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September 2014
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Digidesign Eleven Rack Review


Plugging In
When I finally got my hands on the Eleven Rack, I decided to test out its capabilities initially as a stand-alone guitar processor. The first thing I noticed when plugging in my guitar was the True-Z input jack. This unique guitar input was created to replicate the impedance of guitar amps and stompboxes, which results in amazingly realistic sounds. Since each guitar reacts differently with every amp or effect, the True-Z input basically changes the input impedance automatically to whatever amp or effect is first in the signal chain. And the Eleven Rack isn’t using a DSP algorithm to do that—it uses actual analog switching with real capacitors and resistors.

Before hooking the unit to an amp, I wanted to hear the pure clean output, so I plugged in my headphones and began scrolling through the presets. I was instantly welcomed with lush amp sounds and effects, and each preset sounded great. One thing I noticed right away was that the Eleven Rack not only sounds like a real amp, it feels like a real amp as well— more than any other modeling unit I’ve played through before. The dynamics were terrific, and Eleven Rack really responded like an amp should. It actually sounds like a speaker pushing air, which is something you can’t always hear in other amp simulators.

Each preset had very usable tones with different combinations of amps and effects. Many presets sounded great as is, and I would only tweak them slightly to my taste. I’m a firm believer in presets. They can save you a lot of time, and they can also serve as a great foundation for customizing and tweaking your own custom sounds. There are 104 presets in the Eleven Rack, with an additional 104 user presets that you can customize and then save. With every preset, the indicator light on the knob is amber (or green for effects) but once you change a parameter, the knob changes to red. You can also swap out any amp or effect for any other— and place it anywhere in the signal chain. So if you want to move the wah effect between distortion and the amp, you can easily do so.

I only had one minor issue with the presets: once you scroll to the very end of the user presets, it doesn’t circle back to the very first factory preset. You have to scroll back through all banks to get to the first one again.

This One Goes to Eleven
I then connected the unit to an amp. The Eleven Rack offers two 1/4" amplifier output jacks. Output 1 is on the front panel, which can easily be connected to the input of an amplifier. Output 2 is on the back, and it can be used to connect either to one amp or to an additional amp for stereo output. I connected it to an amp and set it to a clean, neutral sound. With this setup, I can choose any emulated amp head from within Eleven Rack and my external amp is transformed instantly. I had a nice variety of tones from the 16 amp heads I had to choose from—from a ’59 Fender Bassman to a ’92 Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier. All of them sounded great, and none felt like emulations. The True-Z input is a big part of that, because those analog components make it feel like a real amp. Also, the developers painstakingly inspected every component of many amps and incorporated nuances that other amp-modeling developers overlook, like power-amp sag, cabinet resonance, and ghost notes.

Another nice feature about Eleven Rack is that you can send whatever you want out to the amp, whether it’s the entire sound of the rig with effects and amp simulator, effects only, or any point in between. So for example, if you want to include all of the effects and the amp from Eleven Rack without the speaker simulator, you would choose “Rig Out – No Cab.”