Home   Contents   About   Links

Monday, December 22, 2008

Rane G4 Quad Gate

Rane shines with its new analog controlled G4 Quad Gate

Rane is one of those companies that recording engineers often overlook. They make a lot of gear for DJ applications and live sound, but they have many tools for studio use as well. The Rane G4 Quad Gate is one of those pieces. I was able to spend some quality time with the G4, and have found it to be a useful studio tool.

The G4 is an analog controlled digital four channel gate, ducker and expander in an all steel 2U chassis. There are 1/4 inch and XLR active balanced/auto-unbalanced inputs and balanced outputs. There are 48 kHz, 24 bit converters in and out. The power supply is internal (no wall wart) and clean. The unit can be used as four channels or you can link channels 1 + 2, or 3 + 4 for dual stereo use for any combination you like. The unit is attractive. I like the combination of black face with white print and the yellow, red and green LEDs. The LED metering is very fast, and allows monitoring of the sidechain as well as the main signal being processed. The chrome switches are a nice touch. The layout is easy to learn and navigate.

Being an analog controlled digital device, it's got "real" analog knobs with fine control. The digital domain also allows for look ahead or what Rane calls "Pre-Ramp" gating which allows the gate to be 100 percent effective on drums and other fast attack sources. The digital domain is also not susceptible to RF interference, which I never found any problem with whatsoever using the G4.

The manual is worth a mention. First of all, it took about three minutes of scanning to get the hang of the entire device. But most importantly, it's written in plain English and can be easily understood. A lot of folks hate manuals, Rane included a quick start page that anyone with reasonable skills will be satisfied with and up and running in seconds with a full grasp of the device.

My first run at the G4 was ducking a bass guitar under a kick drum. I ran a bass guitar track out of my DAW and into channel 1 on the G4. Next, I ran a kick drum track into the side chain and selected external with the side chain switch. Selecting listen allows you to monitor the side chain only, selecting normal allows you to monitor your input signal as it's being effected.

The G4 has a 12 dB per octave low cut and high cut adjustment which allows you to tailor your external or internal sidechain signal. The controls are not very surgical but useful enough to be somewhat selective. I was able to focus in on the low end to clear out some space for the kick drum without affecting the higher frequency response of the bass guitar track. This allowed for some very smooth and transparent ducking that sounded great. The kick drum was able to stomp right on through the mix much clearer now.

The ducking feature proved useful also on a stereo guitar mix, when using the main vocal as a sidechain I could get some of the midrange guitar sounds out of the way a bit to allow the vocal to pop out front in the mix.

Next up was the G4's gate, which is a look ahead sort of gate. This gate is quite simply a nice sounding and easy to use function. You don't lose a thing, you can select "0 ms" for attack time, an advantage of making this a digital box. Between threshold, attack, depth, hold and release adjustments you can shape everything from a guitar track to a snare drum.

You can trigger the gate with a sidechain if you like for some funky results. Got a boring snare drum? Run some white noise into the G4 and trigger a snare to open it up, then blend the two to taste in the mix. Need some boom for your toms? Try running some synth bass through the gates and trigger it with the tom track. The possibilities with the G4 are great, but to top it all off it's a great sounding unit. It's clean and doesn't color the sound in any negative way.

The expander is a nice shaping tool that is easy to work with. I was able to breathe some life into a "dynamically challenged" acoustic guitar track with good results. This is similar to the gate function except the hold control is unavailable in expander mode, and the ratio control is used instead of depth. This effect can be as subtle or as wild as you need it. Again, you can key the expander off of a sidechain for some interesting results.

The Bottom Line: Rane's G4 is a creative tool for sure. Its ease of use and clean sound would be welcomed in any studio in need of some good envelope shaping. Then there's some of the wilder uses as I mentioned above, which make the Rane a fun piece to reach for when you've got an idea to mangle something or just keep it in its place. List price is $999 and can be found for less on the street. Recommended.

--Warren Dent

Rane Corporation

No comments: