Hot on the heels of Lexicon's mid-range multi-fx PCM80 came tc's reply: the M2000. This incorporated many of the PCM80's innovative features, along with the much vaunted Wizard feature, and a price lower than the Lexicon unit. Before you can say EkoVerbSweep Lexicon retorted with the MPX 1.
When I wrote my review of the PCM80 I liked it immensely. I criticised the slightly complicated preset numbering, the lack of XLR connectors (now rectified), and the lack of distortion effects. This unit fixes all those criticisms, boasts many of the PCM80's features, adds some new M2000 inspired features such as morphing, and has an asking price lower than the tc. The most obvious difference between this unit and its big brother the PCM80 is the lack of a PCMCIA card slot. However, this unit gains illuminating switches labelled with fx types: Pitch, Chorus, EQ, Mod, Delay and Reverb. These give an immediate visual guide to the effects in use for the current preset, and enable instant bypass and editing of each section in the chain. Each effect subdivides into different categories, some not normally associated with the main effect type: for example Delay includes ducking effects. Similar to these buttons are those for Mix, Bypass, and Patch, which enables any control to adjust any parameter (up to 5 patches simultaneously).
There is not only an input level pot but usefully an output pot too. Included are a number of dual mono effects for live use, and presets optimised for PA use. One limitation is that you cannot overwrite the 200 supplied presets, but then I used to think the 9 programs on an AMS RMX16 were plenty! There are 50 Store locations for saving user edits, and of course you can do MIDI SysEx dumps. A wonderfully huge LED display shows the preset number, using straightforward numerology: 1 to 200 for presets, plus 201 to 250 for user memories. Adjacent is a less clear illuminated LCD screen for editing parameters and system information. This is very poor compared to the PCM80's LED matrix, and it took me a while to find the contrast adjust parameter in the depths of the menu system. A database sort function enables you to categorise programs in many ways.
Physically the MPX1 is several inches shallower but not much lighter than the PCM80, and includes both jack and XLR sockets for inputs and outputs. You also get S/PDIF digital input and output. There are jack sockets for footswitch and foot controller, and comprehensive MIDI implementation even includes an arpeggiator function. A tone generator is included, accurate to a quarter of a cent, useful for tuning and also creative effects, such as "Big Bottom" which adds a deep sinewave to the signal. Some inventive pitch-shift programs are present, which is not true of the PCM80 until you obtain the new card (see accompanying article), and also Overdrive effects, which have yet to make their PCM80 debut. However, the MPX1 does not share any of the Surround-type effects of the PCM80.
There are endless routing possibilities through and around the different effects "blocks", and to make it less confusing you can display the entire signal path onscreen.
The A/B button switches between two variants of many of the presets. Any control can be patched to the A/B function, so all sorts of effects can be achieved, such as M2000-style morphing from, say, a reverb to a delay, triggered by the input level. Glide times can be set from instant to taking several minutes, but in typically perverse fashion, 0 is long and 100 is short. A display in seconds would be of more use. The effect is more a smooth crossfade than a true morphing effect.
By pressing Value you instantly come to the Soft Row which contains the most important parameters for any given preset. This is like the PCM80's Go Mode. For all of the finer tuning of obscure parameters, you press Edit and then the relevant effect button (e.g. Reverb) to access all the settings, buried in layers of menus, where you can also change for example the type of reverb. The menu system can at times be slightly confusing: I was expecting to find the Meter Assign setting in the System menu, but strangely it is in the Edit menu.
The unit comes setup in a 'screensaver' display mode: if you do not press any buttons for a short while the MPX1 starts scrolling a list of its features. This is all very well, but when you press a button such as A/B you find that nothing happens other than the rolling advert stops. Irritatingly, a second press of A/B is needed to activate the change. Fortunately, this feature can be turned off.
A Tap button sets up delay times, which can alternatively be MIDI clock controlled, and set Globally or separately for each preset. However, not all the obvious possibilities have been utilised: In a few programs where, for example a pitch shifter modulates the input, the Tap tempo has not been patched to the LFO Speed. There is a way of setting this up, using the comprehensive patching facility, but I am surprised Lexicon missed this.
One potential for confusion is that the rotary knob can be used either as a parameter selector or adjuster, depending on whether the value button is lit - slightly confusing on first encounter, but useful when you have mastered it. The manual unnecessarily repeats itself in one or two places, and has no alphabeticised index, but is otherwise excellent, explaining every detail.
There are some wonderful reverb programs - the Small, Medium and Large halls are not dissimilar from their 480L counterparts, with all the familiar parameters such as Spread and Shape. Programs such as Miked Cab EQ are not as good as the real thing, but useful if you do not have an amp/speaker setup to hand. There is a preset called Tape Echo, but sadly you do not get all the pitch changing madness as you change the delay time that you would with, say, an Echoplex. Included are rotor-cabinet, wah-wah, telephone and loudspeaker effects and a few new gimmicky remix effects worth checking out.
There is no discernible loss in sound quality, compared to the PCM80. Compared to the tc M2000 the effects have a more rounded and rich sound, and I much prefer the Lexicon's user interface, which while not being entirely intuitive, has a more professional feel. Even if you have a PCM80 this unit is worthy of further investigation.
Reproduced with kind permission from www.George.Shilling.Com. Copyright ©
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