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A Guide to Selecting, Buying and Using a Multi Effects Processor

Like colors in the rainbow, a multi effect processor can come in many different configurations. Knowing what you want to use your processor for will help to eliminate some of the work selecting the correct unit.

Types of effects
In general, any device that is designed to change an audio signal prior to its output is an effect processor. That definition does leave something to be desired though. For instance, passing a signal near a strong magnetic field - say a television set - can change the audio signal. Have you ever wondered why you get that awful hum near the TV? A television wasn't designed to change an audio signal so it really isn't an effects this and a lot more.

Some effects processors have little audible effect on the sound to the human ear and some completely alter the signal to the point that the original signal is no longer recognizable. A compressor is an effects processor that can have a subtle audio effect on the signal that has very little overall effect on the output audibly. It simply limits the dynamics of the signal to make it more pleasing to the ear. So it is best to create a good definition of what your expectations are for the device.

In general, most popular effect processors use modulation or software to modify the sound. The most common uses of modulation are found in reverbs, delays, choruses and flangers. More recently, effects processor manufacturers have been adding software to their devices that allow the modeling - or emulating - of sounds like classic tube amplifiers and guitars, though some still add analog tube pre-amp sections to reproduce the distortions and drive of many popular amplifiers.

Some of the effects you will commonly find in a good multi-effects processor are:

Every manufacturer has their own flare, so it is best to thoroughly understand what you are using your effects processor for, and the things you want it to be able to do, BEFORE you buy it.

Selecting an effects processor
When selecting a multi-effects processor you will need to know what situations you are going to be using it in. Is this processor going to be used in a studio setting? Will it be used for live sound? If you plan on renting out equipment or are part of a traveling show, you will want to protect your investment. Will it need a rack case or is it small enough to fit in a brief case? Or will you use a pedal board?
Like any purchase, you should research your options. Check out reviews on the internet, get pricing information, and talk to people who have used the piece of equipment in the same settings that you plan on using it in. What did they think of the equipments capabilities, its tonal qualities?
Whether you plan on using it for performance or studio recording, always check to see that the specifications will meet your requirements. Learn about signal-to-noise ratios, frequency response, power requirements and pricing. Put these details together in a spreadsheet to help you decide what things you can live with and what things you can live without.

Effects processors come in a variety of chassis forms. Rack mountable chassis form processors are typically 19" wide. The height of the unit will vary and is measure typically in "U's." A "U" is approximately 1 3/4". A popular manufacturer of effects processors, Digitech makes versions for many different applications. Floor processors like some of the Boss multi effects units, are becoming more popular. These units are nice because they are completely self contained and include stompbox style switching for easy access to the effects while playing your instrument.

It seems like a lot of work, but in the end you will be glad you took the extra time to analyze all of these things. Don"t let hype drive your purchasing decision. Noting beats quality research when you are making an investment in a good multi effects processor. This way, in the end, you will be confident that the selection you made was the right one.

Buying Tips

Using your processor
Your effects processor will help you to craft your signature tone. Whether you are a vocalist and are looking to purchase a vocal processor, or you are a guitarist searching for a fitting guitar multi effects processor, selecting a device that compliments your personal tone choices is important.

How you use your processor will be a matter of personal taste. If you are using it in your live mix, you will probably insert it an effects loop using your front of house mixer. When you use a guitar effects device like the Rocktron Xpression Multi-effects Processor, you will commonly insert it either before your amplification section. Some amplifiers have built in effects loops. This feature allows you put your effect in the signal chain in a manner that allows for easy control within your amplifiers controls.

No matter how you use your multi effects processor, choosing a quality piece of equipment that you can afford will bring you many years of pleasure, so be sure to do your homework. You will be glad you did!