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Phoenix Audio (UK) DRS-Q4 Review
Old 23rd May 2006
  #1
Phoenix Audio (UK) DRS-Q4 Review

Serial Number 004.

Mine arrived yesterday, but I was out. It turned up again about two hours ago.

I've run some of my own tunes through it and a few soft-synths & samples & guitar tracks, just to test the eq a little. But I can't try the mic inputs out yet - there are plenty of reviews of the DRS pre-amps around though.

Mine has the new look red knobs for eq and op level. They look nice, but the old ones may have allowed a bit more grip when turning them. I knew it would be a little cramped around the eq area, so maybe the thinner knobs allow more space to poke your finger in to flick the switches.

My only minor gripe with the build of mine is that the right Mic Input knob doesn't quite match up to the marked knotches of the stepped input. So for example if I dial in -45, the knob is pointing 2/3s of the way between -40 and -45, not directly at -45.

I actually thought that all the knobs were stepped, i.e, the eq levels and o/p levels. But this is not the case - none of them are (except of course the Mic input). In fact, there is not even a calibrated middle position for zero increase/decrease. I can imagine myself often leaning forward to ensure that I've matched the levels when working with stereo sources; and as for recalling - well there isn't any numerical markings on any of these knobs in question, so I guess a digital camera is the only way forward.

My first impressions are that I like the sound of the eq a lot. There's not a lot of options, but we new that already and what options there are sound good. The 3 hi mid frequencies on offer all sound superb (esp 6k & 3.5k), and its them that I find myself reaching for first most often, then using the other 3 bands to balance things up. The lack of options means that its pretty quick to dial something in and once its done, just hitting the bypass switches once is enough to know that the changes you've made are fairly significant.

On full mixes, I found that the DRS Q-4 nearly always made big improvements, maybe this due to the old mackie mixer that most of my mixes where done on and limited mastering software that is available to me. The DRS Q-4 always brought life back into the mixes in a pleasing way. But when I tried it on various individual guitar tracks that I'd already recorded, sometimes I struggled to find a setting that would improve the source - but maybe thats because there was nothing that needed to be fixed.

I think that the eq will be most useful when recording analog keyboards to DAW, acoustic instruments (when mic placement fails), but most of all on a buss to add colour and glue to a group of instruments, i.e drums & percussion, or string quartet, or brass etc.

For your information the only other channel strips and eqs that I've used extensively that I can use for a comparison are TL Audio 5051, TF Pro P2, and a Mackie SR24:4 (all of which have been sold). I can tell that the DRS Q-4 is in a different league entirely but you'll have to wait for more experienced ears than mine for A/B comparisons.
Old 24th May 2006
  #2
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jindrich's Avatar
 

hi temas
thx for your nice review. Can you bypass the whole eq with a switch? those are great news. Does it have insert points or a way to use the pre and eq separately?
I'm considering this unit as my new pre, was doubting between portico and great river. The added eq on the drs-q4, though not being a full one, maybe the ticket to sweet things a bit on the tracking stage.

how much more expensive is the drs-q4 compared to the drs-2?

can you post a full frontal and a detailed shot of the unit?
Old 24th May 2006
  #3
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AdamJay's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jindrich
Can you bypass the whole eq with a switch?
yes

Quote:
Originally Posted by jindrich
Does it have insert points or a way to use the pre and eq separately?
no.
but for line level eq'ing i just go into the Mic inputs and engage the pad.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jindrich
how much more expensive is the drs-q4 compared to the drs-2?
i don't think the final price has been determined just yet. all that have been shipped are a few pre-production units.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jindrich
can you post a full frontal and a detailed shot of the unit?
my Q4 serial #002 had some EQ inaccuracies, so Shaun sent me another and i just sent back the one with EQ problems to Phoenix. The replacement he sent me works perfectly, and i was assured the small issue with it has been ironed out for future units. But i was quite impressed with the new EQ and level knobs. its a custom machined miniature version of the newer gain knob, and i've found it to be quite good for small EQ adjustments.
also the type on the white buttons has been removed, which i can agree with, it was a bit redundant

here's a detailed pic of the new Q4, the old Q4, and my DRS-2, from top to bottom.

Old 24th May 2006
  #4
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indie's Avatar
 

WOW...that looks nice.
EQ -- neve-ish or whole new animal?
Old 24th May 2006
  #5
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AdamJay's Avatar
 

i dont have enough experience with Neve EQs to compare the DRS-Q4 to a Neve. what i can say is its incredibly smooth, and big sounding. much like the DRS preamps.
Old 24th May 2006
  #6
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AdamJay's Avatar
 

here's a closer up of the EQ section:

Old 24th May 2006
  #7
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indie's Avatar
 

nice.
Old 24th May 2006
  #8
Lives for gear
 

Wow, those little red knobs look great ... mine has the grey ones.

I have one of the first ones as well - but have been somewhat reluctant to post any kind of review because I have real difficulty putting what I hear into words (in general, not just in regard to the DRS 4).

But in answer to the query above re Neve, I can be perhaps of some help. I also have a Focusrite 115, and an Audix 35102 (supposed to be "Nevish", though is its own beast from what I can tell). The 115 is very smooth (and surgical), and when I'm using it, I find I'm often using the EQ in/out button to hear what it's doing. The Audix does next to nothing, but then at a certain point on the rotary dial, kicks in to become as aggressive as all hell - my goto gtr/snare EQ, or for anything that needs an edge.

The DRS 4 to me falls midway between them. The EQ is more "forward" than the 115, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that that was the case. On the other hand, it's not as edgy or agressive as the Audix, which is a relief to be honest!

Overall, I would say that it's a great all-round EQ .. nice for adding a bit of sheen or body to a track or mix, but poky enough to be able to do some serious EQ boost/cut damage when necessary. Well worth it, and coupled with the fantastic (and versatile) pre/DI that is the heart of the DRS's, makes the box a real winner IMHO.

Last edited by bing81; 24th May 2006 at 07:51 AM.. Reason: typos!
Old 24th May 2006
  #9
gem
Gear Maniac
 
gem's Avatar
 

whats the price on this?

gem
Old 24th May 2006
  #10
Gear Maniac
 

........mine should arrive any second!
Strange that some of the knobs have white "fillings" and some don´t.........
Maybe just a preproduction thing?

/Truls
Old 24th May 2006
  #11
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AdamJay's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Trulsux
........mine should arrive any second!
Strange that some of the knobs have white "fillings" and some don´t.........
Maybe just a preproduction thing?

/Truls
none have fillings, you're probably just seeing the reflection of the flash in the notches of the metallic red knobs
Old 24th May 2006
  #12
Gear Maniac
 

Ahhhh what a shame........I thought it looked pretty cool with a white strip!!!

I´ll have to get a small white pen then.......

/ Truls
Old 24th May 2006
  #13
Quote:
Originally Posted by gem
whats the price on this?

gem
I just browsed through my old emails and I don't think there's any shame in quoting that in Febuary Shaun estimated to me that the RRP would be somewhere in the £1,800 - £1,900 region (exc. VAT). Last time I looked, I think ASAP Europe had the DRS-2 for £1250 (exc. VAT), which means it works out under £300 a channel to 'go large' to the Q4.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jindrich
Does it have insert points or a way to use the pre and eq separately?
As AdamJay said, no. But what would have been really nice (IMO) would have been if one of the 2 o/ps sent the signal pre eq and the other post, so that you could monitor what you're tracking with the eq on without actually recording it.

I'm looking forward to the opinions of the other owners when they receive theirs. Hopefully I'll be able to do some tracking with it soon and perhaps post something.

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