Yamaha D1500 Digital Delay
"Go and buy one," urges Graeme Pleeth
There is not a lot one can say about digital delays any more; certainly very little that is new. When AMS first introduced their delays with harmonisers combined, they made a big impact on the recording industry, even though individually, each effect was not a new idea.
Yamaha on the other hand have combined a digital delay with MIDI. (Not more MIDI I hear you yawn!) It is actually a great idea. You can use it as a regular delay line without MIDI control, or you can connect it up to your MIDI based set-up, for example a MIDI based sequencer such as the Roland MSQ 700 or the Yamaha QX1. This in turn can run your Yamaha RX11 drum machine and your DX7 for instance, and then by changing the synth programmes this will change the delay programmes to your chosen setting for each sound. The D1500 has 16 memory banks and any of these can be remotely selected from a MIDI keyboard.
As a regular delay line it has from 0 to 1023 millisecond of delay time. This is programmable in 1 millisecond increments without sacrificing any of its 18 kHz frequency response. (Very similar to the Korg SDD 3000).
The only thing I was a little disappointed with was the LFO — I found it to be a little bit noisy. There is a visual indication of the LFO rate by way of an LED that flashes at a speed corresponding to the LFO rate, and also a numerical read out in Hz.
A nice feature of the machine is the ability to programme the mix or balance between the direct signal and the delay sound. This will enable you to programme from double tracking where the delay will need to be at the same volume as the original signal to a far distant echo, all by pressing the required programme on keyboard. In a live situation it will become an invaluable extension of the instrument. It will also give your sound engineer less to worry about.
I remember a time when I was playing a final few bars of this piece at a concert and I was delicately going through different delay settings with a foot switch, when suddenly at the very last note I accidentally skipped a programme and landed on a very strange setting that had the LFO working overtime with an incredibly long delay. I thought it would never end! I am pretty sure this system of having MIDI control will ensure that it won't happen again.
The Yamaha D1500 is very easy to programme from scratch or to edit when there is already an existing programme. As you touch the control buttons for each parameter you wish to change, a numerical value of the setting will appear in the front window while, at the same time, the function button being edited or displayed is illuminated. This means you won't confuse a delay setting of 30 milliseconds with a mix ratio of 30. Once you have twiddled around with your sound, you can store it in one of the 16 hexadecimal banks (0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,A,B,C,D,E,F) by holding down the store button whilst touching one of the bank select buttons — having now achieved the required effect, you may then decide that you want that delay setting on programme three, seven and 15 on your synthesizer, for example. To achieve this, you must activate the MIDI programme function (MIDI PGM).
The readout will change to something like C=27. This will indicate that when programme 27 on your synth is called upon for duty, the delay setting in bank C will follow suit. The 'Data Entry' button will change the programmes to match your synthesizer programmes. This will enable you to have several different sounds with the same effects on them. You can have up to 128 different MIDI programmes to have 16 banks shared amongst them. There is also a 'pass' bank for no delay effects.
When you get into the reasoning for having such a device permanently plumbed into the end of your DX7 (or whatever MIDI based synthesizer you use) you will wonder how you ever lived without one. I think it will be especially useful to the gigging band, professional or amateur, and also with computer based sequencer/drum machine—type set-ups where everything seems to be running everything else.
Go and buy one!