Dynacord products have a quiet reputation for quality amongst those in the know, but are often overlooked in a market dominated by the big guns in effects. Nick Magnus thinks the DRP5, offering high‑quality reverb at an affordable price, might be about to change all that...
With so many reverbs, multi‑effect processors and mix sweeteners on the market, choosing something special can escalate into a battle between cost and quality. Whether you're expanding your rack or choosing your main device, one effect is often high on the list of priorities; a deluxe reverb. As with anything, the definition of 'deluxe' is fairly subjective, but in the case of reverb, names such as Lexicon, AMS and Sony have generally been accepted as standards against which others are measured.
However, the price of top‑flight reverb quality has steadily come down over the past few years; the Lexicon PCM70, which comes in at somewhere around £1800, was once the bottom end of the true pro studio market, until Sony's R7 managed to dip below the four‑figure price barrier and establish itself among the 'serious toys'. Among this upper class of reverbs, Lexicon's LXP15 provides many of the best aspects of the PCM70 in a simplified package, with a retail price close to £900. And last year Dynacord released their DRP15, also in the sub‑£1000 price range. It is perhaps not sufficiently widely acknowledged that Dynacord make very high quality equipment, and the DRP15 is no exception. Whilst it is a multi‑effects device, it boasts a high quality reverb algorithm that utilises all the available processing power and is also editable in absurdly fine detail, making it only a tad less complex than the Sony R7. Now Dynacord have entered the mid‑price fray, previously dominated by companies like Zoom and Roland, with the DRP5, essentially a cut‑down DRP15 with a simplified user interface, delivering "legendary" sound quality, coupled with a high degree of editability.
The DRP5 has 100 programs, structured as follows:
- Programs 00‑19: user programmable
- Programs 20‑82: presets
- Programs 83‑99: contain the 17 preset basic algorithms from which all the programs are made (see algorithm box).
Twenty user presets may not seem like a lot, but Dynacord claim the factory presets are the result of much research, and that the unit is intended primarily as a preset machine. However, program you can, and MIDI dumps can be executed without fuss either as single programs or as all 20 user programs with their MIDI assignments in bulk, should the need arise.
Visually, the DRP5 is clearly from the same stable as the new DLS223 Leslie simulator (reviewed in SOS April '94), sporting the same dark grey rack case, rounded buttons, LED display and encoder knob as the latter. Hardware rotary knobs are provided for input level, wet/dry mix and output level, and there's an LED bargraph to monitor input. The rear panel hosts mono/stereo inputs (not true stereo) with a Hi/Lo selector switch, and stereo outs. MIDI In/Out/Thru sockets are provided, and a ground lift switch makes a welcome appearance. Effect bypass and program up/down footswitch sockets, and a mains Euro socket (no external psu!) complete the picture. The unit operates between 90V and 240V, so no problems will be encountered when you emigrate to the Beverly Hills hacienda‑style mansion of your dreams.
Selecting programs on the DRP5 is merely a matter of scrolling through the numbers using the encoder dial, then pressing it in to load the chosen effect. Editing is by the parameter access method. Press the front panel switch labelled Param, scroll through the choices, then press Value and twiddle that dial again. There are two editing modes available: Easy and Expert. Easy mode provides basic editing, while Expert puts a few more parameters at your fingertips.
It is worth comparing the DRP5 to one of the more expensive units on the market. When you buy a Lexicon LXP15, it is almost certainly for the reverb. The fact that it will also produce chorus and pitch shifting is an added bonus, but the reverb has an unmistakable sheen that is the hallmark of quality. Of course, you could find that sound in a Lexicon Alex for around a third of the price, but editing is strictly limited by comparison. The DRP5's algorithms dealing with pitch and delay are respectable examples of their type, but the high quality reverb algorithm, referred to affectionately by Dynacord as their "calling card", is its crowning glory (see box for a full list of reverb parameters). The amount of control offered by the DRP5 is deep enough, yet still simple enough, to create a vast array of reverberant effects. Indeed, the level of control available is even greater than that of the revered LXP15.
In a head‑to‑head comparison with, say, an LXP15, the DRP5 comes out very well — except in two areas, one involving a bizarre and baffling piece of software writing. Some of the DRP5's 17 algorithms are combination effects involving delay plus another effect. Of these, eight exhibit a peculiar phenomenon concerning the delay feedback parameter. Basically, the number of delays and their level are inextricably "joined at the hip" — the more delay repeats you have, the louder the delays become; the fewer repeats, the quieter. At zero feedback, the delays vanish altogether, meaning that single repeats are impossible to obtain. I'd be intrigued to hear a plausible explanation for this! Oddly, in algorithms 83, 86, 92 and 97 the feedback control does exactly what it should. Hmmmm......
The other potential problem is the DRP5's lack of relative level adjustment in all but two of its combination algorithms — for example, the inability to vary the balance between reverb and delay in just such an algorithm. However, the two effects that do offer variable levels (Hi‑Q Reverb/Delay, and PitchShift/Reverb) are the ones most likely to need this control.
Recommending a reverb is a bit like recommending a particular bottle of wine. One person might like a heavy, oaky Shiraz, while someone else might precipitate towards a light, chilled Gewurtztraminer. There is definitely a touch of the Shiraz to the DRP5's reverb; quite heady and rich with... well, I'm sure a wine expert would detect a whiff of blackcurrant in there somewhere. The ability to select different room shapes (Cathedral, Cave, Cube, Tube) is a real plus. Further parameters could have been included, such as early reflection level and reverb density, but there is plenty to play with as it is.
The amount of control offered by the DRP5 is deep enough, yet still simple enough, to create a vast array of reverberant effects.
The DRP5's Pitch Shift effect is worthy of special mention. It includes a de‑glitch mode, and when this is switched in, the shifted signal is of a reasonably high quality. Inevitably, one sacrifices just a gnat's in terms of response time, but this seems negligible within a mix. Without de‑glitch, little is recognisable of the original signal; even Daleks sound as if they've had exhaustive elocution lessons by comparison. Nevertheless, this does not preclude the use of pitch‑shift mode for special effects.
The delay‑based programs generally offer limited delay times; with the exception of algorithm 97 (Sweep Delay) which offers a maximum of 1 second, all the rest go to approximately 296ms. For these shorter delay times, the DRP5 only displays values between 0 and 99, whereas algorithm 97 is properly displayed in milliseconds.
MIDI control is implemented in great depth. The DRP5 can have any MIDI controller assigned to any parameter, via a useful learn mode. To enter learn mode: select the program, press MIDI and Param, choose the parameter required, then send the relevant MIDI message into the MIDI input (waggle the joystick, tweak the slider, stamp on the footswitch, and so on), and it's learned. Ten such assignments can be made, distributed as you wish throughout the 100 programs. They are stored automatically and retained on power‑off. Program changes are accepted as usual, and can be disabled easily by pressing either Param, Value or MIDI on the front panel. One plus point is that absolutely no glitching occurs when any parameter is altered, with the exception of room sizes and types. This permits some very exotic real‑time pitch change effects to be performed. In addition to this, a full MIDI hex spec is included in the manual to allow keen hackers to create their own editing software for the unit.
Being the proud owner of an LXP15, I cannot help but continue the comparison between the Lexicon and the DRP5. The more I used the DRP5, the more alike they seemed. Notwithstanding one or two of the bizarre aspects of the DRP5 (the delay feedback control, the internal balances) it should be noted that the DRP has 17 algorithms (as opposed to the LXP's five) and is more flexible with its MIDI assignments (although the total number is less). In common with the LXP, it boasts a reverb that can hold up its head (so to speak) with justified confidence. The DRP5 retails at £680, bringing it in at around £300 less than the LXP15. If the Lexicon sound is what you definitely want, that is fully understandable; mine brings me deep and lasting joy. But if you're still open to suggestion, then do give the DRP5 a proper audition. You'll have a very pleasant surprise.
PARAMETER • FUNCTION • VALUES
- •DECAY Reverb Time 0‑99
- •HF DAMP High frequency decay time 0‑99
- •SIZE Changes room size 0‑99
- •PRE‑DELAY Time before onset of reverb 0‑99ms
- •CLUSTER Varies pattern of early reflections 0‑7 (none/Room1/Hall1/Plate/Spring/Reverse/Room2/Hall2)
- •ROOM‑PLATE Selects room or plate algorithm
- •PROPORTION Changes room type Cathedral/Cave/Cube/Tube
- •LF DAMP Low frequency decay time 0‑99
- •GAIN EFFECT Sets program output level 0‑50
- 83: Dual Sweep Delay & VCO — two delays modulated synchronously, but inversely.
- 84: Multitap & VCO — 2 x 11 stereo multitaps plus modulation.
- 85: Pitch Shift/Reverb — +/‑ 1 octave pitch shift with feedback through reverb.
- 86: On Stage Effect Mix — delay feeding a Hi‑Q reverb with reverb level control.
- 87: Flanger/Gated reverb — gated reverb with stereo flanger upstream.
- 88: Flanger/Reverb — as above with normal reverb.
- 89: VCO Delay/Gated Reverb — a modulated delay feeds a gated reverb.
- 90: VCO Delay/Reverb — as above, with normal reverb.
- 91: Echo/Gated Reverb — delay (no VCO) feeds Hi‑Q gated reverb.
- 92: Echo/ Hi‑Q Reverb — as above, with HiQ normal reverb.
- 93: Stereo Pitch Shift — two independent pitch shifters with +/‑ 1 octave range.
- 94: Rotor Organ — Leslie simulation with independent speaker speed control.
- 95: Stereo Flanger — stereo flanger!
- 96: Chorus — deliciously thick 6‑voice chorus.
- 97: Sweep Delay — maximum 1‑second ping‑pong delay with L/R ratio control.
- 98: Hi‑Q Forward/Reverse Gated Reverb — maximum 350ms in either direction.
- 99: Hi‑Q Reverb — full processor capacity reverb. The crowning glory of the DRP5.
- Big studio reverb for a project studio price.
- Easy as pie to edit.
- Nice MIDI implementation.
- Marred only by one silly software blunder.
Versatile, easy to use, and subjectively one of the best sounding reverbs for its price.