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dbx DriveRack VENU360 Review (audio processor)

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the dbx DriveRack Venu360 audio processor including DAC and ADC. It was purchased new by a member and drop shipped to me for testing. The retail cost is US $1,136 but company has it on sale for US $909 as of this writing.

NOTE: dbx is owned by Harman. Our company, Madrona Digital, does a lot of business with Harman (on the custom installation side) so feel free to read as much bias as you like into this review.

As the name indicates the Venu360 fits in a single rack unit:

dbx DriveRack VENU360 Review.jpg


As I had feared, the machine user interface is very difficult to use. I asked my son to read through the manual and he eventually figured out how to configure it. Alas, we could not find a way to disable internal processing units. There are also various settings for different input and output levels. I messed with the latter a bit in the measurements to follow. My testing is strictly focused on the DAC functionality from the point of view of audiophile use. I am not qualified to evaluate the unit functionality for its intended purpose (live sound, etc.).

For my testing, I used AES input for digital feed and balanced Channels 1 and 2 for output:

dbx DriveRack VENU360 back panel Review.jpg


dbx Venu360 DAC Performance
Out of box configuration was very strange with one channel clipping and another not. After half hour of messing with the unit, we managed to get it produce proper output voltages and distortion:

dbx Venu360 DAC Measurements.png


There is a lot of distortion plus some strange interference around our main tone. SIAND, representing noise and distortion, is quite poor in our domain:

best live sound review.png


We are talking about 14 bits of distortion-free range.

Company rates the device as having 1% THD+N at 24 dBu. Strangely, the max output is just 22 dBu. You only get there if you let the device severely clip:

dbx Venu360 DAC THD+N vs level  Measurements.png


Fortunately that doesn't happen until you get to 8.9 volts or so.

Dynamic range is more respectable than distortion:

dbx Venu360 DAC DNR Measurements.png


IMD test versus level shows the early rise in distortion:

dbx Venu360 DAC IMD Measurements.png


Jitter test shows high noise floor and aforementioned sidebands/noise around our main tone:

dbx Venu360 DAC jitter Measurements.png


At this point, I was disappointed enough that I stopped running more tests.

Conclusions
Some pro products fit well in a hi-fi system. Sadly the dbx Venu360 isn't one of them. It is very difficult to use for some new to it. And measured performance is quite poor, certainly worse than mass market AVRs and such. If you need the specific functionality that it provides, it may be OK but would not be a choice for me over something like MiniDSP.

I can't recommend the dbx DriveRack Venu360 for our applications.

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 
NOTE: dbx is owned by Harman. Our company, Madrona Digital, does a lot of business with Harman (on the custom installation side) so feel free to read as much bias as you like into this review.

Add this as another example of you not playing any favoritism. Good honest review. Thanks!
 
That was unexpected. If memory serves basically the same SINAD as the BSS BLU-BIB and BLU-BOB pair - and that included an A/D stage (no processing though).
 
So very disappointing.

And to think I sold a DCX2496 to get this.

@amirm, it's actually fairly easy to use if you have the iOS app or the PC app. That and a Network cable is all you need. I hope you have not returned it and maybe give it a whirl by defeating all processing. for Harman, I think that they would need to work actively to get this poor a performance. I am sure there is some limiter or other setting playing havoc.
 
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Could it be that the sidebands are hum related (at +/-60 Hz, +/-120 Hz)?
 
So very disappointing.

@amirm, it's actually fairly easy to use if you have the iOS app or the PC app. That and a Network cable is all you need. I hope you have not returned it and maybe give it a whirl by defeating all processing. for Harman, I think that they would need to work actively to get this poor a performance. I am sure there is some limiter or other setting playing havoc.

Agreed - I'd been expecting much better.
Guess it's time to think up a Plan B....
FWIW, I agree, the tablet/PC/Phone app is a snap to load, install and use - and about as intuitive to use as possible.
The front panel UI, uhm, not so much (but only needed for complex setups, etc.)
:eek::facepalm:
 
Thanks Amir. Maybe this is OK for an application where functionality is right and performance doesn't matter; otherwise, what a piece of trash!
 
Wow, this is disappointing.

Fortunately I choosed for my HT a used Xilica XP4080 instead of this bad boy only a week ago.

And the crucial question is: faulty by design or only a single defective unit?
 
Isn't this performance very close to what is quoted in the manual? Not sure why there were expectations for anything better?

Also not sure where Amir sees a quoted +24 dBu output, at least in the current manual it shows +22 dBu. The manual also quotes a typical 1 kHz THD+N figure of 0.0025% (-92 dB) but this appears to be at the +4 dBu gain setting (1.2V at 0 dB output). Would be interesting to see if the performance improved a bit when using a lower gain setting than the maximum +22 dBu setting but I cannot imagine it ever does much better than the distortion specs quoted in the manual.

Michael
 
I had a bunch of these at work in different venues. For Pro Audio applications where noise floor is elevated due the use of pro audio drivers, it's totally fine. Most of the dbx DriveRacks were taken out after we replaced all analog boards with Yamaha TF Series Digital mixers. In a total of 10 venues, I think I still have 1 dbx DriveRack running in a kids venue. These units shouldn't be used in home setups or where critical listening is needed. Like Amir mentioned, a miniDSP would do a much better job.
 
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Hello Amir,
What about the EQ features, will you test them?, it is also one of the interesting things of this device. Thanks.
 
As I had feared, the machine user interface is very difficult to use. I asked my son to read through the manual and he eventually figured out how to configure it. Alas, we could not find a way to disable internal processing units./

For a few seconds I was sent back to the early 90ies, reading the Chaos Manor column by Jerry Pournelle in BYTE. :)
 
Interesting, the critique seems to be mainly on the harmonic distortion, the noise looks more acceptable especialy as this is -15dB from full scale. I'm using Yamaha P series amps that have input sensitivity around 8dBu, this is towards the insensitive side. Looking at the Venue 360 manual it states "ANALOG INPUT/OUTPUT CLIP LEVELS [INPUTS: +14, +20, +24, +28 dBu / OUTPUTS: +4, +8, +12, +14, +17, +20, +22 dBu]" so persumably in my circumstance I would use the 8dBu output setting (and I think the most appropriate setting for most users would be the 4dBu setting) so perhaps appropriate to retest at a lower output level setting on the drive rack?
 
You did have Preset #1 loaded and the input mixer correctly configured, yes?

If the owner is amenable, would you consider letting me test this unit?

Dave.
 
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