UG Team, on april 15, 2011 7 of 8 people found this review helpful
Ease of Use: We live in an age where the do-it-yourself DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), at home or in the studio, has become commonplace and affordable. Musicians in basement and professional studios now have the capability to compose, record and produce sophisticated tracks. However, up until very recently, there has still been some learning curve involved when recording guitar tracks, in particular, as the amp would need to be mic'd, or an amp simulator would need to be run into a mixer or input box, and then the musician had a huge list of DAW software to choose from, and hope that everything played nicely together. A further inconvenience was that whatever signal path and tone was chosen in the studio was not easily reproducible in a live environment.
DigiDesign, now a part of Avid, has the answer with their Eleven Rack. This rack-mounted hardware is an all-in-one amp and FX modeler, as well as a complete interface to the industry-standard Pro Tools software. In addition, a complete Pro Tools LE 8 software package comes bundled right in the box, providing you an end-to-end solution for home recording.
The Eleven Rack is not meant just for recording and performing with guitar, however. A mic input, complete with phantom power switch, provides a vocal input to Pro Tools as well. Further, MIDI inputs and Line inputs allow for any MIDI-enabled instrument (keyboards, synths), or line-level instrument (i.e. electronic drums, acoustic-electric guitar, etc.), to be recorded as individual tracks into Pro Tools as well.
Finally, the Eleven Rack is also designed with live stage-use in mind. A footswitch and expression pedal input allows setup for live channel switching and volume/wah functionality, and similar to other amp modelers, the various guitar tones are setup in banks of 4 (labeled A1-A4, B1-B4, etc.), and displayed on a big, bright screen for easy reading on-stage.
It is important to note that, due to the swiss-army knife approach of the Eleven Rack design, that there are only one or two inputs of each type provided. The Eleven Rack certainly could replace several devices in many existing home studios, and would probably be sufficient for most basic recording setups, but you cannot record, say, 8 channels of individual audio from electronic drums, for example, and assign a gain and volume to each one. To do more advanced setups and mixing, moving up to a higher-end dedicated recording interface is recommended. // 9
Sound: Amp modeling is a touchy subject with many guitar players. Many feel, and write or blog about at length, about how there lacks a certain touch sensitivity and feel to modeling, compared to playing through a tube amplifier. The initial plug-in and test of an amp simulation is where most guitar players will immediately embrace or shun any digital technology. Rest assured, the engineers at DigiDesign have made sure that Eleven Rack is among the best-of-the-best when it comes to guitar tones.
It's important to note that this review was based on the Eleven Rack expansion pack, which brought the Eleven Rack up to the latest-and-greatest firmware and available tones at the time of this writing. In addition, the tones were reviewed with a Paul Reed Smith Modern Eagle Quatro Stoptail guitar, and a MacBook Pro for recording into Pro Tools.
DigiDesign promotes the strength of its True-Z guitar input, which adjusts the input sensitivity and gain of the incoming signal to better match the digital technology within the Eleven Rack, and provide a more pure and transparent tone. Does it work? The tones were flat-out incredible. The first preset tone is very much like the oft-desired blue channel on the Bogner Ecstasy 101B amp head. The bass and grind hit the tone right on the money, and was a joy to play. Dialing through various tones modeled on Marshall Plexi's and JCM800's, Mesa Dual Rectifiers, and many more mainstays of the rock amp market was a blast to play. Each tone reminds one of a famous song, and inspires you to keep on playing. Further, the cleaner tones were lush, with the Fender-style tones, in particular, very reminiscent of the originals.
The FX are also a joy to play. Various distortions, modulations, delays and more are available at the touch of a button, and plenty of presets are available to teach you how a particular signal chain and tone was put together. Editing is easy via the buttons on the front of the Eleven Rack, and even better, when plugged into Pro Tools the presets can be modified and saved right from the computer. // 10
Reliability & Durability: The Eleven Rack comes housed in a sturdy, rack-mounted housing with built-in rack ears. Screws also come in the box, to mount the unit to any standard rack (the Eleven Rack uses 2U of space).
The connections all feel tight and high-quality, and the knobs and switches on the front and back of the unit are very tough. The power switch looks and feels like the heavy-duty ones used as power switches on many of today's amps, and clearly this has been built for extended road-use as well as studio-use.
A nice touch is that, like most rack-mounted devices, there is no pesky wall-wart' for powering up the device. Simply plug the included adapter into any power strip or wall connection. Every part of the Eleven Rack seems to be designed carefully for the needs of the modern home or stage musician. // 10
Overall Impression: While, for the purposes of this review, we didn't get a chance to test Eleven Rack on-stage, it was certainly a showstopper in the home studio. While those new to Pro Tools may require a little time getting used to the layout, a book is included that teaches the basics of how to record and edit tracks. In addition, a training DVD is included that provides advanced video lessons for those wanting to learn more.
We setup the included Pro Tools LE software, and then copied over the included second disc of drum beats and other samples. Within moments, we had a new session created, and had a few drum loops arranged in sequence to setup a backing track at our desired tempo. Then, we dialed in the tones we wanted on the Eleven Rack, and were recording multiple guitar tracks and takes that sounded amazing on the first try. In addition, we were able to record bass and vocals and build an entire song with just one recording interface and one laptop, with no amps or pedals!
The Eleven Rack is truly a great-sounding and well-designed product, and it has already earned a permanent place in our home studio. // 10
musicmick, on august 12, 2013 0 of 1 people found this review helpful
Price paid: A$ 425
Purchased from: eBay
Ease of Use: When I first got it, it didn't have the expansion pack. Even without that, getting a great amp tone out of it was very easy but once I added the expansion pack - whooaa! It really came to life. No where as many models and effects as my POD X3 but what it does have are far superior and so much easier and quicker to get the sound I'm after.
Editing patched is quite simple once you get to understand how the user interface works - which doesn't take long at all. Again, much superior to the POD and the way the rotary encoder knobs change colour makes tweaking patches very quick and easy. Manual is pretty good - a couple of things that were a bit difficult to find but overall, not bad at all.
Firmware version was 1.03 but now upgraded to 2.01. This is a MUST HAVE upgrade to really get the most out of the 11R. Apart from the improvements and expanded models and effects, there are scores of great user submitted patches on the 2 main user sites that need the expansion pack (2.01) to load. A bit of a pain that you have to pay for the upgrade ($99.00USD) but still worth it.
Initially after reading a lot of user posts, I thought the only way to get any sort of librarian features for patches was to use Pro Tools. I use Pro Tools anyway, but it is a pain to have to fire up Pro Tools just to load a new patch plus its a little clumsy as well. Thankfully, after doing a bit of deeper Googling, I found a freeware patch librarian that allows you to load and save patches and rigs without having to use Pro Tools - well worth getting (ElevenHack). // 8
Sound: I'm using with a pair of Alesis M520 powered monitors as well as going into the effects return of a 2x12 Spider Valve combo. Sounds great through the 520's but really comes to life through the Spider Valve power amp and speakers. The high gain patches are as noisy as you would expect and no better or worse than anything else I've used but there is a very effective and easy to use noise gate which tames the hum really well. Just a note though - the default settings for the noise gate will cut off trailing notes pretty badly but once the gate settings are tweaked, it works well.
The effects are fantastic! First time I've found a chorus that actually sounds like my old analogue pedal. The rest of the effects are really useful with a sensible range of controls and there are none of the really trippy (useless for 99% of the time) effects that companies like Zoom and Boss seem to love to put in. I haven't really worried about trying to copy anyones particular sound but auditioning some of the user submitted patches shows some amazingly accurate artist emulations.
As I said earlier, the effects are all very useful but one thing surprised me - I have never liked any of the distortion/overdrive emulations in any of the units I've owned over the years. I have always found them to be very fizzy (especially Boss/Roland) and not enhancing the patches in any way. The 11R on the other hand has a small but very high quality range of distortion, booster and Overdrive models that I'm finding more and more use for every day. // 9
Reliability & Durability: Its bloody heavy! All steel construction with controls and switches that all have a nice, solid feel but I still think you could snap off a knob if you didn't look after it - definitely very high quality though. I would never use any high tech gear without some sort of backup including the 11R. You're asking for pain and misery if you don't have something you can switch to if/when something fails or glitches but saying that, the 11R has never given me any grief (yet!). IEC mains power cable - no wall wart power supplies here! // 8
Overall Impression: I play everything from ambient to metal but I do stick mainly with heavy rock and the 11R excels in a broad range of high gain tones that clean up nicely when you back off on the guitar volume.
I've been playing for 35 years and have a fairly large range of gear for both performance and recording/production. I've owned every model of the POD range except for the current HD PODs (which I tried and didn't like) plus a couple of Zoom units, a Roland GR55, M-Audio Black Box and some Boss gear.
I wished I had known about the EurekaProm modified Behringer FB-1010 MIDI foot controller earlier. As there is no dedicated foot controller for the 11R, your only option is the MIDI controllers like the FB-1010, Rocktron, Roland etc, etc. As everything apart from the Behringer unit are quite expensive, the Behringer is the most cost effective but is also stupidly hard to program and is not entirely suitable for the 11R. A company call Eureka make a prom chip that vastly improves the FB-101 for use with the 11R and makes the FB-1010 almost as good a dedicated foot controller - the best $44 I ever spent.
If I ever lost the unit, I would have no hesitation in replacing it. There are some great deals around for 2nd hand 11R's so getting another at a good price wouldn't be impossible. Avid (Digidesign) have not got a great track record when it comes to customer support for the 11R and apart from the Expansion Pack, haven't made any improvements to the unit. Saying that though, there is a huge 11R user community that is a fantastic resource and should be your first place to look for info. This is the only thing that really disappoints me about the 11R. I love the sounds and how they respond to Pick dynamics just like a real amp. User interface is great and very quick to get your head around and the thing just reeks quality but overall the quality of the sounds that this unit is capable of are my favourite feature.
I wanted to replace my POD X3 (which I still have a soft spot for) and tried the POD HD500 in which I was bitterly disappointed in. I thought my old POD X3 sounded much better. I also tried the Boss GT100 which had some really nice clean sounds and very impressive modulation and delay effects but its amp models really fell flat and sounded very artificial. I would have loved to personally tried the Kemper Profiling amp and the Fractal Axe FX II but as I cannot justify spending $2600 on a unit, I didn't bother.
Having the ability to run 2 independent rigs in parallel like the POD X3 would have been nice but I can live without it as the existing sounds are just so good. A dedicated controller like the Line 6 FBV Shortboard would have been nice but the Eureka modified Behringer FB-1010 does pretty well.
Overall, I cannot recommend the Eleven Rack highly enough. Apart from the Axe FX II and the Kemper unit, nothing comes close to it in terms of sound, versatility, usability and build quality. // 9