AF’s Weblog

March 3, 2010

Digidesign Eleven Rack Review

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…

Eleven RackGuitar amp simulations have already won their place in the hearts of guitar players years ago for several reasons: they give you a big sound without having to disturb the neighborhood, they save space and provide all the effects and amps you ever dreamed of. These advantages are decisive both in the studio and on stage. But most guitar players get very sentimental when it comes to their gear and it can be hard for them to set their favorite amp aside. The only reason they would do that is because of the sound–with capital S–, which is the holy grail for any electric guitar player. Amp simulations sound better and better every time with more sophisticated algorithms and convolution technology that faithfully recreate speakers and mics.
Eleven RackConvolution technology started to make its way among hardware speaker simulators like the Two Notes Torpedo, but also among software tools like the latest Guitar Rig version, Revalver and Digidesign’s Eleven. In fact, Eleven is basically a plugin for Pro Tools developed to compete with the leading products on the market; but it was hard to set it apart from its competitors, in spite of its good sound.

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 RackEleven Rack is a two-in-one product: it’s a fully standalone amp and effects simulator (it doesn’t require to be connected to a computer), as well as a digital audio interface compatible with Digidesign’s sequencer Pro Tools. Let’s start from the beginning, the amps simulations.

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.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

Eleven RackDigidesign tackles the guitar market with an interesting product for both studio and stage applications. It provides less amps and effects than Guitar Rig or Pod X3 Pro but the sound quality is very good – convolution certainly plays a key role in that. Eleven Rack is very versatile thanks to its numerous inputs, outputs and routing possibilities, and it can be used for many applications, especially reamping. The True-Z input is a real treat. The Pro Tools 8 LE bundle with its plentiful effects and virtual instruments adds a lot of value to Eleven Rack. At about $900 ($200 more than the Pod X3 Pro with its numerous modelings), it seems to be a bit expensive at first sight, but the bundle is very interesting and Digidesign took a lot of care with the sound quality, which is almost impeccable. We only miss a dedicated volume control for the phones output. Nothing is perfect!

Advantages:

  • Nice design
  • Simulation of famous amps and effects
  • Convolution technology for speakers and mics
  • Overall sound quality
  • Versatility
  • 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

Drawbacks:

  • 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

To read the full detailed review including sound samples see: Digidesign Eleven Rack

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