FMR Audio Really Nice Compressor RNC1773 Review

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The Really Nice Compressor or RNC1773 from FMR Audio in Texas is just that, really nice. FMR has been making…

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dbx 286s Mic Preamp/Processor Review

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dbx 286s Mic Preamp/Processor Review

dbx 286s

The dbx 286s Mic Preamp/Processor provides outstanding value and professional quality audio in a 1U form factor. The 286s includes a single channel mic preamp with phantom power, compressor, de-esser, enhancer and expander/gate.


The dbx 286s retails at $225 but feels and performs way beyond that price point. The build quality is excellent with a metal case, integrated power supply and quality knobs with a good tactile feel. The controls have setting indents for easily dialing in each stage of the signal path. The LEDs provide enough feedback to understand how the signal is being processed and the layout is clean with a good flow.


We used the Shure SM7B with the 286s to see how it would handle this omnipresent mic in a professional broadcast setting. Could we achieve a similar sound using only the dbx 286s to something like a Daking Mic-Pre One with an FMR Audio 1773 insert and gate applied in post.


Well the Daking/FMR audio combination definitely sounds better as you would expect. It's beefier, sweeter and more analog sounding. It's just better. This is without any additional processing. However, the 286s all on its own sounds pretty darn good at about 1/4 the cost. To appreciate the differences you'll need studio quality headphones or monitors. For a non-critical studio applications and podcasts the 286s more than exceeds an acceptable level of quality.


Here is the SM7B, Daking Mic-Pre One and FMR RNC1773 combination


Here is the SM7B, dbx 286s with no external processing


The dbx 286s sounds excellent. It has plenty of gain to handle the needs of the SM7B without the need for an additional device such as a Cloudlifter. The compressor section works well to provide additional drive while taming the signal. The enhancer works well with very low settings, just a touch of the enhancer goes a long way to help provide a little sparkle. We prefer the high frequency enhancement versus the low frequency. The controls go to 10 (not 11) and we rarely ventured beyond 2-3. The expander/gate is really nice for limiting room tone is less than ideal conditions. This is great for eliminating the sound of a computer in the room or HVAC. For all of these controls it's very easy to dial in a setting and achieve broadcast ready results very quickly. The controls at extreme setting can be used to achieve some interesting effects as well.


The dbx 286s is hard to beat in terms of value for a quality mic channel, especially for podcasters where a little control and sweetening the signal is desired. It doesn't have the beefy sweetness of more expensive boutique mic pres like the Daking, and it's less attractive for musical performance and singing. So don't expect it to compete at that level. However, the dbx 286st offers convenient signal processing and excellent value in a single 1U space.

iZotope RX 8 Advanced Review

IZOTOPE RX8

Izotope's RX series has been an essential part of our post production process for many years. Since RX 3 we've been de-crackling, de-noising, de-humming and de-reverbing our field interviews with this powerful tool. Every interview track gets an Izotope pass in post as part of our sweetening process to ensure we're releasing the best possible audio mix with all of our content.


Izotope's RX 8 Advanced is the latest iteration of this requisite audio repair suite. The GUI has been updated with a modern look and cleaner iconography. In some cases there are less controls to toggle and the results are good even at the default settings.


There are myriad challenges when doing field interviews. Reverb, white noise from HVAC, random noise, mic hits, interference, wind noise, mouth clicking, plosives...you name it. No matter what the environment there's almost always something that will need to be cleaned up in post. If you have a quieter individual on camera the noise floor will be more present as well. Outside, oh boy, the leaf blowers and planes will always find us as well as some random construction noise in the distance for good measure.


Now, let's add the pandemic to the mix. During Covid we've been doing live podcast style shoots for Houzz TV Live with some broll. Guests connect with their mobile device, laptop, Ipad...whatever and we record these live calls. Now, you can imagine audio is a real crap shoot here. De-Reverb and De-Crackle have been essential to cleaning these interviews up.


A 2021 resolution for all post houses should be a commitment to better audio and Isotope's RX 8 can help you keep that promise. Not only does it make for higher production value with your final assets but RX 8 can also help keep your editors sane in the edit suite. Trust me, listening to mouth clicking for hours on end while cutting a piece will make you snap.


Ironically, we've watched videos from some of our favorite audio equipment suppliers that have the same audio challenges that desperately need to be cleaned up and sweetened. So don't be a cobbler with no shoes. Take the time to clean up your audio. Even if you take the lazy man route and simply use the default settings in RX 8 you'll likely end up with something better than what you started with.


Now, of course, with any set of audio plug-ins you have to apply the effects judiciously. You can push RX 8 pretty hard. For example, 6-10 dB of noise reduction is pretty transparent and depending on the quality of your noise sample you can push it even harder. D-reverb in RX 8, even at the default setting, works really well to eliminate reverb from Zoom calls. In Silicon Valley there are some really unfriendly acoustic spaces. We're talking rectangles of glass with hard wood floors.  We've all been in a conference call where the reverb in the space makes it very difficult to understand the person speaking. RX 8 de-Reverb has been essential for processing these remote interviews recorded in less than ideal acoustical spaces.


Back to our bread and butter which is documentary story telling and interviews in the field. Here's a short example to illustrate how powerful and transparent the tools in RX 8 can be. This interview was recorded using a Schoeps CMIT 5 Blue boom and Sanken Cos11d lav through Lectrosonics wireless to a Sound Devices 664. This is all quality gear you'll find on shoots everywhere.


This particular interviews was about 40 minutes long. This just a short sample of the kinds of audio imperfections we like to clean up in any of our content. The little imperfections may seem small but when added up they can detract from the content.


Here is the before clip without RX 8. You will hear some crackling, mouth clicks and the occasional plosive.


Some editors might simply use music to mask these imperfections. However, with RX 8 we can clean this up and contribute to a better overall mix.

Here is the after clip. You'll notice we cleaned up the crackling, the mouth clicks and the plosive.

Here is the final video which featured three on-camera interviews, with 1 of them outside. We used RX-8 on all of these interviews to clean up the audio and it makes for a better overall mix.


In this next example, we had a lot of reverb to deal with during this remote interview over Zoom. RX-8 helped clean this up.
Here is the before clip without RX 8.


Here is the after clip with RX 8.

If you work in any audio field whether it's broadcast, music, production, podcasting..etc., and want to provide the highest production value to you and your clients you should be using RX 8. It's that simple.


here is the final video cleaned up with RX 8.


We typically use RX 8 as a suite of plug-ins on our NLE timeline versus in standalone app mode. Performance seems on par with previous versions. It's still not possible to preview de-crackle at the highest quality setting in real time without the audio breaking up. So we'll typically adjust our settings in low quality mode then switch to higher quality before rendering. We've tested rendering at varying levels of quality and sometimes it's hard to tell the difference. Maybe RX 8 is doing more math but it sounds pretty good to us in the various mode. 

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