Effects are perhaps the entire point of the DB2’s existence, and A&H have one‐upped the competition with two dedicated, pre/post fader effects processors and dual mode filters that can be sent over the entire signal or to two groups that team up with crossfader assign. After playing for a while I came to the conclusion that perhaps I would have preferred to see the groups selectable by button on the channels rather than forcing them to pair with the crossfader assign, as it can get a little confusing if you use the crossfader a lot in your work flow.
The DB2’s effects are all tempo synced via an obscenely smart tempo detector; it got the number of everything thrown at it more or less immediately in my tests. There are five categories of effect – delay, reverb, resonance, modulation, and damage – and each category has a generous list of models in it that are set by jumping in to the menu. If there’s a gripe about the effects it’s that because of their flexibility they’re not quite as immediate as the competition, but that aside the sonic qualities they introduce into the sound are so, so sweet that you won’t begrudge spending the time with them to figure out your favourites and the mixer will remember your settings between sessions.
Despite the simple controls (on/off switch and knobs for wet/dry, ‘expression’, and timing), A&H have managed to give the effects more of a studio sound than you may be used to hearing. Subtlety is the key word; whilst you can still be ultra‐brash with them, evolving the effects over time until the signal is bathing in them is extremely gratifying and almost subliminal in its approach. As the wet/dry knob is on the effect there’s no way to send varying amounts of channel signals to each processor, but this is a cut down version of the DB4 after all. The big dial is extremely gratifying to play with too – I wish there was space on the mixer for the expression and filter knobs to be the same size!
The DB2 certainly doesn’t skimp on features or their quality, but a few ergonomic and space-saving decisions are the biggest thorn in its side. Drilling down into the onscreen menu is required more often than when using the DB4, as simple things like fader curve adjust and EQ mode select have been brought into the menu to conserve the all important space on the more petite frame of the DB2. Perhaps these are just set and forget switches but it does appear there’s room for them somewhere.
The finer points of level management have been sacrificed for mini six LED level meters whose main settings seem to be ‘too quiet’ ‘nearly too loud’ and ‘definitely too loud’, which takes a little getting used to, but touch wood the impressive headroom on the channels will help to disguise minor indiscretions.
No hunk of gear can be all things to all people, so inevitably something has to give somewhere. In the case of the DB2, it’s the faders. Whilst they’re just fine for a mix DJ, for the scratchers – certainly the more ambitious ones – out there I’m afraid they don’t cut it (it’s very difficult to discuss scratching without bad puns. My first draft of this paragraph said they weren’t up to scratch).
The crossfader’s cut-lag between the edge of the fader and where the sound begins is around 4mm: too large for performing many scratch techniques comfortably and there’s no way to tighten it up as there is in Pioneer and Ecler competition. There’s more give in the upfaders than the super stiff Pioneer style though, and the switchable curve controls (one for the crossfader, one for all four upfaders) accommodate various playing styles – just not super tight for hardcore scratching.
It’s a shame the scratch performance of the faders is a little lacklustre, because the fantastic post fader effects would be a scratcher’s dream, the ergonomic placement is pretty spacious for a four channel mixer, and the fader caps are a nice, pinchable shape. Reign in your expectations and you’ll be able to have some fun, of course, but don’t expect best in class scratch performance.