Test Drive: Sony DPS-V77 Multi-Effect Processor

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There are six Function buttons, A through F, below the LCD display. These are "soft" buttons and their functions change from program to program, screen to screen, with their current function indicated directly above them on the display. On either side of these buttons are the Edit/Page and Exit buttons. Use the Edit/Page button to enter the program edit mode and move from page to page in programs with more than one page of parameters. The Exit button exits the edit mode.

To the right of the displays is a numeric keypad used for entering parameter values or selecting programs by number. Next to these are the Save button, for saving programs, the System button, for editing system parameters, and an Enter/Shift button for accepting parameter values and program numbers. Press the Enter/Shift button and use the up and down arrow buttons to adjust parameter values in single digit increments. Yet another way to adjust parameters and select programs is with the dual-concentric Operation Dial/Shuttle Wheel. The outer Shuttle Wheel can be turned approximately 35 degrees in either direction to very quickly move through the program bank or very quickly adjust a parameter value. The inner Operation Dial has detents and performs the same functions in one-step increments. The outer wheel is one of the fastest program selectors I've come across, and when you stop on a program, it loads in about a half-second. There's no "select" or "load" button to press.

The factory presets are loaded with 198 effects that utilize all the algorithms in the unit. These are some of the clearest and best sounding reverb effects I've heard. The pitch shift algorithms provide one of the most glitch-free pitch shifts I've come across. Various delay programs provide up to 10.92 seconds of mono delay as well as the usual array of stereo multi-tap and ping-pong delays. The chorus, flange, and phase effects all sound great. There are a few panning effects and some dynamics processing effects including a compressor. With 198 factory presets to choose from, there are plenty of effects to use right out of the box. Even though the presets are built with the musician in mind, I found many of them useful for special effects on voice tracks, but I was so impressed with the quality and quantity of effects that I decided to plug a musical instrument into this thing. After all, that's what it was designed for. I never call myself a musician, but I tinker with guitars and keyboards. I plugged both into the V77 and loved the results. If you're looking for an effects box for musical purposes, you'll appreciate the V77.

Speaking of musicians, it is the performing musician who has caused manufacturers to start adding a new feature to effects boxes, the ability to "morph" effects. Let's say a musician is playing a guitar solo using a 1/2-second delay with feedback. When the solo is done, he wants to keep playing the guitar but switch from the 1/2-second delay to a flange. Boxes like the V77 "morph" the two effects so that when the musician switches effects programs from the delay to the flange, the delays continue to decay even though the flange effect is now the primary effect. In the old days, one would have to have two effects boxes to accomplish this.

The V77 does this by providing two effects "blocks" within the unit. These are independent effects blocks, each with their own elaborate EQ section. Because they are independent, the unit can be operated as two separate mono processors, each with access to a large variety of quality effects. The morphing effect is pretty cool, but doesn't really furnish for radio production the benefits the performance musician can reap. However, you can create some interesting effects that work well on a voice track. For example, you might use the effects described above and have delays fading out as a flange effect on your voice fades in, or set up each EQ block so the voice morphs from a normal sound to a "telephone EQ" sound. A nice feature of the morphing effect is the ability to set the time it takes for the morphing to occur. This is a global setting and can be set to a maximum of ten seconds. I preferred long morph times of around five seconds when morphing effects on a voice track. It gives you more time to notice the changes. There are also two options for the crossfade curve. Programs using the morphing feature can each only have one effect block in use.

Getting intimate with the two effects blocks of the V77 is the key to editing and programming the unit. Editing is a breeze. When a program is selected, the unit is in Play mode. In this mode, the LCD display shows, among other things, the name of the program, the algorithms in the two effects blocks, the "active" parameters attached to each of the six Function buttons below the display, and the values of each of those parameters. To adjust a parameter, simply press the appropriate Function button and use the numeric keypad, up/down arrows, or the data wheels to make changes. There's no need to enter the Edit mode to adjust parameters on the Function buttons. (MIDI controllers can also be used to make adjustments.)

There are certainly more than six parameters in any of the programs, and to edit the others, you must enter the Edit mode. Press the Edit/Page button. If the program is using both effects blocks, the display will show five large graphic representations of effects block A, EQ-A, effects block B, EQ-B, and the mixer which takes care of individual effect levels. To adjust EQ parameters, press the Function button below the EQ graphic. To adjust other effects parameters not on the main screen, press the effects graphic for whichever block you want to edit. The top of the display indicates how many pages of parameters there are, and pressing the Edit/Page button scrolls through them. If you decide you want a parameter to show up on the main screen as an "active" parameter, this is a simple process using the Active Parameter Select function which assigns any parameter to one of the six Function buttons on the main screen that appears as soon as a program is loaded.

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