500 modules have taken off like wildfire over the last few years. The ability to swap in and out of lunchboxes in a modular fashion and the often relatively low price means they can be comparable to plugins with the beauty of having hands on outboard gear. Dbx know their way around signal processing and have been in the modular game for decades. To be honest, there’s probably not a decent level studio that hasn’t got (or had) some piece of dbx gear in its arsenal at some stage! It’s no surprise then to see their newest line of 500s starting to fill racks everywhere. Incorporating technology from their highly regarded 900 series and some new twists they’re suitable for live, studio and budgets of all levels.
510 SUBHARMONIC SYNTH
Designed to add extra low-end to any audio passed through it, the 510 module generates signal an octave below that’s perfect for adding punch to your mix. An offshoot of the popular dbx Subharmonic Synthesis processor, the 510 is straight forward and easy to use. Controls include LF boost, subharmonics level and then two more frequency level controls handling 36Hz – 56Hz and 24Hz – 36Hz respectively. Often utilised for electronic music or high-energy rock and pop, you can be subtle and just dial in a little subharmonic edge as needed or push it harder for thumping kick drum. It really is that easy, a dial to taste type scenario. And the subharmonic effect (as also often used on bass guitar) isn’t always about super heavy dripping low-end. More so it’s about the slight bit of bottom-end thud that you feel in the mix – just adding a little something rather than mushing everything together.
With frequency and dB range controls, a mode switch and a series of monitoring LEDs the 520 De-Esser is another non-flashy unit from dbx. Perhaps not the most glorious of all effects, the De-Esser can definitely be handy for removing harshness – and not just on vocals. Overly tough percussion and drums can often be tamed making for a softer feeling sound. At a more than decent price, the 520 is a great unit for reducing sibilance and those little nuances on vocals that can make all the difference in the mix stage.
530 PARAMETRIC EQ
Splitting into three bands (low, mid and high frequency), the 530 works on these three overlapping EQ sections, which allows you to dial into anywhere from 20Hz to 20kHz with 15dB cut or boost. A nice EQ to really add detail, the 530 is the kind of tool you can just play with to add some sweetness – be it vocals, guitar, drums or entire ensembles. An added feature is the ability to turn any band into a notch filter to really target problem frequencies. This might not be super musical but it can be a good tool for removing (or adding) ‘honkiness’ or removing some unwanted clutter. The 530 can be great in both the tracking and mix stages when you’re trying to zone in on a specific frequency or area.
Every good setup needs a good compressor and (thankfully) these days you don’t have to fork out super huge $$$ to get the job done. The typical output gain, compression ratio and threshold controls are present with clear LED metering and a mode switch for ‘hard knee’ or dbx’s ‘OverEasy’ setting. Hard knee can be a big threshold protector for full mixes or super hot signals whilst the ‘OverEasy’ mode works nice on vocals and softer sounds. Great for tracking or mix tone shaping, the 560A again comes in at a nice price whilst still delivering some tuneful goods.
580 MIC PREAMP
An essential studio tool, the Mic Pre can really take you from home studio sounds to serious quality detail and gain. No 500 series would be complete without a mic pre and again dbx have dropped this 500 module into the nice price range. That’s not to say that it’s cheap or nasty – quite the opposite! Fairly versatile in application, it’ll handle vocals, acoustic guitars, drums, piano and almost anything you throw at it. Control-wise you have high detail, low detail, low cut, gain and switches for phantom power, polarity and a 20dB pad. Top it off with a VU meter and you’ve got a warm sounding, flexible compact pre. Paired with a nice microphone the 580 will give you definition and warmth retaining quite a natural vibe.
For more details on the range of dbx products, head to jands.com.au.