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Avid’s Digidesign Eleven Rack

January 1, 0001
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0.0DigidesignElevenRackNow guitarists can enter the Pro Tools 8 LE world with an interface that’s designed exclusively for them. But Eleven Rack (“ER” for short) can also serve as a rackmount effects processor for the stage, based around Digi’s Eleven plug-in but which also includes new, guitar-specific effects. There’s a ton of specs, included amp models, effects, etc. on the Digi site as well as vendors like Musician’s Friend and Sweetwater; we’ll do more of an overview, and tackle some of the questions people have.

 

INSTALLATION

For installing on-stage, simply plug your guitar into the input, and take any of the several outputs and send as appropriate (direct to PA, to guitar amp, to both, whatever).

In computer-land, ER is a Pro Tools LE interface. It works only with PTLE 8.0.1 and higher, but that’s not an issue because the software is included. For M-Powered or HD systems, you’d need to feed ER’s digital out (or audio out) into your existing interface. The same concept applies if you want to record a band and ER doesn’t have enough I/O. However, even when not used as an audio interface, you can still have a GUI (Eleven Rack Control Window) for programming and automation by connecting ER to your computer via USB; although it’s not running as a plug-in, the software sees it that way.

While ER works as an interface for other programs, the GUI is Pro Toolsonly. But you don’t lose automation abilities, because just about everything can be MIDI-controlled (nice).

ELEVEN RACK ELEMENTS

In all the buzz about “Hey! Digi’s doing a nify-looking box for guitarists!,” some significant features might get overlooked—so we’ll fix that.

True-Z input. You can adjust the input impedance from 22k to 1M (i.e., from vintage stomp box to high-Z in). This not only affects the tone, but also, how your guitar’s volume and tone controls interact with the input. If you’re used to turning your volume control down and getting a certain sound, and been frustrated that other amp sims don’t emulate this—problem solved. Some Digi designer truly understands what guitar electronics are about.

Pro Tools effects. When the Eleven plug-in came out, some people complained because it was just amps—no effects. But Pro Tools already includes a ton of effects. What ER adds is guitar-specific effects that emulate vintage boxes like the E-H Memory Man, Echoplex, etc. Add these to the existing roster of effects—and an effects loop for external stompbox- or line-level effects—and you have lots of choices. For live, you’re limited to the effects included with ER; but for extra flexibility, these go in seven effects “blocks” you can place in any order.

However, unlike most other amp sims you can’t do parallel effects chains. You can pick off the signal at different points in the signal chain and send it elsewhere (e.g., use the amp sims in ER as one chain, and mic a guitar amp receiving a dry signal for the second chain), but that’s not as convenient as parallel processing within ER.

Re-amping. ER does re-amping very well, whether splitting off a dry track while recording for later re-amping, or re-amping existing guitar tracks. There’s even a mic input on the front that, while you can use it to capture a vocal or room ambience, is equally useful for miking an amp when re-amping.

I/O. It doesn’t skimp, with eight recording inputs (XLR mic, guitar, stereo line ins, stereo S/PDIF or AES/EBU, FX processor out into Pro Tools) and six outs (main outs and phones, outs to amps, S/PDIF or AES/EBU digital out).

CONCLUSIONS

Eleven Rack sounds really, really good. Part of that is the convolution-based cab and miking emulations, but I’d also give props to the True-Z circuit and the additional effects. The sum is greater than the parts, which is perhaps why some guitarists who were lukewarm to the Eleven plug-in find the Eleven Rack so satisfying. And it works up to 96kHz, which can help out with amp sim tone by handling harmonics more elegantly.

While having a processor you can use on-stage or in the studio isn’t a new concept, being able to pull out the sounds you use in your Pro Tools projects and take them to the stage is a new twist. Overall, the cynical might say that Digidesign just wants to bring more guitarists into the fold; but look deeper, and you’ll see some serious thought from real guitar players went into this box. If you’re a guitar-slinging Pro Tools fan, or need a solid modeling processor that works with other programs as well as onstage, this could be exactly what you need.

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