Ibanez SDR1000 Digital Reverb/Delay
...And comes back again to cast judgement on a machine which carries a hefty price tag for a good reason...
The Ibanez SDR-1000 is a 16-bit programmable digital reverb/delay. Considering that elsewhere in this magazine there is a review of the Roland DEP-5 multi processor offering simultaneous 16-bit programmable reverb/delay, chorus and equalisation for £675, it would seem that the SDR's price tag of £899 is a little steep. And for the home recordist with limited budget this may actually be the final conclusion. But if you care to look a little deeper into the ways and workings of the SDR you will see that it is somewhat special.
One of the main points about this box that makes it unusual is that it is a two channel device. Not just stereo, you understand, but actually two channel. It has two separate channels that can be programmed independently to give two mono effects or which can be used in lock for true stereo. Many, in fact almost all, digital effects units claiming stereo operation, even those with two inputs and two outputs, are really only operating in pseudo stereo in that they may allow the two halves of a stereo signal to pass through them intact, but they will be summed into mono before being converted into digital for processing. This apparently foul deception is actually of little significance for normal applications — after all, who can tell the difference between 'real' stereo reverb and simulated variety? But the thing is that such machines only require one set of A to Ds whilst the Ibanez box is actually offering you two processors in a single compact unit, complete with two separate sets of everything.
In today's MIDI-age where one might have a whole MIDI-driven arrangement being recorded at once onto a pair of tracks, it is almost always useful, if not absolutely necessary to have two different reverb or delay effects at the same time. In this light the SDR-1000 appears particularly pleasing. The likes of the Roland DEP-5 and the Yamaha SPX-90 may offer more types of effect for less money, but you can only put one discrete channel of audio through them at a time. You can't put reverb on the snare whilst adding repeat echo to the synth line, for instance, whereas with the SDR it's a cinch.
The degree to which you can programme the SDR is unusually fine. The reverb time can be adjusted over four frequency bands: Low, Low Mid, High Mid and High. It also has control over both the pre-delay time and the early reflection time/level, the first being the time between the original sound and the onset of the full body of reverb, the second being the time delay between the original sound and the arrival of... er, well the early reflection; which in real life is the first wave of reflected sound to reach the listener and thus, in psycho-acoustic terms, indicates how far away the nearest wall (or other room boundary) is, and thus gives an indication of how big the room is. Anyway, having individual control over each of these parameters means that you can tailor more exactly the space into which you want to put your sound. This may all be a source of unnecessary confusion to you, and you may prefer the Alesis Midiverb-type approach where you are given 64 very good preset effects with absolutely nothing programmable. But for the reverb cognoscenti, this SDR gives you another level of control and creativity altogether.
As if such capabilities weren't enough, it's also capable of multi-tap delay effects with up to 20 taps, and there is also a built-in four band equaliser operating at 100Hz, 400Hz, 1.6kHz and 6.4kHz. A sweepable function would be a nice plus and the HF centre frequency is a bit low, but it is still a very useful thing to have.
The controls are laid out with brilliant simplicity. I have to admit to finding it necessary to read the manual a bit, but having done so the Ibanez master plan became clear to me.
Below the well proportioned display window (from which all useful information can be gleaned) are to be found five buttons with built-in LEDs: Memory, Write, Edit, eq and MIDI. To the right of the display are 14 more buttons, again with in-built LEDs, and having selected one of the big five to get you into a given operational mode, certain of the 14 start flashing to indicate that they are pertinent to that mode. Depressing any one of these causes its LED to stay on continuously and the display changes to show the relevant information. Two nudge buttons are then used to increase or decrease the value of that parameter.
It's dead simple and because it's split up so clearly into the five sections, everything remains very clear in one's mind. But if you were thinking that it's all a matter of buttons and nudgers, think again, for in addition to the dual concentric input gain knob and associated dual LED bargraph, there are two separate programmable knobs for dry and effect levels. This is preferable to simply having a dry/effect balance control because it means that you can forget about the dry sound (as you would want to when using it with a mixer) and still accurately adjust the actual output level of the unit to match the next stage of the chain, and being programmable means that precise preset balances can be recalled with each programme.
As is standard these days, there is MIDI control of programme number selection, and for stage use and for self-op home recording where you want to keep your hands free, the various foot controllable parameters of the SDR are very useful. By connecting a standard momentary footswitch to both the 'Memory Up' and 'Memory Down' jack sockets the 100 memories can be sequenced in either direction. Holding your foot down causes a progressive increase in speed of change. Two more standard footswitch sockets allow control over 'Hold On/Off' and 'Effect On/Off'. There's also an Ibanez 'Intelligent Foot Controller' IFC60 which can give you remote selection of 128 and their corresponding effect programme numbers (according to how you've programmed it), although it can't be used at the same time as the MIDI remote selection facility.
This is really two completely independent processors in one, which is not to be confused with a single processor of a number of effects at once — such as the Roland DEP-5. It is only capable of reverb and delay (plus eq), but the level of programmability is very fine allowing wide creative scope for unusual effects, and anyway it is not unusual to want two or more reverb/delay devices at once. The quality of the effect is good with a noise floor similar to the Roland and the Yamaha SPX although, with a sampling rate of 26kHz, I was surprised to find a frequency band width of only 10kHz (less than the others mentioned) and this may concern you more or less depending on the quality of your set up.
It's a pity that they didn't include any form of LFO with which to modulate the delay to achieve flanging/phasing effects, especially as there are two independent delay lines making it possible to get some very strong effects. If this had been included the SDR could have laid claim to doing virtually as much as the DEP-5, but with the advantage of having two channels. This would be quite something and would more than justify the extra expenditure. Perhaps a possibility for the MkII version. The SDR1000 will appeal to those of you who are more into total control and who have a little more money to spend than those who might find themselves going for something like the Roland DEP5 or the Yamaha SPX90 (both of which are excellent in their own ways) for the sake of simplicity and spondulicks.
Ibanez SDR1000 Digital Reverb/Delay - RRP: £895
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