Ibanez Dual Digital Reverb
Ibanez are late entrants to the fast-moving field of digital reverb products, but their new SDR 1000 unit has something different about it that caught the eye of reviewer Mark Jenkins. Read the review to find out what...
Mark Jenkins examines both channels of the new Ibanez SDR1000 dual digital reverb..
Digital reverb isn't a very long-established art, with the days of plate reverbs still fresh in the minds of many and the introduction of Yamaha's ground-breaking R1000 seemingly only a moment ago. The new Ibanez - we're assuming that SDR stands for Stereo Digital Reverb, which is exactly what's on offer - is twice as expensive as the Yamaha was at launch, and by no means a 'budget' machine like the Alesis MIDIVERB. But it has a host of outstanding features and very high quality, and bears the promise of more to come from this imaginative Japanese company.
The SDR1000 is the first experiment in digital reverb from Ibanez, who are likely to keep the present logo but come up with a new generic name for their pro audio products. Ibanez (who have recently launched a MIDI guitar system too) made their name with electric guitars and a series of inexpensive digital delays and harmonisers (notice the use of an 's' rather than a 'z'; Eventide have the copyright to the name 'Harmonizer', so Ibanez refer to their models as 'Harmonics/Delay' units).
The old Harmonics/Delay series now appears to be finished as Ibanez launch a completely new generation of effects and change their UK distribution for studio equipment from Summerfields to Fletcher, Coppock and Newman. FC&N don't have a lot of experience in pro audio gear, but they have enthusiasm for this product which, they feel, will quickly catch on. They've already sold one to session drummer Simon Phillips!
Of course, the SDR1000 faces a lot of stiff competition in the marketplace: Roland's SRV2000 at around £900, Yamaha's versatile SPX90 at £700 or so, and the upcoming Roland DEP-5, spring to mind - as does the combination of the Alesis MIDIVERB and MIDIFEX which all offer reverb, gating, chorus, panned echo, thickening and many other effects between them.
But of these units, the only one released so far with true stereo operation is the MIDIVERB/MIDIFEX design, which has independent left and right inputs and outputs on phono sockets. Independent yes, but not independently variable, since you must have the same program on both channels (although the effect will vary from one channel to the other on the 'stereo tap' program of the MIDIFEX).
The difference with the Ibanez SDR1000 is that its stereo channels are completely independent, so you can use them either together, separately in stereo, or independently as two mono reverbs or delays with different settings. Although it's billed as a reverb unit, the SDR1000 is almost as versatile as the Yamaha SPX90, with reverb, gate, multi-tap delay, pan and reverse on offer, and that makes £895 look like more of a bargain.
The SDR1000 comes in a one-unit 19" rack format with mounting ears attached permanently (unlike some of the older Ibanez designs on which they were optional) and is quite deep - about the same depth as the SPX90. All inputs and outputs are on the rear panel and the front panel is dominated by an eleven-digit LED window, power and bypass (with LED) switches, dual LED ladders for input gain indication, dual concentric input level controls for the two channels, independent Dry and Effect level controls, five Mode buttons under the LED window, + and - increment buttons and 14 function selector buttons, some with additional modes for setting EQ or MIDI parameters.
On the rear panel you'll find the following: fixed mains lead, MIDI Thru, MIDI In, Remote, Memory Down and Up (jacks), Effect On/Off and Hold On/Off (jacks), Ch1 and Ch2 inputs and outputs (jacks), Ch1 and Ch2 inputs and outputs (phonos) and an input level selector (+4dB or -20dB).
So, there's a wide selection of interfacing possibilities; we haven't mentioned the optional IFC 60 'intelligent' remote foot controller yet, but it's capable of calling up all the programs on the SDR1000 and has its own LED display. For the record, the quoted performance of the SDR1000 is as follows:
30 ROM memories
70 RAM memories
Frequency Response: 20Hz-10kHz
Dynamic Range: over 90dB
Sampling: 16 bit linear
Output impedance: 600 Ohms
The frequency response of 10kHz puts the unit on a par with the old Yamaha R1000 and Roland SRV2000, but is slightly lower than the MIDIVERB and Yamaha SPX90. Of course, the subjective effect of the reverb patches must be taken into account too, and we'll look at that later.
The SDR1000 is programmed with eight 'modes' which are labelled on its top panel: 0 (Hall), 1 (Room), 2 (Plate), 3 (Gate), 4 (Reverse), 5 (Dual Delay), 6 (Auto Panning) and 7 (Dual Reverb). These are all represented in the first 30 memory locations - the pre-programmed ROM effects - and each mode operates in a different way and has slightly different parameters available for editing.
ROM memory 00 is 'Large Hall', memory 01 is 'Strings Hall' and memory 02 is 'Piano Hall', while patches 03-05 cover various Rooms, 06-15 are Plates, 16-19 are Gates, 20-22 are Reverse effects, 23-25 are Dual Delays (with exotic names such as 'Bonanza Echo' and 'Apache Echo'), 26-27 are Auto Panning effects and 28-29 are Dual Reverb effects.
Hall Reverb (Mode 0) is largely adjusted using Reverb Time and Size parameters, although Early Reflection and several other parameters are also available. The function buttons to the right of the LED panel are marked with numbers as well as function names; to select the first patch in Hall mode, just go to Bank 0 with the +/- switches, then choose memory 0 with the 0 button (which just happens to double as Tap Select in Edit mode).
When you want to edit the reverb effect, you just hit the Edit button and select a parameter such as Size, Early Reflection time or whatever - all the available selections flash to prompt you to select one - and use the +/- buttons to alter the value shown in the last four digits of the LED display. The Memory number, Mode and Channel are constantly on display too.
Overall parameter possibilities depend on what mode is selected; Mode 0 has 16 'Sizes' for example, Mode 3 (Gate) has gate times between 1 and 300ms instead, while Mode4 (Reverse) has similar gate times but also a pre-delay parameter up to 255ms. Maximum reverb time in most modes is 99 seconds - the same as the Yamaha SPX90 and Roland SRV2000 and much more than you'll realistically ever need to use.
Let's look now at the control panel functions which allow you to select and edit memories. As you can see from the photo, some but not all of the buttons have two or three functions depending on whether you're in Memory, Edit or EQ Edit modes, though not all functions will always apply to a particular mode. All the modes do have programmable equalisation though! To gain access to this you simply hit EQ and one of the EQ parameters (marked in blue), and again make adjustments using the +/- keys. The EQ bands are centred at 100Hz, 400Hz, 1.6kHz and 6.4 kHz respectively and can make an enormous difference to the overall 'quality' of reverb effects obtained, depending on the input material.
You can copy programs and save the results of your editing efforts in memory locations 30 to 99 using Write; it's also possible to listen to the contents of a memory location before wiping over it.
Any MIDI patch number can be programmed to call up any SDR1000 memory, unlike the Alesis MIDIVERB which limits you to calling up one particular memory from the corresponding MIDI patch. At least on the Ibanez you don't have to shift all your keyboard patches about to suit your reverb!
To be honest though, the patch assignment system on the SDR1000 is very confusing. Remembering that memory 00 uses Mode 0 and is a Hall effect, but that 21 uses Mode 4 and is a Reverse effect is pretty difficult. It also seems odd to select modes with the +/- editing buttons and then go to the memory buttons. Surely two quick taps of a memory button would have done the job? Likewise, it might have been better to have had no ROM sounds at all, but to supply some factory effects and to allow the user to arrange them as he wishes rather than having a few of each kind of effect scattered about in the first 30 memories.
The SDR1000 isn't being credited with the versatility of the Yamaha SPX90, although it does offer reverb, reverse, echo, gate and pan effects in one mode or another.
Let's start with the Hall effects. With reverb times up to 99s they can obviously be pretty over-the-top. The basic sound is very clear and sparkling, belying the quoted 10kHz frequency response figure, and there's no sign of glitching or any other cyclical effects. If you use Hold on these long reverb times you can 'freeze' whatever's in memory and play new, untreated (dry) material over it if you wish.
Room sounds are suitably 'boxy', with a pre-delay up to 512ms and a reverb time up to 24.75s. They have a nice, enclosed feel to them, ideal for drums and guitars.
The Plate sounds are impressive too - pre-delay here is up to 572ms, and the sounds are great for vocals, with lots of depth.
On to the Gated sounds: program 17, the basic Snare gate, has a decay time of 159ms which is ideal, and the maximum gate 'open' time is 300ms (although the actual reverb time can still be 99s). The other Gate presets are recommended for Tom/Kick (163ms), for Double Gate applications (with a slight repeat of the gate effect) and for Long Gate effects, perhaps on cymbals.
The Reverse effects, as on the Alesis MIDIVERB and other units, are very much what you care to make of them. They can be useful on snares and sometimes on vocals, but they are special effects which must be used sparingly or boredom will set in.
The Auto Panning effects are sporadically useful too - you can choose pan speeds from 0.1 to 20Hz and a pan depth from 0 to 1 (100%) - although they aren't combined with any kind of reverb.
The Dual Delay functions allow you to use the SDR1000 as a digital delay with a programmable number of echo taps, from 1 to 6, each with up to 20 repeats. Maximum delay is 1001 ms (just over one second), maximum pre-delay is 256ms, whilst echo feedback can be in-phase or out with regard to the input, and the equaliser section too remains operational.
The Ibanez unit's two channels are completely independent in Dual Delay mode so you can set up two different (mono) effects and process different instruments through the SDR1000 simultaneously - a good compromise for home recording. Unfortunately, there's no onboard Modulation source for creating phasing/flanging effects.
The final mode, Dual Reverb, has all the same parameters as the Plate section but again makes the two channels completely independent. In this mode, the channel Edit function may indicate the availability of four channels rather than two; this of course isn't the case, it's just that Early Reflection has two parameters - Time and Level - to deal with, and these are distinguished on the SDR1000 display as 'channels 3 and 4', whereas in fact you're editing alternative parameters of channels 1 and 2.
The SDR1000 can operate in mono or stereo and the +4dB input level is recommended for synths and mixer send/return loops while -20dB is recommended for guitars and effects outputs.
The SDR1000 is pleasant and reasonably fast to use, and the MIDI implementation is good if you're into MIDI-controlled mixdowns. The output is very quiet so you should have no noise problems, and the basic reverb effects are clean, glitch-free, and sparkling to an extent which belies the 10kHz quoted bandwidth.
The method of selecting memories is a little daft and it would be nice to be able to dump the ROM sounds elsewhere in memory so that you could arrange patches in your own order rather than having a few in each mode stuck in the lower reaches of the memory.
The optional foot controller and the provision of plenty of footswitch inputs is appreciated for the solo recordist or for live use, and the LED display and control layout is clear and unambiguous despite several multiple functions. Being able to move and copy memories, synchronise or de-synchronise channels, and programme equalisation effects, is a large bonus.
On the whole, the SDR1000 found great favour in this household. I'd certainly use one and would probably buy one, although I'd want to check out the opposition first. But as a first attempt from Ibanez it's a great success...
RRP of the Ibanez SDR1000 is £895.