Best value, versatile, all pro.
After six years of owning this thing I have some insights that might help others considering this device.
First, it is ALL STEREO. That is essential for any time-based effect like chorus, pitch, stereo delays, etc. Yes you can run it mono and still access all the effects, but Digitech wisely chose to make professional balanced (XLR) outs for true noise-free stereo operation into ANY rig for any gig..
Lexicon reverbs rule!
For those who do not know, Lexicon was the first digital reverb. Lexicon has more experience than any other engineering group with reverbs and other time-based algorithms. Though TC electronic and others have come a long way, the lexicon reverbs are still the original and to my ears, the best. Since Lexicon is part of Digitech through the umbrella of Harmon, you are getting the original Lexicon reverb quality with this unit.
Digitech is a leader in guitar effects too. I will not claim that Digitech is "the best" at modeling or distortions, but their metal distortions are certainly among the best. You can A-B Digtech distortions against any other brand as I have. You will discover that in the heavy "brutal" distortion area, Digitech and Zoom have the least noise and the most gain. (Zoom's noise reduction is superb and its ADA conversion is awesome!) Frankly, I prefer the ZOOM products for their 24 bit 96 kHz sampling rate and super low noise. But I have found that for any recording that ends up at 44.1 / 16-bit, AND for any live gig, those differences are subtle... nearly unnoticeable. This is "CD" quality which is, to most ears, plenty good enough.
The advantage with this is you can tweak the distortions to fit YOUR amps. You can make it work directly into a PA, Recording console, or combo amp. This unit allows you to make global EQ adjustments in three seconds. Even the superb Zoom, and TC units require significantly more tweaking to integrate into different rigs. They WILL do it, but this is just easier and faster.
Also, you can use whatever your favorite distortion pedal or rack unit is WITH this. Not only that, but if your preamps distortions are midi-capable, the one pedal board will control this and everything else in your rack using only a single cat-5 cable for power AND commands. ( I use the Tech-21 PSA1.1 as the preamp with this for most effects.)
I would like to address concerns from two other reviews on this site. Although both reviewers gave high ratings, there are three issues they point out:
One, this is not ideal for acoustic guitars. Well, that's true. The sound quality is certainly high enough in terms of frequency response, low noise and dynamic range. However, this was not designed for acoustic guitars. Acoustic guitar is a different animal altogether. Electric guitar rarely produces frequencies above 7 kHz. Even when it does, most guitar speakers do not reproduce above 5kHz. So, devices like this are not meant for acoustic guitars. This and all others (Line 6, Roland, Digidesign Eleven-rack etc.) are EQ'd for electric guitars.
Two: The same reviewer laments he cannot change delay times without changing patches. Well, that's true if you must change only with a foot pedal. But I know you can adjust any parameter on-the-fly from the front panel. Also, using the Digitech control pedal, you CAN access the tap tempo function in real time. You just have to set that function up in advance. Not only that, but you can have the same tempo-change work in sync with other midi-capable devices, all at the tap of a single switch on the floor. You just have to know how to set up each device in the chain for midi control.
Three: One reviewer doesn't like the computer interface. Well, he may be right. The reason I like this unit is because I DO NOT NEED a computer to use it. I have never accessed the Digitech website for updates and never hooked this up to my computer except for recording. It works perfectly and I do not need a manual to operate it.
I like the fact that it works just like an old-fashioned guitar amp. I can operate real knobs for all basic adjustments ( gain, EQ, volume) and get to any other effect parameter in one or two buttons.
If you intend to use this live, just get the control pedal board too. Even with the control board this is less expensive than most other high-end rack effects units, yet it has ALL the pro features that count:
True Stereo operation
Balanced (noiseless) XLR outs.
Superb time based effects and supreme reverbs.
Great compression algorithms
Good heavy distortions.
Beautiful lush choruses that don't "suck" tone.
Any delay you can need from pristine digital to ducking to lo-fi analog.
Intelligent Pitch for diatonic harmony
tunable Wahs and the unique "yay-ya" of Digitech
A cadre of weird effects that make Japanese cartoon noises, synth sounds and other quasi-musical cacophony.
Package all that in one rack space with an easy-to-use pedal board that attaches with a single Cat-5 cable... This is also the most convenient all-in-one electric guitar effects unit. It is also the best bargain too. If you want the greatest number of effects in the cheapest package, check out Line 6 PODs. If you want PROFESSIONAL MUSICAL effects for electric guitar in a rack unit, this is the best bargain.
Like the (excellent) G-System, this allow us to use our favorite analog effects pedals for distortion or anything else. You are not "locked-in" to just the internal effects. This costs substantially less than the G-system though.
Even the excellent G-system does not include true balanced xlr out. Instead, TC uses "pseudo-balanced" outs. Those are OK for short cable runs inside a rack, but for all-pro noise-free operation, (especially for long runs or in noisy studio environments) nothing beats a true balanced connection with real balancing transformers like this has.
My current studio / live rig has the PSA 1.1 as the core preamp, controlled through this via midi along with a TC G-major for certain special circumstances. It gives me everything I ever wanted in a guitar rig, and the whole shebang fits into three spaces. One (cat-5) cable connects the pedal board. No other external power or audio connections are needed. Simple is good. It has been reliable and sounds great. It is easy to use and cost me far less than other options.