DBX 676 by HarriloweRTR
DBX recently were kind enough to send me the new 676 Tube Mic Preamp Channel Strip, and after owning a few of their previous bits of equipment (and Harman in general, AKG, Digitech,etc); I was fully aware that they have a brilliant built quality and in most cases, even the lower end products, were great sounding...
But then the 676 arrived and raised the bar in regards to quality..
Honestly, and I don't say this often, but its possible one of the best pieces of equipment I have ever used.
Ergonomically: its outstanding, the dials are solid and slow moving enabling you to be careful when dialling in a tone, but not stiff so you struggle to move them. The Highly visible VU meter allows you to monitor one of GR, Input or Output and is extremely accurate giving and above and below value for loudness and reduction too. Lastly it being black with white writing and well lit LED buttons with different colours makes much easier for knowing what is on and off at any one point!
Quality: The 676 features a 12AU7 tube at 250v giving it extreme clarity and the availability to drive with 2 separate controls - Gain & Tube Attenuation -
With the gain DOWN and attenuation UP, it is pristine in colour and sound, warm and clear with light harmonics. With the gain UP and the attenuation DOWN, the grit this thing get is astonishing... especially on bass. Harmonics and overtones fly about, the distortion added is extremely musical don't worry!
The 676 features a 3-band, sweepable-mid EQ, the lower shelf at 100HZ and the high at 10KHz and the Mid control at the press of a button is able to form either a tight Q bell or a wider bell to either add or duck frequencies.
It also features a compressor, equipped with the same technology used in the highly credited and acclaimed DBX 162SL which at one point was $3K just for a pair! Complete with threshold, attack, release and DBX Overeasy button along with an Auto Release button which works dependent on the Attack control.
And lastly a limited function using DBX TruePeak technology along with a extremely bright and small red LED to let you know when engaged and being used and when not.
Inputs and outputs include a Line In Hi-Z input with a button next to it allowing you to enable this, however when disenaged it will switch to the Mic input on the back. There is an out put either Line level or Mic level which allows you to simply use the tube and nothing else in the channel, however the insert input next to it will allow you to patch in your favourite EQ or other outboard anyway.
Along with this you can use the main output after the full channel strip, however you can also use the compressor and limiter on its own bypassing the EQ by using the insert and main output function if you fancy a flavour of the 162SL as a DAW insert.
Cons: As with any tube equipment there will always be an element of self noise and this isnt a massive problem in any way however it is something worth noting if youre new to tube equipment.
When changing between the GR, Input and Output buttons for the VU meter, there is a small ping which is picked up within the device so make sure you check your level BEFORE recording rather than during and having Pings all over a printed track! Also the Limiter and Compressor functions share the same VU GR however the way around this would be to dial in one first and then the other to avoid confusion what GR you're looking at (Y)
Other than that, there are literally no other faults to this I can find.
Overall; the build and sound quality, usability and direct use with just about every track you will ever record is outstanding. Next to something like the Avalon VT737SP, or the Manley VoxBox - The DBX 676 easily holds its own. If you're looking for incredible quality, truly warm and pleasing harmonics and all in a unit that is affordable, but the quality of high end then look no further. This unit will deliver high end results of not only warm sound from the 12AU7 tube, but technology that is worth that of something like the Avalon VT737SP all at a fraction of the price with much more added too!