A Desirable Delay
MXR 1500 Digital Delay
The MXR 1500
Mike Shea discovers that some delays are well worth experiencing
Many guitarists or certainly bass players may not see the significance of a delay unit that has a frequency response of up to 20 Khz. This kind of thinking shows a lack of foresightedness. Why purchase a unit that you'd be ashamed to bring into a top recording studio when you can now afford a truly professional model? Additionally, with the growth of home recording studios either yourself or a musician friend will (if not already) be in need of a quality delay line.
True, for common delay effects like doubling vocals, flanging guitars or even pre-delaying a send to reverberation, you don't need a 20Hz to 20Khz bandwidth than the common 12 to 14 KHz most inexpensive units can handle.
I'll give you just a couple of such experiences that I've run into. For example, during a basic twenty-four track recording session the best take was flawed by a drummer's miss-timing of a single high-hat beat. This would normally not be a big deal, but everyone involved found it irritating and felt that it might throw them off-tempo on subsequent overdubs. No matter how hard he concentrated, the drummer was not able to hit that beat on time and after I spent more than enough time trying to get him to get it right (about ten minutes at £60 per hour), I saw that his frustration was causing diminishing returns (he was getting further and further off the mark) and I turned to a digital delay line. I simply patched the original high-hat track through a £1100 18Khz bandwidth unit and back to a separate track and set the delay time so that the high-hat beat previous to the one that was missed was delayed on the second track by an amount that caused it to fall into tempo perfectly. I recorded this delayed beat then set up a bounce then set up a bounce back to the original track and punched it in. All in all it took about three minutes. Granted, I could have used a unit with only 14Khz bandwidth, but I would have heard the difference; I get paid to be a perfectionist.
Often I have to deal with digital sync tracks that are recorded in such a way as to cause overdubs to be slightly out of time with the original. In this case it is necessary to flip the tape over and run it backwards with the sync track through a delay line in order to back up the sync track a bit. This gives the processor time to hear the command and think about the instructions so that it can give you an output that is in time. The two requirements here are both variability at short delay times and a frequency response that can handle the sync code. Both are no problem for the MXR 1500 which is distributed by Atlantex. As a last example of professional delay usage we'll take stereo placement. Here, by using a slight amount of delay, you can place an instrument in your stereo field and not have that placement affected if the listener is positioned off-centre. To operate properly in this function a delay must be able to handle any instrument and therefore any frequency range.
With all it's sophistication the £442.50 MXR 1500 is still extremely simple to operate. All controls and connections are straight ahead. Input and output are via ¼" phone jacks with the input level set by a high/low rear panel switch and aided by a two colour LED indicator. This unit's range of input levels is greater than 7.17mV to 3.323 volts which covers just about every interface I can think of. The effect can be completely bypassed either via front panel button or rear panel connection to foot switch, this setting also being indicated via LED.
The unit has three delay range buttons (15mS, 150 mS and 1.5 Sec) and a manual tuning pot to set your delay time. This delayed signal can be mixed with the dry signal to any degree as well as have its phase inverted. The 1500 also has the ability to loop a signal via infinite repeat, again controlled by either front panel button or rear panel connection to foot switch with an LED showing setting. The modulation section works in conjunction with the delay selected and renders a depth of up to ten to one ratio with the sweep of this range occurring anywhere from ten times a second to once every ten seconds.
"it might take state-of-the-art recording studio owners a little while to accept this as a professional unit, but I guarantee you that they will."
As with any quality unit priced this inexpensively there are a few trade-offs as far as features go. It would be impossible for MXR to have included a readout of the delay time and have kept the unit's price down. The lack of power on/off switching doesn't bother me too much, but I would like to have fuse protection for my own peace of mind.
Finally, unlike units costing as much as three times the price of the 1500, its delay modulation is controlled by only a single waveform. MXR states this to be a sine wave, but I found it to be more in between the smooth rolling hill-like sweep of a sine and the sharper rise and fall of a triangle wave. For my money, if I had to choose only one waveform this would be the one. It's unfortunate that MXR didn't allow for an external sweep waveform input like that from a synthesizer via rear panel jack. Again, cost effectiveness must come into play.
All in all the MXR 1500 is truly a professional, high-quality piece of audio gear at a great price. I'd have to give this unit a rave review. Any musician who purchases a 1500 will never outgrow it in terms of technical ability. Furthermore it might take state-of-the-art recording studio owners a little while to accept this as a professional unit, but I guarantee you that they will.
I spoke with Mr. John Pape at MXR who explained that the transformer has a pieco temperature fuse on the primary winding so that the unit is in fact internally fused. He also stated that a jack for an external oscillator source to control the modulation was possible, but had been left out for cost reasons. However, should anyone want to have this feature it would be a fairly simple modification and he would be glad to send the instructions.
Review by Mike Shea