dbx DriveRack PA2 [REVIEW]
The DriveRack PA2 loudspeaker-management system from dbx Professional Audio is a signal processor for your speakers. Priced around $500, its main functions include electronic crossover (full-range, 2-way, and 3-way), equalizer, and speaker protection. But like the TV commercial for the Chop-O-Matic… Wait! There’s more!
The Harman brand dbx has also included another half-dozen functions, of which at least a few will be of great value to DJs. When I reviewed the earlier generation of the DriveRack a couple of years ago, I wondered how many of the functions would actually be used by DJs, due to their relative complexity. Today’s DriveRack functions not only are “best-of-class,” but painless to get to work, with a setup wizard that requires minimal brain activity and only one functional finger. It’s a big improvement in letting the DJ get the most out of the DriveRack without making his setup an enormous project.
So what else is in this box of goodies? The AutoEQ function enables the DJ to both get a balanced sound and put on a show for the boss and customers. You will need the dbx calibrated mic (about $100) and set this up in the most important area (the dancefloor). If you have an extra few minutes, you can select multiple locations for a wider sweet spot. When the mic is positioned, press the button for automatic EQ. Shock and Awe! The DJ is doing system calibration! Wear a white lab coat when you do this for full effect.
Of course, the AutoEQ results will be dramatically different for a bar or club compared to a lawn party even with the same speakers—but that is an easy job of optimization in seconds for the DriveRack. The PA2 offers numerous additional system-tuning and sonic optimization capabilities, including dbx compression, graphic and 8-band parametric EQ. The electronic crossover function includes time-alignment between the woofer and tweeter (or horn) and this is only needed once—unless you change your speaker component arrangement.
A time-aligned speaker system enables audibly superior vocal clarity, truly letting you deliver the best sound possible from what you have. Essentially, time-alignment gets the combined acoustic center’s contributions from the speakers “in-focus.”
The new dbx DriveRack PA2 can be controlled on the fly with mobile devices or laptop using Ethernet control via an Android, iOS, Mac, or Windows device. The Wizard utility provides users with access to a host of configuration menus and on their mobile device, with full-color graphical displays that give ready visual indications of the parameters being adjusted. The DriveRack PA2 can also be operated via its front-panel controls and has its own LCD display. But the front panel is a 1-rack mount space (1-¾-inches), so not everything can be shown, compared to using your laptop.
The company’s Subharmonic Synthesis goes back decades to when vinyl records lacked deep bass due to the record groove being too wide and hard to track for the phonograph cartridge. DJs and (sound installers) would use a dbx Subharmonic Synthesizer to put back the extreme low energy into the bassline. Today, bassheads continue to love this effect, but make sure your bass speakers are up for this!
Finally, there is the AFS feedback elimination, which is intended for suppressing mic/speaker feedback. For DJs that yak it up over the music, this should provide some extra headroom before acoustic feedback—but I think this should also work for DJs that still use turntables.
Bottom Line: The DriveRack PA2 enables the DJ to optimize his sound system better and do it easier. That makes this a useful and meaningful device and it should be an integral part of better mobile and permanent install club systems. When it came to packing it up, I thought twice and decided to make the PA2 a permanent part of our reference test system—and adding more “stuff” is not a common event here!
Congratulations to dbx for adding more features, making them better, and making set-up a no-brainer. Mobile DJs, especially, should love dbx for it.