A Dep In The Right Direction?
Nick Graham reviews Roland's DEP-5 Digital Effects Programmer.
Just over a year ago I was writing in this magazine about two Roland rackmounted effects units - the SRV-2000 digital reverb and the Boss CE-300 stereo chorus. Each unit had its own review of about a page but I could have easily written much more, especially about the reverb. Roland have now introduced a multiple effects unit, the DEP-5, which, besides a stereo chorus, has many features of the SRV-2000, including programmable equaliser and the non-linear (gated reverb) settings. It also doubles as a 2-second digital delay and has 99 user programmable memory locations — more memory than any previous Roland effects unit. Unfortunately, I've still got to squeeze all this into my usual 1,000 words, so I'll save space and get on with it (good idea—Ed.).
In every one of the 99 memories lies a different way of treating a sound, but the first 29 of these factory settings are permanent. It's just as well, therefore, to listen to the other 70 before writing over them, because some of them are excellent. Every type of treatment is based on one of 11 'Algorithms' (Roland's terminology), each algorithm being a different permutation of the available effects. This may be one effect on its own, a combination of effects or a different routing of effects: for example, chorus with reverb or chorused reverb. The three-band programmable equaliser is active on all the algorithms, although when it's set flat it obviously has no effect.
At the top and bottom end, the Eq is a simple low pass/high pass filter operating at 10kHz and 100Hz. However, the mid-range is parametric, with ± 12dB of cut and boost at a selectable frequency between 300Hz and 12kHz. 'Q' values (i.e., shape rates) are also selectable over a range of 0.2 to 9.0, so anything from a gentle hump to a very sharp spike can be introduced into — or cut from — the frequency spectrum. At its most basic, the parametric Eq proved invaluable for emphasising that upper midrange 'crack' on a non-lin type snare sound, or for eliminating a particularly annoying ring that only shows up in the reverb.
Unlike its predecessor in the Roland range (the SRV-2000), this new DEP-5 reverb has a much larger selection of rooms and halls of predetermined sizes. These range from a 76M2 room or hall to 0.3M2 room which sounds like you're playing in the kitchen sink! Two plates and two 'special' (again, Roland's terminology) reverbs are also provided, and reverb times range from 0.1 sec. to 99 secs. As you'd expect from a machine out of the SRV-2000 mould, the sounds are clear and precise, enabling convincing spaces to be created around lifeless instruments like drum machines and synths, as well as doing a brilliant job on vocals. High frequency damping can be applied over a range of x0.05 to x1.00, and pre-delay has been extended to 500 ms — superb 'timed-to-the-beat' delayed reverb can now be achieved with ease. Although there is no access to areas like reverb density and attack time, the large number of pre-set rooms etc. make up for this in part.
Non-linear or gated reverb settings have now become an essential requirement of all modern reverb units, and DEP-5 is no exception. Not only can pre-delay (again, 500 ms), reverb time and gate time (10-999 ms) be edited, but negative reverb times will produce a reverse echo effect. The non-linear effect can also be panned across the stereo in either direction - space rockets take note! Needless to say it can't be used at the same time as the straight reverb; you have to make a choice on the DEP-5 between reverb, non-linear or delay.
Contrary to the information given in Roland's initial publicity, the delay section is capable of 2 seconds at full bandwidth, not half a second as originally advertised. This is clearly very good news, but it seems a pity that a hold and trigger device wasn't excluded — this small extra would have made the DEP-5 into a high quality 2 sec. sampler, thus vastly increasing its versatility. Apart from this, though, the delay line is clean and bright with high frequency damping in case you want the repeats to become gradually duller. Delays can also be set to pan backwards and forwards across the stereo image as they fade. Finally we come to the chorus section of the DEP-5. Because it has a feedback function (unusual on a chorus), flanging effects can be created here. As expected, the chorus has the usual rate and modulation controls, and is a typically rich Roland (or Boss) type stereo chorus, but cleaner than I'm used to — no doubt because it's digital! Combining it in varying degrees with the other effects on the DEP-5 makes for some very unusual sounds. Experimentation is the order of the day!
Generally the operation of the DEP-5 is very simple, bearing in mind that because of the size of the front panel (19" x 1 unit high) each control can serve several different functions. The display shows clearly which effects are active at any given time, and all the parameters and their values can easily be recalled for scrutiny. Output level can also be programmed, either as an overall value for the whole DEP-5 or as individual values affecting the balance of one effect against another. Balance between the direct signal and the effects is about the only thing, apart from input level, which can't be programmed — although changing this is easy enough, using the balance knob!
I think that just about covers it — a unit of this complexity requires you, the prospective user, to go out and try it. It's impossible to describe in words just what all the specifications means in terms of sound, and so you should hear it in action. One thing is sure - the high quality of manufacture and the transparent sound should make the DEP-5 a front runner in the multi-effects processor market.
RRP £675 inc. VAT.
More information from Roland (UK) Ltd., (Contact Details).
Review by Nick Graham
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