Having previously reviewed dbx’s DriveRack PA2 ($399 street), a comprehensive loudspeaker management system that is both intuitive and affordable for the sum of its well-performing parts, I was elated to try its little brother, the $99 street-priced goRack, built for streamlined portable PA and self-engineered performance applications. In use, I found goRack additionally purposeful for small to mid-sized houses-of-worship and similar institutions where extremely simplified speaker leveling/tuning plus quick and effective feedback suppression is needed. The introduction of goRack illustrates that dbx Professional grasps well the needs of modern audio wranglers of all types, effectively cramming what used to require stacks of comparably pricey outboard processors into a stomp box-sized enclosure while adding other attractive portable PA features to the mix.
Featuring dbx’s DriveRack technology, dual dbx microphone preamps and five distinct points of I/O on its back panel, the goRack must be as simple as such a useful live sound processor can get. Its top panel-mounted controls consist of input signal rotary knobs, a partially backlit press/hold button per parameter (five in total) and a data wheel shared between these parameters: Mute, Anti-Feedback, Compressor, Sub Synth and EQ.
Especially useful in portable PA applications, goRack’s anti-feedback system features dbx’s patented AFS technology with three selectable modes. These range from narrow bandwidth frequency removal, ideal for live music where quite specific offending frequencies are found and removed; a middle-ground Q for speaking events along with prerecorded background music (DJ/KJ applications, for example); and a broad Q setting, for frequency removal in purely speech driven events.
Evolved from dbx’s 163, the compressor section features easy press/hold parameter engagement and level adjustment via the rotary knob. Makeup gain is handily included.
Next, goRack’s Sub Synth is a handy feature, indeed. It analyzes any program material or input’s bottom end, synthesizing frequencies an octave below for powerfully enhanced bass; this is truly ideal for DJ applications.
Finally, the EQ section features 16 well-chosen preselected frequency landscapes to best shape input sources or program material for its venue. For example, distinct acoustic instrument presets as well as sculpted options for harsh environments are included, vary from one another significantly, and provide a broad range of EQ choices.
Crucial setup details are provided on the bottom of the unit; here, three modes are presented as Mono, Stereo and Advanced. “Mono” sums all inputs to mono, ideal for singer/songwriters desiring both vocal and instrument (or instrument microphone) inputs to be represented equally in both left and right output channels. “Stereo” maintains stereo imaging and is the chosen mode when goRack is used purely as a live stereo processor, a la its big brother, dbx’s DriveRack PA2. “Advanced” splits the processing in a useful way for DJ-types and those running stereo program material plus vocal mics for amalgamated spoken word/presentation purposes. It translates the Aux In material as stereo, microphone inputs as mono (equally to both outputs), with anti-feedback, compressor and EQ parameters dedicated to the microphones as well as sub synth and EQ parameters to the aux input. As such, program material can be enhanced, fuller and more powerful, while mic inputs can be sculpted and compressed with feedback eliminated.
In all, goRack may be the best $100 tool in the portable PA marketplace today. Add in the fact that it’s a superb DI, and every savvy musician, audio professional and A/V environment could use one on hand for whatever processing challenges may arise. I personally plan on having at least one.
Strother Bullins is Technology Editor of NewBay Media’s AV/Pro Audio Group. [email protected]