Getting Started With The SPX-90/Rack Effects

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MrShake
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Getting Started With The SPX-90/Rack Effects

Post by MrShake » Thu Apr 13, 2017 10:40 pm

I've never owned a rack unit before, so please bear with my stupidity.

My birthday's this week and my wife just cracked and admitted she ordered me an SPX-90 today. Yeah, partially for that reverse magic, but also because I love those late-'80s digital reverbs. (It hasn't arrived yet). I've spent the evening giving myself a crash course in it, because I had my suspicions it wouldn't work immediately with my setup.

Having zero experience with rack gear, I feel like a babe in the woods with all kinds of new factors and terminology to worry about. Maybe this can serve as a beginner's guide to future explorers? I want to hit the ground running when it gets here. I have googled and used the search bar for this stuff, but it's in bits and pieces and I'm having trouble adding some things up.

I don't have an effects loop on my amp (a 50w Bassman Ten). I'd like to drop this effect into my chain somewhere in the middle of my setup. As I understand it:

1) My guitar signal on it's own will not be strong enough as an input. What's the bare-minimum device will I need to get it up to line level -- any cheap rack pre-amp? Would cranking the SPX-90's input level knob crank things up enough to work? I'm assuming a DI box wouldn't be the right tool for the job, but I don't know much about that tech. I'm a primitive.

2) Since the pedal will be (likely) directly after a Boss pedal, would the buffer in the Boss pedal have any positive effect on the signal level? (I'm guessing not, but thought I'd ask.)

3) I've read these SPX-90s are are tone-suckers, so I'm fine with DIY-ing a quickie true bypass loop box to run down to my pedalboard. I'm not planning on buying a digital bypass switch for the rack unit or do any bank switching by foot. Is there anything else involved there I should know about in just running it via a TB loop?

4) I'm not really looking to go all-rack in the future. I like my board and amp. This SPX-90 will serve as a new flavor, not a new way of doing things. But I'm not opposed to getting the bare minimum rack setup to be able to use the few rack effects I've always wanted (*ahem* Midiverb II *ahem*) Basically, as I understand it, it would be a matter of preamp -> effects -> power amp -> cab. But since I'm on a budget and don't have a cabinet, what's the basic way set things up through my no-effects-loop Fender amp if I'm not ready to shell out for a power amp and a cab yet?

5) I know some of the common problems with these SPX-90s include worn-out/blown caps, battery replacement, and the some of the epoxy drying up and becoming conductive. Are there any other pitfalls I should be looking for on this new unit since it's a new world to me?

And frankly, while we got a below-market deal on it, even shelling out for this was a pretty big dent in our budget, but she insisted. So any and all advice comes with a "please help me get this up and running as simply, efficiently, and inexpensively as possible". I can BUILD toward an "ideal" setup, I just want to be able to get started with "functional" so I can start experimenting with those spacey reverb sounds.

Thanks in advance, y'all make it worth picking up the guitar again. For real.

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Re: Getting Started With The SPX-90/Rack Effects

Post by fuzzking » Fri Apr 14, 2017 6:33 am

probably not of much help, but back in the 90s i ran an alesis rack thingy for reverbs. sounded best if you put a dedicated preamp in front of it. i used some cheapo 2nd hand marshall rack unit.
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Re: Getting Started With The SPX-90/Rack Effects

Post by ddrrll » Fri Apr 14, 2017 6:47 am

I think you'll be fine just putting it in a true bypass loop. That's exactly how I run mine.
You won't "need" anything else to make it work. It will definitely accept a guitar level input just use the input level knob to match your bypassed signal.
After I got mine I went through a phase of trying to get a whole rack going but adding to a single rack unit in a bypass loop starts to get complicated once you start looking at rack switchers and midi controllers and such.
I'd keep it simple with just the spx unless you've got a ton of time/cash to sink into a usable rack setup.
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Re: Getting Started With The SPX-90/Rack Effects

Post by fuzzjunkie » Fri Apr 14, 2017 9:28 am

I don't have the SPX-90, but I have several old Roland units and the SPX-900.

*They all have switches for line or guitar level. Just pick the right one for your set up and adjust the input level.
*None of these are true bypass, your signal will always pass through them. You can view that as "tone suck" or "this is my tone now" and how do I make it work. Use a true bypass loop if the former. The Boss buffer might help either way.
*Some of these only bank up through the presets and you need midi to go down or go from #22 to #36 quickly. Some group things in sets of 2 presets or 8 that you can scroll through, so tapping through them isn't that intense.
*The Yamahas default to 100% mix. Which is great for reverse/gated reverb, but you'll need to program the mix for each preset for everything else. It's not a global control.
*Unless the battery has been replaced recently, you'll need to do that. Not the easiest thing in the world if you're not used to poking around inside computers. Make sure you're grounded so no static sparks!
*I had a friend that kept his SPX-90 under his board's 1st tier. He used a bypass loop to switch it in/out and only used 2 presets. It was overkill for what he used it for, but he insisted.

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Re: Getting Started With The SPX-90/Rack Effects

Post by MrShake » Sat Apr 22, 2017 3:29 pm

All of this information was so helpful, thank you!

I got it a few days after my post, and as suggested, I set it up in a true bypass loop, adjusting the input signal with the dial on the SPX90. My only minor complaint is that on my favorite setting (a tweaked "Early Reflections 2"), the actual output is a little low. Not insurmountable, just needed to adjust the later parts of my chain to adjust. It sounds great, and is way easier to use than I expected.

Now that I don't NEED to, I'm not as interested in building a rack, but assembling a small one with some type of tube preamp might be wonderful in the future. That, the SPX, a MidiVerb II, and a power amp would be all I need, and in the interim, I can just drop things like the SPX and MVII into my chain in the same spot (early enough to use reverse stuff, late enough to feed a MVII with assorted gain pedals and a flanger if I want something that sounds more "traditional" (i.e., NOT "glide guitar").

- And fuzzjunkie, thanks for all the technical tips -- I probably *will* grab a footswitch to change programs, but since it's basically just the reverse effect right now, I'll get around to it. I wouldn't have realized about the "all programs are 100% mix" thing, so thanks for the heads up. The battery in this one seems to work fine, and I'm no expert, but I THINK i've got enough soldering skill to swap that out as needed. I bought a warranty, too, so in case the caps end up dead or something, I'm fine for a year.

I was considering building one of those "under-board" setups, but my new board weighs a ton as-is, and more wood plus the surprisingly heavy rack unit might just be too much. So, for better or worse, it looks like a 2-6 slot rack case for me, but whatever -- I'm lucky to live in a used-gear-heavy city.

- I'm probably going to be posting about this in another thread, so I'm sorry if doubling down on the photo seems spammy, but my wife gave me a shoegaze birthday this year, so I thought I'd post. SPX90, Scarlett 6i6, some records I'd never got around to buying on LP (I only had the CDs from high school in the '90s), and a nice pair of super discounted LED stage lights for our band (seriously, they were $25 each!).

Image

It's only been a few days, but I CERTAINLY think it's "Early Reflections" (dunno which one) rather than "Reverse Gate" to get the MBV sound if you want it. ER2 on "reverse" mode, with a 12 foot room and .1ms of pre-delay gets me pretty damn close. It puts a smile on my face to move my arms and have that sound come out, though I'm looking to find my own way to use it.

"Pitch Shift C" and "Symphonic" are both amazing -- especially with a bangin' RV-2 "plate" reverb before or after them.

Anyone have any "glide guitar" setting suggestions? Almost all the results the search function turned up for me were for Reverse Gate... and I'm not 100% convinced, but willing to try. How do y'all use yours?

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Re: Getting Started With The SPX-90/Rack Effects

Post by fuzzjunkie » Sat Apr 22, 2017 7:31 pm

I never got too deep with those settings on my SPX-900. One, because I prefer the Early Reflection and Non-Linear Reverb patches on my Roland DEP-5; they sound more organic, and two, because I didn't want to be seen as copying his sound outright. Symphonic is indeed cool and similar to Dimension D which is a favorite effect from Roland.

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Re: Getting Started With The SPX-90/Rack Effects

Post by somanytoys » Tue Apr 25, 2017 4:24 pm

Congratulations on having such a cool wife, and on getting the SPX 90. And thanks for starting this thread, I just bought an SPX 90 II a few months ago, and it's just sitting safely until I stop buying pedals and amps long enough to get a good rack for it, and then figure out how to incorporate it into one of my rigs. Good info on this page already, I'll have to take notes.

I've seen a few for the MBV patch on here, but I'd love to see some of people's settings on some of these better patches. Just knowing which ones the good patches are to start with will be a big help, though. Going through and programming these types of things are a bitch, but I know that it can pay off in spades afterwards if it's done well.

BTW, is there a "best" controller to use with this, or just kind of any midi controller?
-David

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Re: Getting Started With The SPX-90/Rack Effects

Post by Harmoncj » Tue Apr 25, 2017 7:29 pm

MrShake wrote:bangin' RV-2 "plate" reverb
RV-2 plate mode rules.

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Re: Getting Started With The SPX-90/Rack Effects

Post by MrShake » Wed Apr 26, 2017 3:10 am

somanytoys wrote:I just bought an SPX 90 II a few months ago, and it's just sitting safely until I stop buying pedals and amps long enough to get a good rack for it, and then figure out how to incorporate it into one of my rigs.
Oooh, enjoy! I hear the SPX 90 II is even a little more hi-fi, and I'm sure you're gonna enjoy it! Put that other gear away and start playing!

I was able to wire up a bypass loop box (no LED, no power necessary), following this diagram: http://www.stewmac.com/How-To/Online_Re ... s_OFF.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I'm not much of a solder jockey, but if you can drill through an enclosure and match up where each wire goes, this would be a really simple way to go that only cost me about $15-$20 in parts.
somanytoys wrote:I've seen a few for the MBV patch on here, but I'd love to see some of people's settings on some of these better patches. Just knowing which ones the good patches are to start with will be a big help, though. Going through and programming these types of things are a bitch, but I know that it can pay off in spades afterwards if it's done well.
I'll admit, I've enjoyed the fact that all the presets start at 100% wet as an "effects-heavy" guitarist -- I can just mix in however much dry signal I want... if I want it.

I've found that most of the presets sound pretty good, but some can be a little thick in my setup, so I tend to turn the "liveliness" setting up a little bit on any presets that offer it. I've fallen for that "Symphonic" setting, and found that if I adjust anything with in that, it loses some of the magic to me, so, surprisingly, I'd suggest "stock Symphonic". I'm still a dummy when it comes to Pitch Shifting, so I'm navigating settings for that, but if I come up with any suggestions, I'll post them.

Honestly, almost all the settings in this thing sound pretty great out of the box. And just for posterity, I'll point out (to anyone else interested) that for MBV sounds, I use either "Early Reflections" 1 or 2, with the pre-delay set to 0.1ms and then tweak the room size depending on the tempo of the song and how quickly I need it to "swoop" back in (usually between 8 ft and 15 ft), and liveliness to taste.

Does anyone know the specific differences between Early Reflections 1 and Early Reflections 2? Not just for Shields-worship, but what makes them different, so I can wrangle with them myself for whatever purposes?

For what it's worth, I'm not a "presets" guy, I like to "twist the knob 'til it sounds good", but this thing has been remarkably easy to work with. Pick your patch, hit "parameter" to see which settings I want to adjust, and then I can hit save and pick a user slot. Much, much more simple than I expected to integrate into my sound.
Harmoncj wrote: RV-2 plate mode rules.
Ohhhhh yeah it does. 8)

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Re: Getting Started With The SPX-90/Rack Effects

Post by somanytoys » Thu Apr 27, 2017 1:32 pm

That's great stuff, thanks! I do need to pull that thing out and play with it, I haven't even checked to see if it works yet! The seller said it was recently serviced, and it looks in great shape, so I'm thinking it does, but even if it didn't, I would hope I could get it fixed easily enough. I'm just paranoid about something happening to it if it's not in a rack, so I keep it kind of stashed on top of my DVD player where it's safe, and I just need to get a new 2 space rack, but then I know I'll just keep looking at that gap and constantly be preoccupied with "what else should I get to fill in that poor gap and be a good neighbor to the SPX?". I've already talked myself out of buying a few midiverbs and other things I had been looking at, for just that reason.

Thanks for the tips, once I do finally pull this out & start messing with it, those will be some good places to start, and I'll probably get lost for a while in it if that many patches sound good, or can be tweaked to sound that good. I'm a little more excited to check it out now...

Edit: question - how does the plate on the RV-5 compare to the RV-2? I have an RV-5, and a TC Nova Reverb, and I'm wondering if either of those would be similar. Probably wouldn't be bad either way, so I may hook one or both of them up with the SPX and check it out.
-David

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Re: Getting Started With The SPX-90/Rack Effects

Post by finboy » Sat May 06, 2017 5:29 am

I'm still working on this, midi is hard

I have the quadraverb, A3 and spx90, and liked at true bypass loopers, etc.

I settled on a behringer switcher, but getting them to talk to each other is harder than I thought.

Image

I attempted to run 3 midi mice, didn't work well because I couldn't bypass easily

Image

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Re: Getting Started With The SPX-90/Rack Effects

Post by fuzzjunkie » Mon May 08, 2017 7:35 am

I used a Ground Control system that had midi switching in 2 different modes - the Roland and Yamaha racks that I had break up the midi numbering system differently - ports for two expression pedals and true bypass. I could have run my pedals through it as well, but didn't. Voodoo Labs owns them now, but you could find something used I would think. Boss has a nice solution out and there are several boutique builders as well. Some are fairly compact and would take up less space while being more efficient versus those Midi-Mice and Behringer switcher. Might make things less confusing too.

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Re: Getting Started With The SPX-90/Rack Effects

Post by finboy » Mon May 08, 2017 5:13 pm

My kingdom for a controler that found control midi and put all the racks in a true bypass loop without 20 cables!

I'm going to try the behringer, and if it gets too out of had, start looking at other options. I honestly understand why most people only have one piece of rack equipment, it gets complicated when you start adding things up.

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Re: Getting Started With The SPX-90/Rack Effects

Post by somanytoys » Tue May 09, 2017 6:20 am

Hmmm, some of these comments may make it easier for me to resist buying any more older rack-based effects. I was kind of on the fence about buying another one sometime, maybe a quadraverb, but I don't know if I'd really need another one. Especially if it becomes too expensive and/or a pain in the ass to try to control and isolate them in loops. But I don't regret getting the SPX, hopefully it'll be worth everything getting that up and working properly with a board.
-David

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Re: Getting Started With The SPX-90/Rack Effects

Post by cestlamort » Tue May 09, 2017 6:55 am

Finboy's 4U rack is a thing of elegance and (relative) simplicity.

Rack gear can get really complicated really quickly.
And it can also be a challenge to integrate pedals and rack effects (one solution is to rack the pedals with a switcher). I've always tended to use a FX500 for reverb at the end of the chain (or the Ibanez UE racks as the chain), rather than trying anything fancy.

Historically, this may help explain the sea change from super-complicated rack set ups in the 80s/90s to just guitar -> amp.
In other words, I can totally see how the simplicity of a guitar into an overdriven amp can be a welcome palate-cleanser after wading through midi cc charts for years.

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