|I just picked up the Line 6 DL4 Modeling Delay today to supplement my looping desires (into the pile along with my Oberheim Echoplex and Lexicon PCM-42 MEO). It certainly is a useful and interesting piece; especially considering the price ($195 US plus $20 for the ac power adapter).
The DL4 is a "modeling delay" meaning that it is meant to emulate a variety of "vintage" delay effects as well as provide a looper. The emulations are as follows:
- Tube Echo (Maestro EP-1 Tape Delay emulation) - classic tube echo emulation with extension to 2.5 seconds
- Tape Echo (Maestro EP-3 Tape Delay emulation) - solid state tape echo
- Multi-Head (Roland RE-101 Tape Delay emulation)
- Sweep Echo (Modified Maestro EP-1 adding filter sweep effects)
- Analog Echo (Boss DM-2 Analog Delay emulation)
- Analog W/Mod (EH Deluxe Memory Man emulation) to 2.5 seconds
- Lo Res Delay (Early 80's Digital Delay emulation) - allows selection of bit resolution from 6 to 24 bits)
- Digital Delay (24 bit stereo delay)
- Digital W/Mod (24 bit stereo delay with filter modulation)
- Rythmic Delay (footswitch tappable delay setting with adjustable note length metering)
- Stereo Delays (separate right and left delay and repeat)
- Ping Pong (stereo delays which feed each other)
- Reverse (reverse delay with staging up to 1.25 Seconds)
- Dynamic Delay (TC Electronic 2290 type volume based delay output - gets louder when you stop playing)
- Auto-Volume Echo (adjustable volume fade in swell with adjustable rate and subsequent delay)
- Loop Sampler (ah, the heart of the matter for me!)
The DL4 has six knobs and four footswitches. The first knob is used to select the delay emulation (as described above). The last is a MIX knob, which allows adjustment of the mix between input and delay output. The DELAY TIME and REPEATS knobs do what you would think, while two "soft" knobs (TWEAK and TWEEZE) vary in purpose depending on the selected delay emulation. For example, when you're in Tube Echo mode, TWEAK adjusts the emulated tape's wow and flutter, while TWEEZE adjusts the "drive" or distortion created by the emulated tube/tape saturation. You'll need the small, well written manual while learning these "soft" functions for each emulation.
When you're not using the looper mode, three of the four stomp switches act as program selectors. Holding a switch down for three seconds stores the current state of all knobs along with the selected delay emulation mode. Then a momentary click brings those settings back (cool). All this stuff is saved on power down so the programming features of the thing are pretty good (3 programs of any kind).
Clicking the selected program switch again switches off the delay. You can select whether to use "true bypass" or "Delay Remain Bypass." True bypass uses a relay to shunt the input directly to the output with no signal loss (hella-cool). Delay remain bypass allows the tail of any current delay to run its course while the input is no longer fed to the delay circuit (also hella-cool).
The fourth stomp switch acts as an tap tempo switch. When you tap it mutiple times, the interval between the taps becomes the DELAY TIME settings (also cool).
There's an expression pedal input which allows you to set up "morphs" between program settings in real time. For example, you can set the DL4 to increase the number of repeats, alter the mix, add modulation, or whatever, all at once, quite easily). However, don't assign the delay time control to this, it just makes the thing go audio haywire...I don't even know why they allow you to do this, unless you get off on that particular noise. (I don't.). The Line 6 Expression Pedal is optional. The Roland EV-5 Expression Pedal also does the trick.
So how does it sound? The sound quality is excellent. Very low noise, 24 bit resolution. It really does sound terrific. I'll leave it up to you as to whether it will replace all your old tape delays, analog stomp boxes, and lower-end digital rack units. For me, it will; especially when gigging.
So with all those delay emulations in mind, we can take a look at the LOOP SAMPLER emulation.
For those not on board the looping bandwagon, many of us have desired loopers since first hearing the likes of Robert Fripp, Bill Frisell, and David Torn churn out tortured, nasty, and, quite often, beautiful walls of sounds using various techniques. Aside from one-off solutions like Fripp's tape delay rig (dubbed Frippertronics), Frisell's Electro Harmonix 16-Second Digital Delay (long discontinued) and Torn's modified Lexicon PCM-42 MEO (just try to get one modified these days spud...), getting a looper has been an expensive, hit or miss proposition. Lexicon's short-lived JamMan and the mighty Oberheim Echoplex never completely lived up to their collective promise as fully realized looping instruments. These are also ridiculously expensive on the used market due to their popularity among enthusiasts. Thus, the Line 6 DL4 gives us another option with its LOOP SAMPLER emulation.
The LOOP SAMPLER packs a lot of features into a stomp box package. Of course, as with all loopers it seems, there are some omissions which bother me, but for the price, nothing else on the market even comes close.
When the LOOP SAMPLER is selected, loop time (overall delay length of the loop) is entered by tapping the RECORD / OVERDUB footswitch. A PLAY / STOP button allows you to stop and restart the loop. However, you can only restart the loop from the beginning. (Some loopers like the Oberheim Echoplex allow the loop to keep running while the output is off.)
A PLAY ONCE footswitch allows you to do a "one shot" of the loop (play through the loop once). This restarts the loop whenever pressed so you can get stuttering effects going by repeatedly pressing the footswitch.
A 1/2 SPEED / REVERSE button allows you to slow the loop to half speed (up to 28 seconds) with a single click. Click again and you're back at normal speed (up to 14 seconds). Double clicking at either speed reverses the loop direction at the currently selected speed. (This double clicking allows you to hear a little jumping around: For example, if you're in 1/2 speed mode, and you double-click, after the single click, you hear the delay mode switch to normal speed, then back to half-speed in reverse: a little annoying in live performance.)
The control knobs previously described allow you to feed the looper with another modulated delay (up to 800 milliseconds). So you could front end the thing with a volume pedal and swell feed the loop or play a short modulated delay into the loop (very cool).
Since there's no display (unless you count the four LED's on the unit - which help a lot), running out of time stops the loop at the maximum delay time and starts the loop playing (pretty cool).
There is NO UNDO feature (not too cool).
Since you tap to enter the overall delay time, there is no loop tuning by altering the delay time in real time (something all of us loopers seem to crave).
Looper conclusions? A strong looping pedal, probably better suited to studio use based on the lack of an UNDO feature and the slight glitching when double-tapping the footswitch to enter reverse mode. Other than this, the DL4 performs marvelously well in the looping field with excellent sound quality and terrific looping characteristics.
As far as construction goes, the DL4 like a little tank. The well armored case is an anodized green (you'll love or hate the color). The knobs are well marked, large, and very smooth. The footswitches are the momentary stompbox variety and seem very positive in action. (If only Oberheim and Lexicon had supplied these types with their loopers...) The only gripe physically is the ubiquitous power adapter. Thankfully, it ain't a wall wart; but it is the becoming-more-common box between cords (one to the wall; one to the DL4). (You can use 4 "C" batteries to power the thing. Line 6 claims 20 to 30 hours of operating time using batteries.)
Conclusions: In my opinion, you can throw away all the Memory Mans, old analog pedals, lower end digital delays, and similar stuff, but keep your JamMan, OB Echoplex, or PCM-42. The emulations are terrific as is the added ability to program the thing.
The DL4 crams a huge amount of capability into a small and easy to use package. It sounds terrific and costs less than a memory man reissue... Is there really a choice?