confirm.
 
Price in USD: used $30-$90, no longer available new.
 

 

 
 
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