The Sonnox Oxford Dynamics is a very flexible, high quality dynamics plug-in. While many plug-ins offer software emulations of famous hardware which is desirable for a particular sound, the Oxford Dynamics can be set up in any way you like and as a result it could be said to lack character. That sounds like a criticism but actually it’s nothing of the sort. If you understand what a particular style of compression is doing to the sound, you can set up a similar effect in this plug in but without the colour imposed by the hardware of an 1176, a Fairchild or, in this example, a DBX 160.
The Comp Type setting in Oxford Dynamics has 3 settings - Normal, Classic and Linear. Linear is an unusual behaviour not usually found in compressors but Normal and Classic differ in that in Classic mode the Attack, Release and Hold time parameters are greyed out and are unavailable. Instead the behaviour of the time parameters become as the user’s guide puts it: “fixed to nominal values to match a range of popular legacy units”. Many people have interpreted this to mean that Classic Mode is an emulation of the DBX 160.
Does Classic Mode Sound Like A DBX 160?
In this example I try to match the sound of a UAD DBX 160 with a Sonnox Oxford Dynamics running in Classic mode. The first thing to say is that if you want a DBX 160, you should use a DBX 160 and the UAD version sounds absolutely spot on, it wouldn’t be fair, or even sensible to expect the Oxford Dynamics to sound more like a DBX 160 than a DBX 160, and of course all DBX 160s sound different.
What it is sensible to ask is whether you can create a similar style of compression which sounds close to the results achievable with a DBX 160.
So does it sound similar? In a word, yes. The release is clearly a little different and in this case I prefer the DBX 160 but there’s really not a great deal in it. With a soft knee dialled in to emulate the Overeasy characteristic of the DBX even under heavy compression as used in this example the differences are relatively minor and for me were most significant in the decay of the snare.
The main thing I took from this exercise was that for a dynamics plug in as flexible as the Sonnox Dynamics Plug-in is, it did spectacularly. All of the Sonnox plug-ins are clean and flexible and that is one of their strengths.
At the end of the video, I illustrate the fact that you can set up the Oxford Dynamics to sound however you want it to and with the addition of “tone box” plug-ins to colour the sound in a similar way to vintage hardware you can get flavour but with the control you lack using emulations. After all, an 1176 can only sound like an 1176, a Fairchild can only sound like a Fairchild and a DBX 160 can only sound like a DBX 160…