Audio Forums Review: D-Box

Introduction
Let me start with a simple statement of fact. The D-Box rules. Dangerous Music is the real deal and has made a HUGE difference in the way I mix and produce music. Before I go into specifics I would like to rant for just a moment:

Before I took the dive and bought my D-Box I searched for reviews and/or sales people to give me the scoop on this box. I got conflicting information. Some raved about it and some debated if it was indeed beneficial to sum in analog. One salesperson told me that having only 8 channels of summing doesn’t make that much of a difference. One said it was the best purchase he ever made. Another wrote that summing analog verse mixing “in the box” was a matter of preference, and then went on to say that if you like your mixes bigger, deeper, wider with more punch than you’ll probably prefer a D-Box. That baffles me because it seems to me that bigger, deeper, wider with more punch is just plain better period. Maybe it’s just me. I have also heard the argument that you can’t A/B your results summing in vs. out of the box because they are two different ways to mix. This is true but it dosn’t mean you can’t compare them! Do the best mix you can in the D-Box, and then do the best mix you can “in the box.” Then take these two stereo mixes, set them side-by-side and listen. The results are pretty astounding to me. I don’t understand the debate. Mixing in the D-Box is “mo’ betta” period; it’s a no-brainer. It’s been the single most helpful piece of gear I have bought to move me towards a big, professional sound. Now for specifics:

My rig is a Digi 002 with a Black Lion Signature Series mod. A pretty hot rig on it’s own I might add. I have the JBL LSR series monitors including the subwoofer with room correction software. My room is fully treated with Owens Corning 705 bass traps wall to ceiling and 703 mid high traps. The room sounds good and is pretty darn accurate. Before I got the D-Box I was using a Presonus Central Station for monitor control.

The Build
Simple, strong, precise and elegant. Great switches, knobs etc. Good feel. Quality, quality quality.

Monitoring.
I took the time to switch cables back and forth from the Central Station to the D-Box to compare the two. This is probably the most obvious difference you’ll hear right off the bat. The Central Station is fine and is a good deal for the money, but listening through the D-Box is a different experience altogether. When you listen on the D-Box the sound creeps out and wraps it’s self around you; it surrounds you. I’m guessing that’s what they call imaging. When you switch back to the Central Station it feels like the music runs back into the speakers like frightened children. Everything was easier for me to hear and place in the stereo field. Another major plus was hearing and feeling the low-end really come through. I don’t know how or why but the bottom was much bigger. It’s not hyped low-end, it’s bigger, natural low-end that was somehow lost before the D-Box came into my life.

Summing
Numerous companies make summing boxes and it’s important not to compare a lesser quality-summing box to Dangerous. When you think Dangerous think very high-end, like Apogee, Neumann, or Empirical Labs. The sound is clean, musical but not colored. It’s not about sounding “Brown” or “Warm and fuzzy” like the endless array of vintage modeling gear that’s out there. It’s transparent in it’s coloring, but the sonic quality that is achieved through it is tangible and profound. First of all you don’t just send your final mix through the D-Box and expect some kind of huge sonic maximizer effect. Summing through the D Box makes a huge difference but again – if you are starting with a song that you have already done in the box it is important that you remix your song (including eq and compression settings) to really hear what it does. What rocks my world about this box is that it has changed the way I hear and mix in a FUNDEMENTAL way. When I mixed in the box I all ways felt like I needed to pull everything back. Things generally sounded noisy, and harsh to me. The first thing I noticed about the D-Box mix was it’s sonic clarity – everything had it’s place. Then I started pushing my faders harder and reworking my EQ and compression. Another big aha! moment was boosting some low-end and actually hearing it jump out at me. I was like “Where have you been all my life!” I am much more willing now to boost EQ where as before everything was a battle of harshness. It’s a real relief to be able to boost the high-end of a vocal and have it shimmer instead of sizzle my eyebrows off. I am also more willing to compress/limit mixes and push volume more. The increased headroom allows me to push faders harder and hear my transients much better. Working faders feels much more fluid/natural/organic to me now that I use the D Box. Be careful not to push your converters too hard going back into your digital rig. I use the new T Rack S3 Mastering plug in to view my RMS signal levels coming back in. I compared mixes summed “in the box” and through the D-Box repeatedly. I did my best on both platforms. The D-Box was bigger, cleaner, deeper, wider and more muscular. As I said before “mo’ betta!” Another way to “get” what the D-Box does is to listen to just the drum pair after summing. Just focus on the kick and snare transients- you’ll see what I mean.

Headphone Amp
Awesome. Wish there were more than two.

Talkback
Awesome

Summary
We as musicians and sound engineers who care about sound need a revolution. I’m tired of lousy digital mp3 downloads, tired of an entire generation that thinks it’s their god given right to steal our work, and tired of the paradigm that “OK” is good enough. For those who seek to create and listen to GREAT SOUNDING recordings I suggest you get a D-Box. Dangerous is a fabulous company with an exceptional product.

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