Digidesign Eleven Rack ReviewDigidesign Eleven Rack: Stairway to Eleven
Digidesign surprised the world last year when they brought out a guitar amp simulator for Pro Tools called Eleven. They have now launched Eleven in rack format for applications in the studio and on stage. Let's take a look at Digidesign's youngest child...
Thus, Digidesign decided to put its plugin into a hardware rack making it a convenient tool for studio and live guitar players. How did they do? The answer is here...
Hardware Amp Simulation
Eleven Rack offers few surprises in this regard, it includes the same amp simulations as the software version with the addition of some effects and interesting features...
Once unpacked, you'll discover a nice looking 2U orange/black rack piece. The front panel has an aluminum border and plastic buttons and knobs. It looks nice and serious; time will tell if the knobs can withstand the assaults of a guitar player. The front panel also has a large and easily readable backlit display surrounded by switches and knobs, whose function depends on what the display currently shows. In normal mode, the "Scroll" encoder allows you to browse among the different presets (about 100) and the "SW1" switch allows you to select the different display types, while the knobs under the display are assigned to the different amp settings. The knobs are not motorized, but they turn on orange when close to the saved value and red otherwise. A "save" button allows you to store your settings and an "edit/back" button gives you some insight on the unit's heart.
To summarize, the quality is very good but the offer isn't fully comprehensive. The advantage is that most guitar players will be able to cope with it. It's always better to have a few good possibilities than lots of crappy ones.
Now, let's take a look at the digital audio interface.
Digital Audio Interface
It also features a comprehensive set of outputs: two "to amp" outputs to connect it directly to your guitar amp. The first one is on the front panel and the second one–for stereo setups–is on the rear panel. A very useful feature allows you to choose where the "to amp" output is to be inserted in the signal path (pre amp/speaker simulation, for example). You will also find a headphones output on the front panel with a Volume knob that controls the phones and the main outputs' level. Even though the volume of the phones output can be offset in one of the menus, a dedicated rotary control would have been much more convenient. Bummer!
Integration with Pro Tools
Now, let's play some music!
As soon as you connect your guitar–we used a Gibson Les Paul–you'll enjoy a good playing feel and instant pleasure. It sounds. No need to fool around with dozens of parameters! The simulations capture all attack variations and playing nuances that are so important for guitar players. Although somewhat raw, the guitar sound can be easily used within a full mix. That's an important point for guitar players who don't have extensive mixing experience but want to produce good-sounding demos. The number of amp models is not impressive but none of them disappointed us. They are all faithful to the original amps. Both of Digidesign's amp models sound alright but they don't provide anything different from the real amps' simulations. The speakers and mics sound very good (viva convolution!) and allow you to change radically the sound character of your guitar. Every user will have to decide which speaker/mic combination he prefers. Just let yourself go, it is impossible to make mistakes (out of phase mics and the like). Almost every effect is based on prestigious hardware gear and they all sound very authentic, none of them failed our test.
Now, it's time to listen to sound samples, which certainly say more than words.
- tweed lux00:26
- tweed bass00:24
- lux normal00:24
- black duo00:29
- lead 80000:16
- M-2 Lead00:24
- DC vintage00:19
- DC Modern00:13
- tap echo00:24
- BBD Delay00:14
We also tested the mic preamp using an affordable large diaphragm condenser mic (SE Electronics X1) and a Takamine EG-10 acoustic guitar. We had to turn the gain control three quarters of the way to obtain a decent level. The preamp doesn't make any miracles but it is good enough to produce decent demos. Here's the sound sample:
- Nice design
- Simulation of famous amps and effects
- Convolution technology for speakers and mics
- Overall sound quality
- Possibility to make reamping
- Number of inputs and outputs
- True-Z guitar input
- No need for a computer on stage
- Comprehensive digital audio interface
- Mic input with phantom power
- Sold with Pro Tools 8 LE and its plugins
- Eleven's GUI in Pro Tools
- No Eleven plugin version
- GUI only available within Pro Tools
- It lacks some amps and effects
- Only two mic positions
- Plastic knobs
- No independent phones volume control