1. Introduction

VCA160 combines classic sound, perfect metering and ease of use. Suitable for both “brick wall” limiting and subtle pushing, the hardware original has been carefully modeled to preserve its distinct character in both bad-ass hard knee or gentle low ratio compression. This fast and firm VCA-style compressor is great for controlling vocals, bass guitar or individual drums. When used with aggressive transient sounds, such as kick drums or bass, the VCA160’s fast response can create a classic punch or “thwack”, which has become a unique part of its famously punchy pedigree.

2. Features

  • Continously variable threshold control.
  • Compression control that goes from a ratio of 1:1 to infinity (approximately 120:1).
  • Output control adds up to 20dB of make-up gain.
  • Virtual Gain Reduction Meter for visualization.
  • Easy bypass with the Power button.

3. Original Hardware Specifications

Maximum Input Level
Maximum Output Level
+20dB from unity gain point
0.075% 2nd harmonic at infinite compression at +4dBm output
0.5% 3rd harmonic typical at infinite compression ratio
Input Noise

Attack Time
15ms for 10dB level change above threshold
5ms for 20dB level change above threshold
3ms for 30dB level change
Release Rate
Compression Ratio
Continously variable from 1:1 to 120:1 (infinity)
Continously variable from -50dB to 0dB

4. Layout

VCA160 Layout 1

1. Power On/Off Button

Turns the compressor On or bypasses the effect. Corresponds to the BP button in the AFX Rack.

2. Threshold Control

Adjusts the level above which compression or limiting occurs. When the Below indicator lights up, the compressor input level is below the threshold. When the Above indicator lights up, the input level to the compressor is above the threshold.

3. Compression Control

Adjusts the compression ration from 1:1 (unity gain) to infinity (approximately 120:1 ratio). The compressor becomes a limiter at ratios above 10:1.

4. Output Gain Control

Adjusts the gain of the compressor output stage. The signal can be raised or attenuated by up to 20dB. The control is independent of the Threshold and Compression controls.

5. Gain Reduction Meter

Visualizes the gain reduction that occurs as the result of compression.

5. Quick Start

  1. Turn the threshold control fully clockwise.
  2. Adjust Output Gain to noon (0dB).
  3. Adjust Compression Ratio to an appropriate setting — between 1:1 and 4:1 for compression, from 10:1 to infinity for limiting.
  4. Play the material you are compressing or limiting. Adjust the Threshold counterclockwise until the Above LED starts flickering. At this setting, compression will begin when the input level exceeds the threshold setting. Further counterclockwise rotation will cause compression to start at a lower point relative to the maximum input level.

6. Contacts

Having difficulties with VCA160 or anything else Antelope? Get in touch with us by the following means:
European Direct Support Line
+44 2039578550
10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. (EET), Monday – Friday
USA Direct Support Line
+1 734 418 8661
7:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. (EST), Monday – Friday
Online (live chat and e-mail)
Antelope Audio Support Page

6. Glossary

Adjusts how quickly the compressor starts to work after the signal exceeds the compression threshold.
Controls how soon the compressor will stop after the signal goes below the compression threshold.
Controls how much compression is applied. For example, a 3:1 ratio means that every time the input signal crosses the threshold by 3dB, output signal will be attenuated 1dB.
The Threshold is the level above which the compressor considers the signal too loud and starts applying compression.
Knee and Attack have a lot in common, but they are not the same. Like Attack, Knee controls how the compressor will react once input signal passes the threshold. Hard Attack makes the compressor engage immediately while Soft Knee shapes its attack time to make it slower and smoother.