With their latest super‑mini effects processor, Italian manufacturer Viscount goes head to head with the Alesis Nanoverb on looks and the Zoom 1201 on price. Tom Flint grabs a pizza the action...
The Viscount Gammaverb is an 18‑bit/44.1kHz digital signal processor aimed at the entry‑level market. In concept, it's closely modelled on the Alesis Nanoverb (reviewed August 1996), and is comparable in size, function and control options. However, the Gammaverb is one of the cheapest effects processors around, joining the Zoom 1201 rack in the sub‑£100 bracket, which is good news for anyone on a tight budget. Those needing more flexibility might like to check out the Gammaverb's big brother, the VFX100, which offers a degree of programmability and MIDI control. Gammaverb is a strictly preset‑only device with no MIDI control, and unlike the Zoom 1201, with which it obviously competes, is not rackmounting.
On the front panel of the chunky steel case are just five control knobs, the first three of which adjust the input level (monitored by a red clip LED), dry/effect mix and output level. A fourth rotary switch selects the 16 effect types. All the usual reverbs and delays are present, from halls, rooms and plates to flangers, tap delays, and combinations, but there's also the unusual addition of a resonator — more on this later. The final control is another 16‑way rotary switch, which accesses variations on each of the basic effects types, giving 256 effects programs in all. A power LED concludes the front‑panel tour.
The rear panel has a pair of unbalanced jack sockets for the Left/Mono and Right inputs, plus a further pair to carry the stereo output. As the labelling suggests, mono inputs can be plugged into the left jack socket, which is normalised to the right socket. Last up is the PSU socket, which has a lead clip to discourage accidental disconnection.
All 256 effect variations are fixed, with no other adjustment available other than wet/dry mix. The halls and rooms cover every size of performing space, from a small pub to Earl's Court. 'Virtual' provides specific reverb modelling, ranging from a small cubicle to a large lecture theatre, with damped or reflective walls, while 'Non Linear' supplies reverse and gated settings, with delay times varying from 50 to 200 milliseconds. Some of the gated samples are particularly good when used with rhythm sounds, turning flat drums into a chugging percussive engine. The flanger family also produces some good results, ranging from a slow sweep to a regular pulse.
Chorus/reverb and delay/reverb provide a selection of preset combination effects with both series and parallel routing, combining single examples from the other families. The chorus and delay are also selectable individually from within their own family groups, without the reverb.
Last up are the resonators, which simulate the effect of sympathetic string vibrations. Settings 1 to 12 are each tuned to just one note of the chromatic scale, while the remaining four chromatic variations resonate on all 12 notes at once. These effects successfully emulate the technique of pointing your amp at a piano, putting a brick on the loudness pedal, hanging a mic inside the piano lid and recording — something I've tried doing the hard way before now.
I found the Gammaverb particularly good for treating piano and harpsichord patches, and it offers considerable scope through its more extreme settings. As with other reverb units, turning the mix pot to the full wet mix gives the effect you usually hear on entering the foyer of a concert venue whilst the band sound‑check to an empty hall! (A nice Gammaverb patch to use for this effect is Hall 2). The wet setting is particularly effective when used with the vocal patches, producing a swimming pool type of reverb.
Though this is a budget unit and limited in terms of its processing power, Viscount seem to have succeeded in making the Gammaverb a useful all‑rounder in the small studio. I think it's fair to say that some effects are better suited to keyboards than vocals or guitar, but there's plenty of variety. The basic selection of reverbs is good enough for most jobs, but as you'd expect for this price, they're hardly exceptional. However, the resonators, gated reverbs and the more extreme flangers give the Gammaverb a unique quality — though it's still going to be a tough sell against the well equipped and similarly priced Zoom 1201.
There are a few quirks which let the Gammaverb down. For example, the click generated when selecting a new patch is annoying, though the brief delay until the next effect is loaded is to be expected. The omission of a bypass footswitch is less forgivable, as this effectively rules out live use for many musicians. In all other respects, the Viscount Gammaverb is a basic, easy to use, compact effects unit at an attractive price, and the more quirky effects, such as the resonators, are a definite bonus.
- About the size of a cheese sandwich.
- Resonator effect.
- Easy to use, with a wide selection of effects.
- No bypass footswitch or on/off switch.
- Clicks when changing patches.
A versatile and inexpensive entry‑level effects processor that's also very easy to use.