Korg DRV1000 Digital Reverb
The Japanese fight back in the battle to design cheap digital reverb, with an all-preset rack-mounting machine for under £350. Don Goldstein has the details.
IN MODERN POP, there are two distinct kinds of reverb treatment. The first encompasses normal acoustic spaces like bedrooms, concert halls, and underground palaces; the second covers special effects like gated and reverse reverbs, once the sole province of Phil Collins and Nile Rodgers, but now an overdone and if anything slightly passé way of getting people onto a dancefloor.
If you're an aspiring musician and you need a cheap way of getting hold of both these families of treatment, you need a digital reverb unit.
Alesis have paved the way here with the MIDIverb and Microverb, machines which achieve their affordable asking price by dispensing with, among other things, that incredibly useful but ultimately underused quality - programmability.
Korg's DRV1000, with its 16-bit quantisation and 20Hz-20kHz frequency response, follows a similar path. There are no continuously variable parameters to fiddle with here, just 64 preset reverb patches which you select with two rotary switches. The first of these offers a choice of eight basic reverb patterns (imitations of Small and Large Halls, Vocal Plates, Garages, and so on), while the second offers eight different reverb times for each.
The longest reverb time the Korg has to offer is 10 seconds (the largest of the Large Halls), so it's not much good for Enoesque sustained ambient treatments. Shortest decay time is 15Oms, and it's available - not surprisingly - only in the context of the Gated and Reverse reverb treatments.
Subjectively, the DRV1000 shows itself to be useful in a number of ways, like adding a warm, subtle ambience to vocals (Vocal Plate); thickening up sustained synth noises such as strings (Room); and offering a variation on gated drum sound (Gated Reverb). I say "variation" because the Korg won't quite reproduce the Collins/Rodgers gated snare sound. What it creates instead is a series of multiple echoes, tightly packed but certainly identifiable as such, which lead to the treatment gaining a rather coarse character.
The distinction between some of the Korg's more general-purpose treatments can become a bit blurred. The Instruments Plate, for instance, is little more than a brighter version of the Vocal Plate, while the Garage pattern is barely distinguishable from either of them.
Still, there's a good selection of rich, detailed and pretty realistic reverb treatments on offer here, and though drums and other transient signals cause the Korg's lack of density to make itself apparent, most synth, guitar and vocal inputs are enough to mask the trait entirely.
And there are a couple of ways in which these treatments can be personalised to suit your own musical requirements. For example, a High Damp feature makes the high-frequency content of the reverb signal die away before the low frequencies. Switching this into a room treatment, say, takes you from bright enamel tiles to a few yards of Allied Carpets' best January Sale Axminster. This is especially handy if you find (as I did) that some of the Korg's longer reverb treatments can be a bit on the bright side when used in combination with a tinkly DX7 patch.
Then there are the two footswitch connections. The first of these is called Long: press the footswitch, and the reverb pattern you've selected is instantly switched to its longest possible reverb decay time - good for turning a small hail into a cavern at the end of a piano solo or poignant vocal line.
The second is called Cancel: this obliterates the treated part of the signal but leaves the untreated (or dry) part intact.
Anything else? Well, the input level LED indicators (green for normal, red for overload) are a bit on the optimistic side, though adjusting the input level to save your signal from clipping soon becomes second nature.
There's a couple of seconds' worth of mute time whenever you switch from one program to another, and two rotary controls are not the best way of selecting from 64 options; you have to go through a lot of clicking to get from a three-second Small Hall to a one-second Vocal Plate.
And the lack of MIDI means you can't select programs from a footswitch or from a synthesiser front panel, which is a pity.
Otherwise, a more than competent performance. There are enough treatments here to keep most keyboard players happy, and although the Korg's coarseness may be a worry in demanding recording environments, it's unlikely to be noticed live.
And in any case, if things go on as they are, gated and reversed drum sounds will have died a horrible death by the end of '87, and then we can all go back to listening to real acoustic spaces. Or at least, digital replicas of them.
Price £333 including VAT