Dod R910/Cutec FX500
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Both new, both time manipulation machines and both standard 19 inch rackmountable. One is cheap but costs a good deal more than getting drunk, the other is expensive but costs a good deal less than buying a brewery. Both have valid applications in their respective price ranges.
Cutec are best known for their MR 402 4-track cassette recorder and have aimed this Flanger/Delay unit at that end of the home studio market and the semi-pro stage musician. On the other hand with Dod, even if you haven't heard of them before, you're likely to have trodden on them as they have had a range of effects pedals available for some time and have more recently introduced a range of rack mounting effects to the country from their native Salt Lake City. Their "digital delay system" incorporates high quality circuitry throughout and its presence in larger studios and on the professional stage would not prove inappropriate.
The Cutec unit is an analogue device using BBD (Bucket Brigade Delay) techniques which for short delays are a perfectly viable method of delaying audio signals, a point that should not be forgotten amid digital mania. Although digital techniques offer far superior quality over longer delays they also require the signal to undergo conversion from analogue to digital and back to analogue again, and at present this is the costly bit. Thus for short delays such as those required for phasing, flanging and chorusing, it may not be worth the added cost of the conversion circuitry. Cutec have taken this view for their FX 500 and have consequently managed to keep the price down without unnecessarily compromising quality.
Both units are driven by similar controls with all inputs and outputs reached via standard jacks. Delay times on the Cutec are switchable over three basic ranges, 5-40, 25-200 and 45-360 milliseconds, and fine tuned by a rotary delay time control to anywhere between these two extremes. The 5-40ms range should be selected for flanging, and a modulation section will sweep the delay between two points governed by the speed and depth controls. A tweak on the feedback control will thicken the flanging effect and the relative quantities of dry and delayed sound are controlled by the delay level.
Operation of the Dod unit is very similar with four pushbuttons for the basic delay ranges each marked with their associated time and effect and illuminated by a rectangular red LED when selected. They are Flange 14ms, Chorus 56ms, Double 224ms and Echo (the only one with a red knob!!) 1900ms. The delay time control used in conjunction with these switches will take the delay from x1 down to an eighth of these times. One may deduce that 1900 milliseconds is almost two seconds and at a quoted 15kHz bandwidth this is very good going. It basically means that anything you stick into it should come out sounding much the same only a bit later on — the "ultimate delay" being one where the sound would be exactly the same were it ever to come out (scope here for the con artist I think). The R-910 offers positive or negative feedback which allows the option of combing one's flange with peaks or troughs, aurally speaking; this is subjectively more or less satisfying depending on the length of one's delay. Modulation on the R-910 is particularly smooth and wide ranging allowing very creamy short delay effects.
The maximum 360ms delay on the Cutec unit should prove long enough for most timed repeats whereas the Dod has a repeat hold facility allowing infinite repeat of the memory content without deterioration, an effect which begins to offer interesting possibilities when available on a machine with a memory as big as this.
Pseudo stereo output is available from both units in the form of phase inversion. This is a very interesting effect which adds an impression of space to the sound and gives an increased sense of movement to flanging and chorus. Care must be exercised, however, if the results are likely to be summed back to mono as the inverted phases will cancel each other out and, hey presto, no delay! (a rather nifty disclaimer for the "ultimate delay" con artist). Incidences of this nature will occur in such situations as your stereo demo being played back on a mono cassette machine or feeding your stereo outputs into two channels on your mono backline amp.
Footswitch operation of the delay is possible on both units with the addition of a modulation on/off socket on the Cutec. Instead of this facility on the Dod there is a control voltage socket which allows manual (or whatever the foot equivalent is) sweeping using a standard 0-100 ohm volume pedal. The repeat hold facility can also be operated by footswitch, and Dod also provide a dry output.
It would not be cricket to compare these two units with one costing more than three times the price of the other. It is, however, appropriate to point out that the principle of "different strokes..." is particularly relevant when buying effects.
Although the Cutec FX 500 with its 6kHz bandwidth would not be my first choice for open reel multitracking, it would prove a very versatile and useful tool in any cassette-system-based studio à la X-15 ou Portastudio, and would comfortably supply all your time based effects very economically. Using it with footswitches it would also provide an effects System on stage, rather more sophisticated than most pedals, for only the extra price of getting out of order half a dozen times less after (or before) gigs.
On the other hand, you would have to have a rather expensive habit to be able to afford the Dod R-910 as the result of abstaining from vice. Nevertheless it also has a place in the market. Where quality must not be compromised this unit can be used with confidence on any stage or in any studio.
In their brochure, Dod state that their effects are for you whether "you're in the studio, on stage, out on the road or jammin' in the garage". The Dod R-910 will certainly excel in any of these environments, but anyone using the Cutec FX 500 "on stage, out on the road or jammin' in the garage" would also command attention with a very respectable effects sound... until some bugger walks in with a Dod.
R-910: £523.25 FX 500: £156.00
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Review by Martin Sheehan
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