Zoom RFX2000

The RFX2000 is a 24bit effects processor with algorithms that cover a wide range of effects from the conventional to the bizarre. Although it has no digital input it has two digital outputs, one optical, one Coaxial. It's other main feature is the inclusion of extensive midi control. This is what I think makes it exceptionally valuable considering it's price.

The effects are divided into 6 banks that are selected from a toggle button. The effect is then selected from the bank using a rotary dial (automatable). The banks are: Reverbs, Delays, Effects, SFX, Re-Mix and Mixdown. There are 99 preset settings which come pre-programmed but to which any configuration of any effect can be stored for instant recall.

The reverbs are very versatile, although not all of them sound great, some of them sound very good for certain sounds. Each of the 8 different reverb effects is further split into another 11 characters. Each one of these can be contolled by 3 different parameters. Usually these allow EQ adjustment in a low and high band and the third knob relating to the timing of the reverb somehow, although for synchronising to tempo the midi clock can be used.

The Delay bank features 8 different delay effects, which cover a variety of different styles, quite well, it has to be said. Some of them allow you to dose your delay with unnerving amounts of feedback, in the negative range for some delay types.

The imaginatively titled 'Effects' bank has Pitch shifting, Chorus, Flanger, Phaser and some combinations of reverb and these. They are good versions of these effects, I think the Chorus is actually very good, especially if used subtely. Also be sure to check out the CHO+REV effect, which is warm and pleasant in a way which I am not used to hearing from digital equipment. Generally subtlety is the key to using this bank, a little bit of phasing or flanging goes a long way in a final mix.

The SFX bank contains effects which perhaps do not belong together, maybe this is really a miscellaneous bank. A vocoder is present, which can be used with the external front mounted microphone input. The best use of the vocoder that I have found is for processing drums. There is a ring modulation effect (nice to use in front of a filter). The PIT-DLY (pitch delay) gives a cool sound to dry pads and it can also be used with extreme settings to great effect on messy fast rinsing drums. Then there is a rotary effect which aims to simulate a speaker being rotated, which seems weird for a stereo unit but sounds interesting. The rest of this bank contains odd reverb types, Dimension (which must have not fit into the reverb bank), Reverse reverb and gated reverb.

The best bank is probably the Remix bank. LO-FI-FX and HP/LP/BP filters are included here. The filters are not great it has to be said. The resonance adds no grunt and can be noisy. I use them for adding expression to phrases in a really gentle way, the HP works especially well for giving extra dynamics to snare patterns. LO-FI-FX is probably the best effect on the unit in my opinion, it adds a salty rough texture that doesn't really sound lo-fi, more like distortion (which is the name of one of the parameters of the effect). This bank highlights on of the key things about this effect unit, that it is fun and quality sounding at the same time. Although the effects are not the best on the market, they can change the sound in ways which lead to new sounds, which can be savagely morphed using automation. Equally so, the quality of the effects when used gently is outstanding and can really make a mix more glossy and involving.

The mixdown bank is made up of effects for mastering and finalising. POWER is certainly an effect that I use a great deal. It emphasises Bass sounds so that they thump great deal more, ideal for Bass Drums, it also adds a subtle reverb, which rather than adding a reverb character (although this is an unavoidable side effect), just serves to fatten up the sound. The 'fatness' can be altered to give a bit more thump or a lot more. There is a Cabinet simulator too. The other effects in this section (Compressor, limiter, expander etc....) are also very subtle and useful but not versatile enough to be used on all sounds. This is probably the weakest bank, but if you stop for a second and remember the price of the unit you realise that they are still well worth the money.

The inclusion of midi makes all the difference as far as I am concerned. It means that the midi clock can be used for tempo based effects (not all effects but all the important ones), which is just essential for getting the variation of the effects to change precisely in time. Also, I simply can't understand a world where one constant effect is applied to a varying degree of mix level. Changing the mix level is all very well, but surely it is critical to be able to add more distortion to your sound whilst compensating by taking off a bit of high end at the same time (for example). The full automation this unit offers means that sequencer based users will be able to shape and craft their tracks exactly how they want. I wouldn't want to live in a world where feedback on delays can not be controlled exactly, in time. I nearly always record the sweeps in by hand and change them in my sequencer a bit, this is so much more expressive than programming directly on the sequencer but I only have two hands and there are four or five knobs to twiddle. Don't misunderstand me, I don't have constant wild sweeps programmed on every parameter of an effect all the time. What I find useful is being able to filter an effect out when other sounds around a part drop out, or change an effect a bit as a part fades out.

As I see it, the price for this specification can not be beaten, in fact I am at a loss to be able ti find any other unit for this price which actually has midi on it, yet alone digital outputs and user custom FX. If there are any criticisms I could level against it they probably all come down the the unit being digital. [A bit like me saying I like bananas because of the shape but I hate them because of the shape, I know]. Sometimes when changing the character of an effect using the clicky dial it take the processor a moment to catch up, during which time there is an annoying drop out. Also there are some times when I hear a slight digital degration of the sound, this is usually slight, but usually very predictable. I can sympathise with how difficult these problems must be to eradicate without inflating the price tag and I think the compromise is perfect.

But they give more.

Included with the RFX2000 is a CD with software which will allow a computer attached to the RFX2000 via midi to control the effects directly from a well designed and far more intuitive windows interface. You see graphs and descriptions of FX settings on the screen. When you use the RFX front panel you sometimes have an effect setting of discrete values with insufficient explanation about the difference of the values. These options are drop down menus with text to select for the parameter. When you first run the program you have to connect to the RFX2000 via midi. It's very simple:

From the midi menu in RFX-2000ED (the apps name) choose the correct MIDI IN and MIDI OUT settings.
Then click the blue ONLINE button.
It will search for your RFX2000 and if successful will turn the ONLINE button yellow.

Aswell as being able to change between FX at the click of a mouse you can Store all the patches from your RFX2000 on your PC for backups sake. Customising FX settings is easy aswell, you can store the FX straight into the user presets on the RFX2000, and you can recall them from a window that floats around the main control panel (as does the memo pad, rather conveniently).

At first you might not notice the EXTRA option at the bootom of the BANK menu. This bank is not selectable from the front panel, although, you can select user presets set up using the editor of effects in the EXTRA bank. You can choose from:

31 band EQ 5 Band EQ 20 tap delay
10 tap delay
Multi Efx Early rev Custom rev Custom final

Of particular interest is the MULTI EFX on which you can set up CHORIS, DELAY and REVERB, choose the mix settings for each one individually and change the routing between them (ie, parrallel or series, or combinations). There is also, as usual, a master MIX fader for the whole effect. I love the way you can change the feedback level on the screen as a number and you see a graph. This might not make a huge differene for some people, but I like the clever use of layout and visuals and I think it makes it a lot easier to use this FX unit. All of the EXTRA bank effects are hugely controllable (10 pairs of taps can be individually configured in the 20 TAP DELAY for example).

24 Bit Stereo Processing
716 Programs
44.1kHz Sampling
+ 4dBm to - 10dBm Operation
STUDIO Quality Reverb
SFX & Re-Mix Effects
New Mastering Effects for power Mixdown modes
Includes Librarian & Editor Software CD-ROM (PC/MAC)
Full MIDI Capability Including In, Out & Thru
S/P Dif and Optical Digital Outputs
MIC & Cabinet Amp Modelling
MIC Input