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Roland DEP-5 Multi Effects Processor

Studio Test

An effective answer to Yamaha's SPX90? Jim Betteridge seems to think so


Roland DEP5; An effects processor with knobs on


It seems that the DEP-5 is Roland's answer to Yamaha's epoch-making SPX-90 multi effects processor. The latter took everyone by storm a while back by making a whole range of high quality digital effects available in a single 1U 19" rackmounting unit for under £600. Studio owners all over the country stepped back in amazement only to leap forward again brandishing large cheques and eager requests for armfuls of SPXs. There is one major drawback with this item, however; you can generally only use one of the effects at a time, although it is possible to have gated reverb. And to be honest the gate and compressor are so weird in use that they really won't replace the standard device. Even so, it's an amazing bit of kit and it is not uncommon for studios of reasonable size to have several of them as a quick and flexible source of the right effect always at hand.

Roland React



It's taken a while for Roland to react, but I do believe that the DEP-5 is the next stage of the revolution and will be the cause of further backward steps of amazement and a similar flurry of cheque writing. The main point here is that, although it offers slightly fewer effects, it can manage three of them at the same time. This means that with just the one device you can equalise, chorus and add reverb, or alternatively equalise, chorus and add repeat echo, or ADT. Sadly it isn't possible to have reverb and delay at the same time. In practice the only effects that you might miss from the Yamaha are pitch change, vibrato, freeze and auto-pan, but for the home recordist who can't afford more than one processor and who also wants compactness, the advantages of the DEP-5 are very convincing.

A +4dB or -20dB line level switch makes it useable with almost any piece of equipment and it can operate in full stereo (two in, two out), or in pseudo stereo (one in, two out). This is as opposed to the SPX-90 which only has a single input and two outputs. Having a stereo input is very useful if you want to use the device in-line with the outputs of a stereo keyboard, drum machine or mixer.

Processors, Algorithms and Memories



There are basically three fully programmable processor sections involved at a time: equaliser (three-band with fully parametric mid), reverb or delay depending on the setting, and chorus. There are 11 set ways (called algorithms) in which these can be strung together to give different combinations of effects. There are then 99 memories in which to store the various effects that you come up with. The first 29 of these initially hold factory preset effects which show you basically what the 11 algorithms can do, and these can be used as a basis for your own experiments, the results of which can be stored in the remaining 70 memories. In fact it is also possible to over-write the 29 factory presets safe in the knowledge that the originals can always be recalled by simply holding a certain button down when powering up.

Operationally the Roland offers the significant advantage over the Yamaha of proper rotary knobs in addition to its two nudge buttons, as compared to the exclusive use of nudge buttons on the SPX. There is also a unique two-speed facility with the Roland's nudge buttons: they are actually in the form of rocker switches — you push the top to increase at a moderate speed and the bottom to decrease. But, if you push the top and then whilst holding the top in, push the bottom as well, it dramatically speeds up. In practice this works extremely well and saves much of the frustration incurred with nudgery, waiting around whilst your delay time ambles from 10ms to 1800ms.

It's a digital reverb

Another significant difference between the Roland and the SPX is that with the former, the effects actually change as you nudge through the memory numbers, whereas with the SPX you change the programme number and then push the 'Recall' button to actually bring it into play. This means that you can preset the next effect you need and then quickly punch it in at the precise moment of a performance. On the other hand it's an extra button to push, and for stage use, and perhaps certain home recording applications, the Roland does have a couple of very useful footswitch facilities including being able to cycle through the first eight memory locations into which you can put any of your 99 effects you wish (remembering that the original factory effects can be recalled at will). The other footswitch is for system bypass (effect in/out). It doesn't have the full remote control option that the SPX offers, however, and it has to be said that this is a very useful thing when you're doing everything yourself, sitting behind a synth and a mixer with a guitar on your lap.

The display is very clear and cleverly devised, and although the knobs are of necessity multi-function, it's all surprisingly un-confusing. MIDI patch change commands from an external device can also be used to produce a fully programmable effect selection from the DEP, and it can be set to respond on any of the 16 MIDI channels or in the 'Omni-On' mode. Thus the relevant effects could be easily called up from a sequencer as part of a MIDI system.

The Effects



The equaliser is quiet and I found it to be powerful and musically effective offering ±12dB at 100Hz and 10kHz with a mid section sweepable between 300Hz and 12kHz, making it more of a mid/high section than a simple mid. Its 'Q' can be adjusted between 0.2 and 9. The only complaint I have is that with all the controls set flat it wasn't quite transparent — there was a slight lack of top and a slight drop in gain, even though the unit's output level was up full. The only comment here is that when applying effects to sounds you generally end up equalising them anyway, and not having it perfectly flat to start off with didn't seem to worry me when I was using it for actual musical purposes.

...and a chorus too — at the same time

The delay offers a very useful 2000ms (two seconds) as opposed to the relatively puny 500ms provided by the SPX, although the SPX does allow independent programming of left and right output delay times for stereo repeats whereas the DEP simply splits the given delay time equally in half. For multiple repeats the Roland allows a programmable progressive HF roll-off so that each repeat gets duller and therefore apparently more distant — clever and effective. The chorus has adjustable speed, depth and feedback, is extremely quiet and effective and offers a wide range of effects that could be seen to cover the realms of phasing and flanging as well — the subjective differences are all a bit vague when it comes down to it anyway. There are four basic types of reverb offered — Room, Hall, Plate and Special and they all have programmable pre-delay, reverb time and HF roll off overtime. The quality of the reverb is very difficult to compare directly with the Yamaha because the two are so different, although I have to say that in trying to simulate a simple 'Big Live Room' effect, the Yamaha seemed more realistic to me. All the standard gated and backwards reverb effects are also easily had.

The technical performance specs are very similar. They both use 16-bit linear quantisation, with a 32kHz sampling rate (31.25 for the Yamaha), providing a 12kHz bandwidth and a signal-to-noise of 80dB (a figure of 75dB is quoted for the Yamaha reverb effect and 81dB for its delay). Although it costs a little more, the facility to have three important effects simultaneously and to be able to instantly eq your chorused, reverbed or delayed signal without copious replugging makes it very much worth it. This should be a huge success for Roland.

Roland DEP 5 Multi Effects Processor - RRP: £675


Also featuring gear in this article



Previous Article in this issue

Track Record: Rain or Shine

Next article in this issue

Ibanez SDR1000 Digital Reverb/Delay


International Musician & Recording World - Copyright: Cover Publications Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.

 

International Musician - Dec 1986

Recording World

Gear in this article:

Studio FX > Roland > DEP5


Gear Tags:

Digital FX
MultiFX

Review by Jim Betteridge

Previous article in this issue:

> Track Record: Rain or Shine

Next article in this issue:

> Ibanez SDR1000 Digital Rever...


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