Test Drive: The Ensoniq DP/4 Parallel Effects Processor

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To recap, the 400 presets are categorized into 1-Unit, 2-Unit, 4-Unit, and Config Presets, 100 for each group. The first fifty of each hundred are user RAM presets, and the last fifty are factory ROM presets. (Because certain presets will function only under certain configurations, not all 400 of the factory presets are available unless you reconfigure your inputs and outputs to accommodate the various configurations.)

Once you've figured out the structure of the DP/4, you can begin customizing it for your own purposes. As with any effects box designed for musicians, it's necessary to get into the box to create some of your own special "broadcast" effects. Oddly enough, editing presets in the DP/4 is quite easy compared to the process of getting acquainted with the unit's unique design. Pressing Edit accesses the various parameters available for all the algorithms in all of the presets. The Edit function also accesses the parameters which determine how the effects units are wired to each other -- whether effect unit A is in parallel with unit B or in series with it, and so on. Again, time with the manual is necessary before jumping into editing, but the way the four effects units are presented on the display make editing their effects pretty straightforward. Also, the algorithms are not deluged with so many parameters that editing becomes a difficult task. Arrows, plus signs, and other symbols are used to display how the effects units are connected in relation to one another. Abbreviations are kept to a minimum, and most of the screens are easy to understand at a glance. Once you're through making adjustments, the Write/Copy button can be used to store your new effect.

The System/MIDI button accesses the unit's MIDI functions as well as global system parameters for the unit itself and parameters for each effect unit. ALL parameters can be externally controlled via MIDI or with the optional foot switches and pedals. The DP/4 is also able to send System Exclusive dumps so you can save your work.

What about the effects themselves? The DP/4 uses 24-bit processing with 16-bit A/D and D/A converters. Frequency response is 2-18kHz. Signal-to-noise is at -87dB. The dynamic range is 96dB. The effects are clean, as you would expect. Many of the algorithms are devoted to providing extensive reverbs and delays. The souped up engine of the DP/4 helps provide decay times as long as 250 seconds. The Reverse Reverb attack time can be stretched to ten seconds. The pitch shifter is as good as we've heard, and this is the first box we've come across that can pitch down or up four octaves! Of course, the resulting output hardly resembles the input, but it was fun connecting four pitch shifters together.

The EQ's are 2 and 4-band parametric types. You get the familiar expander, compressor, flanger, phaser, distortion and chorus effects as well as a few not so common effects like the Ducker/Gate (which automatically lowers the level of one signal when another signal is present), the Tempo Delay (which features a stereo delay where the delay tempo is controlled by tapping a footswitch), and the Vocoder.

So what does the average radio production person do with all this power? Have you ever started to mix a spot or promo and realized you needed small room reverb on one voice and maybe hall reverb on another voice, but only had one reverb unit? If you didn't apply reverb to one of those tracks while recording, you'd have to record it again. Couldn't you use the power to, during a mixdown, add flange to a stereo effect, echo to a voice-over, and reverb to a sound effect...ALL AT THE SAME TIME? Maybe you're just looking for your first effects box. Why not get four for the price of one? And when your PD says, "Gee, I wish we could afford a vocoder, too," you can say, "Hey, we got one!"

How much? $1,495. Is it worth it? If you're a musician and also do some music production, you'll love the DP/4. And you'd be hard pressed to find four effects boxes with the power of the four in the DP/4 for the same price or less. If you're just looking for some reverbs and delays for your commercial and promo production, it's hard to look away from all you get for the money in the DP/4. If you use a lot of digital signal processing and effects in your production, the four-in-one feature of the DP/4 could be a money saver for you. Ensoniq should also get a "golf clap" for their manual. Though it is almost an inch thick, it is written in ENGLISH, and it takes even the novice user carefully through every aspect of the unit.

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