Power to the elite
ART RXR Elite
In ART's new range of effects processors, 'Elite' means programmable. Roger-Brown finds out if the RXR Elite is a cut above the rest, or just a social-climbing wannabee.
ART have a well deserved reputation for producing reasonably priced effects units aimed squarely at the small and home studio market, with their Multiverb occupying pride of place in many a dance studio setup. With the launch of the RXR Elite dedicated reverb unit, ART will be hoping to turn that foothold into an armlock.
If you entered our Dream Rack competition in the August issue, you'll know that here at the mix we rated the RXR highly enough to rack it up with the latest incarnation of the Multiverb, the DXR Digital Delay, and a clutch of dbx sound enhancers. So how does the RXR measure up to all those other digital algorithms?
With stereo inputs and outputs and 128 preset reverbs, the RXR is a rugged piece of kit that would be at home in all but the most professional of recording studios. The presets are arranged in eight banks of sixteen, all easily accessed from the front panel or via MIDI.
Changing presets from the front panel couldn't be easier. Just press the Bank button repeatedly to access the right one (a bright green LED tracks your progress) and then spin the rotary knob, marked PRESET (amazingly enough), to select from numbers 1 to 16 within that bank. This rotary dial is clearly notched, with just enough resistance to prevent you flying past the effect number you're after, so it's a simple matter to open up that Ambient Gate. There's no stop position, so if you should whizz past in a fit of creative fury, it's a relatively easy matter to spin right on round and back again.
Holding the Bank button down and spinning the rotary dial runs you rapidly through the banks. A nice feature here is the Recall/Compare buttons, which enable you to toggle between two presets for quick comparison. Press Recall and the display will flash; choose your setting with the bank button and Preset dial; choose another algorithm in the same manner, and then use the Compare button to switch between the two settings.
There is a noticeable burst of 'digital crunch' when swapping settings on this machine, so this is only useful as a preview mode. You will want to program in some volume fade in/outs when changing settings from your sequencer, but it's a useful function.
As well as the usual Bypass switch to switch the reverb off and send a dry signal through to the desk, the RXR also features a Dry Kill button. This handy little feature stops all direct signal from passing through the Elite, allowing only the sound altered by the signal-processing circuitry to exit through the line outputs. This switch is useful when the RXR is patched into your mixer's signal returns, since using the Dry Kill makes it unnecessary to individually change the wet/dry mix in every preset to 100%.
So, what does it sound like? The RXR contains a good clutch of solid, workmanlike Room, Hall, Plate and Chamber reverbs for adding that all-important presence to your strings, pads and bass patches, plus some nice Gated and Reverse Reverbs for funky percussion effects.
There's nothing that leaps out and smacks you in the face as a source of inspiration in the mix, but that's not what these reverbs are for. They are there to work with those other fancy reverb units, and this they do very well. With a maximum input level of+14dBv (wet) it's all too easy to induce clipping, so keep an eagle eye on those levels, especially when changing presets. The red LED provides a handy reference here, lighting up as soon as clipping becomes a problem, and a quick adjustment of the input level knob situated right next door restores peace and serenity to your reverberations.
Right below the clipping LED are the left and right channel indicator LEDs, coloured orange and green respectively. These come into their own when using stereo inputs for the last two banks of dual effect presets, acting on the left and right channels independently for some nice Ambient Room and Plate reverbs.
This is where the RXR gets really interesting, and a little adjustment of the Delay and Pre-delay times and judicious application of the Low and High Pass filters can yield some surprisingly useful results, given the workaday character of the other settings.
"The RXR contains a good clutch of workmanlike Room, Hall, Plate and Chamber reverbs for adding that all-important presence to your string, pad and bass patches."
Decay Time, Pre-delay Time, EQ, Damping and the dry/wet Mix (from 0-100) are all easily adjusted from the front panel, and the MIDI mapping page allows real-time control of Volume, Dry Kill and Bypass functions with mappable Program Changes allowing some degree of external control from your sequencer.
The MIDI mapping is not the clearest of systems, as the 3 digit LED display dictates the use of some cryptic letter codes. And the MIDI control is basic rather than fully-featured, but this shouldn't present too much of a problem in everyday use.
On the minus side the RXR relies on an external PSU for power, and there's no on/off switch, so if you haven't turned the input and output levels down, some nasty noises can result when you turn the juice on.
This is not a desirable effect, and while we all recognise that comers have to be cut somewhere to keep the price of a unit like this down, surely this is one corner better left uncut? Personally I would rather they had dispensed with the switchable (via software) MIDI Out/Thru socket, providing a straightforward thru port, and spent the savings on an on/off switch.
Once you have a rack of effects boxes and sound modules set up, it's a real drag if you have to check volume input/output levels every time you power up or down on every item of equipment. And as the MIDI Out is subject to delays (as a software function) it's virtually worthless. Far better to provide us with a MIDI Thru and give us a switch please! This lack of a switch seems to be a common feature of ART products, and while we have all learned to live with wall warts, at over £300 a little more effort needs to be made.
ART have obviously decided to move their range a little more upmarket, dispensing with the dayglo pink rally stripes and adding some interesting features. The improved algorithms and useful reverbs go some way to justify the slightly higher price. It certainly sits very well with the other boxes in our 'dream rack', and I found the gated reverbs particularly useful in adding some sizzle to my techno drum tracks.
I'll definitely be experimenting further with the dual effects of the last two banks. With an improved dynamic range and a little more thought on the very basic functions, the ART RXR would be a must buy. As it is, it doesn't quite live up to its lofty title.
Price inc VAT: £329.00
More from: Harman Audio, (Contact Details)
Review by Roger Brown
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