Drawmer Multi Tracker
The good old fashioned analogue processor seems to have been well and truly swept to one side in recent years by the advent of cheap digital devices that on the surface appear to offer every conceivable combination of effect one could desire. However, the analogue unit lives on; witness the success of Bel's Stereo Flanger, and this device from Sheffield-based manufacturers, Drawmer.
Designed for professional studio use, the Drawmer unit is capable of producing a full complement of the time delay-based sound effects, such as double tracking, chorus, flanging etc., using Reticon SAD1024A 'bucket brigade' chips. Rather than allowing the user to select any desired time delay within the minimum/maximum limits, Drawmer have opted for four pre-selected delay times - 10ms, 30ms, 50ms and 80 milliseconds, and a further preset to give a 'chorus' effect. These are accessed by front panel pushbuttons which have an LED below to indicate the delay setting chosen, but which create a quiet, yet audible 'click' when pressed.
As the Multi Tracker is a dual channel device, there is a duplicate set of pushbuttons for the second channel, with separate output connections also. The two main delay lines within the unit are totally independent, so different selections can be made on each channel. However, if both delays are set on the same time delay, the result will be heard as a mono output signal, as the sounds going to left and right channels will be delayed by identical amounts and thus 'appear' to come from the centre of your stereo image.
This is not the case, however, when 'chorus' is selected on both channels, as Drawmer have ensured that the two delay signals necessary to create a choral effect are different on both channels. This provides a sense of 'movement' from left to right if both channel outputs are utilised, creating a stereo effect, which proved very pleasant and of considerable use in the recording of synthesisers and vocals particularly.
On their own, the above facilities would be considered limited. It is only when you begin to make use of the other features offered by the Multi Tracker that the unit shows its versatility.
The modulation section lets you vary the pre-selected delay time in two ways: manually, using the Manual rotary control which reduces the delay time when turned anticlockwise or automatically using the built-in low frequency oscillator. This has an especially good range of speed, from a very slow 0.05Hz to a usable 15Hz (good for Leslie speaker effects), set by the front panel Frequency control. The amount of modulation can then be controlled by the knob marked Depth, which at its fullest setting results in a very unusual sound on fast sweep settings, so a modicum of restraint should be exercised to produce the most interesting and effective treatments.
Further variations to the sounds can be made by combining the former selections with the original, clean input signal. This is achieved by the action of the Feedthrough control, which adds an increasing amount of clean feed to both outputs, though never more than what appeared to be an equal balance of the dry and treated signals.
Quasi-echo and hard reverberation effects can also be obtained via the Feedback control which adds a variable amount of delay regeneration (to channel 1 only), causing a close repeat echo on the 80ms setting. Its main use is for enhancing the 'peakiness' of flanging and phasing effects on the shorter delays. The choice of positive or negative feedback also allows you to create full-sounding treatments, or the 'hollow' flanging effect characteristic of a notch filter, for example.
The Drawmer unit also contains a third delay line with a maximum delay of 10ms. This is employed to create a phasing effect which is governed by the front panel Phase level control, so that you can have a phased stereo chorus if so desired. The audible effect of this function is very good indeed and highlights the fullness and richness of treatments that are still unsurpassed by their digital equivalent.
The Multi Tracker is extremely easy to use, and a choice of unbalanced mono jack or electronically balanced XLR (pin 2 'hot') connectors are provided on the rear panel for a single input and two separate outputs. Used with a mixing desk, it is preferable to patch an auxiliary send to the input and return the outputs to two spare mixer input channels, though other permutations proved equally rewarding. Patched into a single insert point on a group channel for example, the individual Output Level controls could be utilised to set the balance of clean and treated signals quite easily.
The quality of effects that the Multi Tracker produced were very good indeed, with no audible increase in system noise when used on a mix. At extreme settings of Feedback, a faint clocking noise was perceived when no signal was present, but this will hardly be a source of worry in practice. Signal-to-noise ratio is quoted as -75dB which is good for an analogue device, as is the delay signal bandwidth which is around the 11 kHz mark - quite respectable considering bucket brigades are being used.
As is to be expected of a professional product the construction, both internally and externally, cannot be faulted. The 2U high (3¾"), black case fits a standard 19" wide rack and partly accounts for the clear and uncluttered 'look' to the front panel - very fine indeed.
Internally, the Drawmer also exhibits the professional touch with a large PCB, containing all the delay circuitry, and on-board transformer and socketed delay chips throughout. A small PCB-mounted switch lets you select balanced/unbalanced operation of the XLR connectors also, which is a thoughtful inclusion.
I liked the Drawmer Multi Tracker very much; it does exactly as its name suggests, and does it well. What it offers though, for its asking price of £500 or so, is somewhat limited. All of the basic effects can be obtained from any digital delay costing £200 or so less. However, you do get stereo operation and the choice of balanced XLR connectors - you'd need two digital devices to fully duplicate those facilities though, and that would cost you more than the Drawmer.
The Multi Tracker one suspects is really aimed at studios (of every format) since the solo recordist is capable of adding effects to his/her tracks at each recording stage, and so there's little call for a specialist processing device such as this. In that situation you'd be better off with one or two digital delays that are infinitely more flexible.
Having said that, chorus and double tracking effects are used on virtually everything these days, so if you are looking for a dedicated unit to produce such effects then give the Drawmer Multi Tracker an audition.
The recommended selling price of the Multi Tracker is £569.25 including VAT.
Most good audio dealers stock the unit but any problems contact: Drawmer Marketing & Sales on (Contact Details).
Review by Ian Gilby
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