MTR DNG-ONE Dual Gate
This UK company's stereo noise gate offers many of the functions contained in top class gates but at a budget price. Martin Sheehan assesses its value.
This low cost Dual Gate from MTR brings some features of more sophisticated noise gates within closer reach. Martin Sheehan reports.
The DNG-ONE comprises a pair of individual gates which can be linked for stereo operation with variable floor setting, key input monitor and filtering. It is also made in England which is a bit of a departure for MTR who have specialised for a long time in bringing us very attractively priced audio items from Japan.
Let's look first of all at the basic gating section of the DNG-ONE. The Threshold level is variable from -44dB to +20dB and as such will allow the unit to operate under all normal circumstances. A red status LED gives a visual indication of whether the gate is open or closed. The Attack control, which sets the time taken for the gate to open once a sound passes above the selected threshold level, is variable from 10 microseconds to 200 milliseconds. An attack time of 10 microseconds is fast enough to allow the leading edge of percussive sounds to pass through the gate without any unacceptable softening. Slower times, however, are needed for sounds such as bass guitar where a gate which opens too fast may cut in part-way through a low frequency cycle thus causing an audible click. The maximum attack time of 200ms is slow enough if required to completely remove the percussive start to such sounds as plucked guitar strings and thus create a bowing effect.
The Decay function, which is the time taken for the gate to close after the signal has dropped below the threshold level, is variable from 10 milliseconds to 32 seconds. A gate closing within 10ms of a threshold being crossed sounds like an instant shut down and heard in isolation can seem a little harsh. When listened to along with accompanying sounds, however, this will often pass unnoticed. Longer decay times are necessary when gating sounds which themselves have a slow decay in order to avoid docking their tails.
The DNG-ONE's maximum decay time of 32 seconds seems rather ludicrously long to me. However, one feature that this extended decay does allow, is the possibility of using it for automatic fades. In this way, the timing of a fade can be worked out in advance and triggered at the appropriate cue to guarantee a smooth and accurate fade.
Preceding the Decay control is Hold, which can be used to set a fixed time interval after the threshold has been crossed before the decay cycle comes into operation. Although the front panel of the review model shows the hold time as being variable between 350ms and 14 secs, the true values of operation are between 8ms and 2.5 secs. A slight hiccup in the earlier design of the DNG-ONE is here being unjustly proliferated by the front panel screen printing - a glitch which I'm sure is to be corrected on future production models. It is the Hold control which is all-important in producing the famous gated reverb effect and the DNG-ONE will naturally cater for the most popular settings of around 300ms.
A feature of this noise gate which extends its application beyond purely corrective measures to creative use is the provision of a Floor control. This selects the degree of signal attenuation when the noise gate shuts down. Levels of -1dB to -70dB are selectable. For use in the common noise removal role, attenuation of -70dB would be selected. More creative use can be had, however, by using just a few dB of attenuation on a legato keyboard part, say, and using a rhythm in the key input to trigger the gate. An adjustable Floor facility is also useful for allowing a little of a background sound to remain when complete attenuation would appear too obvious and undesirable.
As already mentioned, key inputs are provided on this unit. A key input is used to trigger the gate from an external source as opposed to the gate being controlled by the signal passing through it. The classic example here is the use of a signal from the bass drum to key the gate on the bass guitar and thus tighten up a rhythm section.
A pair of filters are provided on each channel of the DNG-ONE to enable selective tuning of the key signal. The high pass filter is variable from 25Hz up to 3.6kHz and the low pass filter from 35kHz down to 200Hz. The use of these filters enables precise bands of sound to be located and isolated to enable reliable triggering of the gate. As an example, a signal containing both snare drum and hi-hat sounds could be treated to allow the gate to be triggered by either sound exclusively. A vital Key Monitor switch allows the key input to be heard whilst setting up these filters.
Located between the set of controls for each channel is the Link switch with associated green status LED. When using the DNG-ONE as a stereo unit the Link switch ensures accurate locking of the two channels to prevent image shifting. Overall control of the different gating parameters is then dictated by whichever channel has the more sensitive settings (ie. lower threshold or faster attack etc).
This unit proves very simple to set up and use. Inputs and outputs are all via conventional quarter-inch jacks and the mains cable incorporates a standard IEC connector. Apart from the aforementioned hiccup on the labelling of the Hold control, all parameters behave pretty much as you would expect from the front panel labelling. Colour coding of the pots is sensible, grouping the Attack, Hold and Decay controls together in one colour and the filters in another.
I have no reservations about the efficient gating operation of the DNG-ONE which does all it should, and in a reliable, repeatable manner. I did notice a slight breakthrough of the key control input signal to the output, but this was only evident in the absence of any other signal. The control ranges of this gate are wide enough to encompass some creative possibilities beyond the usual corrective measures that noise gates are called upon to deliver. The inclusion of the Floor control and key filters particularly add to the flexibility, and if you can make use of a noise gate incorporating these facilities, at a retail price of £274 including VAT, I can think of no reason why the DNG-ONE shouldn't be for you.
Review by Martin Sheehan
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