The world of multi‑effects might be generally interdisciplinary, but Derek Johnson finds that there'll always be room for a specialist.
I'll admit it: I love dedicated effects processors. The average '90s multi‑effects unit might offer tremendous value, but there's a real kick to having a box that says 'reverb' or 'delay' on it, and knowing that's pretty much all it'll do — and do well. A few years ago Boss's RV70 reverb looked like the start of a trend, but this was not to be, and these days there's not a lot of choice when it comes to editable dedicated processors.
Until now: Korg have released two 1U rackmounting processors, the DL8000R digital multitap delay, reviewed here, and the AM8000R ambience multi‑effects processor, to be reviewed soon. Both come from the company's Toneworks division, although that label is missing from both units and their manuals. This division is responsible for Korg's guitar/gigging processors, which should give a few clues about the DL8000R. Indeed, while it's a perfectly capable and creative studio tool, this new processor is going to find many fans on stage too.
The DL8000R's most striking feature — its fluorescent 12‑character display (the characters are 14mm high by the QVC tape measure test) — will endear it to gigging musicians. A 2‑line LCD wouldn't be anywhere near as visible as this homing beacon on a darkened stage. One side‑effect of not using an LCD is that Korg had to find another way to keep the user fully informed. Their answer? A scrolling display. Though it's rather disconcerting at first, you do get used to it. Basically, when you select a program or editing parameter, its full name scrolls across the display, with the most relevant part remaining when scrolling has ceased. Another worthwhile feature for the hassled on‑stage musician is the big, chunky knobs. The package as a whole has an un‑Korg‑like feel, although it is very sturdy.
Let's look at the rest of the control surface. Within the display area you'll find the level meters, and a collection of icons which light up depending on what you're doing. For example, a MIDI icon flashes when MIDI messages are received, an Edit icon lights in edit mode, and so on. Either side of the display are the chunky knobs: stereo input and output level controls each have a double pot, for independent control of left and right signal, and the remaining edit knobs double as switches. Turn the Function knob clockwise and it scrolls through the list of editable parameters; pressing it takes you to sub‑menus, where available. The Value knob changes programs and parameter values, and confirms the writing of an edited program (it also functions as an edit compare switch). Lastly, the intriguingly named Warp! knob provides instant control over assignable parameters in the current program (press to restore the altered parameters).
Four buttons remain: Time/Tempo selects between a time‑based delay mode, where you set absolute values for all taps, and a tempo‑based mode where you work with various delay patterns; Hold freezes the current delay; Trigger lets you 'tap' delay times; Bypass does what it says on the panel!
Rearward, there's a four‑pin socket for the external PSU, and a full complement of MIDI sockets and quarter‑inch audio connectors (two in, two out). There are also four control sockets, for a control pedal and trigger, hold and bypass footswitches.
Essentially, the DL8000R offers two independent, programmable delay lines (left and right), each with 3‑band pre‑EQ, 400ms pre‑delay, three delay taps and a feedback tap. The maximum delay for each tap is 4800ms, and low‑ and high‑frequency damping for the feedback tap are available. This would be a useful tool without anything more, but Korg have added quite a bit of icing. Each of the three main taps can also be modulated by the on‑board LFO or a variety of controllers (MIDI, Warp! knob or foot controller). Up to eight controllers can be defined in Utility mode. The LFO is simple, yet allows you to create a wide range of effects. Any delay‑based effect can be replicated on the DL8000R, so as well as surrounding yourself with a mad halo of ping‑ponging delays, you can easily create straight — or wild — phasing, flanging and chorus effects, often in conjunction with sundry delays. It's even possible to simulate reverb‑type effects with careful editing.
Aside from control over three taps (and feedback) per delay line, you have the option of using patterns in Tempo mode; in this way, rhythmic sequences can be generated. And you're not restricted to straight sub‑divisions of quarter notes, either: a 'resolution' parameter lets you base delays and patterns on values of between a quarter note and a whole note, including triplets. MIDI sync is eminently possible, though the tempo range seems limited to 50‑200bpm. Without a MIDI device connected, you can define your own tempi, for achieving approximate sync in a non‑MIDI situation.
While the taps each offer a maximum of 4800ms of delay, they can't be placed serially; the longest delay is 10 seconds — the total of 400ms of pre‑delay, 4800ms of main delay and 4800ms of feedback, which isn't too shabby! This should be enough for the closet Fripp enthusiast. Samplists might like to jam a loop of some kind, hit the Hold button and sample at their leisure. Extreme feedback values don't always end up in distortion, either, and can be left to happily rumble on in the background.
When you're done editing, save your work to one of the 128 user memories. These are initially filled with duplicates of the 128 factory presets.
In use, the DL8000R is a doddle, with a logical heriarchy, though some may find scrolling though the parameters a bit of a drag. Actually, bar the odd run‑in with the manual, I found Korg's new delay to be very easy to use. You might not get as much information as you're used to on the display at one time, but at least you're not straining your eyes by peering at the average LCD.
Low points are few. It can be hard to monitor the various taps while editing, and making the large parameter changes involved with 4800ms of delay can be a bit wearing; values change very quickly when the knob is twirled fast, but some other way of taking care of big parameter jumps would be kinder to thumb and forefinger. On the subject of knobs, I'm sure they're fine, but they look like leftovers from a home‑brew electronics kit. Lastly, the DL8000R seems to run hot, which is surprising considering the external power supply.
My negative comments do not detract from my enjoyment of this fun and creative tool. It's so immediate and musical. The basic delays are clear and faithful, with noise kept to a minimum, but the EQ and low‑ and high‑damp parameters should let you knock any shine off, if dark and grungy is what you're after. Guitarists who are serious about delay, and studio musicians who want an edge that their multi‑effects processor can't hope to provide, should check this one out.
- Easy to use.
- Bags of delay time.
- MIDI control.
- True stereo.
- Knobs a bit un‑pro.
- External PSU.
If your first reaction is that the best part of £500 could buy a multi‑effects processor, the DL8000R isn't for you. If, however, you're looking for a new tool to assist in the definition of your sound, start saving.