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Digitech Vocal Harmony Processors (part 2)

The Studio 5000 is a 1U rack mounting unit, which seems to be no more than a multi-effects unit should occupy these days, now matter how much functionality it contains...



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Equipping Your Home Recording Studio he Studio 5000 is a 1U rack mounting unit, which seems to be no more than a multi-effects unit should occupy these days, now matter how much functionality it contains. On the rear panel you will find stereo ins and outs, and you can easily hook up the unit in mono if you find this more convenient. The LCD display is nice and bright, but you will find that there are rather a lot of small buttons to press. The buttons have a very rubbery feel and don't offer a positive click in response to an action by the user. With forethought and patience however, great things are possible. Many users will spend their first few weeks with the unit exploring the presets, and there is nothing like a new selection of sounds to get the creative juices flowing. I found that I was able to multiply the four hundred factory presets in my Korg keyboard by the one hundred presets in the Studio 5000 to get 40,000 new and exciting sounds. Why should I ever want to buy another keyboard? And before you ask, I haven't tried them all yet! Presets are split into two main groups, the mono bank and the stereo bank. Starting off with the mono bank, the first ten presets are obviously designed to show off the range of capabilities of the Studio 5000 with octave doublings and detunings in varying degrees of subtlety, some with delays. Presets 9 and 10 are, rather surprisingly, distortion programs, and they were not thrown in just to add to the feature list. They are really rather good. After the first ten, effects come in groups: Detune Combinations, Chorus, Flange, Chord Shifting, Intelligent Harmony, Amplifier/Speaker simulations and Special Effects. With a list of effects and brief descriptions to hand, it is easy to home in on something approaching the sound you are looking for and resist the temptation just to spin the dial at random. The stereo presets are fewer in number but no less tempting. The first ten are called 'Mix Imager Programs', which really translates as 'Thickeners'. I liked these for their subtlety, because they really do give a useful thickening effect, but it isn't always obvious how it is achieved. With an ordinary pitch shifter it is easy to set one output slightly sharp in pitch, the other slightly flat, to give a thick sound, but it is always perfectly obvious that the sound is effected and what was done to it. Here, you can tell that there is some chorus, delay, pitch shifting, reverb or whatever, but the finished sound nearly always comes out as though it was meant to be that way. The other stereo presets are grouped into Stereo Keyboard Programs, Drum Programs, Stereo Vocal Programs and Special Effects. Two presets that are especially worthy of mention are 'Drum Bright Kit' which is an excellent reverb - something I didn't expect on a unit of this type - and Stereo Sampler. Stereo Sampler offers an editable three second stereo or six second mono memory which you can use to take bits from the multitrack and spin them in at other places in the song. Of course you can do this with your Akai, Emu or Roland, but it's nice to be able to do this in the context of pure sound rather than music and MIDI and it's quite easy once you have the hang of it.

Of course, no matter how good the presets are you'll tire of them and want to create your own eventually. Won't you? The Studio 5000 may seem to have a lot of buttons, but this is where you'll find them very useful. The best way to approach editing is to pick a preset that is close to the sound you require, and then press the button corresponding to the component of the effect that you want to change. The effects library includes Harmony, Shift, Delay, Chorus, Flange, Dynamic Filter, EQ, Compression, Gate, Sample and More. What does 'More' include? For many of the programs 'More' means reverb. And as I said, the reverb is pretty good. Of course, any unit of this type has a limited amount of processing power, so not all the effects are available at the same time. But when you have found a preset that incorporates all the components you require, just select the required one and then press edit. A small number of relevant parameters will be made available for adjustment. There is of course a compromise to be struck here. Too many parameters and it would be to complex to be usable, too few and you won't get the sound you want. I think Digitech has it about right, I don't think any of us want to spend our lives editing effects programs.

It would easily be possible to fill a book with the possibilities of the Studio 5000, and indeed the manual writers have. Let me say that for keyboard players, guitarists and engineers, the Studio 5000 offers a wealth of creative possibilities at a high level of quality. You will need a lot of time an patience to explore them all, but I am sure that your input will be rewarded. Even if you don't want to do any editing, the Studio 5000 has a good enough range of presets to offer a whole new perspective on any instrument you care to connect to it

By David Mellor Thursday January 1, 2004