Test Drive: The ART MDC-2001 Stereo Master Dynamics Controller

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Next stop on the panel tour brings us to the LEVEL and FREQUENCY controls of the EXCITER section of the box. The LEVEL control is adjustable from 0 to 10 and the FREQUENCY control from 4kHz to 15kHz. Audio first hits a high pass band filter and then enters an upward expander with a slope of 1:1.5. Highs are detected then boosted an amount set by the LEVEL control. The frequencies to be "excited" are determined by the FREQUENCY control setting. Not being a harmonic generator, this exciter circuit acts very much like an EQ section devoted primarily to upper mid and high frequencies. Its effect is very noticeable and functions well when using the box as a mike processor.

The PEAK LIMITER/CLIPPER control is just to the right of the expander controls. This threshold setting is adjustable from 0dBm to +20dBm and lets you set the maximum level you don't want the unit to exceed. The attack time of the limiter is 100 to 300 microseconds. When the level reaches 6dB above the set threshold, the "clipping" circuit engages.

The knobs to the far right of the front panel are the MASTER OUTPUT controls for the left and right channels. They can be set from zero output to +6dB gain.

Taking the LED tour of the front panel we have two GAIN CONTROL METERS, one for each channel. These two, twenty-one LED meters display a range of -30dB to +30dB. The center LED represents unity gain, and increase or reduction in gain is displayed by LED's lighting either to the right or left of this zero point. The meters remain active even if the unit is bypassed with the BYPASS switch. Two 8-LED meters above the OUTPUT controls are switchable between INPUT and OUTPUT and display the respective levels for each channel.

Yellow LED's above the EXPANDER, NOISE GATE, and EXCITER controls indicate that the thresholds of these functions have been exceeded and the indicated function is active. Two red LED's above the PEAK LIMITER/CLIPPER control indicate that the audio level has reached the threshold level set for the limiter. Finally, you get a BYPASS indicator which lights when the unit is bypassed with the BYPASS switch. By the way, not only can you bypass the entire box with the BYPASS switch, but each of the sections of the unit can be bypassed by setting certain controls to their minimum value. For example, to bypass the compressor, set the RATIO to 1:1. Set the de-esser LEVEL control to zero to shut the de-esser off.

Turning our attention to the back panel we find two left channel inputs, two left channel outputs, two right channel inputs, and two right channel outputs. The inputs and outputs are balanced, and you get either a ¼-inch (TRS) jack or the standard XLR jack for each. The unit may be used in an unbalanced setup.

The other jacks on the back panel are the DETECTOR LOOP input and output jacks, the GATE KEY IN jack, and the LIMITER LINK jack. You're right. These aren't common names of jacks on the back of processors you're used to. The LIMITER LINK jack simply lets you connect several MDC's together and have one MDC's limiter control the others.

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