Test Drive: The Lexicon PCM-80 Digital Effects Processor

The 6-Voice algorithms are Glide>Hall, Chorus+Rvb, M-Band+Rvb, Res 1>Plate, and Res 2>Plate. Like the 4-Voice algorithms, each of these has a stereo reverb effect combined with other stereo effects based on six independent voices. Unlike the 4-Voice algorithms, these add more complex effects to the reverb such as gliding delays, a 6-voice chorus, multi-band EQ, and two 6-voice resonators. The Glide>Hall algorithm is used to make some interesting sample and loop effects. The Chorus+Rvb algorithm is the equivalent of six separate delays, each with its own independent chorus effect. The M-Band+Rvb algorithm offers low and high cut frequency filters on each of the six voices in addition to independent delays, levels, feedback controls and more. While this is not the extensive array of EQs found on many effects boxes, it is quite effective in creating a number of special "filtered" effects. The Res 1>Plate and Res 2>Plate algorithms use the input signal to excite six resonating voices. Each of the voices has independent level, pitch, duration and high frequency cutoff controls. These two algorithms are designed primarily for special effects with musical instruments, but they provide some unique harmonic effects with the voice. There is a maximum stereo delay time of 2.6 seconds. This is expandable to up to 42 seconds by adding 4 meg SIMMs to the PCM-80.

If any one thing about the PCM-80 stands out, it's the extensive editing power provided for each of the programs. The parameters are set up in a matrix form of columns and rows. The first row is row 0 and the first column is column 0. So, the first parameter at the top left is parameter 0.0. The parameter just to the right, on the same row, is parameter 0.1. The parameter directly below this one, on row 1, is parameter 1.1, etc.. The parameters are categorized such that level controls are found on row 4, for example, and reverb time parameters on row 2. Some of the programs have well over seventy parameters. But if you find this a bit intimidating, the PCM-80 makes things simple. The ADJUST knob is basically a data entry control that can be assigned to any parameter. In each of the 200 presets, the ADJUST knob has been assigned to what the programmers thought would be the most used parameter for that effect. This makes life pretty easy. Just dial up the effect program you want, then twist the ADJUST knob and see what it does. When you do, the display changes to show what parameter is being edited and what value is being assigned. If this isn't the parameter you want to adjust, then press the EDIT key to enter the edit mode. The PCM-80 can be set up to operate in two edit modes, "Go" and "Pro." In the Go mode, the programmers have once again taken it upon themselves to decide which parameters of the program would be the ones anyone would most likely want to adjust. These parameters are then assigned to what is called a "soft row" of parameters that aren't part of the actual matrix of parameters, so you don't have to concern yourself with what row and what column the parameter is on. Simply press EDIT, then use the SELECT knob to scroll through the various parameters on the "soft row." When you get to the one you want, use the ADJUST knob to make your adjustments. If you want even more editing power, configure the unit to operate in "Pro" mode. In this mode, when EDIT is pressed, you not only get access to the "soft row" of parameters, but by using the UP and DOWN keys to move from row to row, you can access all the parameters in the program. And you can assign whatever parameters you prefer to the "soft row" and further customize your programs.

Press the CONTROL key to make adjustments to various system parameters. This also puts you into a matrix setup consisting of seven rows. The first row accesses audio parameters such as digital and analog input level, output level, and other digital parameters such as Word Clock, SCMS, and Emphasis Bit. The 2nd row sets the edit mode, global mix mode, bypass mode, and more. Format, Load, and Copy functions for using memory cards and access to the PCM-80's extensive MIDI capabilities are found in this section.

Press the TEMPO key to access the PCM-80's unique tempo functions. Below this key is the tempo TAP key. Pressing this key twice, in the desired tempo, sets the tempo. Any delay parameter can be assigned to this tempo value. This is especially handy for musicians looking to keep echoes in time with the music. It can be used in a similar fashion in radio production. If you're using an echo effect on a voice track, press the TAP key twice to the beat of the music under the voice track. The echoes will match up to the beat of the music. Of course, your voice track or certain words also have to be in some sort of rhythm with the music, but when done right, this is a pretty neat effect that's easy to get with the PCM-80. An LED on the TEMPO key flashes to the current tempo value.

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