Due to the amount of time I travel & stay in hotels for work assignments, I’ve recently got into the habit of taking an electric guitar on the road with me to try and get a couple of hours of practice in as and when I can. To make the most of this valuable practice time, I’ve been on the lookout for a cheap multi-effects pedal that I can use with headphones, whilst providing me with a range of overdrive, distortion & modulation effects.
…I can dial in some nice sounding modulation, have fun with a range of overdrive and amp models whilst jamming along to a range of drum patterns…
The following specifications are taken straight from the Digitech website, but I’ll explain more about these features later in the review.
11 Amp Models, 5 Cabinets, 20 Studio Quality Effects (up to 8 at once), Built-in drum machine with 30 patterns, 40 user presets, 40 Factory Presets, Built-in Chromatic Tuner, Expression pedal input for Whammy / Wah and Volume, Easy-to-read LED Display, Stereo Output doubles as headphone jack, Low-noise 24-Bit analogue digital converters, Runs on batteries or external power supply – (Requires 6 AA batteries).
The 11 amp models that are featured in this pedal are:
’65 Fender Blackface Twin Reverb, Boutique Head (Matchless?), ‘01 Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier, Hot Rodded British Head, ’57 Fender Tweed Deluxe, ‘63 Vox AC30 Top Boost, Clean Tube amp, British Stack, Crunchy tube combo, High Gain tube amp, Vintage fuzz distortion, Flat-top acoustic guitar.
The 5 amplifier cabinets are:
’65 Fender Blackface 2×12 Cabinet, ’57 Fender Tweed 2×12 Cabinet, British Combo 2×12 Cabinet, Vintage 4×12 Cabinet, British 4×12 Cabinet.
The Digitech RP55 is fairly easy to use. I quickly scanned the user manual but having previously owned a Zoom 505 a few years ago I figured that the principals would be similar.
You can simply plug in and play with this pedal. Selecting the right hand side footswitch takes you up through the presets and the left pedal brings you back down again. There are 80 factory presets configured initially, however, it seems that presets #1-#40 are identical to #41-#80. The reason for this is that you can create up to 40 custom presets, which means every time you store a customised preset it actually overwrites one of the 40 preset spaces allocated, therefore leaving you with the potential use of up to 40 custom presets and the remaining 40 factory user settings.
Finding the tuner was probably the most challenging part of using the pedal. Like the Zoom 505, you have to select both footswitches simultaneously, however, unlike my old Zoom 505, you need to keep both pedals selected for quite a few seconds before the tuner engages. Simply press any of the footswitches to cancel the tuner (there’s no need to press both switches again simultaneously). The tuner is OK, but I found I had to strike the strings fairly hard to get an accurate reading on the tuning scale, unlike the other individual tuner pedals I use.
Creating custom presets is very easy, but you’ll probably need the user guide to hand to understand what amp settings you’ve selected, delay types used etc. To create custom presets you have to modify one of the factory presets and simply overwrite it when you store the new settings. This process was very straight forward, but don’t be surprised if you’re glancing at the user guide from time to time; EQ settings, amp types and delay/modulation were the references required that caused me to pick up the manual in defeat (I’m a guy, we don’t need manuals! 😉 ).
An attractive aspect to this pedal is that it has a built in drum machine – perfect for my nights away from home. Engaging the drum machine is very easy and you have a choice of around 30 drum patterns to jam with, most of which are great fun.
I never really intend to gig with this pedal – that wasn’t at the forefront of my mind when I purchased the item – it really is for bedroom use and practice. Although there are many amp models to choose from, initially I wasn’t bowled over by the quality. Digitech mention you can dial in a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier, (even through 4×12” cab modelling) but I just burst out laughing when selecting this setting; obviously, it doesn’t really compare to the real thing! However, there’s the ability to tweak the EQ, even change the pickup sounds from Single Coils to Humbuckers and I found that after a bit of time, I managed to dial in some sweet sounding overdrive/distortion tones. Some of the cleaner amp models sound quite nice and mixed with a bit of delay and a dash of chorus, you can achieve some pleasant tones. I lost myself for 30mins or so playing away to a couple of Pink Floyd tracks as I was actually quite impressed by the delay, chorus and volume swell available on tap. You don’t have the flexibility of making fine adjustments to the tone as you would do with standalone pedals, which as someone who hasn’t used a multi-effects unit for years, I found a bit frustrating – but I knew prior to purchasing the pedal, that would be the case.
The drum machine sounds OK, with 30 different patterns to choose from, and they’re adequate to jam along with.
I mentioned earlier I wouldn’t really want to play this pedal in a live situation; well I’ve actually used it live a couple of times now, through a Marshall Reverb 12 practice amp. The only thing I would say, as with most pedals and amps – be cautious about the presets you create in the surroundings of your bedroom, as when it comes to playing with other members of a band, your settings may get lost in the mix somewhat. I found that with the overdrive presets I created, I had to make to minor adjustments to the EQ (boosting the mid range & treble). The clean presets I created though were really good, straight out of the box, leaving me pleasantly surprised.
I also found that it makes quite a bit of difference of how good this pedal sounds depending on the amplifier you use it with. Through my practice amp it sounds OK but through my Marshall Vintage/Modern combo it actually sounded really impressive, especially the cleaner custom settings I created.
The Digitech marketing team do a good job with the packaging of the unit. I was sucked in by all the features this pedal offers, but I was really let down when I actually opened the box and placed the pedal in my hands. The pedal is relatively cheap to purchase and to be honest, it feels it. I’m not too sure how long it will last or how durable the switches are – the first thing I did was complete my warranty card!
I was after a cheap multi-effects pedal to take away with me when I’m on work assignments and this pedal is perfect for my requirements and is fun to use. Not only can I dial in some nice sounding modulation, I can have fun with a range of overdrive and amp models whilst jamming along to a range of drum patterns.
When it comes to playing with this pedal in a live situation, it’s useable, but you may need to tweak some of your settings to cut through the mix somewhat and you may need to spend a bit of time dialling in the overdrive tones. I was really impressed with the clean amp settings and modulation options available.
An aspect I do like about this pedal is the ability to select an amplifier cabinet model to play through and although it’s not outstanding, it’s great fun to imagine you’re playing through a 1970’s Marshall head and 4×12” cab, despite the fact you’ve got your headphones on playing in your bedroom/hotel room.
A pedal priced so low featuring so many features is always a winner and I’m looking forward to experimenting further with custom presets and jamming along to a few more drum patterns. The Digitech RP55 (purchased from Absolute Music) is perfect pedal for beginner guitarists to experiment with a variety of effects and ideal for guitarists who want the convenience of having multi-effects on tap, quickly plugging in and playing through your practice amp or headphones.