Test Drive: The Orban DSP FX Engine For The DSE-7000

Once the project is loaded (or created), everything looks and acts pretty much the same as before, until you press the SET and GOTO buttons on the control panel. This brings up the Effects Patch Bay screen. There are eight fields labeled 1 through 8, along with a Sub-Mix Out field and a Main Out field. The fields labeled 1 through 8 correspond with the eight tracks. Placing the cursor in any one of these fields and using the Left/Right Arrow keys scrolls through the various effects available. Selections include Equalizer, Compressor, Mini-Verb, Lexicon Small, Lexicon Large, +12dB Gain, and Track Link. (+12dB Gain adds 12dB to any track--nice for boosting low level tracks. The Track Link function links adjacent tracks together so one effect preset can be applied to both tracks simultaneously.)

To add EQ to a track, simply scroll through the effects until Equalizer is displayed in that track's field, then press the EXEcute key. A window opens and the cursor is automatically placed in a new field where the Left/Right arrows are used to scroll through the various factory equalizer programs. The default preset is named Flat which is an equalizer without any boost or cut. To access the parameters, press the Down Arrow key. A new window replaces the previous and displays controls for a 4-band equalizer with 2-band parametric EQ and Low and High Shelving EQ. The ten faders on the DSE's control panel become controllers for each of the ten pots on the screen. The shelving bands and both parametric bands each have a control for Frequency and Level. The two parametric bands add a Q or bandwidth control. The boost/cut range on all four bands is +12dB to -36dB, and the EQ bands overlap each other. With this wide boost/cut range, it's possible to make some pretty extreme adjustments and create some interesting EQ effects. Some effect presets have more than one screen of parameter controls which are accessed by pressing the SHIFT and Down Arrow keys.

One appealing feature of the equalizer is the EQ curve display which appears at the bottom half of the screen when in the EQ adjust mode. All adjustments affect the audio in real time and the curve moves as adjustments are made. The fact that the control panel's faders become true physical controllers for the parameters makes using the EQ fast and easy, unlike other workstations that require EQ adjustments to be done on-screen with a mouse and/or keyboard. To boost the mids, just move a fader--no icon to click, no mouse pointer to move to a virtual pot or fader. I found it helpful to put the DSE into a repeating loop of the audio I wanted to equalize, then I could play with the settings until I was happy without having to mess with the transport controls to keep replaying the audio. Once the EQ is set, pressing the EXEcute key exits the parameter adjust mode and returns the faders to their normal gain-control mode.

As with all the effect presets, the equalizer presets are designed for radio production applications. You won't find presets like "12-String Guitar EQ" or "Gated Snare" in this effects box. Some of the EQ presets include Female Speaker, Male Speaker, The Shadow, Telephone, and Megaphone. If not exactly what you're looking for, they are at least good starting points to do your own tweaking. There are also a couple of presets for quickly removing 50Hz and 60Hz hum from source audio.

There are fifteen compressor presets with descriptive names for both musical and vocal applications such as Voice Medium-Soft, Music Medium, Voice Very Hard, etc.. You also get a noise gate. There are two pages of parameters for the compressor with controls for Input Drive, Release Per Second, Ratio In/Out, Knee Corner, Gate Threshold dB FS, Gate Target Out dB, Gate Release Per Second, Output dB Attenuator, and more. If some of these parameters don't sound like what you're used to seeing in a standard studio compressor, this is because the design is derived from the Orban Optimod transmitter audio processor. For example, the Gate Threshold dB FS parameter "sets the level below which the gain reduction changes to a constant target gain (to prevent breathing)." If this makes perfect sense to you, congratulations. If you're scratching your head, you'll need a chat with your engineer to get a full understanding. This was the only area where the design of the DSP FX Engine seemed to slip away slightly from the DSE's otherwise super-simple approach to digital audio workstations.

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