Digitech RP355 Multi-Effects Pedal Review
- Pros: Plenty of effects options, over 30 amp models, 20 second looper, well-executed drum machine and user-assignable expression pedal.
- Cons: More footswitches would have been ideal for live use, the amp models don’t quite capture the essence of the originals and you need to read the manual to get the most out of it.
- Overall: The Digitech RP355 is a great effects pedal, but better for use in a home studio live, though it could be used for gigs if you’re on a budget.
Digitech’s RP series of multi-effects pedals are the more traditional models they offer, without the technological trappings of their new iPB-10 Programmable Pedalboard. Traditionalists know that a good multi-effects unit doesn’t need to incorporate an iPad to be user friendly, and in comparison to the new unit the RP models are considerably more affordable. The RP1000 might be the big dog of the pack, but the Digitech RP355 still has plenty to offer guitarists, with a total of 124 amps, cabinets, stompboxes and effects all packed into a sturdy, durable package.
Features to Spare
One of the best things about the Digitech RP355 is that you get pretty much everything you do on the larger RP1000, just with fewer preset locations, effects, amps and footswitches. Don’t let that fool you, though; you still get a hell of a lot for half the price. It comes with a total of 32 amp models, 18 cabs and 74 effects, with the option to use up to 11 simultaneously. There’s also a drum machine with 60 patterns and an in-built looper with up to 20 seconds of recording time.
The first thing you notice about the Digitech RP355 is its formidable size. Although you’re only buying a mid-range unit, it still packs a punch, at just under a foot and a half long, nearly nine inches wide and weighing in at over six pounds. There are three footswitches along the bottom row, and an expression pedal stretching up the right hand side. The majority of the pedal is taken up by an effects matrix, with six knobs below it and an LCD display screen above.
Digitech have raided guitar history and modeled some classic amplifiers for the RP series. The Digitech RP355 comes with versions of the ‘65 Fender Blackface Deluxe and Twin Reverb models, the ‘01 Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier, the ’65 Marshall JTM-45, the Vox AC15 and AC30 Top Boost models, as well as a collection of Digitech’s own. It allows you to load two up at the same time (even with different settings for each) and switch between the two with a footswitch. You can also run the effects without an amp model, if you like. The cabs are based on standards such as the 1×12” ‘57 Fender Tweed Deluxe Reverb, the 4×12” HiWatt Custom w/Fane Speakers and the 4×12” Marshall 1969 Slant and Straight models. These are paired up automatically, but can be selected automatically if you like.
In terms of effects, you’re pretty spoilt for choice. They’re all modeled on legendary effects, so it’s like having a selection of history’s most popular guitar sounds at your feet. There are versions of the Boss DS-1 Distortion, the MT-2 Metal Zone, the Ibanez TS-808 Tube Screamer and many more for distortion, including three from Digitech. You get three compressors (including the MXR Dynacomp), four choruses, flangers (including the Electro-Harmonix Electric Mistress), phasers, wahs (including the Cry Baby) and pitch shifters, as well as plenty of vibratos, envelopes, analogue and digital delays, reverbs and tremolos. There’ also a volume pedal, a 4-band EQ and a noise gate. One final effect allows those with a single-coil pickup to get the beef of a humbucker and vice-versa for the retro single coil tone.
There is a 20-second looper included on the Digitech RP355. That may not sound like too much (for example, with the Zoom GT you get 60 seconds), but it’s plenty for most players. To set it going, all you have to do is hold the hold the “Amp A/B” switch. When you want to record, you just tap the switch again and the display will ominously read “Armed.” It records automatically when you start playing, and you just press any footswitch to stop it. Overdubbing is easy too: you just hold the footswitch as you record the new part over the top of the loop. It’s somewhat irritating, though, since most loopers opt for a single tap to go into overdubbing mode (with no need to hold your foot down throughout) and another to switch back to play mode when you’re done.
The drum machine is the last major feature you get with the Digitech RP355, with a total of 60 pre-set patterns and five metronome options. The patterns are categorized by style, with several patterns for rock, metal, blues and hard rock. There are only four each for groove, country, jazz, world and hip-hop, but there are plenty of generic options too. You press the “Drums” button to activate the machine, and you can adjust the tempo, playback level or change the pattern with the knobs.
Finally, with the help of the auxiliary input, you can enjoy the “Learn a Lick” feature, which allows you to slow down an externally-recorded clip of up to 10 seconds in length. You can reduce the speed by as much as three-quarters without affecting the pitch at all, making it a perfect tool for learning how to play difficult sections of a song.
There are also stereo 1/4 inch outs, stereo XLR outs, a headphone jack and a USB out. The XLRs make connecting to a mixing desk much easier, and the USB port allows you to use the X-Edit software to make changes to your sound. You also get Cubase LE4 in case you want to do any recording.
You can use the Digitech RP355 in two primary modes. The first of these, “Performance” mode, gives you options for switching between presets with footswitches and selecting one of the two amps with the preset. The knobs allow you to select your tone, choose an effects chain, alter the volume of the effects and dial in parameters on the amplifier. You can also set the unit in “Stompbox” mode, which is basically the same except that the three footswitches enable you to activate or deactivate the Distortion, Chorus/FX and Delay effects hands-free. You do this by pressing the central and right switches simultaneously, and you can go back to “Performance” mode the same way.
The unit gives you free reign over where you save your presets, and you can use the vast majority of effects with the expression pedal. It has a toe-switch, so you can activate and deactivate it at will. The RP500 and 1000 have more rugged, metallic footswitches, which make them better options for playing live, but if you organize your presets properly the Digitech RP355 can be effectively used in a gig.
When it comes to changing the presets you’ll have to do plenty of stooping over, though. The dials are used to either change the amp tone or effects chain, and also control more specific alterations if combined with the up and down “Edit” keys. The matrix is clearly laid out, but creating new sounds or making adjustments in a performance isn’t easy. Plus, the layout and operation isn’t an issue for experienced multi-effects users, but beginners might find it a little overwhelming.
The Digitech RP355 is a well-stocked effects unit with plenty of features to keep you busy. Perhaps the amp models don’t quite match up to the real things, some of the effects aren’t quite as impressive as they could be and the looping time is a little prohibitive, but for the price it’s still a fantastic option. If you’re looking for something to use in a home recording studio or to create compositions in your bedroom, it’s a great option for the price. The Digitech RP355 can still be used during a gig, but if you’re looking for a full-time road companion it might be worth looking for something with more footswitches.