Can you pack everything you will ever need at front of house into one convenient easy to use system? Everything from speaker processing, crossover, EQs (both graphic and parametric), system compression, dual real time analyzers, mixer/router distribution amp – all available digitally? Well, dbx has done just that with the DriveRack complete equalization and loudspeaker management system. Combining every form of processing needed to drive signal from the mixer to the power amps, the DriveRack allows you to eliminate all other devices normally found in large systems; but is it all it says it is?
Product PointsApplications: Live sound, sound reinforcement, installation
Key Features: Speaker processing; crossover; graphic and parametric EQs; system compressor; real time analyzers; mixer/router distribution amp
Price: 480 – $2,7002 480R – $3,499; 481 – $2,200
Contact: dbx at 801-568-7660, Web Site.
+ Sounds great
+ Half the size of the old gear
+ Everything is at your figure tips
– Burned up COM ports
– Remote is not wireless
The Score: This system is the wave of the future. With all the funtionablity, ease of use, and shear sonic performance dbx has won me over.
The system setup that I used for this review consisted of the 480 (master brain), 481 (slave), 442 (additional EQ unit), and a 480R (remote controller for the whole system). Starting with the 480, which is described as the flagship of the DriveRack line, it offers four inputs with eight outputs all on XLR connectors. Each channel has EQ in the form of a nine-band parametric or a 31-band graphic and notch filters. From this you can also have a high-pass, low-pass, or band-pass filter set. Dynamics are available across all channels with a compressor/limiter that is set to emulate the classic dbx 160s. Butterworth, Bessel, or Linkwitz-Riley are available as your crossover filters and you can choose from 27 different crossover configurations. In the delay capabilities there is allotment for both speaker transducer and time adjustment. Speaker compensation EQ (post crossover) is also provided which is pre house and show EQs. The dual EQ component (house and show) is an outstanding feature with individual control and functionality. Two real time analyzers can also be run simultaneously with RTA source inputs capable of being remotely switched on the fly. The 480 is fully programmable from the front panel, with the 480R remote control, or through a PC based computer via the GUI (RS-232) interface port. Triple redundant back up is featured with all parameters when running the unit in a network, 480, 480R and PC. All units can be networked together with dbx’s proprietary RS-485 control cabling.
The 481 and 482 are merely slave units to the 480 and include all of the functionality and features of the 480. Euroblock connectors are featured on the 481 while XLRs are on the 482. The main functional difference is that these units have no front panel controls like the 480 and have to be networked to a 480, or 480R to perform all programming functions. Any combination of 480s, 481s, 482s, and 442s can be controlled on a single DriveRack network consisting of up to 100 units.
The 442 is a four in and four out unit. The primary function is the 31-band graphic or nine-band parametric EQ on each input. It also has time adjustment delays and separate house and show EQs. As with the 480 it has XLR connectors for each in and out.
Now the cool, flashy piece in the DriveRack system is the 480R dedicated remote interface. It features thirty-one motorized faders to control the EQ functions as well as 32 assignable hot keys with up to 64 different assignable capabilities. The 480R also has a built in real time analyzer with an XLR input at the rear of the unit equipped with a 48 volt phantom power switch for a measurement microphone. The 480P is the power supply for the remote and is sold with the 480R. Yet another feature is the ability to link via MIDI to various other equipment. The 480R with respond to MIDI commands from mixing consoles including Soundcraft SM20 and Series 5 along with Allen & Heath ML4000 and ML5000.
Testing out new gear has always been fun to me and solving problems when something fails is the never-ending challenge of life. With that said I was not expecting the result I would get after opening up the boxes of the new DriveRack systems. To make what could be a long story short… I smoked the first two units. Apparently, you can not plug the units together (using the proprietary RS-485 cable) with the power on. The ports will burn up… Always connect the network with the power off! (According to dbx this problem has been identified and fixed though dbx still advises against hot-swapping.)
Programming the units was easy and for a company like us, who uses a lot from one speaker manufacture, the DriveRack worked great and provided every parameter necessary. Through out the last several months I have had the pleasure of taking the DriveRack on numerous shows. Everything from the corporate “talking head” shows to full on rock-n-roll. Top to bottom the DriveRack has performed with out a flaw. The system works the best when you use the 480R remote. Actually, I wouldn’t use the system without it, even though I would still be able too. Every function is at your figure tips when using the hot key assignments on the remote, and let’s face it, moving faders are still cool. The only downfall is that the 480R is not wireless. Having the freedom to walk around to all the zones in the room and be able to tweak that zone from the listening area it is firing into would have been a nice add-on. The total flexibility of the system is the most beautiful selling point. If I have outputs from a console consisting of: left, right, front fill, outfill, and three delay taps the system will allow you to process, EQ, system compress, time adjust and function as an RTA… all in one package less than half the size of all the equipment that I used before. And the most important part, it sounds great!
The EQ is precise and accurate and the shear capability to work in every area of the signal flow, from mixer to amps, on one system is fantastic. Every artist’s engineer I have worked with from Charlie Daniels to Natalie Cole, and to churches with big gospel bands have all been pleased.
dbx also has downloadable software available at their web site for PC operation without the need for the 480R remote. Although I have not worked with the PC-driven software I have spoken with others who prefer it to the 480R due to the multiple windows aspect.
Overall the dbx DriveRack meets with my approval. The ease of use and the fact that it is a powerhouse that takes up less than half the space of all the old drive gear is amazing. It impressed everyone at RCI Sound Systems so much that we bought DriveRacks for all of our systems.
Yamaha PM4000, 3500 consoles; EAW Kf 760s, 761s, Kf300s, Kf 850s speakers; QSC PL 6.0, 4.0,3.4 and BGW GTC amplifiers; Sennheiser MD 421,408, ME40, 60,80, AKG 414, D12, D112, C391, beyerdynamic M88, M160, Shure SM57, SM87, SM56, SM58, Beta57, Beta58, Beta87, Countryman EM101 microphones; Countryman Type 85 DI, Sony XE 400 CD player.