Field Report: Otari DB-10

In this ever-changing world of radio broadcasting, there are some tough decisions to make. Which manufacturer of audio consoles to choose and should it be digital or analog are among the toughest.

Weighing in at just 47lbs, the Otari DB-10 digital console features 10 input faders and a host of bells and whistles that make this console flexible. The first four channels are designated primarily for microphones, using mono analog inputs only. The input sensitivity of -66dBu to -10dBu can accommodate some line-level sources with a small audio pad. The remaining six faders can be configured to accept six stereo or two mono analog inputs, or four AES/EBU channel pairs, or two S/PDIF input channel pairs on the A or B input of the fader. This gives the console a total of 16 active signal paths.

Each channel includes a three band EQ and a compressor and limiter. The low and high frequency bands can be set for peaking or shelving, while the mid frequency is a band sweep type. The HF range is 5kHz to 16kHz, the MF range is 200Hz to 12kHz, and the LF range is 50Hz to 500Hz. All of the EQ channels have a Q range of 0.1 to 15 and a gain range of plus or minus 18dB. The compressor/limiter for each channel has a broad range of control. With adjustable attack and release time, compression ratio and threshold level, it is suitable for gentle gain riding to all-out, full throttle, suck-the-announcer-through-the-microphone sound.

Performance at a glance
24-bit A/D conversion
Balanced analog, AES-3 and S/PDIF I/O
Dynamics available on all inputs
As many as 64 inputs with four units
Built-in LCD display
Password-protected software setup
Multiple setups can be stored
RS-232 for setup storage

If a mixture of digital source sample rates is causing some distress, not to worry. Every channel that accepts a digital source has sample-rate convertor built in. The console itself can lock to an external clock or its own internal master clock. It offers sample rates from 32kHz to 96kHz. The specifications of the console rates the input delay time as 0 to 20ms. However, while speaking into a microphone connected to the console and listening to the consoles headphone output, the delay was not noticed.

On the output side, the DB-10 features two program buses, two aux, two telephone and two digital mix-minus buses. Channel assignment to these buses is done through the use of assignment buttons on the console. The multiple buses make the console mix-minus friendly. For those needing a digital output, each of these buses can be routed to either the AES/EBU or S/PDIF outputs of the console. Also included are two headphone outputs with separate assignment and volume controls. The output level seemed to have plenty of volume while driving my MDR-7506 headphones.

Easy configuration

One of the main features of this console is the powerful yet simple to operate software setup. Most of the parameter settings of the console are set up through a password-protected LCD setup screen and setup buttons. EQ, compressor/limiter, bus assignments and fader starts are programmed through this LCD screen. There is also a software setup recall system included in the console that can store 99 memory snapshots plus nine console settings and 20 compressor/limiter settings. Connect a computer to the console via a RS-232 port, and the user can externally store and retrieve settings from the console.

The console's audio, control and data connections are on the back panel.

Other options of this console include a separate rack-mountable power supply, a five-station intercom, an internal monitor or cue speaker, which also works with the intercom, pre-fader listen assignments on each of the input channels, two analog program meters, three stereo LED bar graph meters for the aux buses, a phase meter and the ability to cascade as many as four DB-10 consoles, providing up to 64 channels. When multiple consoles are cascaded, the intercom and program buses are shared across the cascaded consoles. There is also an emergency button that connects one microphone and one stereo line input to the main output program bus, in case there is a catastrophic failure of the console.

This console performs well in the production room, remote production truck or even a live production environment. However, even though it is billed as an on-air console, it falls short of being one. One of the drawbacks is that there are no remote start buttons. Remote starts in the DB-10 are accomplished through the use of fader starts. Also, when a microphone input fader is moved off of the bottom peg, the monitors dim. Both of these problems can be cumbersome and almost disastrous for most on-air applications. Adding to this is the absence of detents on the faders keeping them from accidentally being bumped into the on position. Otari assured me that the problem is being addressed. One other shortcoming is that there is a D/A conversion whine appearing on the headphone outputs. It is noticeable even with program material being played on the console. Once again, Otari said the problem is being worked on.


Given this, I am sure that once the mentioned problems are taken care of, the Otari DB-10 audio console will follow in the fine tradition of quality and reliability that we have known to come from Otari.

Atkins is vice president/director of engineering of Backyard Broadcasting, Baltimore, MD.

Editor's note: Field Reports are an exclusive Radio magazine feature for radio broadcasters. Each report is prepared by well-qualified staff at a radio station, production facility or consulting company.

These reports are performed by the industry, for the industry. Manufacturer support is limited to providing loan equipment and to aiding the author if requested.

It is the responsibility of Radio magazine to publish the results of any device tested, positive or negative. No report should be considered an endorsement or disapproval by Radio magazine.

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