When I think of high-quality gates, Drawmer is often the first company to come to mind. Drawmer intends to stay on the forefront of the gate market with the introduction of the DS501 ($899), a dual-channel, stereo linkable noise gate that packs a few new punches.
Product PointsApplications: Studio, live sound
Key Features: Dual-channel, stereo-linkable noise gate; XLR I/O; 1/4″ external key inputs; Peak Punch feature
Contact: Drawmer/TransAmerica Audio Group Inc. at 702-365-5155 Web Site
+ Innovative “Punch” function
+ Easy to use
+ Sound quality
– No 1/4-inch I/O
– No Peak Punch hold time control
The Score: The Drawmer DS501 is a professional studio-quality gate with lots of added value in its Peak Punch feature.
The rear panel of the 19-inch-wide by 7.9-inch-deep, one rack space high box accepts a standard IEC power cable for 93 to 125 volt operation (an internal switch easily configures the machine for 185 to 250 volt operation). Also on the rear panel are a pair of F-XLR connectors for audio input, a pair of M-XLR connectors for audio output (the maximum input and output level is +17 dBu) and a pair of 1/4-inch jacks for key input
On the front panel, both channels have identical controls. They are essentially the same as the classic DS201 with the newly added Peak Punch section. The Key Source section has a switch that is set to either EXT (external) or INT (internal). In the INT position, the gate responds to the dynamics of the processed signal. In the EXT position, the gate responds to the external audio signal inserted into the rear panel’s Key Input. This allows a snare drum or a tom to open the gate of an ambient mic, or a close kick drum mic to open the gate of a distant kick microphone. The LF (low- frequency) and HF (high-frequency) filters allow the signal triggering the gate to be tuned to be more effective (they do not affect the actual audio signal). The low-frequency filter is sweepable from 25 Hz to 3 kHz. The high-frequency filter is sweepable from 250 Hz to 30 kHz.
The Threshold determines the level at which the gate opens. The unit’s envelope controls allow the adjustment of Attack, Hold, Decay and Range. The Attack (10 uS to 1 Sec) control determines the speed at which the gate opens. The Hold (10 mS to 2.5 sec) adjustment determines the amount of time the gate is held open after the signal falls below the threshold point. The Decay knob (5 mS to 4 sec) determines the rate at which the gate closes after the Hold time expires. The Range (0 dB to 80 dB) selects the amount of attenuation applied to the signal when the gate is closed.
The function switch determines operation as either gating or ducking. The Output switch can be set to Gate, Bypass or Key Listen. When set to Gate, operation is normal. When Bypass is selected, the audio signal is routed to the output without processing. If Key Listen is selected and Key Source is set to INT, the effect of the key filters on the program material can be heard at the output. When Key Source is EXT, Key Listen auditions the signal at the key input jacks.
The Drawmer “traffic light” display uses three LEDs to show the gate status. Red lights when the gate is closed, yellow lights during hold time and green lights when the gate is open.
The Stereo Link switch links both channels for stereo operation (Channel 1 becomes the master). The trigger source selected for Channel 1 actuates both channels. The Range control remains active on both channels in the Stereo Link mode.
The Peak Punch section is what sets the DS501 aside from every other gate in the world. This feature was added to restore the leading edges of gated signals where the sound’s initial attack may be lost due to heavy gating. The tunable Peak Punch is a dynamic feature that accelerates the attack of a sound by adding up to 12 dB of gain to a specific frequency band or to the entire frequency spectrum for about 10 mS. This increases the presence and definition of the gated signal, allowing one to place the instrument in a mix without eating up precious headroom (or amp power in live situations).
A switch allows the operation to be set for Out (Peak Punch is bypassed), Full Band (the Tune control is not used) or Filter. The Tune control (75 Hz to 16 kHz) selects the frequency band to be punched in the Filter mode. The Level control (labeled 1 to 10) determines the Peak Punch level. At 1 the boost is 1.2dB, at 5 the boost is 6dB and at 10 the boost is 12dB (It would seem a bit more logical if it was labeled 1 to 12 but hey, that’s why we make these adjustments while listening not while looking).
I put the DS501 to work on several tunes featuring live drums and had great results. Like its predecessor – the DS201 – the DS501 is quick to set up. When gating the snare channel, I found that the filter controls worked extremely well in preventing kick drum and hi-hat bleed from opening the gate. The Attack, Hold and Release controls give enough flexibility to deliver an isolated yet natural sounding snare drum. And the Peak Punch allows the snare drum’s attack to be restored without any negative effects to the overall sound.
There was one instance that using the Peak Punch actually yielded a better snare sound than I was able to attain using an equalizer. The recorded snare didn’t require gating so I turned the gain reduction range to 0 dB and used the Peak Punch to create a cracking snare sound from a drum that I felt should have been hit much harder during the tracking session.
Successful kick drum gating was also a breeze with the DS501. Once again, I found the filters to work extremely well in eliminating false triggering from the other drums. The Peak Punch section allowed the kick’s click to be restored without any negative side effects.
When working with kick drum, snare drum and toms, I always found I attained a better end result by using Peak Punch (even if only adding 2 or 3dB).
The Peak Punch function allows the creative manipulation of programmed percussion as well. Programmed kicks and snares as well as everything from tambourines and toms to side sticks and cow bells can be sonically altered in ways not possible with standard EQ.
I only had a few minor complaints with the DS501. I found myself wishing I could adjust the amount of time of the Peak Punch’s activation (i.e. hold time) instead of being limited to the preset 10mS; a few alternate settings would add to the unit’s flexibility. An additional set of 1/4-inch jacks in parallel with the XLRs (or Neutrik Combos) for audio I/O would also give the box greater convenience, especially in live sound and project studios.
The DS501 is a powerful gating machine with enough manipulation controls to adapt to virtually any situation. The Peak Punch function adds to the value and usefulness of this already impressive product. The DS501 should be a top consideration to anyone looking for a professional studio-grade gate.