Test Drive: The Sony DPS-M7 Digital Sonic Modulator

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As if this isn't elaborate enough, the M7 goes another step further than many other effects boxes. Attached to the MODULATION BLOCK is an ENVELOPE BLOCK which offers three algorithms: Envelope Follower, Envelope Generator 1, and Envelope Generator 2. Without getting into too much detail, this block, when used, automatically adjusts parameters in the MODULATION BLOCK using variable attack, hold, decay, sustain, and release times. Three different curves can also be applied independently to the attack, decay and release. If you're familiar with ADSR envelopes, you can imagine the possibilities of being able to apply such envelopes, triggered by input or MIDI signals, to parameters in the MODULATION block. If parameter modulation by waveform generators is not your cup of tea, let it suffice to say that when you dial up a preset effect that is using the ENVELOPE BLOCK, you'll hear things you won't find on many other DSPs. Many of these effects generated by the ENVELOPE BLOCK may be subtle when used on voice or sound effects, but when used on musical instruments, the effects are more obvious.

Editing existing programs is pretty straightforward, but what about creating your own? This is done by simply editing an existing program and saving it to a new location. The advantage to this is that if there is a program close to what you want -- one that has a flange effect you want but needs some EQ, for example -- you can load this program, add or modify existing algorithms, then save the edited program to a new, user location, giving it a new name. Furthermore, let's say you like the EQ effect used in the PRE-EFFECT 1 block of a certain program, and you want those same EQ parameter settings in your new program. By using the B.LOAD (Block Load) function, you are able to load into your new program the EQ algorithm complete with its existing parameter settings. This eliminates having to reset the numerous parameters found in many of the algorithms when creating new programs.

During our tour of the 100 preset programs, we came across several that caught our attention. The Doppler algorithm is used in a few of the programs to provide a very realistic doppler effect. One program using the extensive phasing and panning algorithms offered a panning effect that, in the headphones with a voice input, had a definite "3-D" spatial effect that can best be described as dizzying! The pitch shifting algorithms are some of the most glitch free we've come across. The pitch shift range is plus or minus two octaves, an octave more than many high-end pitch shifters. For the musician, diatonic shift is also available. The flanging and chorus programs are also as good as any we've heard.

Another block worth mentioning is the SYSTEM BLOCK. This is where the operating environment of the M7 is set. Stereo/Mono input mode is selected here. Select whether on-screen help displays automatically or only when the HELP button is pressed. Adjust the sensitivity of the data wheel. Protect the unit from use by anyone that doesn't know the "unlock" sequence. Enter your name and birthday and the M7 will greet you with a personal happy birthday message when the unit is powered up on your special day. The M7 also knows when certain holidays come around, and you're greeted accordingly on those days. Additional blocks, LOCAL MIDI and SYSTEM MIDI, access the MIDI functions of the DPS-M7.

The DPS-M7 is a musician's toy. Most of the preset programs are written for use with various musical instruments. The M7 is designed to allow the creative musician and audio engineer practically unlimited programming power. It is the kind of effects box you would expect to find in large recording studios where clean, quality effects are a must.

Does this mean the M7 is overkill for the radio production room? Not at all. In fact, as we get closer to digital broadcasting, as digital cart machines begin to infiltrate our studios, as digital workstations find their way into radio production, effects boxes like the M7 will be more prevalent than the less expensive multi-effects boxes that sacrifice quality for quantity. Also, as technology continues to assault the once easy-to-use production studio, Production Directors of tomorrow will no doubt have the technical knowledge necessary to get the most out of equipment as elaborate as the M7.

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