Test Drive: The PreSonus DCP-8 Eight Channel Dynamics Processor

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The Output Setup function sets the output of each channel as either "nominal" or "-10dBV." When set to Nominal, the input level will match the output level. When set to -10dBV, the DCP-8 sets the output to -11.8dB which is the difference between a +4dBu system and a -10dBV or "line level" system. These settings are "global" and are not stored with individual programs.

With all these extra features, the DCP-8 is useful in a number of applications. Of course, as a level "guard" feeding your digital recorder, the DCP-8 is ideal. When used as a mixdown processor, it's even more fun. Let's say you've got a 2-voice spot with voice 1 on track 1 and voice 2 on track 2. Use the DCP-8's gates to silence the tracks when the other voice is speaking. Another example: during the mixdown, the voice track varies in level too much and gets buried by the music track in spots, then overwhelms the music in other spots. Compress the voice track during the mix with the DCP-8. If the unit is always in line between your 8-track outputs and console inputs, you'll find yourself doing a lot more dynamics processing simply because it's accessible without having to reach for patch cords, and, you've got EIGHT processors instead of just one...and they're all hooked up!

The ability to store settings is helpful in a mixdown configuration. This is especially true for musicians who want to store settings for particular songs. In radio production, it's less likely you would store settings for individual productions, but the DCP-8 can be used to store settings for various types of productions. You could have a program with settings just for promos--extra compression on voice tracks or music tracks or both. If the DCP-8 is used when recording tracks, you might have programs with compressor settings set to individual voice talents, not unlike having preset programs on a voice processor.

If you have a studio with an 8-track recorder with eight inputs and eight outputs, the DCP-8 can do a lot for you. Since radio production rarely involves recording more than two channels of audio at a time, the DCP-8 would probably be more useful during mixdowns. If your studio is MIDI equipped already, the DCP-8 can give you automated mixing easily and effectively. But the DCP-8 shouldn't be looked at as a box just for rooms with eight tracks feeding a console. In today's radio production rooms, digital workstations with internal mixing are quickly turning eight outputs into two. In these studios, the DCP-8 can be used as a bank of eight dynamics processors. How many times have you grabbed a patch cord and piped your studio telephone interface into a compressor to help control levels? With the DCP-8 in your studio, the phone could be wired directly to, let's say, channel 1 of the DCP-8, providing a dedicated compressor for the phone which is on line all the time and comes complete with a noise gate to mute line noise when the person on the other end isn't speaking. Take channels 2 and 3 and dedicate them to studio mics. Channels 4 and 5 could be Grouped and Linked as a stereo pair that processes the reel-to-reel deck that all dubs are made from. This could add consistency to all those agency dubs with levels varying from one extreme to the other. Channel 6 could be assigned to a network feed. Channels 7 and 8 could be another linked stereo pair used for mastering all productions to DAT or whatever.

Obviously, there are applications in other studios in the radio station. Talk formats could benefit from eight noise gates and compressor/limiters connected to the many mics found in on-air studios. Newsrooms with several network feeds and other audio sources can take advantage of the DCP-8's multiple ins and outs.

The DCP-8 can very effectively reduce tape hiss during mixdowns on an analog 8-track by using the noise gates on all channels. Set the gate thresholds so that tracks that have occasional sound effects or voice elements will mute until the effect or voice element appears.

The DCP-8 also makes it possible to perform a different type of compression during a mixdown. Most producers who compress on the mixdown send the entire stereo mix into a compressor and then to the mastering deck. Compressing all the tracks separately and simultaneously during the mix gives you the option to compress a voice track a little harder than you're compressing the music. Maybe a sound effect in the promo has too much dynamic range and doesn't stand out enough in the mix; the DCP-8 will let you compress it during the mixdown without affecting the other tracks. If you like lots of compression on your mixes, this is a very clean way to get it, with just the right amounts on the individual elements.

Once I realized the potential of having eight dynamics processors in the studio, I began to see the DCP-8 as much more than a level control device for a DA-88 or ADAT. As with many of today's high tech toys, the DCP-8 feels very much like the type of box whose applications will expand along with the user's imagination and his or her studio. Considering that this is one of the first boxes of its kind, and that the software version is version 1.0, I expect we'll see some exciting developments along the way. Imagine the DCP-8 with EQ on each channel!

Reported specs on the DCP-8 include signal to noise ratio at 92dB, THD+noise at 0.01%, and dynamic range >115dB.

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