August 18, 2010

Review: Behringer Ultradrive DCX2496 Active crossover

Behringer Ultradrive pro DCX2496 is a relatively powerful digital active crossover.

Elsewhere in this blog, I've compared various active crossovers and also reported on my findings from subjective comparisons over two separate days with a small group:

Subjective listening tests
Active crossover options

My experience with this product

I have used DCX for some time in various DIY speaker projects and as previously mentioned, carefully compared it to other competitive units. I believe it to be a relatively transparent device with decent noise floor performance and a good mix of features.


DCX is a well featured unit. While primarily intended for active crossovers, it has enough EQ functions to tame room modes as well with parametric EQ. In the past I had used Ultracurve for this, however, if you run out of EQ options with DCX, you're probably trying to overdo it.

One appealing feature is auto align. This feature, with input from a microphone, applies digital delay so that a speaker is time aligned. Contrary to popular belief, physically aligning driver voice coils doesn't generally time align a speaker correctly. In my system, the tweeter and mid are delayed by 8 metres to align them with the subs.

Dynamic limiting and EQ features are available, however I don't use these as I've found they can easily do more harm than good. Using dynamic EQ can easily reduce bass dynamics.

Convenience and ease of use

DCX is very easy to use once you have spent some time working out how the user interface works. It's very easy to adjust the bass level quickly, if you find that one particular album is bass shy.

Adjustments are all done in real time so you can hear their impact right away.

Time alignment can be done very quickly compared to other manual methods.

Overall it's one of the easiest active crossover units to use.

Build quality and aesthetics

The build quality of this unit is fair, but the aesthetics are one of it's main weaknesses in a home system. Behringer is imprinted on the top of the box in big bold white letters, the front face is very utilitarian with bright flashing lights all over. The rack mount ears give it a PA look so that it doesn't look at home in an audio rack.

I have not had a problem with my unit, however, the experiences of others suggest that the reliability could be better.

Sound Quality

I consider the sonics of this unit to be decent and it held up relatively well to critical comparison. In our comparison we compared the stock unit to a heavily modified unit. Although the mods cost twice the price of the unit itself, we could not pick a difference. We did find that MiniDSP did appear to have a very slight edge, with a lower noise floor and a little more treble detail, however not everyone was able to hear it.

Digital input quirks

Using a digital input is not as straightforward as you might like. You can input both SPDIF and AES EBU digital inputs, but the former can cause the input clip lights to run into the red. I have been told by one who has tested it, that this does not necessarily mean it is actually clipping, and the outputs should be also observed. I have not tested this after hearing it, but if you plan to run digital inputs, this is worth investigating.

Should you buy this unit?

I generally recommend that people first consider MiniDSP as it will often work out cheaper and more flexible. However, DCX does come with 6 channels and digital inputs as well as a warranty as a plug and play unit.  The ability to assign long delays is handy to time align a 3 way system which includes subs. For many, DCX remains an attractive active crossover option.

MiniDSP vs DCX

1 comment:

  1. I have DCX based system for five years now. For a first couple of months I used stock one. It was fine but could not ignore of all those promises with modded ones anymore. I then bought heavily modified DCX (I can say which one, no problem). It was easy to hear the difference with the same settings on the first listen, but I was not sure is it only difference in tonality or an improvement.

    However, since I had it, I used only modded DCX from then on, never compared it again, until modded DCX failed two months ago. Repair took a while, and it was uncertain if it will work again. So I got back to stock DCX and wanted it to be as good as modded one.

    Well, unfortunately I'm now sure that modded one is significantly better, not only different. No matter what I did with settings, I remember modded DCX sounded more natural, having more resolution and ease, bottom to top. And it was more obvious with more music heard that I knew well from before. Getting my modded DCX back from repair was a happy day :)

    Now when I read that DSPmini is not that better than stock DCX, it seems that DCX with a good modification still does not have an alternative...


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