Test Drive: Orban 787A Programmable Mic Processor

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It was pleasing to see an effects port on the 787A. The effect send level is not adjustable, but the effect return level is. This keeps it simple and does the job. For an on-air mic setup that uses reverb, this makes interfacing with an external reverb unit possible. The nice touch here is that each jock can have different amounts of reverb on their mic, and those reverb settings get stored in his "number." In the production room, the possibilities are even greater. If you use varying amounts of reverb on voice tracks for different types of reads, these settings can be stored in the presets and called up quickly. You can even go so far as to have the effects port patched to a multi-effects processor and store varying amounts of echo, flange, pitch change, etc. Bear in mind, however, that the effects are mixed WITH the direct signal. You can only vary the effects level in the mix. Also, if you wish to use the effects port for reverb and want stereo reverb, the optional 787A/SL second channel slave unit is necessary.

The 787A also offers restricted access. (Engineers like this function!) A four digit code can be programmed into the unit to restrict access to all the controls except those that select presets. The only way to unlock the machine without the code is with a crowbar or a switch inside the unit.

The optional remote control only has on its panel the UP, DOWN, and RECALL buttons with an LED readout to indicate the selected preset. This is ideal for on-air studio use. It's small, simple to use, and keeps the big box out of temptation's way. Remote control is also available through an optional MIDI or RS-232 interface. Presets can be recalled and parameter settings can be saved to external memory with these interfaces, but parameters cannot be adjusted. A computer whiz with nothing to do might set up the unit to automatically change programs with each jock shift, thus taking the switching completely out of the jocks' hands -- or human hands for that matter.

Specs for the techies include frequency response of 20-20kHz, balanced mic and line inputs, plus mic level and line level outputs. The EQ is tunable from 30Hz to 15.3kHz with boost/cut range from +16 to -40dB. List price on the 787A is $1995. We found one for $1675. The optional 787A/SL second channel slave lists for $995 and can be found around the $800 range.

Aside from the de-esser and the noise gate, the 787A is basically a compressor with EQ. Most production rooms have a compressor and EQ, and one might ask, "Why do we need another compressor and more EQ?" To begin with, this compressor and EQ would be nice upgrades for many; but what's even more attractive about having a mic processor in production is the time saved. If you spend just one minute setting up EQ and compression for a read and do this a dozen times a day, that figures out to an hour a week you can save. That's the extra hour you didn't have last week to cut that spec spot -- the same spec spot that would have made enough money to pay for the box! And if you can get this reasoning to work with your GM, you might want to consider a transfer to sales!

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