GEAR REVIEW: DBX DriveRack PA ($500 USD)
Let me warn people now. If you do not have a HIGHLY skilled audio tech at your church, or you yourself cannot dedicate 80-100 hours or more up front with this piece of gear itself, DO NOT waste your time. If Sunday morning is the only time you get to spend with your gear, please, please do not purchase the DriveRack. You will regret it. It will take you a minimum of 1 year to master. I cannot stress to you enough that you must be highly trained audio tech, or be willing with endless determination to use the DriveRack. Ok, I’m done ranting, but seriously, you better know your crap.
In the church industry, primarily those of us who do not have our own building, we have certain constraints that many other churches may not. Most churches must have gear that inexperienced volunteers can use, but be quality. But we also have limits on space, so many of us purposefully buy gear that has many functions. Here is the description from the website: “The DriveRack® PA was designed with the purpose and vision of providing state-of-the-art signal processing, while utilizing a simple and intuitive user interface. This goal has been achieved by offering two independent channels of processing power with a linkable 28-Band Graphic equalizer, industry-standard dbx® stereo compressor module, feedback eliminator and the 120A Subharmonic Synthesizer on the input, with a six channel output system that includes parametric EQs, and Peak PlusTM limiters (which are used to provide protection against speaker blowouts).”
The user interface is incredibly easy to use. It is not confusing and easy to navigate. 25 factory programs and 25 user edited programs. Made by the same people who make crown and jbl, so if you have any of these speakers or amps, the tunings are already stored in the unit.
I will not go into detail about each feature of the dbx because that would take too long. Go to the website below for more info, and I will post the link to the DriveRack PA forum as well (for those who do not know, there are dedicated forums, manuals, and so forth for this product alone). I would like to mention a few features that the website’s description forgot. It has a 2 channel xlr input and a 6 ch. xlr output. The compressor can be set up as a: 2×3, 2×4, 2×5, or 2×6. All of the programs listed so far, save the feedback eliminator, are all manual programs, which means the user must set all levels and parameters. To use this unit well, you must know how each function (a function refers to the compressor, sub-harmonic synth, crossover, etc.) works and how to make manual adjustments to each function that may have several parameters.
I think what makes this most attractive to potential buyers is the lure of the Auto Wizard capabilities. The Wizard will detect stereo or mono, your crossover structure, you can select your speaker and amp tunings here (if you do not have crown or jbl, you will need to get the tunings from the manufacturer). From here you will be able to Auto EQ, and the wizard for Automatic Feedback Suppressor is here. The Wizard function does not provide you with that much. You can just as easily set these parameters yourself. To use the Auto EQ you must use a RTA precision mic to pink the room you are in. This is NOT easy. I have never been able to successfully make it sound good (There are also dedicated sites on how to Auto EQ your room, it must not be very “Auto” if no one can figure it out). Now lets talk about the AFS Wizard. These are used to set individual parameters for certain frequencies you would like to cancel out. Let me just give you a warning, and say this function totally sucks. It rarely does its job, and often times it will actually cancel out frequencies that you want, which you then have to manually go back in and change, after it did it for you “Automatically.”
One last thing about the DriveRack PA and then I will sum up what I think. It is a digital processor based device, which means it will stop working at the worst possible moments. Its just like your PC, it freezes up and you have to restart it. I mean even OSX needs a good reboot every now and then, granted, hardly ever since Macs are far superior to PCs, but still. I had it for 2 months and the blue screen of death came on. The unit still worked, but you could not longer see the screen to make any changes. One month later, one week before our Christmas service, it stopped working. The only way to fix it was to do a hard reset. For those of you that don’t know the devastation of a hard reset, this means that you loose all of your settings. Everything that you worked on for 6 months or even a year is now gone and you have to start from scratch. It would make Mel Gibson in Braveheart cry uncontrollably. Well, guess what 1 month after I reset the DriveRack the blue screen of death returned with a vengeance. It stopped working again, and again I had to perform a hard reset. When the blue screen of death comes like a thief in the night, it will be too late to write down your settings, it will be too late to save your soul.
The DriveRack PA is not worth the money. The cons far outweigh the pros. Do not fall into the trap of the Wizard functions saving you because they are not that powerful and not very helpful. It is only 1 rack space big, and performs many duties, but do not let the sleek and powerful beast seduce you. Shell out the money and get the dedicated pieces of gear that you specifically need, even though it may take up more space and require more rack cases. You will save headaches. Realize if it goes bad all of your functions cease to exist. If you are smart, buy individual dedicated pieces of gear because if one goes bad the show goes on, if the DriveRack PA fails, your show stops. The user interface is very intuitive. The sonic quality of each function is amazing, but it is unreliable. Bottom line…don’t buy it.
dbx DriveRack PA Website:
DriveRack PA Forum: