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Benidub DS01E review

Combining the brand’s classic dub siren with a digital echo circuit, the DS01E offers unique sound FX with a distinctly old-school vibe. Greg Scarth finds out more.

Sirens and echo effects are two of the most prized tools in the world of dub, so it’s no surprise that they form the backbone of Benidub’s product range, with the Spanish brand offering a choice selection of echos, reverbs, sirens as well as phasers and filters. The new Benidub DS01E represents a new take on a classic formula, consisting of a simple analogue dub siren feeding into a delay circuit. The DS01E is effectively a mash-up of Benidub’s classic DS01 Dub Siren and the brand’s Digital Echo unit, but coming in cheaper than the separate units. The result is a device suitable for DJs and also producers, ideally lending itself to dub music of course, but also working nicely for other genres.

The dub siren section of the DS01E will be familiar if you’ve ever used a DS01, following almost exactly the same formula, based on the legendary 1970s NJD SE-1 design. For anyone who hasn’t used a DS01 – or perhaps any dub siren at all – it’s very quick and easy to understand. The siren is essentially a specialist type of analogue synth circuit, transistor-based and essentially consisting of little more than an audio-rate voltage-controlled oscillator (VCO) modulated by a low-frequency oscillator (LFO). The base frequency of the VCO is set with a low/mid/high Pitch switch, then there’s a choice of four classic tones (two sine waves, one test tone and a modulated square wave). The sound is triggered using a rocker switch, pushed up for a momentary trigger and down for a continuous tone. Four modulation rates can be selected, with the final option being a manual modulation triggered using a push button. The result? Classic dub tones instantly, as ably demonstrated in the video above.

The echo section of the DS01E is based on the same Spin Semiconductors FV-1 digital signal processing (DSP) chip used in the brand’s Digital Echo unit, but the software has been rewritten specifically for this application and the overall feature set is simplified compared to the Digital Echo. The Time and Feedback knobs are the main hands-on controls, joined by a combined low-pass/high-pass resonant filter and an Echo Cut push button, which momentarily mutes the echo output (intended for use once a looping echo has been set up, especially at higher feedback levels). A volume knob allows you to balance the wet echo signal against the dry siren signal. It’s a simple but effective setup which gives you lots of real-time options for generating and manipulating siren tones.

Looking at the DS01E as a whole, there are really only six knobs to control the key parameters of both the siren and echo combined, which might suggest a lack of depth but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In practice, what you’ll find is that the two sections of the unit work in symbiosis to create classic dub vibes. Dub applications are clearly the number one focus here, but it’s also worth considering how it can translate to other genres. Dub’s influence on everything from trip-hop to techno means that sirens like the DS01E also lend themselves nicely to other genres (just ask François K, who’s been known to use one over disco mixes). Crank the feedback level right up with a very fast delay and the echo circuit will self-oscillate, generating a tone which can be manipulated with the Time control and filtered to create sweeping transitions and even tech-housey risers. The Echo Cut button comes into its own here, momentarily, muting the delay signal from the feedback circuit and allowing you to create rhythmic loops. In the studio, the DS01E also lends itself well to more considered creative approaches, such as using the siren to generate synth tones which can be sampled and pitched into basslines, FX and transitions.

All in all, the DS01E is a superbly designed unit which pairs iconic dub sounds with great build quality. It’s worth noting that you can’t process any external audio signals through the echo section of the DS01E; it’s exclusively part of the signal path for the internal dub siren. If you want to process other sounds then pairing a standalone dub siren with the Digital Echo is the way to go. But the single-minded focus helps to make the DS01E such a cohesive little box. There are no distractions here, just an immediate, intuitive approach which encourages you to experiment with the sound rather than getting hung up on signal routing or overthinking things. With just a 12V power input and single mono output to connect, the DS01E really is a plug-and-play solution for all your dub needs.

Greg Scarth

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