Ibanez SDR1000 Digital Reverb
Latest digital reverb from a company that's been making outboard effects gear longer than most. Paul White gives his first impressions.
Reverb is one of the most important effects available today, and it's easy to see why. In real life, nearly everything we hear is reflected sound, so it stands to reason that sound engineers must have full control in this area if they're going to do their job properly.
To help them get that control, musical instrument manufacturers have developed digital reverb systems like this new Ibanez.
The machine conforms to the 19" rack-mounting format, and is styled along typical Japanese lines. It has a clearly laid-out front panel with an informative alphanumeric plasma display, and all its functions can be addressed with just a handful of buttons (which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your viewpoint).
What helps set the Ibanez apart from the competition is the fact that it can operate in true stereo; the channels can be used independently if required, and they don't even need to have the same reverb settings.
The effects the SDR1000 can produce are arranged as 30 factory presets, and the machine has the capability to store a further 70 treatments of the user's own devising. These effects are divided into eight modes: Hall, Room, Plate, Gated Reverb, Reverse Reverb, Dual Delay, Auto Pan and Dual Reverb. Most of these are recognisable as standard reverb effects, but the selection also includes delay programs and an interesting auto-pan facility. Also included within the programmable section is a four-band equaliser which can be applied to any effect, and the user-friendly operating system lets you compare any patch you've just modified with the original - before you commit it to memory.
User-variable parameters include Reverb Time, Pre-Delay, Early Reflection Time and Early Reflection Level. Additionally, you can alter the effect using a Room Size parameter, and in total, there are more than a dozen user variables, so there should be plenty of scope for experimentation.
It almost goes without saying that the SDR1000 has MIDI so that programs can be selected remotely, but an optional MIDI foot control unit means that this can be accomplished conveniently live as well as in the studio. It's possible to step through the programs using a regular footswitch, too, but the MIDI foot controller sounds more useful to me.
The inputs and outputs are on regular phone jacks, but Ibanez have thoughtfully included RCA-type pin jacks as well. The effect bandwidth is 10kHz - which sounds plenty bright enough in practice - and the 16-bit linear sampling gives a high resolution with little noise or distortion. In fact, the dynamic range is quoted as being greater than 90dB with distortion being under 0.03%, which is mighty impressive.
It's sometimes easier to judge a good reverb by what it doesn't do than by what it does - it's all too easy for outboard machines like this to impose their character on the signals you put through them. This one, though, seems to score fairly heavily in all areas. It doesn't impart a metallic ringing to the program input (not even on percussive sounds), and the decay tail is smooth all the way, just as it should be.
Crucially, Ibanez seem to have got the early reflection part of the reverb treatment just right. This is the part that simulates those first few echoes that occur in an acoustic space before the density builds up to a dense clutter, and as it's these few echoes that pass on information which our brains interpret as room character, so they're hardly unimportant.
From the smallest room to the largest of halls, the Ibanez remains convincing, conveying an impressive sense of stereo perspective and depth. It's also a neat trick to be able to set the pre-delay so that it's slightly different on each channel, as this further enhances the stereo illusion.
As for the delay effects - which include chorus and flanging - and the panner, these are really to be considered as a bonus, and work fine.
I've made a point of listening to most of the digital reverbs currently available, and this one compares with the best. There are better reverbs, but only at the very top end of what is becoming a very tall market tree. It's easy to program, and the range of reverb and delay treatments it offers is comprehensive enough not to be limiting, even if you have wild production ideas.
We'll be looking at this machine in depth just as soon as we've had one long enough to assess it thoroughly. But in the meantime, I can say that initial impressions are definitely favourable.
Price £895 including VAT
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Review by Paul White
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