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dbx® 266xs

Dual-channel compressor/gate

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  • dbx® 266xs

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Our take on the dbx® 266xs

by Steve Kindig
DBX

What does a compressor/limiter do?

A compressor/limiter is a type of processor that controls the dynamics of your audio signals. One of our resident sound engineers describes them as an invisible hand on the volume knob, automatically reducing, limiting, or maintaining signal levels. A compressor/limiter can be a really helpful tool for creating a polished-sounding mix.

Keep your sound under control

It's not surprising that the 266xs compressor/gate is so versatile and effective — after all, dbx invented the technology. What is a little surprising is the rugged design and build quality at this price. Adding the 266xs to your live sound rig or studio will give you more dynamic control, which can help you create a more balanced, polished mix. Having compression in your audio chain means you can smooth out uneven levels, add sustain to guitars, and fatten up your drums. It also makes it easy to bring vocals forward in your mix, helping them stand out from the surrounding instruments.

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Choose from automatic modes or full manual

If you're tired of having a surprise transient peg your meters and spoil an otherwise perfect recording, you'll appreciate the 266xs's capabilities. Its patented Overeasy® compression technology provides smooth and musical performance while the AutoDynamic™ attack and release controls, found only on dbx compressors, put great sound within easy reach. If you're the "set and forget" type, classic dbx "Auto" mode makes smoothing out levels nearly 100% foolproof. Choose from stereo or dual-mono operation, and there's a "link" button to operate the two channels in concert to prevent stereo image drift.

Bright and easy-to-read LED indicators and backlit buttons let you easily keep an eye on levels and gain reduction.

Highlights:

  • pro-quality dynamics control for any type of program material
  • error-proof operation to smooth uneven levels, add sustain to guitars, fatten drums or tighten up mixes
  • separate precision LED displays for gain reduction, compression threshold and gate threshold allow quick, accurate setup
  • new gate timing algorithms ensure the smoothest release characteristics
  • stereo or dual-mono operation
  • balanced inputs and outputs with 1/4" TRS and XLR connectors
  • side chain insert lets you fine-tune threshold sensitivity via optional frequency filtering or EQ
  • compressor threshold range: -40dB to +20dB
  • compressor ratio: 1:1 to infinity:1
  • expander/gate threshold range: -60dB to +15dB
  • expander/gate ratio: 1:1 to 4:1
  • frequency response: 20-20,000 Hz (+0, -0.5dB)
  • 19"W x 1-3/4"H x 5-3/4"D (1U rack space)
  • weight: 4.8 lbs.
  • warranty: 2 years parts and labor
  • Our 60-day money-back guarantee

Hands-on research from the Crutchfield Labs (what are the Labs?)

Product Research
What's in the box?

  • Dual-channel compressor/gate
  • User Manual

Our Product Research Team

At Crutchfield, you'll get detailed, accurate information that's hard to find elsewhere. That's because we have our own in-house Product Research team — they open the box, verify contents, check the owner's manual, and record dimensions, features and specs. We stay on top of new products and technologies to help people make informed choices.

Features
Specifications

Features

Dual Compressor/Gate: Adding a dbx 266xs Compressor/Gate to your live sound rig or studio gives you more dynamic control to help create a more polished, professional sound. Having compression in your audio chain gives you the ability to smooth out uneven levels, add sustain to guitars and fatten up your drums. It also makes it easy to bring vocals to the front of your mix - adding greater clarity and making them stand out from the surrounding instruments. The dbx 266xs employs patented Overeasy compression technology that provides smooth and musical performance while the AutoDynamic attack and release controls, found only on dbx compressors, puts great sound within easy reach. The 266xs can operate in stereo or dual-mono modes, has true RMS power summing and features quality XLR and 1/4" TRS inputs and outputs. It also offers visual feedback with gain reduction metering and easy-to-read backlit switches.

Compressor: The 266xs compressor is packed with just the right features to effectively reduce and control the dynamic range of your audio, add punch to flabby, loose sounds, or add sustain to instruments. The 266xs employs Program-dependent Attack and Release controls with dbx's AutoDynamicT circuitry, so that the full range of controls produce voicings that extend from slow leveling to aggressive peak limiting.

  • OverEasy Mode: The 266xs OverEasy compression permits extremely smooth, natural sounding compression, without artifacts, due to the gradual change of compression around the threshold. With OverEasy compression, input signals begin to gradually activate the 266xs internal gain change circuitry as they approach the THRESHOLD reference level. They do not get fully processed by the Ratio, Attack, and Release controls until they have passed somewhat above the Threshold reference level. As the signal level passes the Threshold level, processing increases until it is fully processed to the extent determined by the control settings.
  • Hard-Knee Mode: In hard-knee mode, the 266xs can provide abrupt compression effects as well as hard-limiting applications. Note that when in hard knee mode the amber LED will not light as the input signal passes across the threshold. The signal is either being compressed (over threshold) or it is not being compressed (under threshold).
Note: Common compressor applications include fattening a kick drum or snare drum, adding sustain to guitar or synthesizer string sounds, smoothing out a vocal performance, raising a signal out of a mix, preventing sound system overload, or digital to analog transfers.

Gate: The 266xs gate is ready to tackle all your gating needs, whether you need to remove unwanted noise or other background sounds, tighten drum sounds, or change the characteristic envelope of an instrument. The 266xs gate provides more flexibility than traditional switch gates because it actually functions as a combination gate/expander. Where switch gates are generally only suitable for a limited number of uses (e.g., gating percussion), the gate on the 266xs acts as a gentle downward expander at low Ratio settings (suitable for vocals, guitar, mixed program, etc.), and can effectively work as a switch gate when used at high Ratio settings.

Note: Common gate applications include gating dry percussive sounds (snare or kick drum), gating sounds that have longer decay (cymbal or piano), gating hum or buzz from live instruments or recorded tracks, and downward expansion to reduce noise under smooth sounds (vocals or woodwinds).

Inputs/Outputs: The 266xs is fitted with a variety of XLR and 1/4" inputs/outputs that accept both balanced and unbalanced audio signals.

  • 2-Channel Inputs: Channel 1 and Channel 2 inputs each feature a female XLR connector and female 1/4" TRS phone connector. These input jack will accept both balanced and unbalanced signals. Input impedance is >40kΩ.
  • 2-Channel Outputs: Channel 1 and Channel 2 outputs feature a female 1/4" TRS phone connector and a male XLR connector. The output jacks support both balanced and unbalanced audio signals. Maximum output signal level is >+20dBu. In the +4dBu setting, the balanced output impedance is 100Ω, and the unbalanced output impedance is 50Ω. In the -10dBV setting, the balanced output impedance is 1kΩ and the unbalanced output impedance is 500Ω.
  • Sidechain Insert Jack: This jack accepts 1/4" TRS phone plugs and provides a connection to the 266xs detector path. The Ring acts as a Send, carrying a buffered version of the signal present at the 266xs Input jack, at an impedance of 2kΩ. The Tip acts as a Return for equipment to feed the 266xs detector circuitry, such as an equalizer for de-essing or frequency-sensitive gating/compression. You can also drive the 266xs Sidechain input with the output of most equipment, by using a 1/4" mono phone plug. Input Impedance is greater than 10kΩ.
Note: When a cable is plugged into the Sidechain Insert jack, it automatically breaks the connection from the Input jack to the 266xs detection circuitry.

Attack & Release Control: The 266xs provides Attack & Release control.

  • Attack: The Attack control sets the amount of time it takes the 266xs to begin compressing a signal once the detector has sensed a signal above threshold. The Attack range is from Fast (for a tighter and more noticeable compression effect with very little overshoot) to Slow (for more delayed, gradual compression). A very fast Attack setting will cause the 266xs to act like a peak limiter even though RMS detection circuitry is used. Slower Attack settings cause the 266xs to act like an RMS or averaging detecting compressor/limiter.
  • Release: The Release control sets how fast the compression circuit returns the input to its original level. The Release rate is from Fast (where compression follows the envelope of the program material very tightly) to Slow (for very smooth compression).
Note: The Auto switch overrides both the Attack and Release controls and enables preset program dependent attack and release times. These times are derived from the input signal and continuously change to match its dynamics.

Compressor & Expander/Gate Ratio Control: The 266xs features both Compressor Ratio and Expander/Gate Ratio controls.

  • Compressor Ratio Control: Adjust this control to set the amount of compression applied to the input signal. Clockwise rotation of this control increases the compression ratio from 1:1 (no compression) up to ∞:1 (where the compressor can be considered to be a peak limiter, especially with faster Attack settings).
  • Expander/Gate Ratio Control: This control sets the amount of attenuation applied to the input signal once it is below the threshold, from gentle downward expansion (appropriate for mixed program, vocals, etc.), to a hard gating effect (which can be useful for percussion). Fairly low Ratio (and higher Expander/Gate Threshold) settings work best for downward expansion, whereas higher Ratio settings (clockwise towards Max) work best for gating. If a setting produces undesirable pumping, readjust the Expander/Gate Ratio or Threshold setting.

Other Controls: The 266xs offers a variety of control dials and switches to fine tune the Dual-channel compressor/gate.

  • Operating Level Switch: This switch selects between a -10dBV and +4dBu nominal operating level. When the switch is in the in position, a -10dBV operating level is selected. When it is in the out position, a +4dBu operating level is selected.
  • Stereo Couple Switch: This switch sets the 266xs for Stereo or Dual Mono operation. Press the Stereo Couple switch in for stereo operation where Channel 1 becomes the master controller for both channels. All of Channel 2's controls, switches, and LEDs will be disabled (except for the Channel 2 Gain Reduction meter), since Channel 2 is the slave. With the Stereo Couple switch out, the unit functions as two separate mono compressor/ gates, each with its own independent controls.
  • Bypass Switch: Press this switch in to bypass the front panel controls, effectively canceling the function and processing effect of the 266xs compression, gating and gain settings. The input signal is still present at the 266xs Output, but is now unaltered by the 266xs controls. Bypass is especially useful for making comparisons between processed and unprocessed signals. Note that with stereo operation (Stereo Couple switch pressed in), the Channel 1 Bypass switch controls both channels.
  • Output Gain Control: This control sets the overall gain of the 266xs, from -20dB to +20dB. The Output Gain control is especially useful to compensate for the RMS level decrease which results from the 266xs dynamic processing effects. After you adjust the 266xs controls for the desired amount of compression, set the Output Gain to add the same amount of gain that is shown on the Gain Reduction meters. For example, if the average amount of gain reduction shown on the meters is 10dB, then setting the Output Gain control to +10dB will compensate for the 10dB average level reduction at the output.

Gain Reduction Meter: This meter displays the amount of signal attenuated from the input signal by the 266xs Compressor or Expander/Gate. When the Compressor and Expander/Gate are both active, the meter displays the maximum amount of gain reduction for whichever function is greater - Compressor or Expander/Gate.

Specifications

Input (Balanced or Unbalanced):

  • Impedance: > 40kΩ
  • Max Level: +22dBu

Output (Impedance Balanced):

  • Impedance:
    • +4dBu: 100Ω Balanced / 50Ω Unbalanced
    • -10dBu: 1kΩ Balanced / 500Ω Unbalanced
  • Max Level: > +21dBu, > +18dBm (into 600Ω)

SideChain Insert:

  • Input Impedance: >10kΩ
  • Output Impedance: 2kΩ
  • Max Input Level: +22dBu
  • Max Output Level: >+20dBu

Frequency Response:

  • Flat: 20Hz-20kHz, +0, -0.5dB
  • Bandwidth: 0.35Hz-90kHz, +0, -3dB

System Performance:

  • Distortion + Noise: <0.2%; any amount of compression at 1kHz
  • Intermodulation Distortion: <0.2% SMPTE
  • Noise: <-93dB, unweighted (22kHz measurement bandwidth)
  • Dynamic Range: >114dB, unweighted
  • Interchannel Crosstalk: <-95dB, 20Hz to 20kHz
  • Common Mode Rejection: >40dB, typically >55dB @ 1kHz
 
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