Test Drive: Zoom 9030 Advanced Instrument Effects Processor

The third module is the DIST (distortion) module. If you're the type who likes to use the effects programs of a DSP right out of the box, don't expect to find a bunch of neat effects for your voice tracks in the 99 factory programs. Nearly half the programs utilize the distortion effect, and many of the others are equally suited for use with a guitar or synthesizer. Consequently, we plugged in a synth and began checking out the factory programs. It's amazing how much like Eddie Van Halen you can sound just hitting a few notes on your keyboard! If you're a musician-type producing for a rock format, you'll get plenty of use out of the factory programs, particularly those using the distortion effects. Otherwise, you'll most likely edit the programs to provide more useful effects. One thing we did find fun to do with the distortion programs was to run some production library zips, zaps, and explosions through the unit.

The 9030 supplies three distortion algorithms: DST (distortion) for hard analog distortion; OD (overdrive) which simulates the distortion of a tube amplifier with the controls at full tilt; and CRU (crunch) which produces a "slightly distorted tube amplifier sound." All three algorithms come with a distortion or drive parameter for adjusting the degree of distortion, an EQ parameter for setting the amount of high frequency emphasis, and a level parameter which sets the output level of the module.

The fourth effect module is the EQ (equalizer) module. Again, the unit doesn't attempt to replace your high-dollar outboard EQ, but it does provide three types of EQ which can take care of most minor EQ tasks. The first, 4GT (Four Band Guitar EQ), is basically a four band graphic equalizer with preset center frequencies and bandwidths. The four editing knobs adjust the four parameters which are nothing more than boost/cut controls for "low," "middle," "high," and "presence" (or very high) frequencies. The second EQ, 3EQ, is a three-band parametric equalizer. Holding true to its simplified design, the 9030 provides only four parameters for this EQ algorithm. There are three gain controls for the low, mid, and high frequencies, and one frequency control for the mids. In effect, you have an equalizer that is part graphic and part parametric. The center frequency for the lows and highs is preset; only the midrange center frequency is adjustable. The third and final EQ algorithm is called the Enhancer (ENH). This is a low and high frequency emphasis algorithm which analyzes the input signal to determine how much emphasis to apply.

The AMP module furnishes "guitar and bass amp simulators." If you're a musician, you might relate to the effects that different amplifiers and different speaker systems provide. If so, then you'll applaud the 9030's ability to mimic the sound of a guitar amp and a bass amp driving one of three different speaker systems: COM (compact), CMB (combo), or STK (stack). To the radio producer looking for some voice effects, this module delivers several "filter" or EQ effects that can be easily used to slightly change the sound of a voice track or sound effect. A stereo/mono parameter provides a "stereo spread" effect when set to stereo.

The EFF1, EFF2, and SFX modules are where the majority of the effects of the 9030 reside. The EFF1 and EFF2 modules each contain twelve effect algorithms. Some of these are duplicated between the two modules; most are unique to each module. The duplication enables use of an effect in the second module in the event the first module is tied up using one of its more unique effects. The third effect module, the SFX (special effects) module, contains seven effect algorithms unique to this module. The final module in the chain, the REV module, delivers four reverb algorithms and two delay algorithms. Here's a closer look at the four effects modules:

The EFF1 module contains the following effects algorithms: Pitch Shifter, Phase, Flanger, Chorus, Auto Wah, Cry, Metallic, Doubling, Comb Filter, Tremolo, Octave, and Pedal Wah. The Pitch Shifter algorithm provides a reasonably clean pitch shift with a range plus or minus one octave. Adjustable parameters include a course adjustment, fine adjustment, an output level adjustment, and a BAL (balance) parameter for setting the mix between the direct (dry) signal and the pitch shifted signal. (Note: not all effects contain this "balance" or "mix" parameter.) The Phase, Flanger, Chorus, and Tremolo are the typical effects you're used to. The Auto Wah effect simulates the "wah-wah" dynamic filter effect use on many of your favorite guitar licks, and the amount of wah effect is determined by the level of the input signal. This sensitivity is adjustable as are three other parameters which alter the sound of the effect. The Cry algorithm is another wah effect.

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