Drawmer Front End One MX60
In the high-end 'voice channel' market, one can easily forget that Drawmer were an early entrant with the Vacuum Tube 1960. They now enter the crowded budget end of this market with the feature packed 'Front End One' MX60.
The ‘One’ is a comprehensive mic/line channel for studio or live use. Drawmer have drawn on their many years of dynamic processing experience to encompass everything anyone might require of such a unit into a compact and very competitively-priced product.
I was initially surprised by the sheer physical weight of the fairly shallow 1U box. For a cheap unit, construction is extremely robust, an internal metal brace spanning the entire width and holding most of the pots via long shafts above an enormous single circuit board. Upon this are mounted rows upon rows of small components. The bobbin mains transformer is heavy, but not especially large. There are separate top, bottom, front and back panels, with double section integral rack ears.
The front panel is smartly black-painted over brushed aluminium, which makes legending clear, despite the small lettering necessitated by the sheer number of features on the unit. The knobs are all small and stiffly damped, much the same as those on the ubiquitous DS 201 Dual Gate. The pointers are clear, but their tiny size makes small adjustments and recalls a little tricky. Every button has an LED except the Male/Female button on the De-Esser. There are LED meters for Input, Output and Compression, and LEDs for the Gate and De-Esser operation, making it easy to see what is happening.
The back features Mic Input XLR, Line Out XLR, and balanced and unbalanced line jacks operating at +4dBu and -10dBu respectively. All line connections can be used simultaneously which is useful for level conversion. In addition there is a TRS insert jack which comes before any internal processing or metering. An IEC mains socket is fitted. Voltage conversion is tricky, as one has to remove the lid, change the internal fuse and relocate links, but I would imagine this an infrequent requirement.
The front panel is logically arranged. On the left is a high-impedance Instrument jack with a selector switch, a pad and a useful Bright switch which adds some well-chosen upper-mids to liven up flat sounding D/I'd guitars. A +20dB button boosts quiet electric guitar signals. Next to the Gain pot is a Mic/Line button, a Phase switch, Phantom Power button and 100Hz HP filter. The Mic amplifier was commendably clean and very quiet, if unsurprisingly a little ‘smaller’ sounding next to the fine vintage Neve I had for comparison.
The Dynamics, EQ and Tubesound sections can be individually selected. The Dynamics section includes a simple Gate with Threshold knob and two Release settings, and this works well with no clicks. The De-Esser compresses only high frequency content. A switch marked Male/Female shifts the frequencies affected. However, it is a little tricky to set up without losing brightness on non-sibilant parts of the vocal, and rarely needs to be set higher than 1½ (on a scale going up to 10). The Compressor features auto attack and release and sounded similar to earlier transistor Drawmers, which I confess would not be my first choice on vocals. Like the De-Esser, it can be vicious, and sounds ‘squashy’ if set with a ratio higher than 2:1.
The EQ has basic shelving HF and LF cut/boost at 4.25kHz and 100Hz respectively, and a wide-ranging fully parametric Mid. With 18dB cut/boost on all bands this is extremely powerful and works well but sounds little more refined than the EQ you would encounter on a typical budget 8-buss console.
The Tubesound section was very enjoyable, its potential for subtlety making up for the powerful nature of the other sections. Despite the name, there are no ‘tubes’ in this unit: a transistor circuit simulates the subtle distortions of real valves. There are three Drive knobs, Lo, Mid and Hi, which split the audio band at 350Hz and 2kHz. I often found these preferable to the EQ for tone shaping, adding warmth and ‘glow’. One has to be careful with vocals, as this can introduce some fuzziness, and turning the three Drive knobs clockwise can push the output limiter into action. One must compensate by reducing input gain or compressor output. Indeed, the gain structure requires careful setting. When the input is set at a normal level to drive the compressor, the Compressor Output Gain must often be reduced in order not to drive the output limiter, which is always in circuit before the Output Gain knob.
This unit has a good Mic Preamplifier and an astonishing number of features for the price. The manual is clear and straightforward. But paradoxically, there are almost too many knobs to twiddle in a vocal recording situation, especially for the novice who is likely to purchase one. It is quite easy to overdo it with the Dynamics and EQ sections. When mixing, however, this is a versatile tool, and great for rescue jobs. Buy one, you won’t find better value, but as the old aftershave advert goes, ‘Be careful how you use it!’
Reproduced with kind permission from www.George.Shilling.Com. Copyright ©
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