The Triple Delay
Engineer Gareth Stuart passes judgement on this high quality digital delay line with a difference. But what difference? You'll have to read our review to find out...
'Buy one, get two free!' could well be the motto for this digital delay. Gareth Stuart checks it out.
The TOA 310D is a 19" rack-mount digital delay line. As well as giving three separate delays of just under a second each from a single input source, it features a modulation section which lets you create a variety of other effects such as flanging and chorus. It retails at £473.80.
If you'd care to take a closer look at the accompanying photo, I'll give you a guided tour of the controls displayed...
Moving left to right, the Bypass button, when switched in, lets you listen to the direct (uneffected) signal only. It's useful for making quick comparisons between dry and delayed sounds. The Input level knob shows thoughtful design: in order to adjust the control you must first press and release it, to make it spring out. Once set to the optimum level (so that the red +6dB LED lights up) it may be depressed again. This, in theory, should prevent you or anyone else changing the setting inadvertently.
The main display panel is configured as three banks of three-digit numbers - one bank for each of the three independent audio output channels. It serves three functions, whereby you can change the delay times in millisecond steps, change the memory number, or change the MIDI channel number - all achieved via the set of increment/decrement buttons to the right of the display.
Moving along to the right, the micro switches labelled Memory, Recall, Store, MIDI, X Phase, 2(C) Phase, Regen, and Mod, allow you to store your sounds in the memories in some detail. For instance, your sound comprising delay times 50, 70, and 150 msec may also need a degree of regeneration. If a setting is stored in the memory with the Regen light illuminated, then that button will also light up when the memory is recalled.
Before advancing, I'd just like to pause to clarify the X Phase and 2(C) Phase buttons - both designed to give sounds more space and width. The X Phase (cross phase) key reverses the phase of the left (1) and right (3) delayed signals, and then pans them to their opposite position, ie. left to right, and right to left. It's a subtle effect, and is intended to enhance flanging and chorus treatments, which it does quite well. The 2(C) Phase key adds a new dimension to the sound by reversing the phase of the second delay time.
Seven short sliders govern the individual delay levels, the amount by which delays are regenerated to give more repeats, the ratio of direct to delayed signal, and the degree of modulation. These are a good idea as they provide an instant visual indication of the levels you've set. The fact that the slider caps are fluorescent-coloured and 'glow in the dark' helps also.
That covers the general rundown of functions, time now to present a more detailed account of some of their practical applications...
Creating effects and storing them in the 310D's memory is a straightforward operation. As soon as you have an effect you'd like to keep for future reference,you press the Memory key - this will tell you which one of the 32 available memories you're about to store your sound in. You then depress the Store key for around two seconds (until the Memory LED starts to flash)... and that's it.
Like most signal processors coming onto the market these days, the TOA 310D can operate via MIDI. The MIDI facility could prove particularly useful should you need to change settings on more than one signal processor, in either the middle of, or between, songs. With MIDI, you can do that by pressing a single button. If, for instance, the 310D was your master effects machine, linked from its MIDI Out socket to (say) an SPX90 MIDI In, then - providing both units were set to send and receive information on the same MIDI channel - you could control the two units by recalling different memories (programs) on the 310D. Mighty useful if you've only got one pair of hands to do a mix. Alternatively, you could change the 310D settings remotely from a MIDI keyboard connected to the 310D's MIDI In, so that one patch on the keyboard was complemented by a particular effect on the 310D (electric piano + reverb, bird sounds + short delay, etc).
On the rear panel, TOA provide a variety of inputs and outputs (both RCA phono and quarter-inch jack), and an in/out signal level selector (-20dB or +4dB) enabling the 310D to be used in either budget or professional set-ups. Also, the delay signal outputs are made available in two formats - either in a preset stereo mix via the Mix jacks and phonos (where delay 1 = left, delay 2 = cent, and delay 3 = right), or as three independent pre-fader Solo outputs (jacks only).
Connecting these three separate outputs tree different channels on your mixing desk would allow you to EQ each delay signal and, should you wish, to process each one further with a different effect (from another unit). Imagine your source sound being delayed in slow triplets (typical delay setting might be 999, 666, and 333 milliseconds) and then processing each part of that triplet separately with reverb, reverse reverb, and gated reverb. Just a thought...
I think the TOA 310D is a good delay unit. It's very 'user-friendly', easy to build sounds on, and should help you create more spatial mixes. Apart from using it in the rack as a mixing aid for studio or PA work, it sounds fine as a stand-alone effects unit for individual instruments. It also makes a nifty 1 into 3 splitter box if you set all three delay times to 0 milliseconds.
In its favour I'd list the following: the three independent delay times, which are adjustable in millisecond steps and are displayed very clearly; the facility to modulate your sounds; thoughtful design of the input level control; external MIDI control; the good selection of inputs/outputs.
My one major criticism of the 310D is the regeneration quality. It's not possible to get a particularly long decay time without inducing feedback, and the longest feasible decay times produce a nasty, brittle, metallic sound as the delay fades away. However, with cautious use of the Regen control, it is possible to produce some otherwise high quality effects. So, how about checking out a TOA 310D yourself?
Price: £412 ex VAT (£473.80 inc VAT).