Hands-On Review:A floor processor evolution that's a recording revolution
I have a brand-new best friend that lets me step all over him. He just does what I ask him to do, and does it very, very well, without complaining. In fact, he seems to like it.
I'm talking (of course) about the RPx400, a truly innovative new product from Digitech. In the short amount of time I've spent with this unit, it has integrated itself into every facet of my musical life. Wherever my guitar goes, it goes. With its incredible versatility, there's nothing I can't do with it!
Up to your neck in sound
For starters, it's a sweet floor processor that has 26 totally tweakable effects with 120 presets. There are 40 factory presets and 40 Digitech exclusive presets designed by guys like Clint Lowery of Sevendust, Acey Slade of Murderdolls, Dan Donegan of Disturbed, and Chad Kroeger of Nickelback. The other 40 are left wide open for whatever you can dream up. There are 12 amp models, an acoustic guitar model, 6 cab models, and 4 different simulated mic placements for the cabs. There's even a model that lets you choose between using single coils or humbuckers, no matter what type of pickups you actually have.
The quality of the sounds the engineers used for the processor is a huge plus, too. I was shocked by the superior tonal colors that each effect produced. Part of the reason, it turns out, is that Digitech wisely decided to employ full 24-bit processing to really boost the characteristics of the individual effects. Another thing that's great about the RPx400 is that I didn't have to pore over the manual for a day and a half to start playing with it. I got it out of the box, plugged it in and was zoning out on cascading layers of echo and smooth harmonic distortion before I knew it.
The RPx400 also includes features that ensure you'll never lose any of those precious sounds, which is a huge insurance policy. We've all been there before. Last night at practice, or the gig, you concocted a killer effect combination that blew everyone's minds (and ears), but today you can't quite seem to remember exactly what the ingredients were ... Well, the RPx400 will make sure those sounds never slip away because after you store it in the presets, you can upload it to your PC via the built-in USB port. Then when you want that sound again, you can just hook up the USB again and pull it back into your RPx400. You have the capability to create a huge bank of presets that you can make withdrawals from any time you want. You're only limited by the capacity of your hard drive!RPx400 really starts to shine when you delve into its incredible recording abilities. Once you connect the processor to your computer through the USB port, you have handsfree access to some of the most advanced sound editing and recording software on the planet. X-Edit is an awesome editor and librarian program that will store all of your sounds and enable you to twist and turn them any way you want. The RPx400 includes recording software called Pro Tracks and it's a gem. A special collaboration between Digitech and Cakewalk, Pro Tracks features the incredible capabilities of the Sonar recording engine coupled with the ease of use and intuitive design that you'd expect from a Digitech product.
I was blown away by how simple it was to lay down tracks using the RPx400. I didn't even have to look at the computer screen! It was all right there in front of me on the processor. If you can stomp on a fuzzbox, you can use this setup. With only three buttons and a clearly labeled interface, it can't get any easier. Just push the two buttons on the right in tandem to activate the recording foot controls, then press the record footswitch to start recording. The RPx400 and Pro Tracks will take care of the rest.
After I'd put together a couple of scratch guitar parts, I found another awesome feature. The RPx400 lets you record two signals-one wet stereo signal and one dry mono signal. Then you can route the dry signal back through the processor to add any characteristics to the track you want. This is a very cool trick that pros use to fill out songs all the time.
And that's when it hit me. With guitar in hand, RPx400 on the floor, and my laptop on the desk, I realized I was standing in my own personal, but very professional recording studio. Not only that, but it was a studio I understood and could use anywhere, anytime with minimal fuss and setup time. To those of us who are a wee-bit technologically challenged, that's a pretty good feeling.
The RPx400 also includes a drum machine with 30 patterns, a high-quality mic pre-amp with phantom powered XLR input and level control, and stereo-balanced line inputs so you can throw drums, keyboards, and vocals onto songs, all without leaving the safety and simplicity of the RPx400. This boils down to one thing: This setup makes laying down guitar tracks and songs stupid easy. So now there's no excuse for not jumping into recording.
Time to play
With its 4 in/4 out I/O and USB port, you can finally get the exact same sounds in the studio as you do onstage and vice versa. Live, all you have to do is set up the processor as you normally would with one vital exception. Digitech ingeniously included two XLR outputs that allow you to send a stereo signal direct from your RPx400 to the board. Another aspect of its live capabilities is the XLR mic input that lets you use the RPx400 as a vocal effects processor, which rules for open mic night and solo singer/songwriter acoustic gigs.
All in all, the RPx400 is just another example of Digitech doing what they do best: distilling complicated concepts and gear into interfaces that let guitarists do more cool stuff without having to earn a degree in engineering along the way. Which is good, because it leaves more time for what's really important-playing your guitar!