Hands-On Review:DigiTech Vocal 300 and Vx400


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DigiTech Vocal 300 and Vx400

The singer-songwriter's solution

By Jesse Burner

 

Working in an acoustic duo called Benson Burner with my buddy Eric Benson, we play everything from small coffee houses to college concerts, sometimes using our own PA and other times plugging into the house system. In the latter case, we miss having control of our effects and vocals.

 

DigiTech Vocal 300 and Vx400 Vocal 300: voice vitamins
Recently Eric bought a DigiTech Vocal 300, hoping that it would give him more control over his vocal sound regardless of the venue. I was skeptical that a floor pedal selling for the cost of an inexpensive mic could deliver high-quality effects. As I scanned the comprehensive list of available effects I became even more dubious.

 

Not long ago, we got together to rehearse for an upcoming benefit and Eric pulled out his new Vocal 300. Plugging his microphone intothe unit, he ran another cable to our 6-channel powered mixer, called up the Plate Reverb (one of 8 available reverbs), and started singing. My doubts began to dissolve. The reverb was rich and dense with no ringing or artifacts. It reminded me of the reverb in my favorite rack effects processor. He then dialed in a combo patch with chorus, reverb, and delay, and I was sold. In addition to the reverbs, digital and analog delays, and scads of cool modulation effects, there's a great compressor to smooth out the peaks, a 3-band EQ to shape your tone, and some wild effects for those moments of insanity.

 

Connections include mini, XLR, and TRS I/O plus a 1/4" stereo output. The 1/4" and mini inputs let you connect a CD player or other line-level devices. I found this is a cool way to dial in effects that match the original recordings of our cover tunes.

 

The operational layout is logical and simple enough even for beginners while the power and depth of the unit should satisfy the most demanding users. With a cursory glance at the user's guide, I was able to quickly tweak the delay times and other parameters to suit my tastes, and the 40 slots to store my custom presets are generous enough for all my needs.

 

Click to Enlarge Express yourself
The V300's expression pedal lets you control up to 3 parameters in each preset. We put this to use right away. On our acoustic version of "Money for Nothing," I've often thought how cool it would be to have a delay that created an echo on certain parts of the chorus. I quickly created a preset with reverb, a little chorus, and a very light 160ms delay for the rest of the song, and then got creative with the expression pedal. By assigning the delay time and level parameters to the pedal, I was able to quickly shift the delay time to 800ms and boost the level so it was more prominent. The effect was exactly what I had imagined and we used it in our next show. There are countless ways to milk the magic from the V300 using the expression pedal. You can set up a crossfade so that when the pedal is all the way up you have reverb and a slap echo, and when fully depressed, you've got reverb and a lush, sparkly chorus. Mid-pedal positions offer various blends of all three effects. The handsfree operation allows seamless changes without missing a note while singing or playing.

 

Vx400: mutant big brother
Just days later Musician's Friend asked me to review the DigiTech Vx400. I logged onto their site and found it was the souped-up, turbocharged relative of the Vocal 300. Wanting to surprise Eric, I didn't mention the review assignment. As it turned out, I was the one who was surprised. I couldn't believe how much the Vx400 has to offer! It has all the effects and features of the 300 and a whole lot more.

 

Click to Enlarge The I/O includes an XLR input with mic preamp and phantom power, stereo headphone output, stereo 1/4" line inputs, and a very useful USB port which I'll get to in a moment.

 

DigiTech has built in 16 models of the kind of mics we drool overbut can't afford. They also include a30-pattern drum machine that makes honing your rhythm chops a lot more satisfying and useful than working with a metronome. Using one of the patterns, I came up with an entirely new rhythm for a song I was working on.

 

The Magic Bus
The USB connection transforms the Vx400 into a full-fledged computer recording interface. You can stream four channels of audio into your computer with simultaneous stereo playback. Simply switch to the recording mode and the footswitches function as recorder controls. Included ProTracks PC recording software delivers all the advantages of computer-based tracking including full-screen displays, pull-down menus for editing and setup, and recording time limited by your hard-drive storage space. You can send a processed stereo signal to your PC along with a mono dry signal and re-process the signal via reamping using any of the models or effects. The interface and software alone are worth the asking price.

 

Given these space constraints, I've just scratched the surface of these boxes. Surf over to the Musician's Friend Web site. They've posted both units' owner's manuals to get their entire, impressive stories.

 

Features & Specs

 

 

Vocal 300 Vocal Effects Processor:Vx400 Vocal Modeling Floor Processor
  • Up to 7 effects at once
  • Up to 4 parameters per effect
  • 24-bit A/D converters
  • Balanced XLR I/O
  • 1/4" stereo TRS output
  • Line input
  • DigiTech Vocal 300 .pdf
Both units include these effects:
  • Mic pre and voice characters
  • Compression
  • EQ
  • Noise Gate
  • Chorus
  • Flanger
  • Phaser
  • Tremolo
  • Vibrato
  • And 10 more effectsX
  • Full-featured vocal/acoustic effects processor
  • Multiple vocal character selections
  • 16 high-end mic models
  • Phantom power
  • Ultra-low noise preamp
  • 24-bit A/D converters
  • 2-way USB audio interface
  • Built-in drum machine
  • ProTracks recording software
  • 40 user, 40 factory presets
  • 19 programmable effects
  • Expression pedal
  • Instrument input
  • Stereo 1/4" line I/O
  • Balanced stereo 1/4" and XLR outputs
  • CD monitor input
  • Chromatic tuner
  • Included power supply