by Jerry Vigil
It's been a while since we've put an effects box to the test, and it looks like technology in this area has improved greatly over the past couple of years. It wasn't long ago that the ability to perform multiple simultaneous effects was the big thing. Before you knew it, there were dozens of boxes available with three, four, six, eight effects at once. Along with all these simultaneous multiple effects came lots more parameters to fool with, and this helped to make the boxes a little more difficult to use in terms of fine tuning a program and creating new effects programs. And it seemed many of these boxes sacrificed quality effects for quantity of simultaneous effects. Fortunately, advancing technology brought larger and faster processors into this arena, enabling the effects boxes to perform multiple tasks while maintaining high quality. And with a box like the DigiTech TSR-24S, not only do you get scads of great effects, but editing effects programs is easy, and creating your own effects algorithms and programs from scratch is possible without too great of a strain on the brain.
The TSR-24S is a "true stereo" effects box with two 1/4-inch inputs and outputs, plus two more "auxiliary" outputs for a total of two ins and four outs. And all four of these outputs function independently of each other, as do the inputs. With this I/O setup, the TSR-24S can be used in a number of different configurations. It can serve as two completely independent mono in/stereo out processors. Or a single mono input can be the source with up to four outputs, each with its own effect. Other configurations include mono in/mono out, stereo in/stereo out, mono in/stereo out, and stereo in/quad out, as well as several three output configurations. Of course, you don't have to concern yourself with these options if you're the type that just wants to plug the box in, dial up an effect, and go to work. The TSR-24S comes with over 100 factory programs ready to use. But its easy to use programming abilities make the TSR-24S a great effects box to program your own effects from scratch with. In radio, this is often the best route to go because the TSR-24S, like most every other effects box, is loaded with programs more suited to music production rather than the type of work we do in radio. So, if you can do it with relative ease, it's nice to be able to create your own programs from scratch, designed to do what you want them to do.
To understand how to program the TSR-24S, you must first understand the architecture of the effects programs. You've heard the word algorithm used with reference to effects programs. Effects "programs" are built with single "algorithms." These algorithms are a combination of one or more effect "modules." There might be an algorithm that uses a delay module plus a reverb module to create a program called "Canyon Echoes," or an EQ+delay+reverb algorithm might be used to create a program called "Stadium Megaphone." Many effects boxes, especially those we've reviewed in the past, have a set number of algorithms, or module combinations, which are used to create the effects "programs." The TSR-24S is different in that you aren't limited to working with a handful of "factory" algorithms. With the TSR-24S, you can create your own algorithms, built with any combination of effects modules available. The parameters of the modules can then be adjusted to whatever settings you desire. Then the new effect can be stored to user memory as a "program." If you simply choose one of the 32 factory algorithms as the basis for your new program, you can create custom programs even faster.
Programming an effects box isn't going to be easy if the user interface is not friendly. The TSR-24S's is straightforward enough that it is possible to use the unit right out of the box and adjust program parameters without even a glance at the manual. And although programming the TSR-24S does require some education from the manual, the whole process of creating your own programs from scratch can be grasped in a relatively short period of time, thanks to a front panel that is quick to learn.
At the far left of the front panel is the power on/off button. The unit powers up in "Performance" mode, so effects are active immediately, and as soon as you dial up a new effect program with the data wheel or with the Program + and - buttons, that program is immediately active. Four knobs at the far right adjust left input level, right input level, the main output level and the output level at the auxiliary outputs.