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Appearances can be deceptive. When I first looked at the Drawmer MX range I thought, from the quality of construction and the XLR sockets on the back, they were mainstream products at mainstream product prices. It turns out however that it is a budget range at surprisingly low prices. A call to Drawmer revealed that the only cost cutting has been in the feature set, compared to their more expensive products, and in improved manufacturing techniques. Sound quality is claimed to be up to the usual Drawmer high standard so it seems like a dream come true - pro studio products at bedroom studio prices. Could be interesting...
The Drawmer DS201 set the standard for noise gates many years ago and, like the Yamaha SPX90 and its successors, is to be found in just about every studio from the smallest to the biggest. The problem with creating a classic is that Drawmers new products have to compete with those that are already installed so the trick is to sidestep the DS201s challenge and come up with something rather different. The MX40 therefore isnt anything like DS201 brought up to date. It has four channels for a start and inevitably there are fewer knobs per channel. Even so, the MX40 is a well thought out product, feature-wise. Lets do the tour.
The most important control on any noise gate is the threshold and there wouldnt normally be much to say about it, but the people at Drawmer have obviously been thinking clearly and have taken the trouble to calibrate it in dBu rather than simply dB where you might not know where the 0dB reference might lie. They have also included a clever little graphic surrounding the activity LEDs to show very clearly that the red LED means that the signal is below the threshold and the gate is therefore closed, and that the green LED means that the signal is mostly above the threshold and the gate is open. Its a detail, but I like it. What you dont find on this unit is a rotary attack control. Nine times out of ten a gate will be set to a fast attack anyway so its not that much of a loss, and there is an added, rather unusual, feature which Ill mention later. Actually, if you wanted to use a gate as an effect, for softening the start of a bass or snare drum, then a rotary attack control would be essential. Perhaps therefore the MX40 should be considered a corrective gate, rather than the creative tool that gating can be. The release control is important. Any regular noise gate user will know that the last thing you need is a case of the jitters. Jitter, as is commonly known, occurs when the signal passes below the threshold and the gate closes, but then it doesnt quite know whether it is supposed to be open or closed with the result that it oscillates rapidly, and irritatingly, between the two states a number of times. Some gates are more prone to jitter than others so this will need a little investigation shortly.