MIDI Digital Reverb
Nick Graham tries one of the latest breed of affordable digital reverbs.
Digital reverberation of extremely high quality is finally available to mere mortals! What was once the exclusive domain of the top recording studios is now a possibility for many small studios, home set-ups or even individual musicians, and the Roland SRV2000 is the latest in a growing range of affordable stereo digital reverb units.
It's a measure of the state of the art when you consider that, had this unit been introduced only one year ago at its current retail price of £1375, it would have been alone in the field, whereas now there are numerous competitors (in particular the Lexicon PCM60 and the Yamaha Rev-7), all offering similar value for money. However, the SRV2000 is typical of the type of product we have come to expect from Roland - well built, well designed, and incorporating some unique and very interesting features.
Switch on the machine, and 16 preprogrammed reverberation effects are immediately available. These represent a cross-section of the sounds which the SRV2000 is capable of producing, and include natural reverberations as well as special effects. Most of them are extremely usable, but these preset sounds give only a taste of the machine's full potential.
Three basic types of reverb are provided by the SRV2000 - room, hall, and plate. Altogether there are two plates, five halls and eight rooms, and - depending on which of these is selected - there is a preset upper and lower limit to the reverb time. Thus, if the largest hall is selected the upper limit is a stunning 99 seconds, and the lower limit is 0.5 secs. - the smallest room (a cube of 0.3 metres) has a reverb time variable between 0.1 and 0.5 secs. I should mention at this point that infinite reverb is also available using a footswitch connected to a jack on the rear panel, and the 'add-on' (sound on sound) facility allows amazing multiple reverb effects to be created.
Having selected the reverberation time, the pre-delay (i.e., the time elapsed between the direct sound and the start of the reverberation) can be adjusted between 0 and 160 ms., giving effective variation of the depth of the hall. In addition, the high frequency content of the reverberation can be damped - in a real room or hall, these frequencies will tend to fade away more quickly than the lower ones, the rate at which this happens being determined by the material of which the wall is constructed. The actual level of the reverberation in relation to direct sound can also be set if required.
Entering the Eq mode reveals that Roland have provided a 3-band parametric equaliser with a variable 'Q' characteristic for each frequency band selected. Not only is this a very effective equaliser, but, like all the other parameters on this unit (apart from input level), the equaliser settings are remembered when you store your edited reverb sounds; a significant advantage when recalling particular effects. And talking of effects, the 'Non-Linear' mode allows gating of the reverb at times of between 10 ms and 450 ms. In this mode, the reverb can actually be set to a negative value, which means it gets louder instead of dying away! For drum sounds, a combination of extreme equalisation in this Non-Linear mode can produce some extravagant results previously only available at great expense!
O.K., I admit that in the short time I've had this unit it's been impossible to exploit it to the full. In fact I haven't even touched what Roland call the 'Further Level', so I can only describe its specifications. Apparently, in this mode the nature of the reverberation can be completely restructured. It allows control over both early and late reflection densities, and the attack time/gain/level of early reflections. These parameters do allow radical changes to be made, but if you're not particularly interested in the complexities of digital reverb, then Roland have thoughtfully provided a 'Room Simulate' button which, with no great mental effort, produces a series of beautifully natural reverberations based on the original selection of rooms and halls.
Because all the parameters can be memorised, the SRV2000 with its MIDI capability and its professional quality sound would be perfectly at home either in the studio or in a live situation. Theoretically, a keyboard player could select, via MIDI, the perfect reverb effect for each sound used during a performance, and it would be difficult to imagine a recording engineer who couldn't find the appropriate reverb from the SRV2000. However, I was slightly disappointed by the memory section. Yes, there are 32 user-programmable memories, but 16 of these temporarily over-write the 16 preset sounds provided by Roland. If these presets are recalled, then any of your own sounds stored in 1-16 are permanently erased. Never mind; this is only a little niggle, and doesn't detract from the fact that Roland have come up with a brilliant device which I'm sure will soon become a familiar sight in many recording studios - from the biggest and most expensive to the most humble.
It only remains for me to mention that all this electronic wizardry is packed into a 19" rack-mount, one unit high, which has a very smart black metal finish. The display is extremely clear, and all the variable parameters are adjusted by means of six nifty rocker switches which will step up or down at two speeds according to whether you press them at the edge or in the middle. All the connectors are on the back panel, and include MIDI, remote switches for infinite reverb, effect on/off, and preset step, as well as input and stereo or mono outputs. I was also glad to see a level selector switch giving a choice between +4dBm (the professional standard) or -20dBm (for consumer-type audio Eq).
If you need reverberation, I strongly recommend that you check out the Roland SRV2000 before you make any decisions!
RRP £1375 inc. VAT
More details from Roland (U.K.) Ltd., (Contact Details).
Review by Nick Graham
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