Digitech have trimmed back both price and features for the latest addition to the TSR effects family. But does the newcomer offer enough bang per buck?
Anyone familiar with Digitech's signal processors will have high hopes of this new TSR effects unit, the range which gave the world S‑DISC (Static/Dynamic Instruction Set Computer) technology. Last year, we reviewed the top‑of‑the‑range TSR24S (SOS October 1995).
At the risk of jumping the gun, I'd have to say that the TSR6 lives up to its lineage. Digitech's classy‑sounding S‑DISC digital effects technology has never before been available in a more accessible or affordable package. Purchasers of the TSR6 won't be getting a TSR24S for under £300, however; there are inevitable trade‑offs, which I'll get to in a moment. But in the meantime, a quick look at the front panel should illuminate a few light bulbs for you.
Less Is More
If you've had a look at the photo, you'll see that the TSR6's front panel is quite a simple affair. While the more sophisticated TSRs are not actually difficult to program, especially given the power on offer, there are always potential customers who don't want to have to bother with programming at all — and who can blame them? Editing has been simplified on the TSR6 to such an extent that, as the manual says, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to get results: there are a mere three tweakable parameters per effect, plus parametric EQ. If this approach rings a bell, you might be recalling Boss's RV70 and Yamaha's REV100, both of which offer a similarly accessible package, with just a handful of parameter knobs to edit.
What Digitech have provided is five different types of effect, each of which also includes the aforementioned parametric EQ, arranged in 99 program memories. In addition to the 99 factory preset programs, there are 99 memory locations where user edits can be stored (user presets are denoted by a dot in the lower left of the display). Note, however, that only the user memories can be called up with MIDI program changes — that's the first of the trade‑offs.
There is no busy liquid crystal display; just a two‑digit LED readout that indicates the current patch or parameter value when editing, plus various status LEDs. The three main parameter knobs each control one of three editable parameters. Pressing the EQ button allows these knobs to do double duty, since they also function as the controls for the parametric EQ. Each parameter knob features an LED: if it is not lit, moving the knob does nothing. Moving the knob to its last set value causes the LED to light up; any further movements will now change the parameter value, and the LED will glow dimly. Thus you can always relocate a factory preset parameter's original value.
Digitech's classy‑sounding S‑DISC digital effects technology has never before been available in a more accessible or affordable package.
The only controls left to mention are: a Store button (for saving your current edit); a large Program wheel (for selecting Programs and changing parameter values); an Input Level control (with a pair of peak LEDs); and a dry/wet Mix control. Connections are correspondingly simple: two balanced jacks for mono, two‑channel, or stereo input, and two for output, with a single MIDI (In) socket. No headphone sockets, manual bypass (use MIDI program change 00 instead), power switches or MIDI Out sockets for the TSR6.
Five Go Programming
As mentioned earlier, 99 programs are available, and these are arranged in groups, roughly corresponding with the five effect types. This is the source of another trade‑off: while each program has a corresponding user‑editable slot, it isn't possible to organise your programs in a different order to the factory programs, or save an edit to another location than its pre‑ordained one. If you edit preset program 48 (a 640ms stereo delay), for example, its edit can only be saved in user memory 48.
The five main effects groups are as follows:
- Programs 1‑47 comprise a collection of stereo reverbs: Halls, Cathedrals, Plates, Chambers, Rooms, and Gated reverbs. The straight reverbs are all available in Large, Medium, and Small sizes, with a Dark and a Bright option for each; the Gated reverb group has long and short 'decaying' variants that offer a short burst of reverb (the manual suggests these can also be used as small room effects); long and short linear (non‑decaying, and cuts off abruptly); and reverse reverb. The editable parameters here are pre‑delay, reverb decay, and reverb level.
- Programs 48‑53 offer Stereo Delays — up to 640ms of Stereo, Triplet Stereo, Syncopated Triplet, Ping‑pong, Triplet Ping‑pong and Syncopated Triplet Ping‑pong delays. The editable parameters are delay time, feedback, and level.
- Programs 54‑61 feature a variety of Delay and Hall reverb combinations, in series or dual operation. The four series programs offer up to 300ms of stereo delay with four preset feedback amounts (0%, 5%, 15% and 25%), while the four dual effects offer up to 600ms of delay (again, with varying feedback) in one channel, with the reverb in the other — perfect for use with two effects sends. The three editable parameters are delay time, reverb decay, and delay/reverb mix.
- Programs 62‑80 provide reverb in combination with one of four modulation effects, in series, parallel or dual configuration. The series program is stereo modulation into reverb, the parallel programs offer side‑by‑side stereo modulation and reverb, and the dual effects programs offer independent modulation and reverb. Modulation effects include Detuner, Chorus, Flanger, and Tremolo, with the last three available in Shallow and Deep flavours. The parallel routing option splits one input for processing through both effects side by side, mixing the result at the stereo output, rather than feeding the output of the modulation effect into the reverb, as in the series programs. Using the parallel option gives a slightly less 'processed‑sounding' result. The editable parameters here are modulation speed, reverb decay, and modulation/reverb mix.
- Programs 81‑99 feature combinations of delay and modulation, once again in series, parallel or dual configurations. The modulation effects are the same as provided for programs 62‑80, and the delays have a maximum time of 640ms in series and parallel mode, or 980ms in dual mode, with a moderate amount of (preset) feedback. The editable parameters are modulation speed, delay time, and modulation/delay mix.
The parametric EQ available with every effect program is simple, yet comprehensive. It is accessed by pressing the EQ button; its LED lights, and the three parameter control knobs now alter the EQ parameters. The parameters available include frequency (30Hz‑9900Hz, in 26 steps), Q/resonance (10 settings, offering bandwidths of between 0.06 octaves and 1 octave) and boost/cut of +/‑15dB.
There are only three other things you can do with the TSR6: re‑initialise the unit to restore factory settings; change the MIDI channel for program change reception; and alter the global noise gate threshold level. This latter function uses a version of Digitech's Silencer gate technology, and is adjustable between ‑90dB (off) and ‑40dB, in eight steps. I'll also just remind you that the TSR6 offers true stereo operation in many programs, with certain other programs actually offering two independent effects processors, for use with two mixer auxiliary sends.
The TSR6 is so simple to use that it would almost be easier to list the things it doesn't do, but that would be to miss the point, and put too much of a negative spin on it. However, it would have been nice to see some kind of comprehensive MIDI engine hidden behind the inscrutable front panel — the Boss RV70 (more expensive) and the Yamaha REV100 (slightly cheaper), mentioned earlier, each offer MIDI control of hidden parameters. And some way of reorganising presets would have been invaluable, while everyday functionality would have been aided by the inclusion of footswitch sockets for selecting programs and entering bypass mode.
Given the limited editability and the almost preset nature of the TSR6, it is surprising to note that it is capable of a gratifyingly wide range of effects tricks. The preset side has been particularly well thought out: the choruses, flangers and tremolos all offer good basic treatments, with the adjustable speed parameter being all you really need to customise the final result. The range of preset delay feedback settings (in combination effects featuring delay) is similarly useful. Using the solo delay programs, setting very short delay times and high feedback levels turns the delays into unmodulated, metallic, flange‑type effects — quite useful at times. The parametric EQ is also worthy of note, offering the chance to change the character of effects quite dramatically, an especially useful feature when it comes to customising reverbs. And those reverbs: although much cut‑down, the actual quality of the reverbs is very much of the S‑DISC family, offering a natural, musical and professional‑sounding treatment. No audible compromises there, thankfully.
The TSR6 joins a selection of similarly specified and roughly similarly priced products from a range of other manufacturers, some of which are less, and some more editable. But the bottom line is that if you haven't got much money, and/or feel that your time is better spent making music than twiddling with endless lists of parameters, the TSR6 has got to be a pretty attractive option. And I think it's safe to say that anyone, from the novice to the old hand, could find a home for a unit that sounds this good, is this easy to use, and boasts a sub‑£300 price tag.
- Very easy to use.
- True stereo operation.
- Sounds good.
- Virtually no MIDI spec.
- No way to reorganise user presets.
- No manual bypass.
- No power button on front panel.
Simply the most affordable way to obtain Digitech's quiet and classyS‑DISC processing technology. Whether you're after your first effects unit or just one more, the TSR6's price and ease of use place it near the top of anyone's audition list.
£299.95 inc VAT.