Behringer Virtualiser pro DSP2024

The virtuliser in situ

The Behringer Virualiser Pro Dsp2024 is a 1U rackable MultiFX unit. It provides a single stereo in / out effect (although the unit can be configured to provide mono in / stereo out, by only feeding a signal to the left input.), with six controls available for each preset. All parameters are automatable via midi, and all physical controls also send midi. Inputs and outputs are provided on balanced jacks (also works with unbalanced jacks) and on XLR. The inputs are switchable between -10dBv and +4dBu, providing a solution for those whose studios are running at a pro level. Power is supplied by an IEC type cable. Construction is solid, and the unit has a suprising weight.

The unit is nicely styled, with a brushed aluminium face plate, resplendant with the display, knobs and buttons. Starting on the far left, you have the meters. As there is no way of setting an input / output level (there are no controls on the front panel and i am yet to find them in the menu system.) these serve merely as flashing lights in my opinion! Next along is a display which indicates, the value of the control that you are currently altering. This can be %, dB, Hz or seconds. As you adjust a knob, this display will jump to tell you the current value type. This is a very useful function, which means that (in conjuction with the control naming function) you rarely, if ever, have to consult the manual on the effect you are currently using.

The next display tells you which effect bank you are in. This can be one of the eight banks, all of which vary in size:

Reverb Delay Modulation Dynamics Psycho Accoustic Filter / Eq Distortion / Amp Special Fx

Each of these can be accessed by first pressing the EFFECT button on the right of the unit,

and then turning the jog wheel. The wheel has a nice smooth motion, gently clicking at each stage. As you turn the wheel, the unit steps throught the available effects. This is a sensible system that works well. Effect names are displayed on the digital alarm clock type display. Although these are cryptic, they are fairly easy to understand after a bit of use. For example, the LFO filter becomes the L-FIL on the display. Effect type read out on the display

The next section contains the four control knobs, which provide access to the effects 8 parameters. Of these eight, the last two are dedicated to EQ, and provide Hi and Lo Cut / Boost. The remaining six provide access to as many parameters as there are available. If this is less than six, then the remaining controls do nothing

The controls have the same stepped motion that the wheel has, and they are of the continuous controller type of knob. (For more please see the Waldorf XT review). However, for some reason, Behringer have not used them in a sensible way. Unlike the waldorf XT, where a sweep from 7 - 5 (ie a full sweep of a physical knob) corresponds to the full 0 - 127 value range, The virualisers controls keep going. This means that often you find that to sweep a filter all the way up then down again, you have to turn the knob fully round about eight times up and the same back down! This is really too much of a range. It prevents many subtle movements from being played in live. However you can get around it by programming the value using midi CC's from your workstation. The virtualiser

The four knobs can be in one of three modes. The first assigns them to control Edit A - D. The second (accessed by pressing the EDIT button)

gives you access to Edit E, F and the EQ controls. The third (accessed by pressing the setup button) is the setup mode, of which more in a moment. This has the disadvantage that you cannot control edit A and edit F at the same time, but other than this small niggle, the system works quite nicely. The other important thing to note about the knobs is the controller naming. When you touch another knob, after using a previous control, the new controls name is displayed. So for example in the delay bank, if you touch edit A, DLY-L is displayed. This is fantastic! Goodbye manual!
The penultimate section is the mix knob, which works as normal. If you push it, then the unit goes in to bypass mode. The display on the virtuliser

The final section is the button section. Skipping those already discussed, you have left the connected preset and store buttons, the compare button, and the setup button. The store button allows you to store a created effect, and the preset button allows you to select previously stored effect setups. The compare button allows you to hear the stored version of an effect that you are currently working on.

The setup button, when pressed takes the control knobs in to the afore mentioned setup mode. Here the first knob controls the midi selection. Here you may set the recieving / transmitting channel, what commands the controls send or recieve, if program changes are accepted, and a host of Sysex related pages. The second knob selects whether the input is mono or stereo. The third knob is an overide for the mix parameter (when set to external, the signal is output 100% wet, and the mix control has no use), The fourth knob selects a configuration for the effects, Serial1, Serial2 or parrallel.

The included Fx are to start with fairly stale. The reverbs are a little shrill and piercing for my liking (the is a definate ringing in the high end), the Delays are straight and boring, and the dynamics effects are, to my ears at least, a little digital and weak. However, this units saving grace are the filter, distortion and specialFX banks. The filters sound warm and squelchy, and the LFO filter in particular is very capable. In the distortion banks, LoFi is a favourite. This simple distortion effect can turn any boring drum groove in to instant Aphex Twin! The specialFX bank deserves a mention for the Sampler that Behringer have included. Using the knobs you can start recording / end recording, and then play the loop forwards or backwards. Not that useful when writing a tune, but lots of fun none the less!
The Virtualiser is a strange unit. The price, the quality or inputs and the available controls all suggest a unit highly geared to the techno musician. But the fiddly controls and lack of input and output controls of any kind are a severe let down. Never the less, the FX provided are of a good quality and can be used creatively. Not reccommended as you're only unit, but it will be a welcome addition to most studios.

FOOTNOTE : I have found a way round the control knob issue. If you have midi control knobs (for example on an Oxygen8 Keyboard), you can route these to the virtualiser controls and have the entire 128 value range in a much smaller radius.