The budget‑priced Fostex DE1 is a half‑rack, 20‑bit effects processor, with the ability to act as two individual units. It operates at a sample rate of 32kHz, rather than the more usual 44.1 or 48kHz, though this shouldn't put you off as none of the effects generated here require a huge bandwidth to sound good.
Rather than being fully programmable, the DE1 simplifies effects setup by providing just three rotary controls. First you choose your Effect from Large Hall, Small Hall, Plate, Vocal, Delay/Reverb, Delay, Misc (containing assorted reverb/early‑reflections algorithms), Chorus, Pitch and Flange. Then you can select one of 11 Variations on the chosen effect and tweak a preset group of important parameters using Adjust: for example, when a reverb is selected, Adjust changes the decay time. In addition to these three controls, each of the two processors has a fourth knob, which sets the wet/dry mix, and a red clip LED.
In the centre of the front panel lies the 'Single/Dual' mode switch. In Dual mode, the unit operates as two individual mono‑in, stereo‑out processors complete with separate unbalanced outputs. In Single mode, however, the processors combine for improved true‑stereo functionality. In addition to the audio inputs and outputs, the rear panel sports a footswitch jack for remotely muting effects, two trim pots which set input gain, and a socket for connecting the included external power supply.
Fostex have developed new technology to maximise the power of the available DSP, so some of the reverb settings are actually pretty good, though they all still slightly betray their budget origins, because they don't quite seem to gel with the dry sound — they have a kind of 'layered on' quality. Even so, the brighter rooms and plates work well enough to use with lead vocals and drums, while some of the Misc programs are useful as ambience treatments. There's a slight improvement in reverb quality when you work in Dual mode, but it is only slight.
The other effects are OK: there is a nice emulation of analogue delay, and the chorus section is surprisingly good. However, though the pitch‑shifting is fine for detuning, it's only fit for special effects at more extreme settings — pretty much as you'd expect from any budget processor. Some of the combined delay/reverb patches work well, though some of the patches did produce digital 'splats' with guitar, even though the peak LED never came on.
Though the DE1 may not be quite as professional a unit as the manual implies, it's certainly up to making serious demos, and the fact that it can be used as two truly independent effects boxes is a huge advantage for anyone just starting out. If you need a general‑purpose effects box (or two), then the DE1 is good value. Paul White