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Digitech Studio 400 review



The 400 is a black 2U multi-fx box, fairly shallow in depth. On first glance one is immediately put in mind of the Eventide H3000. However, this unit is about half the price of an H3000D/SX. This is reflected slightly in the build quality: the buttons feel fairly cheap and the data wheel feels plasticky. However, the back panel reveals a couple of things not found on the H3000: no less than four analogue inputs and four outputs are provided, all on XLRs and balanced jacks, with a +4/-10dB button for the output. The review model was fitted with the reasonably priced Digital Input/Output option board. This features AES/EBU and S/PDIF with all the usual connectors and sample rates and software controlled options for routing in combination with the analogue connections, which could be quite irritating: no sound emerged from the analogue outputs in factory default mode!


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Digitech make a song-and-dance about the two S-DISC (Static-Dynamic Instruction Set Computer) DSP processors. The manual lists 57 varieties(!) of. FX modules which each have a unique set of parameters. Each module falls into one of three categories, depending on their complexity. There are Full, Half and Quarter which use those respective amounts of an S-DISC Processor. There are then 23 configurations which route the two processors in different combinations.


Pressing FX Edit repeatedly takes you to each module in turn, plus Input and Output Modes sections (where you can choose from such options as four mono inputs and outputs or two separate ins feeding effects which return on the same stereo output etc.) and a section called Modifiers which allow control by Midi Controllers, LFO or signal amplitude. Within each of these FX Edit sections are up to 10 pages, stepped through using the Next and Previous Page buttons, each page containing up to four parameters. These are selected using the buttons marked 1, 2, 3, and 4.. For me, operation was unnecessarily complex, fiddly and irritating. The display always shows the configuration diagram, flashes the module being edited, and indicates which page of parameters you are on. However, the symbols and lettering are very small, apart from the large program number display and reasonably sized Program name/Parameter adjust section at the top. Despite this, valuable space on the display is wasted with the unnecessary S-DISC logo!


The display is hard to read if not directly in the line of sight, no use if mounted low down in a rack. But by far the worst thing is the input level metering. Having meters on the main LCD is a very bad idea, especially as they are so small. No other manufacturer does it, most opting for the much more visible rows of LEDs.


The 57 FX types are very usable and contain parameters you would expect plus a few extra things to play with. For example, in addition to seven basic delay program types there are a couple of analogue delays which behave just like old-fashioned units where you hear the pitch change as you adjust delay time. These have a parameter called smear which diffuses the delay repeats. Reverbs are excellent, smooth and expensive-sounding. There are also Chorus, Flange, Phaser, Rotary Speaker, Harmoniser, EQ, Dynamics and other variations of FX types. One useful feature is the selection of named starting points for each FX type, which are available as a parameter in FX edit.


Each Program contains up to eight FX modules (the two S-DISC processors split into Quarter-type Program modules). Programs are split into two groups: User Programs 1 to 100 and Factory Programs 1 to 191. The latter cannot be overwritten, and astonishingly many of the Factory programs 1-100 are set with much of the dry signal mixed in, as though you were inserting the unit across one signal. This is not what I want. Digitech market this as a "Professional Studio Processor" and then set it up for a guitarist! It is very time consuming wading through modules and pages to find the Wet, Dry and FX signal level parameters, changing them, and resaving as a User Program. Why not have a knob on the front to balance the Wet/Dry signals? A footswitch socket activates bypass, or with a special Digitech footswitch can also step up or down through the programs. This feature also suggests a market other than the "professional studio". Programs 101 to 123 are the basic Configurations with no FX modules loaded, while thankfully 124 to 191 are all 100% Wet.

If you can put up with this feature-packed machine's foibles and deficiencies, then it can be rewarding. Audio specification is superb, the effects are generally excellent, and there are enough choices to keep you fiddling for hours. The manual is helpful but not very well thought-out, with everything seemingly explained in the wrong order. It is tremendous value-for-money, but ultimately I found it irritating to use compared to truly professional units.


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