Test Drive: The Sony DPS-R7 Digital Reverberator

Once you've achieved a basic understanding of the abbreviations and signal flow, you're ready to look at some actual parameters in a program. If you like to play with parameters, you'll love experimenting with the DPS-R7. If you're not the type with the time or the inclination to delve into digital effects programming, the parameter section of the DPS-R7 will be a little more than you can handle. For example, Preset Program 1, "Brilliant Hall," has 108 adjustable parameters, and that's counting only those in the two Reverberation Sub-blocks and the Post-Effect block in use. The Pre-Effect block isn't even used in this program. And there are even more parameters in the Input Block and Output Block. Sure, there's the usual Reverb Time parameter, and it's easy enough to locate and adjust. But are you ready to deal with Time Scale, Cross Predelay Level Sync, Cross Early Reflection Phase, and Rotate Bass Frequency? How about Presence Control, Spread, and Reverb Phase Sync? Once again, this is an elaborate reverb unit. You'll need the manual and a good understanding of digital reverb units and how they work if you want to know exactly what you're doing in the edit mode. Then again, there's always the "creative radio production" method of editing digital effects boxes: Find a parameter, mess with it, and see what happens. (If you like this method and you change a setting and nothing happens, it's a good idea to return the parameter to where it was. If you don't know what it's supposed to do to begin with, chances are you probably don't know if adjusting it will affect another parameter.)

The extensive parameters don't stop in the reverb algorithms. Are you ready to play with the Hysteresis Level of the Gate algorithm? Or the LFO Start Point of the Autopan algorithm? Okay. You get the idea. Most radio producers won't ever find the time, let alone the need to mess with a large number of the parameters found in the DPS-R7. Fortunately, the 100+ programs in the unit provide such a wide variety of effects that editing may never be necessary. But should you decide to, editing is easy enough once you understand the layout of the unit.

Part of that ease comes from the "on-line" help function accessed by the HELP key. At any point in the program, pressing HELP will display a message explaining what you need to do to get to the next step. The help function can be set to automatic or manual. In the automatic mode, help messages constantly appear, telling you what to do next. In the manual mode, you have to press HELP to get the message.

Switching the help function between manual and automatic is done in yet another block of the DPS-R7 called the System Block. The System Block accesses fifteen parameters that control how the unit operates. From here, the unit can be set to accept a mono input or a stereo input. The unit can be set to load a program automatically as soon as it is selected, or by pressing ENTER once the program is selected. How quickly it loads the program in the "autoload" mode can be adjusted from 200ms to 1000ms. This is where the internal clock is set so the unit will know when to say, "Good Morning" and "Merry Christmas." You can also enter a user name and date of birth so that when the unit is turned on, on your birthday, it will display, "Happy Birthday (Your Name)." A "protect key" can be turned on that disables all controls and prevents use of the machine by anyone not knowing the "unlock" sequence. There's even a battery tester in the System Block to let you know when it's time to replace the battery to avoid losing user memory. What can one say? "It's a Sony."

And let's not forget the Memory Block. (No pun intended.) Parameters in this block control memory functions. Turn Memory Protect on to avoid overwriting an existing user program. Move programs from one memory location to another. Copy programs. Delete programs. Customize how the unit's "compare" function operates when comparing edited programs with the originals.

For you MIDI buffs, the DPS-R7 has a Local MIDI Block and a System MIDI Block that offer MIDI capabilities as comprehensive as we've seen.

Finally, there's the Block Load Block. This block lets you load blocks from other programs INTO the program you're editing. You can load just the Pre-Effect Block of another program, or just the Post-Effect Block, or both. You can load any one of the four Reverb Sub-blocks individually, or all of them at once. The Block Load function greatly speeds up the editing process when you want the reverb effects of one program combined with, let's say, the "Pre-Effect" settings of another program.

All program selection and data input is done with the data wheel. As you turn the wheel, you can feel subtle "notches" that are helpful when slight movements of the wheel are made. On the other hand, using the indentation on the wheel for your index finger, it's very easy to quickly "spin" your way from program 1 to program 100.

The DPS-R7 incorporates recently developed, 32-bit signal processing technology which results in high quality, high-speed effects processing. To the ear, this processing translates into very clean and very realistic reverbs. The sound of some of the various "hall" and "room" reverbs in the unit comes as close to the real thing as you can get.

The DPS-R7 lists for $1,295. For the ticket you get true stereo processing plus the ability to use the unit as two separate mono processors. You get a piece of digital equipment from a respected name in digital technology. The overall quality of the effects is superb, and the on-line help screens get a big plus.

Reported specs of the unit include 18-bit, linear quantization. The sampling frequency is 40kHz. The frequency response is 10Hz to 22kHz. The signal-to-noise ratio is greater than 94dB as is the dynamic range. THD is less than .0035% (1kHz). An optional remote control, the RM-DPS7, is available.

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