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Stomp Boxes vs Rack Processors

9/22/1996 11:21 AM
Mark Wells
Stomp Boxes vs Rack Processors
I am currently using an A.R.T. SGX Nitro rack processor with X-15 midi controller. But I have noticed that the natural tone I my guitar is lost with this unit.  
I play in a Country band which plays new as well as older country tunes. Would I be better of using analog stopm boxes so I can keep the natural sound of my guitar. I have a Fender Blues Deluxe and a Fender Strat with Joe Barden pickups.  
I have heard that the digital rack processors seem to take away from the natrural tone of the instrument.  
Thanks for any help you can give me.
9/26/1996 12:21 PM
Mark Hammer

Digital multi-fx are best at doing what they started out doing: providing a broad range of digital time-manipulation effects (flange, chorus, echo, pitch-shift, etc.). Although they can do many other things, it doesn't take much thought to realize that generating an algorithm to produce time-shifts is a lot easier than generating an algorithm to simulate dynamic real-time changes in spectral content as a function of input-level and operating contraints (i.e., fake a fuzz-face). Consequently, many manufacturers have opted for sticking in midi-controlled tube pre-amps even though they present their own special brand of design headaches. My point? Don't expect glorious "clean" sound or even pleasing grit from a digital unit, but do expect it to thrill you with spacious ambiences, etc.  
So, what's the solution to your particular dilemma? One solution is to patch the ART unit in between the pre-amp out and power-amp in on your amplifier (assuming it has such a loop). Alternatively, why not just use a true bypass footswitch/stomp-box to go right past the rack unit and deliver untainted guitar sound to your amp input.  
I should point out that I'm not an anti-digital nut. They do nifty things. I have a Korg Pandora, and it does some things VERY well. What it doesn't do well is deliver either a clean or distorted sound that responds to my playing. Again, the problem is not the DSP technology itself, but the sheer difficulty of of *describing* to the computer what it ought to do as the signal level changes; i.e., being able to give a running description of how a Big Muff or Fuzz-Face works in real time, rather than just what transistors it ought to have. It's not quite as complex as describing how weather works so that we can predict the next 20 minutes, but it comes damn near close!  
Hope this helps.  
Mark Hammer

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