Price paid: $ 150
Purchased from: Used - Craigslist
Sound — 7
To an extent sound, like beauty, is in the ear (or eye) of the beholder. Let's start out with a realistic expectation. This will not replace the beautiful noise of an overdriven tube amp but it does fair job of getting the tone you want without the digital thinness' most complain about when talking about modelers. I play mostly worship music (pop rock), rock, punk rock, and maybe a little blues using a Gibson Les Paul Studio. I have been able to get solid usable tones for what I play. The clean tones are the best especially from the modeled Fender 65 Twin. Getting a nice fat, crunchy distortion has been a challenge but with some substantial and continued tweaking I'm getting close. Trying to get the right combination of amp model, amp gain paired with the right distortion effect takes some time but a good tone is possible. The 90's and 2000's Marshall JCM modelers have been my favorite for distortion. My biggest complaint concerning the amp modeling is the sustain. Even with high gain and the noise gate off single note sustains while playing lead are lacking and if your using crazy amounts of gain you'll need that noise gate. It should also be noted there is a fairly large difference in sound based on the output device. It sounds okay running into my Peavey XXL 212 but not as good as plugging directly into a PA. Using high quality headphones is essential too; you'll be disappointed if you use the ipod ear buds you have lying around. I'll admit I'm a novice when it comes to effects but from my experimentation with the RP500 it does a good job with chorus, compressor, delay, and reverb. I'm fairly certain the Whammy effect is based directly on DigiTech's own Whammy pedal so it is quite good. I use and enjoy the light' distortion effects but can't really comment on the metal and fuzz variants as they all sound bad to me but that's probably a matter of taste. The reverb deserves special mention as it is wonderful as it can give a relatively bland tone a nice thick quality. It has three different Lexicon models and a Fender Twin Reverb all of which sound great. The Compressor does a decent job of fixing the sustain issues without changing the tone too much but I wish it wasn't necessary for lead work. If you do have that sweet tube amp I mentioned the amp/cab modeling can be turned off completely with one button press to turn the RP500 into an effects board, plus there is a true bypass footswitch.
Overall Impression — 8
The RP500 does everything I need it to do fairly well. I can't say it blew me away but it definitely met my expectations. If you're a metal head you should probably ignore this review as that's not my cup of tea (read can't play fast enough to play metal). If you are someone with a sensitive ear and frown on digital modelers I doubt this will convert you but it serves my purposes very well. With its many footswitches and features it's a dream to use live, even switching things up mid song. It also doubles as an amazing practice tool and if you invest in descent headphones it will provide hours and hours of fun without bothering the wife and sleeping kids. If it was stolen or lost I wouldn't definitely replace it. I've barely used my Peavey amp since getting it. Honestly the only thing I think it's missing is an on/off switch.
Reliability & Durability — 9
The RP500 is truly fully metal construction. The footswitches are all sturdy metal similar to what would be found on an amp footswitch or stomp box. The only plastic controls are the knobs used to edit patches but they are high quality and have a nice sturdy feel when using them. On the rear panel only the 1/8" headphone and line in jacks are plastic but have no give. My only concern is the provided power adapter as the electrical cord connections at each end seem fragile although a new adapter is less than $15 so a back-up is a good idea. Also, the lack of an on/off switch means unplugging the power every time you want to turn it off which could cause excess wear and tear. Although the RP500 appears to be built to handle a fall or two I'm sure liquid is it's kryptonite; try to keep it away from the drunks with beverages when playing the bar gigs.
Ease of Use — 8
First a little background, I recently joined my church's worship band and there sound set up doesn't really allow for a traditional amplifier as everything is ran directly to the mixer so in order to have more than just a plain clean tone I needed some sort of digital processor. After some online research and craigslist searching I went with a used DigiTech RP500 I found for $150. It's loaded with 53 amps, 22 cabs, and 72 effects which by default are utilized in 100 factory presets. There are also 100 available user preset locations to save your patches. Altering the factory presets or creating your own from scratch is fairly easy. Reading the manual is helpful but really not necessary other than determining what each amp/cab/effect name is attempting to emulate. The previous owner never utilized the USB port so when I got it home I immediately upgraded to firmware 2.0 which most notably adds a 20 second looper. I also should mention the X-edit software provided which makes editing patches even easier and it allows you to back up your settings to your computer in case something goes wrong requiring a factory reset. The back panel contains multiple output options including 1/4" stereo or mono, XLR stereo or mono, and an 1/8 headphone jack. It also has an 1/8 input to jam along with your iPod or computer which is fantastic for "silent" practice at home.