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PIONEER EFX-500 Performance Effector

March 1, 2001
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Powerful real-time DJ effects.

As the manufacturer of the acclaimed DJM-500 DJ Mixer withbuilt-in effects, Pioneer has a history with DJ-oriented effectsunits that precedes the Kaoss Pad. Similar in scope and intent tothe Roland EF-303, Pioneer's sleek and handsome EFX-500 has a20-bit sampling rate and a 24-bit DSP engine. Its output sectionincludes stereo RCA and stereo ¼-inch I/O, as well as MIDI I/Ojacks. The essentially 3-tiered device features an Isolator unit, aBeat Effect unit, and a Digital Jog BREAK unit, which has asaucer-size dial for real-time modulation of effect parameters.

BEAT SURRENDER

For starters, the EFX-500 is extremely well designed. It's veryeasy and fun to use right out of the box, and its front panel islogically laid out and not confusing in the least. The Beat Effectunit gives you five essential effects: Delay, Echo, Pan, Flanger,and Trans (a clever way of saying slicer — it cutsthe signal into rhythmic pieces). For each effect, you can selectthe note value to which it will synchronize: 16th (1/4), eighth(1/2), dotted eighth (3/4), quarter (1/1), half (2/1), or wholenote (4/1). Upon inputting a signal — say, a drum loop— you first input the tempo, either manually (using theTime/BPM knob), by tap tempo (on the Tap button), or automatically(by setting bpm to Auto with the BPM Mode button).

When I fed a drum loop into the EFX-500, the bpm countercomputed the tempo with astonishing speed — almostinstantaneously — something you can't say of the EF-303'scounter. As soon as the EFX-500 determined the source signal'stempo, it instantly computed and displayed the effect time inmilliseconds. You can also change the effect time manually usingthe Time knob.

The delays and echoes sound very, very good — a littlecreamier than your garden-variety digital sounds. The pans aresmooth and well defined, the flanges are deep without too muchhigh-end transience, and the Trans effects are highly detailed andadjustable. Exploiting the Beat Select options yields a widevariety of rhythmic delays; flanges of varying duration and depth;and cool, stuttering Trans effects, all of which can be tweakedusing the Depth knob and the Mix knob to adjust the relative levelof effect and original signal. As on the EF-303, you can choose toaffect only the lows, mids, or highs; unlike the EF-303, theEFX-500 lets you exploit any combination of the three. The EFX-500features two On switches for effects, similar to the EF-303's Grabfunction: a releasable On switch and a Lock On switch allow you toeither drop effects in and out quickly or leave them on for alonger duration.

JOGGING ALONG

The same two On switches show up in the unit's Digital Jog BREAKsection. Again, you have five effects: Jet (a wide, arcing flange),Zip (a pitch modulator), Wah (a simple filter), Ring (a ringmodulator), and Fuzz (a distortion module). These effects do notcancel out the Beat Effects but play simultaneously — hencePioneer's argument that in combination you're getting a total of 25effects: 5 times 5. With the effects on, you rotate the jog dial tochange the effect parameters in real time, tweaking the pitch,frequency, and oscillation depending on the effect.

The jog dial works well for filter sweeps and Ring Mod cascades,and by tapping the Fuzz effect in and out, you can approximate a“skratch” pretty convincingly. The Jog Meter LEDdisplays parameter levels at any point in your jog-wheelmaneuvering. If you wish, you can store up to eight seconds ofjog-dial performance in Jog Memory and call it up again by pressingthe Jog Memory's Play button.

The 500's Isolator acts as a kill or boost switch: set the threeEQ knobs to the desired cut or boost, then flick on the Isolatorswitch to activate it. It's great for suddenly dropping the bassout of a dance track or producing a skritchy lo-fi effect bycutting highs and lows and leaving only midrange. Like the EF-303,the EFX-500 is MIDI compatible, and it receives and transmitstiming-clock data, allowing you to sync the 500's bpm to anexternal sequencer, which greatly expands your options. All in all,the EFX-500 is logically designed, great sounding, powerful, andvery fun to use. And it's really cute, too.

PRODUCT SUMMARY

PIONEER EFX-500
$629

PROS: Five beat effects, custom-assignable to varying notevalues, frequencies, and bpm settings. Five special effects,adjustable with an easy-to-use jog wheel. Frequency Isolator.Intuitive interface. MIDI compatible.

CONS: No reverbs. Limited number of effects.

Overall Rating (1 through 5): 4
Contact: tel. (800) 782-7210
e-mail info@pioneerprodj.com
Web www.pioneerprodj.com

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