Digitech RP350

Thursday, January 31, 2008| by Will Chen

Digitech continues the RP lineage with the new release of their RPx50 line. The new line contains their next generation chip, Audio DNA2, which claims a 400% increase in performance over the previous model. Let's see if they put all that horsepower to good use...

Before we get under the hood...

The unit feels very solid thanks to a metal chasis and features a patch up, patch down, amp channel and rocker footswitch to switch patches and control various functions. The patch up and down switches work as expected and the unit doesn't exhibit the latency which plagued older units. While the footswitches are made of plastic, they do not feel flimsy and would appear to stand up to fairly vigorous usage. Per the manual, pushing both at the same time enables tuner mode. I found it very tricky to push both at the same time and often found myself switching patches rather than enabling tuning mode. This mode was so unforgiving that I found it pretty useless and relied on a standalone tuner. The rocker pedal is made of metal with rubber tread stripes to ensure good grip and can be set to control pretty much any parameter. Additionally, pressing down on the toe engages the VSwitch which toggles the wah. I was able to create a single patch with a switchable clean and crunch amp, using the rocker to control patch volume to allow a boost for leads, and engage the Vswitch for wah. Sweet.

The back panel features a 1/4" instrument input and 1/8" aux input. and stereo 1/4", xlr, USB, and 1/8" headphone outputs. Both the 1/4" and XLR outputs have an amp/mixer switch which controls the cabinet emulation. On paper, this is a great feature for recording as you can run one set of outputs to an amp and mic it and the second direct and mix the signals for increased depth and realism. However, when attempting to set up the unit in this manner a loud (groundloop?) hum was introduced to the 1/4" output. Bummer. . Power is provided by an approximately 6 foot "wall wart" style supply. Most likely an additional extension cord will be necessary unless you plan to spend a lot of time next to a wall.

Digitech has included a the new tone and effects library function which allows users to quickly dial in genre based building blocks to quickly build a preset. As an added bonus, the unit includes a bunch of preprogrammed drum patterns in a variety of styles which make practicing or ironing out ideas much more enjoyable than playing with a simple metronome. For an in-depth feature list, the manual can be downloaded at the Digitech website.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the main attraction...

Sounds are programmed using a set of buttons and knobs against a matrix consistent with Digitech's standard programming methodology. Programming the unit was pretty straightforward; however there are a few parameters which can only be accessed using the XEdit patch editor.

Wah - After getting used to the throw of the RP350's expression pedal (which is longer than a typical wah), I was getting funky. The unit offers Crybaby, Vox, and Digitech's Full Range models and the ability to set both the upper and lower bounds of the frequency sweep as well as add 12db of boost. All three settings sound great.

Amp Models- The unit contains many of the usual suspects with quite a few of Digitech's own including modeling of their 2101 processor. It appears Digitech has opted to model amps in an "ideal" setting from a tone perspective and provide a 4 band EQ (fixed frequency bass and presence, sweepable mid and treble) to custom tailor the sound. While I appreciate the ability to fine tune with the 4 band EQ, it would've also been nice to model the original amp's tone controls. However, this is a small complaint becuase many of the models sound good without any added EQ.

The unit was tested using a variety of guitars into the front end and effects return of a Tech 21 Trademark 60, direct to a variety of PAs, into near field monitors, and using a variety of headphones and the unit preformed great in every scenario. The low gain settings contain an organic and dynamic feel missing from previous units and are very reactive to picking dynamics and your guitar's volume control. I was even able to create a patch which I could use my volume knob to move from almost clean to crunchy lead, something I absolutely did not expect to find. The higher gain sounds are totally usable as well, but a few lack definition past about 1 o'clock on the dial. Also impressive is the RP350's ability to be bright without being overly brittle or harsh, a common criticism of digital guitar units.

Distortion Models- The RP350 contains a large set of models of popular stomp boxes running the gamut. I would have preferred a couple different choices than provided, but the included group is fairly comprehensive of the most popular units. Unlike the amp modeling section, Digitech has included all the original controls of the emulated devices here. The accuracy of several of the models is very good and overall the sounds are excellent. In side by side tests, it was difficult to tell the difference between some of the modeled stomps versus the real deal. Fantastic!

TS9- Compared to a TS9 reissue this is a darn good emulation. Sounds like there is slightly more gain than available on the comparison pedal. Very smooth with that signature mid range bump.

RAT- Another very nice emulation. With the gain pegged, total 80's shred. Backed down to 50%, nice smooth and singing. Very nice.

DS1- It seems rather strange to model a pedal which can be purchased for so cheap. I assume this was chosen given the legacy of professional (endorsed) users over the years, but I would have preferred something else instead. That being said ,the model sounds a little tighter in the lows than the original and the highs sound slightly smoother.

Big Muff- Same tubby lows, slicing highs, and gobs of sustain as the original.

Effects- The RP350's modulation effects are just as impressive as its amp modeling and stompboxes (actually, several of the units modulation effects are models of pedals) creating swirling, pulsating undulations that any fan of 60's psychedelic music will go absolutely nuts over. Add in the ability to control the speed or depth using the rocker pedal and you'll be floating with the best of them.

Small Stone- Swirly, swirly, swirly. Very nice.

Whammy- The fact that the street price of this unit is the same as Whammy justifies the purchase. Being a previous owner of the Whammy II pedal, I was extremely impressed with the sound of the RP350's emulation. If my memory serves me right, this tracks better than the original I had. If you've always wanted a Whammy pedal but didn't want to spend the money, the RP350 is an absolutely incredible substitution.

Synthtalk- Think of this as a talk box emulator. After tweaking the parameters, some very vocal sounds can be coaxed through the unit.

Echoplex- The trippey sound of a tape delay feeding back on itself...nice.

The units Intelligent Pitch Shifter doesn't track as well as it should, almost as it was an afterthought. However, the pitch shifting tracking is very good. So good in fact, that you can emulate a bass guitar with passable results by shifting your signal done an octave and setting the effect mix to 100%. The piece de resistance of the pitch module however is the Whammy.

Odds and Ends...

All in all...

I can't help but feel like an gripey old man after running this unit through the paces as the phrase "When I was a kid multifx pedals sounded like a hoard of bees in a tin can dag nab it, and we loved 'em!" rolls off my toungue. Digital audio processing is finally getting to a point that power is affordable and the Digitech RP350 is a prime example.

I've never been a fan of playing guitar through headphones and the same feeling applies here. However, the unit is flexible enought to stretch far beyond being a simple headphone practice unit in a nice compact footprint. Digitech has broken a price, performance, and (perhaps most importantly) QUALITY barrier. The Digitech RP350 is a lot of fun for not a lot of dough and should be a consideration for any frugal guitarist.

Pros

  • Nice variety of amps, stompboxes, and effects
  • Practically seamless patch changing
  • Champagne tone on a beer budget

Cons

  • The Intelligent Pitch Shift tracking is very glitchy to the point of being unusable
  • Groundloop hum was introduced when attempting to use a 1/4 output to an amp and XPR to a mixer

Wishlist

  • Would have liked to see a few more exotic choices of stompboxes, amps and a multi-tap delay
  • Having the amps original EQ modeled in addition to the 4 band EQ would be nice
  • Would like more in depth prog
Tags:
Filed Under: Reviews, Digitech