Test Drive: The Orban DSE-7000: Four Years Later

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The two main screens on the DSE-7000 are the Editor screen and the Mixer screen. Most of the work on the DSE is done from the Editor screen. This screen shows all eight tracks with the waveform of the audio on each track. You get imitation LED input and output meters. Time indicators show current "tape" time as well as edit points and locate points. A "fuel gauge" displays the amount of RAM available for recording. "Pull down" menus access the various editing functions.

The Mixer screen also displays the fuel gauge, timers, level meters, and pull down menus, but it replaces the eight visual tracks with a mixer layout. This is where pans are set, and the two effects sends are accessed here. There are graphic "faders" that correspond with the faders on the control panel. While you might access this screen at least once during each production, you will only spend a fraction of your time with this screen, and the rest with the Editor screen.

The Job Control screen is where new productions are started or old ones loaded into RAM. Rename, copy, or erase productions or library sounds from this screen. Access DAT back-up functions, attach text files to productions with a built-in word processor, and defragment and "optimize" your hard disk from the Job Control screen.

Two things make the DSE-7000 incredibly easy to use. First is the program itself, and second is the dedicated control panel which brings practically all the "computer commands" to a well laid out, familiar looking control panel. There are eight faders, one for each of the eight tracks, and two master faders. Above each of the eight faders are "Select" and "Enable" buttons. Select basically turns that track on and sends its audio to the outputs. It also "selects" that track for editing. The Enable buttons enable the tracks for recording. (This is a 2-in/2-out configuration, and only one or two tracks can be recorded to at a time.) There are buttons for marking edit begin and end points, the Source In and Source Out buttons. Two buttons called Destination In and Destination Out are used to designate where "cut" or "copied" audio should go. You get the famous "Undo" button which negates an editing function and reverts back to the previous state. (Only one level of "undo.") If you get stuck, the Help button summons context sensitive help screens, in real English.

The Source In and Source Out buttons are used the most when editing, and they are used together with the large scrub wheel on the control panel. Many workstations offer the audio scrub feature, and many offer the feature with a data wheel like that on the DSE. But few come close to the precise and "natural" feel of scrubbing in RAM with the DSE.

To the right of the scrub wheel is a red LED display which shows only the current "tape time." Above it are two buttons to set locate points 1 and 2, and two buttons to recall each of those points. For transport controls you get Play, Rewind, Fast Forward, and Stop. When Fast Forward and Rewind are engaged, the audio actually plays back at a gradually increasing speed, exactly as it does with real tape. If the idea is to make one feel as though they're working with tape on reels, the effect works. Of course, if you want to go from the end of a piece of work to the beginning, it isn't necessary to hit Rewind and wait the few seconds it takes to get to the beginning of the project. You can just press the Head button to instantly go to the beginning of the project. The Tail button instantly puts you at the end of the project. The Rewind and Fast Forward buttons can be set to move through a project in "pages" of 20 seconds or 60 seconds with each press.

The control panel is very easy to get used to. In fact, this is the way the entire DSE is designed. The same "user friendly" approach is taken with the software. The DSE is one of the few digital workstations that actually uses terminology that is exclusive to working with analog tape. For example, in the Editor screen, if you need to move audio on a track, there is a function that lets you put "Leader" tape in front of it. The Splice function performs the exact kind of splicing you are used to with tape. Mark the Source In point and Source Out point (the same as the first and second grease pencil marks on tape), select Splice as the function, then press the Execute key. The audio between the two points disappears, and the two marked points are joined together. Suppose you don't want the two points to come together; instead, you want silence to replace the audio between the two points. Select the Erase function instead.

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