The tempo value is not the only way to modulate parameters in the PCM-80. Aside from the external MIDI controllers that can be used, the PCM-80 offers several internal modulators that can be "patched" to parameters. You get an LFO with a variety of waveforms: Sine, Cosine, Square, Sawtooth, Pulse, and Triangle. There are some envelopes to choose from. Use footswitches and footpedals to adjust parameters. Use input levels to modulate parameters. And of course, you can assign the ADJUST knob to any parameter. Furthermore, you can create up to ten "patches" in any single program. Several parameters can be assigned to a single controller, or several controllers can be assigned to a single parameter. And, what is referred to as "dynamic patching" enables modulating effect parameters in a most unusual way. For example, in a conventional patch, a modulation wheel might be patched to a "chorus depth" parameter. When the wheel is in the "off" position, the chorus depth is at zero. As the wheel is turned towards full "on," the chorus depth increases. With the PCM-80, up to eight "pivot points" can be set between the full off and full on positions of the wheel, and various values of chorus depth can be assigned to these pivot points. The result might be something like this: as the wheel is moved from full off to full on, the depth of the chorus goes from zero to 100% to 50% back to zero then to 50% and then to 100% and back to 50% before the wheel ever gets to full on. Take the many possible internal and external modulators available, combined with the large number of parameters in each algorithm, and it's not hard to figure out how Lexicon programmers came up with 200 presets from only ten algorithms. You really have to sit down with the PCM-80 and play with it for a while to truly appreciate this versatility.
Other front panel controls include the STORE key for storing programs into the user registers or onto memory cards. The COMPARE key lets you compare an edited program with the original. The BYPASS key bypasses the PCM-80 in one of several user definable ways.
The memory card slot is something you don't find on many effects boxes, and this is another big plus for the PCM-80. A 1 meg memory card can store up to forty-seven banks of fifty programs each. Memory cards can also store system configurations for transferring setups between PCM-80s. But probably the most useful and most valuable aspect of the memory card slot is the fact that this is a very simple way to keep the PCM-80 up to date with technology's rapid pace. Not only can cards be used to store information from the PCM-80, but cards can also supply the PCM-80 with new algorithms and even greater versatility. Enter the new PCM-80 Dual FX Card. For $250, this card provides 25 new algorithms and 250 new presets. We didn't have access to this card for this review, but the literature on it is pretty impressive. You get more delay and reverb effects along with a sub-mixer and several new special effects. One of the programs is a tape flange program that utilizes the ADJUST knob as a "thumb brake" for one of the two machines. A second card is the first in a series of "Artist" cards which will consist of 100 custom presets developed by artists well known for their work in music and sound design. It would be interesting to see what kind of card a radio producer could customize for Lexicon! Yet another card, slated for shipping by year end, is the Pitch FX Card. This one includes five new algorithms combining pitch shifting with reverb. The pitch range is +/-3 octaves. You get Dual Shift, Stereo Shift, and 4-Voice Shift algorithms. Needless to say, the FX cards are going to be something more than options as time goes on, and Lexicon's intent is to release a number of these cards for a variety of applications including broadcast production.
The PCM-80 is wonderfully quiet and the effects are very clean. It is easily operated right out of the box, but you will need some quality time with the manual to get your money's worth out of the PCM-80. It's obvious that most of the factory presets are written for music production, but there are many that apply to radio production as well. Since you cannot create your own algorithms on the PCM-80, this is not a unit for someone who likes to build effects programs from scratch, but it's certainly the kind of box that will appeal to the individual who likes to tweak existing programs and who wants complete control over lots of parameters. The unique "patching" capabilities enabling modulation of parameters from a wide variety of sources should satisfy even the most addicted tweak-a-holic.
Specs on the PCM-80 include frequency response at 10Hz to 20kHz. A/A performance specs include crosstalk at -55dB. S/N ratio is 90dB, and THD is 0.008%. The unit takes up one rack space and weighs 9.5 pounds.