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Hands On – Drawmer DS 201 Dual Gate (part 2)

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For the noise gate to be able to do anything useful, there must of course
be silent passages in the signal, or passages that should at least be silent.
The aim is to silence that noisy guitar amp or chorus unit when the instrument
isn’t playing. Since you can’t just twiddle the controls at random
on a noise gate and expect to get a sensible result, you’ll need a starting
point of some kind. Figure 2 shows the starting point I use on my own Drawmer
DS 201 (bought several years ago, battered and distinctly secondhand, from a
hire company and still working absolutely perfectly). In order to know how to
proceed from here, since this initial setting is unlikely to sound totally correct,
you’ll need to understand what each control does. So, while playing your
sound source, experiment as follows:


Turn the threshold control slowly up and down. You will hear that as you turn
clockwise you can hear more of the signal, and noise in the gaps. As you turn
counter clockwise you will find that eventually all of the signal is gated out
and you don’t hear anything. In between there will be an ideal setting
where you hear all the signal you want, and all the signal you don’t want
is cut off. Don’t bother writing down this setting since it will be different
each time you use the gate. Next, I think you had better play with the Range
control and find out why it is set to -80dB nearly all the time in normal gating.
This control sets the degree of attenuation when the gate is closed and I suspect
that you will want to have as much attenuation as possible. With lower attenuation
settings you’ll hear some of the noise coming through between the wanted
sections of the signal; pretty pointless in the studio usually, but it can have
uses when full gating sounds too obvious and also when you are ducking rather
than gating, but there is too much to tell about gating itself to get into that
for the moment.


Now try the Hold control. If you set this to very short values you will get
what is known as ‘jitter’ and you’ll know why from the sound.
This happens when the gate can’t decide whether it should be open or closed
and therefore opens and closes very quickly several times in succession. I know
of no musical uses for this sound (yet!) and I usually tend to set Hold to around
50ms, or the shortest time I can get away with without jitter, and leave it
there. Of more importance are the Attack and Decay controls. With these you
can shape the envelope of the sound as it starts and finishes, the aim being
to transfer gracefully between silence and signal, and back from signal to silence.
Get these settings wrong and either you’ll hear a little bit of noise as
the sound starts and finishes, or the sound will be noticeably clipped. You
do need to bear in mind that it can take a little time to set up a gate, even
more so if you are using it in conjunction with a compressor. But time spent
making these very careful and precise adjustments will be amply repaid in the
quality of the result. Before I move on, may I just mention that if you are
gating a stereo signal then you’ll need to press the Stereo Link switch
down (it’s confusingly labelled). This forces both channels of the gate
to open and close at the same time, which is absolutely essential for stereo
gating.

David Mellor

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David Mellor