Ibanez DM1100 Digital Delay
Just when you thought all DDLs were the same, Ibanez come up with a budget model that still manages to incorporate a maximum delay time of over three-and-a-half seconds. Review by Paul White.
It could be argued that Ibanez have more experience of designing budget-priced delay units than any other manufacturer. Now they've come up with a rack-mounting digital model that incorporates a maximum delay time in excess of three-and-a-half seconds. Paul White analyses its potential.
This new Ibanez delay incorporates state-of-the-art circuitry and includes modulation and hold facilities in addition to straight delay effects. A maximum delay time of 3600ms is available, but it should be realised that the maximum bandwidth has been restricted to 8kHz in order to facilitate this.
The input is converted into eight bits, but pre-emphasis and low-noise companding circuitry enable the equivalent input noise to be kept down to a surprisingly respectable -95dBm, with the minimum of distortion.
The input is immediately followed by level and tone controls, the level control incorporating a pull switch that configures the input stage as a microphone amplifier, which means that a mic can be plugged directly into the input without the need for a mixer or special preamp. A five-section LED meter enables the input level to be matched accurately for optimum performance.
Next in line is an eight-position rotary delay time selector, and a fine delay time control pot that enables delays of between seven and 3600ms to be quickly and easily set up. There's no numeric readout of delay time - undoubtedly a cost-cutting move - but for most purposes this is not an essential facility.
The modulation and speed controls come next, and these are used to produce chorus, flanging and vibrato effects. Another pull switch is incorporated into the feedback pot to reverse the phase of the feedback signal, and this means that subtle changes of colour can be introduced into flanging and chorus effects. This is a useful facility and one I was pleased to see on a unit in this price category.
Instead of the more usual level and balance controls, delayed and dry signals have independent level pots, which some users may find more convenient. The array of front panel controls is completed by the bypass and hold switches, rear panel jacks being provided for remote switching facilities.
All pushbuttons - including the mains switch - have an LED status indicator, which is a sensible idea considering the dimly-lit venues in which this sort of outboard unit is likely to be used.
As is the current fashion, the DM1100 is built into a 1U rack-mounting case, and in this instance both internal and external design has been implemented to a high standard. Another - perhaps somewhat less useful - fashion is the system block diagram mounted on the lid, something that seems to be a standard fitting on almost every delay unit of Far Eastern origin these days. The 1100 is no exception, but Ibanez have also provided a chart of sample settings, reproduced - in more detail - in the comprehensive user's manual.
As a departure from current design trends (certainly makes a change...) the front panel of the review sample was finished in a pale metallic finish as opposed to the almost ubiquitous black, and matching brackets of pretty robust construction are provided for rack fitting.
In terms of sound quality, the DM1100's performance was everything you would expect from a digital delay in this price bracket (ie. mostly quite clean and quiet), so the unit is more likely to be judged on the sorts of facilities it has to offer the potential purchaser.
I've already mentioned the lack of a delay time readout, and it's not inconceivable that this could make life very difficult in live or recording situations in which, say, it's necessary to set the delay time to a precise multiple of the tempo of a piece of music. Even a single LED to flash at the repeat rate would have been helpful, but sadly the 1100's designers have not seen fit to include this, either.
On the other hand, the effects this unit is capable of producing deserve some praise. The flanging available is some of the deepest I have heard from a digital unit, while the feedback invert switch gives a useful extra degree of control over sound colour. Chorus and vibrato were also deep and bright and, despite the bandwidth limitation mentioned earlier, there was no noticeable loss of top end using either guitar or keyboard input material.
Unusually, the hold function causes the repeat time to correspond to the longest delay time range, so that, for example, if you're using a delay of only a few milliseconds, the hold time will still be between 900 and 3600ms, depending on the setting of the fine delay control. Used intelligently, this can be a good feature as very short hold times are of little practical use. However, if the hold is switched in when a modulation effect is in operation, the frozen sound is characterised by wild pitch sweep components that are unlikely to be considered musically viable outside a Van Halen concert.
Finally, the provision of footswitch sockets enables all the essential functions to be controlled in an ongoing live music scenario, though the generally high sound quality would probably make the Ibanez suitable for use in all but the most exacting recording situation.
Ibanez have sacrificed both bandwidth and resolution in order to provide the 3600ms delay, but having said that, the DM1100's performance in these areas is more than adequate for most applications, and the quality of the modulation effects is refreshingly high. Meanwhile, the long delay should make this unit particularly appealing to fans of the Robert Fripp school of music performance: after all, you can store an awful lot of notes in three-and-a-half seconds...
As I see it, the only notable omission - delay time readout apart - is the lack of a triggering facility that would enable the hold function to be used as a simple triggered sampling system, though this is something that's rarely found on delay units in this price category despite the fact that such an addition costs little in manufacturing terms.
Summing up then, the DM1100 offers all the more common DDL facilities plus a wonderfully long maximum delay time for the price of a standard budget unit. The quality of the modulation-related effects is well above average, and at a typical retail price of just over £300, this Ibanez has got to be value for money, whatever the application.
The DM1100 carries a TRP of £333 including VAT, and further information should be available from the importers, Summerfields, at (Contact Details).
Review by Paul White
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