Purchased from: Pawn X-Change (gone)
Ease of Use — 4
Ok, here's the biggest part of the review, get ready, grab your drink of choice if you have not already...
Now, I use this mainly in a home studio environment where I plan to record some solo records and record some not-so-rough demos for any further music projects I plan to start. As such, I have an expectation that the device I'm using can deliver the bare minimum that I require of it with minimal fuss - especially important now more than ever because I'm a married guy with a day job and I don't have time to putz about with effects modelers for hours on end to the exclusion of all else like I used to in my twenties.
As such, I do ALL of my patch editing via the X-Edit editor rather than through the device directly. I expect that when I save a patch that it saves and sounds EXACTLY like it did when I programmed it. Not I click on the SysEx file for the patch, it sounds great, then I go use the pedal again when it REALLY counts and it sounds like someone kicked R2-D2.
This problem begins when you are dissatisfied with the sound as much as I am, and am making small refinements/tweaks over the course of months/years/decades - like I did with the Behringer V-Amp Pro I used to have that put up with being edited/reprogrammed/modified almost 3-4 times a month for 10 years straight, and even got a spot doing scratch tracks on albums that got reused as actual tracks because they sounded so good.
So I come up with a good sound, I use it for a month, instead of editing, I have to reset the entire damn device - including recalibrating the expression pedal - to clear the memory, just so I can save ONE bloody revised preset - oh, and I did not mention you need to save the patch to a file first, which can be tedious because there is no bulk backup function or so I found. Have not found a manual for it for X-Edit either. It seems to me that we have discovered the one flaw with these older devices - and that's that the Flash Memory, much like an older Solid State hard disk in a computer, or a USB Key, can wear out, and maybe that's the problem, as the user presets on reset are the same as the other half the non-editable presets.
As for firmware revisions, I've had every from the first on this thing, including the Beta. The saving problem has been consistent, granted, I do save and edit a lot. I think Behringer used a much more superior chip in their V-Amp Pro for patch storage than this one does. At least it did not fry itself with the power adapter like my GNX-1 did. I do I.T. during the day, so I'm no stranger to these sorts of things.
Ease of use gets a "4" - not so much because it's hard to use or get a good enough sound out of for most people - but because of the whole X-Edit patch editing bug.
Of which, I just remembered another. This one concerns modulation effects. If I save a chorusing effect or a Flanger effect, and set it to modulate within a certain sweep range, it'll drop back to the default when I save, proving to me that the device is just not capable of everything X-Edit has to offer. Maybe I'm trying to play Eruption with a Kay Vanguard here, but that would be easier than editing this pedal with X-Edit.
So if you want some cheap second hand something to waste time with and don't have high expectations for sound - feel free to give it a try, but if you are putting this thing to some hardcore use like I am, stay away.
Sound — 7
So in 2010 I went to the pawn shop in hopes to assemble a cheap mobile rig to take to my then girlfriend, now wife's house. Part of that was this thing and a $25.00 Peavey Rage 158 amp (3rd Generation version).
Previously, I had owned a DigiTech RP-200A - the predecessor with "artist programmed presets" on it, at the time it impressed me, but I was upgrading from a Korg AX30G and Boss ME-6 that were "Cat-pee" logged by my mom's moody cats at the time (god... the flashbacks! - there's Mr. Furry... in the trees... ready to pee!), and I was impressed with it then, I figured this has the extra "50" in the model# so it must be better right...
So back when I had that RP200A, I was hell bent on pissing all over my own generation's scooped midrange nu-metal with midrange laiden, crunchy, tight '80s type riffing. But since then I've become quite the chameleon taking on elements of new wave, post-punk, hard rock, classic rock, multiple forms of metal, and I also have a small blues bent to my sound as well.
It suits all those styles well but it just does not sound like "me" - I have to have that "tightness" in tone, it seems this thing, regardless of amp model, cab sim, or distortion pedal, when direct, does NOT contain the tightness or crunchiness I desire. I would expect a much tighter response out of the JCM800 and '77 Master Volume Marshall amp sims for example - while it cleans and tightens up nicely when the gain goes down, it's very muddy and "blatty" when at full gain - ESPECIALLY if you are using active pickups or high-output passives - which a lot of my guitars have (I own around 30).
It only ever sounded great direct into the board at one club I played at, and into the Peavey Rage 158, but both of those had a post-input EQ that made it sound godly, but going into my computer, it's just not "tight enough" when distorted, there's always that bluesy muddiness there regardless of patch. As this took over for my beloved Behringer V-Amp Pro that I got 10 years of faithful use out of from new in 2004 till 2014, I hoped it could hold up, it can't. Strangely, turning the output to "Amp" mode tightens things up, but it also makes it shrill and trebly and not sound anything like what I want.
Now before you start blasting me with "Oh, you probably don't know how to use it" - I'll let you know one of the things nice, you can edit it using your computer using X-edit software, which is what I do, and that has problems I'll talk about later in this review. That is a nice feature to have because I can make some very minute adjustments.
It can have a rich sound, but then it gets muddy, but if you go for a tighter sound using the EQ controls in X-Edit, it means going back to a more 2-D like sound.
One thing I WILL Give this, and this is now a conflict I feel, is the tube amplifier overdriven emulation is extremely good - you can back off the volume to lower gain and it cleans right up and tightens up, but it also is not as tight or punchy as a JCM800, Plexi, or JCM900 cranked is. It sounds more like a distortion pedal trying to be those amps. Also, the '69 Hiwatt emulation leaves much to be desired - if Pete Towshend, Martin Rotsey, and Paul Dean can derive an insane amount of gain from that amp using Gretsches, vintage Strats, and Chambered out Canadian things with DiMarzio Super IIs in them and sound thick, full, and super-gainy, then how the HECK does the emulated thing with a Jag-Stang with an EMG 81 at the bridge not almost reach full-blown Metallica mode, yeah, Martin Rotsey and the Oils can throw out "No Time for Games" or "Cold Cold Change" and grind it up with a pre-CBS Stratocaster, but I throw a Jag-Stang with roughly 9K Ohms more and a preamp behind it on a sim and it sounds like Duane Eddy on half-a steroid...>WTF?.
That said, there is one upside, this thing can be really gainy and noisy on other channels. The noise gate is very effective but using it kills off the volume usage, so then one is forced to use one of the emulated distortion pedals contained therein. I like the Tone Zone pedal myself, and that's as close as I can get to my sound with a very 3-D, in-your-face sort of attitude I like. But then I get clarity using my Jazzmaster, Jaguar, Telecaster, or Strat, plus it feels those pedal emulations mask the personality of the individual guitar too much for my liking.
Overall, I'll give it a seven, maybe the problem is just my ears have matured to something more upscale.
The effects given are a lot better than the RP200 was, and that's why I'm adding points. On this I can get a sound that requires a very very long thick, bright Reverb (EMT Plate Reverb I believe it's called on this one), and a long, drawn out Delay - a sound I've used since my Nu-Metal days in the early 2000's. It even has a Whammy built in. That's what brings the score up, without this, I'd give it a 5, it's fair enough, but I even with fairly accurate emulation, I just don't feel the tone stack is as up to snuff - even to the Behringer V-Amp Pro.
It has an on-board drum machine and tuner, the tuner is pretty good, not perfectly accurate but fair enough, and the drum machine is pretty good, though I never use it because I prefer the organic-feel of my "finger drumming" using a synth keyboard.
Reliability & Durability — 9
Okay, this is a BIG part of why I'm writing this review.
The pedal will withstand live playing, the metal casing is a quality product, the jacks are pretty solid, and the only cosmetic issue I've really run into is the external knobs used for editing flying off when I'm changing patches and getting lost - which I really don't give a flip about because I never use them anyway (or the on-board drum machine for that matter).
So yeah, it's pretty strong, durable. I'll take off one point for the flying knobs. But the stalks are so tall anyway it almost does not even need them.
Overall Impression — 6
I play a lot of different styles but the one sound that is most important is my general rock sound - the sound in my head - the sound that I use to record most demos. The one that sounds like me. While this was maybe a good match 10 years ago, my ear has developed to a point that I feel maybe it's time I pursue some more professional hardware.
I've been playing 21 years, I own 27-30ish guitars, as I build, modify, and also play them. My normal setup is a Bugera 333XL (pre-Infinium model) with a Peveay 412M cabinet and SKB PS-45 pedalboard, which gets my sound to a T (well, it will once I toss a EHX Small Clone at the front end). I got my sound originally through a Behringer V-Amp Pro using the JCM800 amp sim, and the EVH '78 cabinet or British 2X12 cab depending on what variant I was going for. As a guitarist, I expect a tight, defined, strong sound, no muddiness unless the amp is known for that, and it's rare I use such a sound, unless I'm stepping out of my comfort zone to do some Blues or something.
I bought this with one specific purpose in mind, and when my V-Amp died it took over as my primary amp modeler because that purpose was already eliminated as me and my then girlfriend now wife had been living together at that point.
If it were stolen I would be pretty pissed because I'm not in the position to purchase something along the lines of what I want now - which costs about $500 (Line 6 HD500X, though I've been tempted to instead use an ID:Core 20 and gain a practice amp AND just use my live pedalboard at home instead) - but it's still out of the budget as I'm looking to actually OWN where I live rather than rent.
I do love that it has the whammy built in which saves me from having to throw my trusty ol' WH4 Whammy in front of it saving floor space, but I find more I use it the more frustrated I get with it's fallabilities.
Another thing I hate, and this is not DigiTech's fault - it's the fault of the DMCA/RIAA/MPAA - the line-in won't allow anything going through it to go through the USB Audio recording interface and record that source as well - which sucks because I want to run my bloody keyboard through it - or well, did till I threw my Behringer 2024P in front of it through the synth's effects loop (Roland Juno-Di). I've been talking to people and it seems every digital effects board on the market is crippled like this now, not sure who to yell at for this one.
I compared it to the DigiTech RP-200A I had back in 2003, which at the time was "amazing" in my book - but remember, that was over 13 years ago, and I had just upgraded from a fiddly dual digital board setup consisting of a Boss ME-6 and Korg AX30G that I had to load balance and be careful of how it was configured or it would sound shitty (but done right sounded other-worldly - especially direct). Also, my ears were not as fine tuned then as they are now, if the Bugera's BIAS drifts too far hot or cold I notice it and all intonation issues your standard run-of-the-mill guitar has are apparent to me now. I have to love the sound though to not notice those sorts of issues because the playing is just as fun as it sounds.
Here's a list of what I wish this pedal actually had...
- The ability to do more than one modulation effect at once, I do have an Easter egg using the Modulation Delay as a Chorus when I'm using the Whammy or some other effect under the normal effects board.
- I had a DigiTech GNX-1 I liked a lot back in '07 as well (which died when the power adapter shorted out on it's own and made the house smell like frying silicon), it would be nice to actually assign that handy expression pedal and it's on/off feature to something OTHER than the wah wah pedal. Would allow me to make effective use of the user presets if I could turn the underlying effect on/off as I don't use Wah that much - I'm the anti-Hammett (and don't get me wrong, I love Kirk Hammett and he is an influence, I'm just not crazy about wah wah like he is, my over-abused effect is stereo chorus, and in the studio only).
- A Line-in with a through to the USB recording interface, DMCA/RIAA be damned! I'm highly doubtful music pirates are going to go and spend $100-1000 to plug in a music player into a the line-in on a guitar pedal just to pirate an album when there are far cheaper solutions available designed for that purpose. Talk about knee-jerk industry/government moves.
- I also wish it had an amp sim that does not give you the choice between sounding very flat and 2D, or sounding muddy. C'mon, even the Mesa Rectifier was muddy!
- Every patch was editable. I really have no use for the "user presets" TBH, I'd rather have all 256 slots to myself for programming, especially handy due to what I'll start talking about in the Ease of Use category.
Overall, I'll give it a six. Maybe it'd be higher if I was starting out or if it was 2004, but is 2016, I've got 21 years of guitar under my belt, and strong opinions on what I want to sound like. It's a tad frustrating when the pedal just is not equipped to deliver but you are financially restrained to it. Also, the way this pedal is setup is not conducive to out-of-the-box thinking and creation of interesting new sounds that are predictable (unless you consider royally jacked by faulty flash memory "predictable").