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Zoom RFX1000 & RFX2000

Multi-effects Processors By Paul White
Published January 2000

Zoom RFX1000 & RFX2000

Paul White puts away his expensive toys to try out a couple of low‑cost studio effects from Zoom, but does he still have fun?

If there's one company out there dedicated to making effects simpler and cheaper, it's Zoom. Though they've channelled a lot of their effort into creating budget guitar effects over the past few years, they occasionally find time to throw a new studio unit or two into the arena, and this time it's the turn of the RFX1000 and RFX2000 multi‑effects processors. Despite their low cost, these still offer 18‑bit, 44.1kHz operation and a wide range of effects, including some quite respectable reverb settings.


Zoom RFX1000 & RFX2000

The simpler of the two units is the RFX1000, which follows the preset‑based paradigm where you can choose from a number of pre‑programmed effects with a number of variations on each and only very limited parameter access.

Housed in a standard 1U case and powered from an included mains adaptor, the RFX1000 is a stereo‑in, stereo‑out processor. There is no front‑panel bypass switch — instead a rear‑panel footswitch jack socket is provided for this purpose. Rear‑panel audio connections are via unbalanced jacks operating at a nominal ‑10dBV level, and a further front‑panel jack allows a low‑impedance, unbalanced mic input to be mixed with the line input.

Four rotary pots control input and output levels, wet/dry mix and reverb‑time/parameter adjustment, while input‑level metering is handled by four LEDs. Effects are selected using the Character and Effect Type rotary switches, in combination with a three‑position Bank slide switch. The effects available within the three banks are printed around the Effect Type switch and status LEDs show which bank is active.

Bank Job

The RFX2000 has a comprehensive selection of MIDI sockets and both S/PDIF and co‑axial digital outputs, alongside analogue I/O similar to that available on its cheaper sibling.The RFX2000 has a comprehensive selection of MIDI sockets and both S/PDIF and co‑axial digital outputs, alongside analogue I/O similar to that available on its cheaper sibling.

Bank One offers dedicated reverbs ranging from the usual hall, plate, room and ambience settings to gated and reverse. The Reverb Time knob sets the decay time, while the Character control generally offers variations on the selected reverb type — the exceptions are the gated and reverse settings, where it adjusts the effect's trigger threshold. Next up is the Effects bank, where you'll find a Compressor/Limiter, Delay, Pitch Shifter, Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, Tremolo/Pan, Delay + Reverb, Chorus + Reverb, Delay/Reverb and Flange/Reverb. The last two dual effects provide parallel combinations with the effects on individual channels. Finally comes the Mix & SFX bank, which includes some useful EQ‑based treatments such as cabinet simulation and high‑ or low‑end emphasis. You'll also find rotary‑speaker simulation, ring modulation (with variable modulation oscillator), an envelope‑triggered filter, lo‑fi sound mangling and a rather useful vocoder — 10‑ and 18‑band vocoding is available with options for adding distortion and/or chorus. You can use either the front panel mic input or the right input channel as the vocoder's vocal input, with the synth or other sound being processed going in the left input.

As you might imagine, operation is disarmingly simple, and because the effects are very similar to those of the RFX2000, I'll leave the subjective description until after I've looked at what that unit has to offer.


Packaged in a similarly styled case, the RFX2000 looks slightly busier than the RFX1000, reflecting its increased programmability. It also includes S/PDIF digital outputs with both optical and co‑axial connectors. This time the effects come in six banks of eight, each with 11 variations. The manual also mentions bundled PC and Mac editing software, though none was included with the review model. As well as patch editing and effect management, this software is claimed to provide access to eight new effects unavailable from the front panel, including a 32‑band graphic equaliser.

Unlike the RFX1000, the 2000 provides a Tap button for setting delay times (and other rates) plus a two‑digit numeric display for showing parameter values and patch numbers. The RFX2000 is also MIDI‑capable, allowing for real‑time parameter tweaking as well as for selecting, dumping and loading of patches should you wish to back up any of the 100 user patches which can be stored within the unit itself. In addition to the basic preset/variation/adjust selection system of the RFX1000, the 2000 also allows two further adjustments via the High and Low Reverb EQ knobs. As their names suggest, these function as tone controls for the reverb effects, though they change their functions when other algorithms are active.

The amount of MIDI control is limited, but nevertheless useful. A table in the manual shows which MIDI controllers correspond to the front‑panel Effects Type, Characteristics, Time, EQ and Mix parameters as well as to bypass and tap. Any one of the 16 MIDI channels can be chosen for operation, and if the front panel controls are operated in real time, they send out MIDI data that can be stored in a sequencer. A MIDI patch map may also be set up allowing you to group your most frequently used effects together for MIDI access purposes.

The effects on offer are similar to those on the RFX1000, except that now there's a stereo delay section — a panning delay and a rhythmic delay — which adapts to the MIDI Clock input. There are a few more dual‑effect permutations than provided on the RFX1000, and the 'weird section' now has Time Trip (where the delay time varies according to the input level) and Dimension Reverb to produce spatial enhancement. There's also a sample‑and‑hold type of step filter, a four‑band mix level adjuster (a new slant on EQ?), band‑pass, low‑pass and high‑pass filter settings, plus a few more utility EQ presets.

Sonic Zoom

As with the RFX1000, the reverb treatments turned out to be pretty good, with plenty of variation on offer. The delay and modulation effects also stood up well against their more conventional pedal equivalents, and even the pitch‑shifter was better behaved than most with less warbling and glitching. A number of pitch‑shifting options are provided with a range of up to an octave either way, as well as some nice detuning settings.

The vocoder is the real gem, and though it might not be technically as good as some of the more expensive alternatives, it produces the right kind of result, as does the ring modulator. Though the real‑time MIDI control and digital output of the RFX2000 are useful, I didn't find that it could do that much more than the RFX1000 in terms of usable effects, and I don't feel it offers enough adjustment to warrant being called 'programmable'.

In Conclusion

Both these units offer a lot of power for very little money, and if you need something that lets you dial up quick and dirty multi‑effects, they have a lot going for them. I found them reasonably quiet in practice and the reverb patches are surprisingly smooth for the price. Personally I prefer the RFX1000, because it is both cheap and immediate, but if you're one of the few people who actually use MIDI with effects, then the RFX2000 might well be worth the extra.

Obviously the vocoder is a big plus, but I'm also pleased to see one or two other non‑standard effects that can be used to add interest to a mix, not least the stylish ring modulator. The pitch‑shifting is also unusually good for such cheap units, though I was less convinced by the patches featuring distortion as no simultaneous speaker simulation is available to tame them.

On balance, these two Zoom boxes are very versatile, not too daunting for newcomers to hardware effects, and the quality of the effects is good enough for most project‑studio work. We'd have given our eye teeth for either of these in 1980!


  • Versatile.
  • Generally good effects quality.
  • Easy to operate.
  • Cheap!


  • RFX1000 has no front‑panel bypass.
  • RFX2000 offers limited effect editing capabilities.
  • Unbalanced audio connections only.


A pair of affordable yet flexible and easy‑to‑use processors suitable for the project‑studio owner on a tight budget.