This month's Test Drive puts us in the driver's seat of yet another effects box. The DigiTech DSP-256XL falls into that category of the affordable, yet powerful effects boxes that, like most under $500, are designed for the musician. Even so, as many of you know, these little musician's boxes are jam packed with high quality effects perfectly suited for radio production with price tags that don't put your GM into cardiac arrest.
The primary features of the 256XL include 128 fixed factory presets, 128 programmable slots, up to four effects at once, twenty-six different effect configurations, and full MIDI capability. You get reverb effects, chorusing/flanging, parametric EQ, graphic EQ, and a not too often seen 4-tap delay.
Aside from its clean sound and numerous useable presets, perhaps the most impressive aspect of the 256XL is its ease of operation. When a program is selected, the 2-line, 16-character per line LCD display shows the program title on the top line and the effect configuration in use on the bottom line. PROGRAM UP/DOWN buttons scroll through the 256 memory slots in the unit, and if you hold the UP or DOWN button in, the unit shifts into a "fast scroll" mode for quick selection of any program (or adjustment of any parameter). In radio production, probably the most used parameter of an effects box is the wet to dry MIX parameter. If you're the type that doesn't care to get into the parameters of an effect and shop around for the MIX parameter before you make an adjustment, you'll appreciate the MIX control knob on the right side of the front panel. If you're looking for an effect for a voice track, let's say, just set the MIX level to 12 o'clock (or 50%) and start moving through the different programs as you input the voice track. When you find one you like, it's immediately on line and you don't have to enter any "edit" mode to adjust the mix. The other two knobs next to the MIX control are INPUT and OUTPUT level controls.
Now, should you want to edit the program, that too is quick and simple. The two PROGRAM UP/DOWN buttons mentioned above are dedicated to program selection. Similarly, separate PARAMETER buttons are dedicated to program editing. There are two UP/DOWN PARAMETER buttons and two LEFT/RIGHT PARAMETER buttons. The LEFT/RIGHT buttons are used to select the parameter you wish to edit. The UP/DOWN PARAMETER buttons increase or decrease that parameter's value accordingly. As you step through the various parameters, the entire top line of the display is dedicated to describing the parameter; so there is limited use of abbreviations which tend to confuse the novice effects editor. The bottom line of the display is reserved for the value of the parameter, and again, limited use of abbreviations helps to shorten the learning curve.
Once changes have been made to a program, the COMPARE button can be pressed to compare the edited program with the original. If you like what you hear, press the STORE button. You are given the option to store the edited program in the current position or to any of the other 128 user slots. The STORE button is also used to simply copy an existing program to another place in user memory. Once again, storing and moving programs is very easy, and the LCD display kindly guides you along the way with prompts such as "Storing," and "Copying." When you're just playing around with a program's parameters and then decide to go to another program, the unit will remind you that you've changed the program by giving you the option to save the changes before you go to the next program.
DigiTech's 128 factory programs are stored in locations 129-256. User locations 1-128 come from the factory with copies of programs 129-256 in them, and these programs can be edited or completely removed. We thought it was nice of DigiTech to put the user locations at 1-128 instead of at the other end. This way, all your favorite programs, whether they be factory programs or ones you create, can be at locations 1 through 10, for example, making the program number easier to remember than, let's say, 129 or 233!