Archive for the ‘Digitech’ Category

Digitech XBC Bass Multi Chorus

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

Digitech-XBC-BassMultiChorus

What is it?
Digitech XBC Bass Multi Chorus from X-series. Made in china around late 00’s.

Makes seriously wonder i should just sell all the X-series pedals i currently have. Opening the first one back when i did was a severe “meh” situation that offered very little to be interest about. Opening the second one made this feeling even deeper. Nothing wrong in digital designs, but the hard core recycling lowers my interest to the point where i simply don’t see myself collecting the series to the full. This one here.. It’s blue and it’s a bass chorus. I did already know what expect when i opened this one up.

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Yup. There are only two different boards in this series. The one with digital control as a potentiometer and the one with a rotary switch. This one os the former. All the units have the same Harman branded AudioDNA DSP chip in them. The same analog signal path for the buffering and AD/DA converters for every pedal in the series. The paint and print on the enclosure change, as do the programming of the DSP. Delay and reverb of the series have one more chip attached to the board, but it’s still the same board. Being an analog enthusiast, the secrets behind the software does not appeal to me.

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How much more boring can a pedal series get? The same exact board with different software code. Even if the tone is sufficiently good, the appeal is not there. I might just photograph the ones i have and just let them go..

How does it sound?
Sure. These do not sound bad. Rather generic chorus with decent control range. For an all digital, software based chorus, i’d says it’s a very good sounding thing. Just slightly lacking in personality, but otherwise very ok. It’s not the tone that’s pushing me away. No, not at all. It’s the lack of interesting electronics. If was to record some bass tracks today, this unit would not make it even near to what i’d choose to use for the session.

Digitech XTF Turbo Flanger

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Digitech-XTF-TurboFlanger

What is it?
Digitech XTF Turbo Flanger from X-series. Made in china around late 00’s.

Saw this going for a decent price and just couldn’t let it go. Played around with it for a while and i was ready to call it before opening the bottom. Not an exception to the rule, but simply yet another Digitech board shared with the rest of the series. Opening it confirmed my suspicion. As with almost all X-series pedals, this too has the same board with same chip as the others. The PCI-style interface pins on the lower right corner is a dead giveaway.

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So the design is nothing to write about since i’ll be just repeating myself over and over again. The code, box color and the labels are the only thing separating this from all the other boxes from X-series with a switch as a right hand side knob. So instead of going through the general idea of digital effects again, let’s just focus on the features instead.

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For controls, the Speed, Depth and Regen (a.k.a. feedback) are quite the standard. For analog designs, the additional controls usually affect the delay time and therefore alter the overall tone. After all, all the flangers are effects that have a LFO (low frequency oscillator) controlling the delay line time in sync with the LFO. Turbo Flange here doesn’t say anything about the delay times, but it has seven modes to go with. Voices 1-3 are pretty standard flangers, and same could be stated about the rise/fall and trigger up/down modes. For most interesting part, the 7th mode is 7-step which randomly (at least it seems random) selects the next step frequency in the LFO pulse. This would have blown my socks off if i hadn’t seen similar feature before. That’ll be Boss PH-3.

How does it sound?
If this wasn’t so sterile in its tone, i’d rank this very high. I could see myself using this for parallel guitar loops when recording. Maybe even for a bass with similar application. The seven modes offer quite a nice set of different digital flanger modes. My gut feeling is that this sounds very decent for an all digital unit. However, it’s not even close to the greatness of Ibanez DFL, which has nice digital design that springs from the analog world. This one here is simply a digital software effect in a stompbox form, with relatively low power consumption. Good, but maybe still not good enough. The 7-step mode is great thing to have on a flanger and it’s not every unit that you’ll come across to have this feature. Probably most of the VST-plugins will carry this feature, but you most likely will not carry VST-plugins in your pedal board. I like it, but not enough to call it great or a favourite.

Digitech XTD Tone Driver

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

Digitech-XTD-ToneDriver

What is it?
Digitech XTD Tone Driver Overdrive from X-series. Made in china around late 00’s.

Usable and quite frankly, decent sounding cheaper drive pedals are pretty common nowadays. This is one of those that you can score as used for peanuts. Or next to peanuts at least. Got the unit for cheap and after trying it out, i wanted to see what was inside. Screwed the bottom plate off and first thing to jump out was the PCI-style connection on the lower corner. No doubt about it. The circuit shares the same base with all the other X-series pedals with a pot as the right hand side knob instead of a switch.

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As far as i can see, the board design is exactly the same as for the other driver pedals in the series. Only things that differ are the code inside, colour of the box and the printing on it.

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We got our basic controls with volume, tone and gain. And the Digitech exclusive, the “Morph” which acts like a voicing control. Morph shifts the overall frequencysort of like a wah or parametric EQ would do. In essence the unit is pretty much digital equivalent of D-series Bad Monkey or Screaming Blues. Meaning that the D-series pedals act like analog effects do, while this one here…

How does it sound?
The first impression on the tone was pretty pleasing. But after a few short minutes i noticed the overtones had a pattern that just didn’t feel right. That was of course due to digital nature of the unit, making the tone just slightly duller than what we find in the most generic and dull Boss effects. I’m not deeming this unusable. Mainly because it’s not. It is quite boring without scent or taste, but it gets the job done. If the job is to slightly boost your tone, then you can’t go too wrong with this cheapo. Will this ever see much use in my possession? No. Like for all the drivers in this series, there is nothing you can’t get out of your post 2002 digital multieffect. For fusion jazz player, this is recommended unit. Use it for fusion jazz, and i don’t have to listen to its tone. Works and sounds decent, but not great in any way.

Digitech XHR Hot Rod

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

Digitech-XHR-HotRod

What is it?
Digitech XHR Hot Rod Rock Distortion from X-series. Made in china around mid 00’s.

It says Rock Distortion on the top. What to expect from its tone wasn’t anything short of obvious. But. The disappointments of shared digital board designs for the several other units of the series made me rather weary about what to expect designwise. Once the bottom plate was off, the sight was nothing close to those autowahs and reverb/delays. By the looks of the board it already looked like a digital design, but there’s no easy connection for the code burning anywhere. Just the 14 pads with nothing soldered to them.

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So the board differs from modulation and echo effects from the series. Instead of Harman branded AudioDNA DSP chip, there is Texas Instruments processor accompanied by a oscillator crystal. Nevertheless, the design is all digital, except for the buffering and switching. Same as, well. All the digital effects.

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For controls we have Level, Tone and Gain. But in addition to those standard controls we also have the “Morph” knob. While level/tone/gain are pretty self-explanatory, the morph isn’t. It’s sort of like scoop, depth and texture controls combined in one knob. Very effective and it discusses nicely with all the other controls. In essence, the morph adds a lot of variation to the pedal.

How does it sound?
From Marshallesque, fat OD/Dist to scooped near-metal distortion. And everything in between. Versatile and the digital code isn’t bad. The effect does not add emphasis on anything that sounds broken. Many digital distortions set the emphasis on modelling one feature of the tone the designer/programmer is after, resulting in useless one trick pony that does nothing more but walks on a pink tight rope. The biggest caveat comes from completely foreseeable behaviour. Meaning that drops in voltage or changes in guitar controls does not affect anything. At least not to the same digree we see and hear on analog designs. At worst, the tone is Ibanez MF5 resurrected as a Robocop. It’s not all bad, but it still is a Robocop. At best this shines as a squeeky clean, modern, solid distortion tone. Not clean as in “not-distorted”, but clean as is in “you won’t hear the shit storm inside the tone”. Or in other words, the overtones are just foreseeable.

Still. For the price, very decent digital rock distortion. Nothing you can’t get out of your Line 6 Pod 2.0, but still.

Digitech XDV Digiverb

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

Digitech-XDV-Digiverb

What is it?
Digitech XDV Digiverb from X-series. Made in china around mid-00’s.

Hmm. Something familiar? Digitech X-series doesn’t fail to disappoint. At the top of the price list for the series, the reverb and the delay are usable units with decent set of features. Actually, these units take on Boss and other mass produced units for a tight match while still being a lot lower on the price tag. But here’s the thing. While other big brands have designed their units from ground up, solely for the purpose they serve, the Digitech units are, well. Digitech units. Once we open up the bottom plate we’ll see what’s going on. Yup. The board is the same we saw on previous X-series posts.

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And it doesn’t change once we flip the board over. The circuit is the same, with inclusion of that ISSI-chip which isn’t present on most units. But the rest of the layout and electronic design is the same.  I just noticed the cutouts on the bottom right. If you look closely, you’ll see the connctors there. That must be a connection that reminds me of PCI connections found in computers. I’m fairly certain that is used to send in the data to determine which effect the pedals will be. So in general, the effect is made with AudioDNA DSP, an Atmel chip and an ISSI-chip.

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I said earlier that the effect is feature packed. It is. With mix control to dime in the desired wet/dry level, EQ control to set the amount of highs and decay time control, the these three would offer decent basic setup for any reverb. But then we have seven modes that all have their own reverb tone. The modes are like straight from your standard rack mount reverb units, room, plate, hall, church, gated, reverse and spring. I’d call that a decent set of features. And these modes do resemble what they are trying to model. Quite well too.

How does it sound?
Not bad. Like any pristine sounding rack mount reverb in a small form factor. And since you can get these used for reasonable prices, the bang for buck ratio is very nice indeed. The quality of the tone is also on par with the rack mount units. And thus, the lack of personality and notable level of boringness steps in. Works fine and sounds decent. Usable for your home recordings. This could even be used as a master reverb through mixer send/return loops. I doubt that many would notice any tonal difference between this unit and any low to mid priced Lexicon rack unit. Good sounds in from a boring digital circuit. You bet the article for XDD Digidelay will be shorter than this. After all these two are in fact the same pedal with different code burned in them.

Digitech XSW Synth Wah

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Digitech-XSW-SynthWah

What is it?
Digitech XSW Sythn Wah envelope filter from X-series. Made in china around late 00’s

Deeper green on the color than the bass version, the Synth Wah Envelope Filter takes on the battle for autowahs with slight synth features for a guitar. Decent set of features will let you play around for hours. Some of the modes are usable and may even come handy in some situations. Once again, there is nothing close to a schematic available, but once we open the torx screws and check the PCB we notice something that we didn’t want to see. Sea of vias and the auto-routed footprint that is nothing more or less than the same board we’ll see in the bass version.

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This continues when we flip the board over. Yes. It is exactly the same effect as the XBW Bass Synth Wah. Only things that are different are the print on box and some lines of code inside the ROM. I did know to expect this, but it still made me feel stumped. This makes me think that all the X-series boxes have just two different boards inside them. The first are the ones which have a rotary switch as a fourth pot and the second, there are boards with a standard pot in that position. It is just me, but i’m still an analog electronics enthusiast first and thus, not too thrilled about all digital designs such as these.

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I had a conversation over the social media some time ago. One talented guitarist (who uses Boss GT-100 multi effect, by the way) noted that all the effects are just resistors and capacitors, so it doesn’t matter if the design is digital or analog. I just had to correct him. You know, when there is someone wrong on the internet.. No, these two methods are not the same and cannot be compared head to head. Analog designs rely on electronics engineering, while digital designs rely on processing power, code and A/D-D/A signal conversion. Some modern pedals nowadays can easily hold a power of Nintendo64 inside them (some modern multi effects are even more like desktop computers). But the question is like comparing locally hand forged steel gate on your driveway with one that’s been moulded in chinese steel ovens. Yes. These both do the same thing. And yes. To the laymen it doesn’t matter. But for hand forging enthusiast the different is huge. Then comes the question which is “better”. Neither. Or both. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

How does it sound?
Not bad. The modes have good and usable wobbles in them. The synth-like sweeps are pretty wild and since there isn’t too many guitar envelope filters with similar modes available, this unit is rather desirable. Whether it is the same effect from electronics design point of view as the Bass Synth Wah is irrelevant. Sure it matters to me, but it doesn’t affect the sound. My personal opinions rarely affect the sounds… Again, the low price point and big user value will make this effect tempting to many. Not to analog enthusiasts, but for everyone else. Not a bad unit. Good and cheap thing to get. Not a bad investment, if you don’t care about the analog/digital aspect.

Digitech XBW Bass Synth Wah

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

Digitech-XBW-SynthBassWah

What is it?
Digitech XBW Bass Synth Wah, Bass envelope filter from X-series. Made in china around mid-00’s.

Ok. I’ve had some of the X-series boxes lying around for quite some time. Just didn’t find it in me to open them up until now. All them sounded and felt reasonable good on initial tests, so i just took the stance of “decent, not great, but decent” and left them be. Now i figured i would finally start checking them through. XBW is a good unit to start with. Good features and there is some notable usability in there. Sure this isn’t meant to compete with Boss SYB-3/SYB-5 with its lower price point and slightly smaller feature set. I haven’t seen schematics for any of the X-series boxes around. Opening the bottom plate gives a clue for why. There are vias like drops in the ocean.

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For starters, super dull, auto-routed board design is quite off-putting. Next, the brand is called Digitech. Which made me slightly cautious and suspicious, since the Distortion series is all analog and has roots deep in the old DOD catalogue. Flipping the board over shows what’s really going on. Harman (the mother company of Digitech) branded AudioDNA digital signal processor with crystal oscillator and a ROM. Now this is what the digital effects are made of. Don’t have to see the schematic to tell you that there is analog signal path with buffers ann switching, followed by AD/DA conversion and another set of buffers and switching components. The effect is in the slash between AD/DA.

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This made me worry a little. Could it be that Digitech X-series is as boring designwise as post-2005 Boss pedals? This meaning that the circuitry is exactly the same on all boxes, just with different digital control for each and different code in the ROM chips. Nothing too wrong with that. It’s just that my interest about the X-series boxes just got stomped even deeper in to the ground.

How does it sound?
Like a working “bass synthesizer” pedal. To get a picture, we need to compare it to something we already know. Boss SYB-3 is well more feature packed and wilder in its sounds. Same thing goes for Ibanez SB7. I’d say the synth sweeps here are duller than the competition, but there isn’t that much negative to the sound. More boring than the competition, but still a decent entry level bass synth/autowah unit. For the price and your home recording applications – i’d say this will suffice. Works and sounds pretty good on guitar too. Leaves me baffled, but still trusting.

Digitech WH-II Whammy II

Monday, January 5th, 2015

WhammyII

What is it?
Digitech Whammy II, made in canada. Possibly sometime in the 90’s.

It’s rather rare occasion that someone gets a chance of buying a rare western made unit for a low price. For me, the day this one came for sale was one of those rare occasions. I paid good amount of money for this, but didn’t check out any auction sites or anything to determine what there usually go for. And when i did… Boy was i glad i bought this. In reality, i paid about a quarter of what these usually sell for. Of course, the unit had seen use and the switches weren’t making connections in the best possible manner. Nothing that i can’t fix myself though. But in all, the unit was in nice condition. Sure. I had to come up with a power supply for it, but being the pedal freak that i am, there is a medium sized cardboard box full of different DC and AC supplies in my possession. The pedal is powered with 9V AC supply, which isn’t that uncommon – i had one suitable at hand straight away. I cleaned the unit a bit and the condition isn’t bad. Slight wear and tear, but nothing remarkable. What was more interesting was that the labels say “Made in Canada”. I had no idea Digitech had done any manufacturing in maple leaf flag country. But by the looks of it, a lot more brands should have turned to canadians to do their work for them.

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The look of the build quality is very pleasing. Sturdy and strong. There is a lot of the board that has been manufactured by hand and that is always a great selling point for me. I hadn’t been too interested in any version of whammys due to simple fact that i do not know how to use one. Whammys are great toys to fool around with, but just don’t see myself having one on my board. Nor would i see myself using it regularly. But while the effect themselves are not the peak of interest, the genre is. Foot controllable pitch shifting. Good idea that has been in the shadow of many other genres since the beginning of time.

The one thing that surprised me the most was the foot control. I did assume the control was done with a pot, like for nearly all the basic wah pedals (Vox, Cry Baby etc.), but this is not the case with a Whammy. The control here is optical. Meaning that there is a LED that moves closer and further away from a light dependent component that is inside that cardboard box on the board. What do you know! There is always something new to learn!

As the features go, we have out rocker pedal, a bypass switch, and. The mode switch on WHII is a stomp too! One can change the mode of the effet by stomping on it. The later Whammies have a know switch for this. The modes are harmonies from octaves to 5th and octaves from one to two. Both down and up. The design isn’t polyphonic, so it doesn’t act well with chords, but it tracks both up and down harmonies/octaves very well with single notes.

How does it sound?
I can only compare this to Whmmy IV at the moment as these two are the only ones i have. But when i do compare them, it just seems like IV is the exactly same sounding effect, just made cheaper in asia. Whammy II sounds like a very decent foot controllable pitch shifter. It can be used as a harmonizer or an octaver by simply not touching the rocker pedal. The modes work well and sound good. Maybe the low octaves aren’t exactly as good as they are in Arion MOC-1, but still very good. As for the harmonies and shimmering up octaves.. Just beatiful. Man i’m glad i have this unit.

Digitech DSB Screamin Blues

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Digitech-DSB-ScreaminBlues

What is it?
Digitech Screaming Blues Overdrive/Distortion from “D”, or “Distortion” series. Made in china around mid 00’s.

When DOD seized to produce the later versions of the famous overdrives like FX50B, their closest successor would be the DOD FX102 Mystic Blues overdrive. When DOD seized to exist, the next step for the design was the Digitech Screaming Blues. In retrospect, the design analogy would be somthing like OD250 -> FX50 -> FX50B -> FX102 Mystic Blues -> DSB Screaming Blues. So is it a direct descendent of OD250 overdrive/preamp? I’d say sort of. Not that direct, but descendent nonetheless. Granted. The design differences between OD250 and Screamin’ Blues couldn’t be more a part, but then again, the FX50B isn’t that close to either one. All this may be be speculation, but the timeline matches.

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Modern, dull traces on a board where there’s room to do anything. Once again, this shares the electronic switching part of the board design with all the other “Distortion” series pedals. The buffers and in/out section appears to be the same too. As we can see from the photo below, the gain pot is dual gang, while the EQ section doesn’t differ that much from a Bad Monkey.

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Standard mix of panasonic and mylar caps with all SMD resistors and semiconductors. Not too eye-pleasing, but the reason for the units greatness doesn’t come from the design. It comes through use.

How does it sound?
Defined, clear overdrive. Where as the Bad Monkey takes the prize with honking mids alá Tubescreamer, this one stays way more transparent and natural. Where does the “Blues” part in the name originate, i can’t say. But its armed with fairly versatile EQ section, ranging from thin and piercing to blasting lows and literally screaming highs and the drive control range is rather pleasing too. It surely goes from mild overdrive to big distortion. I don’t have a lot of bad things to say about this unit. It’s not super great, but it isn’t bad at all.

For the current market of used units, you should be able to score one for peanuts. It never hurts to have a usable, defined sounding pedal – may it be rather generic – in your bag. Especially when it sets you back a 20 bucks.

Digitech DBM Bad Monkey

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Digitech-DBM

What is it?
Digitech DBM Bad Monkey Tube Overdrive from Distortion series. Made in china around 2008.

Bought mine for a very low price as an broken unit through ebay. As usual, my first suspicion was that the unit had gotten a jolt from wrong polarity supply. This wasn’t the case. Seller stated that he “don’t know what’s wrong”. But just seeing the unit gave an explanation why this pedal wasn’t working. It had been either thrown around in anger or kicked with intention to break it. The gain and level knobs were broken from getting a hit. I opened the box up and probed to confirm. Yes. Both of those pots had internal damage. In fact, the sweepers were simply ripped off from the carbon strips inside the pots. Took me a while to track down the exact pots and new original spare part knobs. Those did not come cheap, but overall, i still got away with about 25% less money spent that i would have used on a new unit at cheapest.

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The board apparently uses the same base layout as all the other Distortion series effects (Screaming Blues, Death Metal, Grunge and Hot Head). Mix of Panasonic metallized polyester caps and standard small surface mount components. The design and almost everything about these boxes are just too modern for my taste. So these are not my favourite things to collect, but once i happen to find one for a reasonable price or as broken challenge – i can’t seem to help myself.

How does it sound?
Not too great. Very deep mid honk accompanied by similar tone controls found on DOD Grunge. I would say it sounds very much like a Tubescreamer alternative. Can’t say if it is any better than a TS. For my style of music and playing it is more or less useless. The EQ section offers more versatility than most other TS alternatives/clones,but let’s face it. The tone controls on this particular design have not reached the level of “any good”. If you’re looking for a TS with more bass, this might be your choice. Due to the fact that it sounds exactly like TS with more bass and the price of a new unit is somewhat unbeatable when compared to quality. Not great. At all. But for the price.. Very good.