Test Drive: Zoom 9030 Advanced Instrument Effects Processor

This brings us to the last module, the REV (reverb) module. Again, the 9030 doesn't attempt to replace your high-end reverb unit, but if your reverb needs are pretty basic, the 9030 easily and cleanly does the job. There are six effect algorithms in this module. They are: Reverb 1, Reverb 2, E/R 1, E/R 2, Multi-tap Delay, and Ping-Pong Delay. Reverbs 1 and 2 are "hall" type reverbs with reverb times from .5 to 10 seconds. Pre-delay and "color" parameters let you fine tune the reverb effect. The E/R reverbs are Early Reflection types ideal for "small rooms." The Multitap Delay algorithm is a useful special effect. Maximum delay of the final tap is 900ms. If our counts are correct, there are eight taps. An INTerval parameter adjusts the time between taps. The PTN (pattern) parameter sets the direction of the delays in the stereo spectrum. The delays can go from left to right, right to left, both directions continuously, or in a ping-pong fashion. A SLOpe parameter determines whether the delays start soft and end loud or vice versa. Finally, the Ping-pong Delay algorithm is the familiar delay effect found on many DSPs. Maximum delay time is 900ms. Other parameters include Feedback, Mix, and High Damp which dampens the highs of the feedback signal.

The 99 memory locations of the 9030 are user-definable. The 99 factory programs are stored in these locations from the factory, but they're also stored in 99 ROM locations which don't appear on the display. In other words, the factory programs are always available (using the ROM Recall function), but they don't occupy any of the 99 locations unless you want them to.

The 9030 is a mono in/stereo out DSP. Most of the effects are mono effects such as the EQ, distortion, compressor, flanger, phaser, etc.. The effects you'd want in stereo are stereo, like the ping-pong delay, the reverbs, the auto-panner, the stereo flanger, and others. Inputs and outputs are 1/4-inch unbalanced. A high-impedance input is on the front panel next to the headphone jack. Other connections (low impedance input, outputs, MIDI IN/OUT, Remote In, External Effect Send & Return, 9V Power) are on the back panel. An optional rack-mount kit is available.

Also pictured is the 8050 Advanced Foot Controller. As you can see, the 8050 is not your elementary one or two pedal controller. The 8050 offers abundant options for remote selection of patches and remote control of parameters in the 9030. The controller is programmable and probably a must for anyone wishing to get the most out of the 9030 during live performances. The 9030 also supports full MIDI control of program changes and real-time parameter adjustment.

The 9030 lists for $749. The 8050 controller lists for $249. What seems to set the 9030 apart from the many other DSPs in this class that we've put to the test is the friendly user interface. Granted, if you don't intend to do much editing of effects programs, most DSPs are pretty simple to use; but you won't find a DSP that's any easier to play with than the 9030. Most of this ease is the result of bringing a visual version of the effects chain to the front panel (with the nine module LEDs) and adding the four "editing" knobs to the panel. Our hats are off to Zoom for bringing clarity and directness to an area of audio technology that too often assumes the user has all day to read a manual and all night to push buttons.

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