Roland has been making high-quality effects processors for more than 15 years and several of its early classics (DEP-5, others) are still in use in studios. Today, Roland’s SRV and SDE processors continue to capture a respectable share of the effects market. The company’s latest reverb processor – the SRV-3030 – offers a powerful feature set, simple controls and balanced I/O. I reviewed the SRV-3030D with S/PDIF digital I/O ($995).
Product PointsApplications: Studio recording; live sound reinforcement
Key Features: Dual processor engines; modulation effects; Roland Sound Space (RSS) algorithm; three-level editing; built-in preview sounds; balanced analog I/O; S/PDIF digital I/O (SRV-3030D)
Contact: Roland at 323-685-5141
+ Powerful but easy to use
+ Smooth, clean algorithms
+ Lots of real-time control
– Level meter in LCD display
– Rotary data encoders inconvenient
– Runs hot
The Score: A feature-rich, great-sounding reverb that’s actually easy to use.
The SRV-3030D is a single-rack-space processor with memory card slot for storing additional programs, large backlit LCD, four data entry knobs and a handful of buttons. With XLR balanced inputs and outputs, as well as 1/4″ balanced jacks, the SRV-3030D’s I/O is definitely one step above the common budget processor. Add in S/PDIF digital input and output, and the SRV-3030D integrates into most any studio setup. Expression pedal and footswitch jacks enhance the unit’s flexibility in live performance situations.
In keeping with a common trend, the SRV-3030D has two processing engines (units) the user can configure for true stereo, parallel or series operation. The reverb processors can be set to generate a standard reverb effect, gated reverb, nonlinear reverb or ambience – these reverb modes also offer several variations within each type. Each reverb unit has a compressor on its input and fully parametric three-band EQ on its output.
The SRV-3030D also offers two other processor engines designed to enhance the reverb effect. One stereo modulation processor generates resonator, phaser or flange/chorus effects. The Roland Sound Space (RSS) processor is designed to widen the perceived stereo width beyond the speakers. Roland claims it can even make sounds appear to come from behind or above the listener. You can place the effects and RSS processors independently so they affect the unit A output, unit B output or both.
Though the SRV-3030D offers an impressive level of depth and flexibility, Roland made an obvious effort to keep operation as simple as possible. The processor offers three editing modes, each with progressively greater levels of control. The simplest way to alter a reverb program is to twist one of the three control knobs from the main program screen, two of which are devoted to reverb level and reverb time (the third knob is assignable per program).
The Roland’s EZ Edit button enters the second level of editing, which offers three different parameter pages. Each page re-maps the three control knobs for a different purpose, often simplifying and combining parameters on a single knob. In EZ Edit mode, for example, the room size control changes early reflection time ratio, reverb size, output pan width and several other parameters. One could stop at the EZ Edit level and accomplish the majority of the tweaks required to dial in a reverb sound.
The Custom button and menus offer complete control over every main configuration, reverb and effect parameter. Parameters can span a dozen or more pages in custom mode, each page holding three parameters. Considering that some reverb programs allow editing of individual early reflection taps on another sub-menu, the level of control offered by the SRV-3030D is pretty impressive.
The most complicated real-time control system also has the most potential. Called a dynamic separator, this feature works like a traffic cop routing cars at a fork in the road. Based on several different parameters, the dynamic separator sends certain signals to the A reverb unit and the rest to the B reverb. The dynamic separator splits sounds based on their level, frequency content or note density, and will even send the attack portion of a sound to one reverb and the sustain portion to the other.
The SRV-3030D has a category-based program system, including standard, vocal, instrument, drums, stereo and special categories. Push the category button once, and the program selector brings up only those programs in the same category as the sound you were first on. A second push selects the category you wish to browse. When you save a program of your own design, you can tag it with any category label.
A unique preview feature contains several short samples of various types of instruments, drums and a spoken word. You can press the preview button at any time to fire off a preview sound appropriate to the category of the current effect. Any of the samples can be designated to preview saved programs and can even store your own brief preview samples onto a memory card (along with 1,000 effects programs).
Again, Roland demonstrates a concerted effort to make a complex piece of equipment more accessible.
The obvious question in every processor review is “how does it sound?” In the case of the SRV-3030D, the answer is very good. The SRC-3030D’s reverbs are lush and smooth without being muddy. I was able to pile a healthy dose of effects onto sounds without cluttering the mix – a sign of a good reverb unit.
The SRV’s standard reverb algorithms are consistently excellent, with the room and plate emulations being the standouts to my ears. There are three room and five plate variations to choose from, each with definite differences in character. The Roland’s plate algorithms are versatile, sounding great at decay times of eight seconds, as well as 800 milliseconds.
The unit’s ambience algorithms are also very good, adding spaciousness and stereo spread without sounding like reverb. I tend to like short reverbs and ambient soundfields for pop and rock music, and the SRV-3030D really delivers the goods in this role. As with the longer reverbs, I found I could use the Roland’s shorter programs in larger doses without adverse side effects.
The Roland’s resonator, phaser and flange/chorus effects are included to offer a few more sounds in the palette, not to make the SRV-3030D a multi-effects processor. They don’t offer nearly the depth of control that the reverbs do, but are still clean and very useful. The RSS processor has headphone and speaker modes, and I didn’t care much for either. To my ears, RSS adds a definite phase-notched sound to some reverbs without generating any spatial effect. Only on pingpong delay (accomplished with some very long ambience taps) did I hear RSS’s wider-than-the-speakers effect. Too bad it doesn’t prove more effective on the reverbs themselves.
On the control front, the SRV-3030D gives you all you need to get the sound you’re after. After you get your basic reverb sound dialed in, you still have a compressor, three-band EQ, high- and low-pass filter and effects processor to add to the mix. When you toss in a few real-time dynamic controllers, the Roland’s dynamic separator and some MIDI controllers, the options are nearly overwhelming.
Even with all that control, the SRV-3030D is easy and fun to use (with a few minor exceptions). The three-tier editing approach makes sense and being able to designate your own three parameters for instant editing is very handy. Operating the unit is largely intuitive, aided in part by the generous LCD display. The reverb’s input level display is integrated into the LCD, which is unfortunate. From across the room or at an angle, a good-old LED ladder is much easier to see.
There are a few other inconveniences worth noting. For some reason, the three data entry knobs are not the kind of knobs that turn endlessly – they have an upper and lower limit and you have to twist the knob until its position matches the existing parameter before it can be adjusted. This makes for a lot of extra knob twiddling as you move through parameter pages.
Some of the Roland’s parameter ranges don’t make much sense. Reverb time, for example, goes from 0 to 100 seconds. This leaves that crucial 1-second to 5-second range with a tiny fraction of the knob’s travel, making adjusting those reverb times a hassle. Finally, the SRV-3030D runs quite hot, especially above some vent holes in the top cover. The Roland is kindly keeping my coffee hot right now, but whatever studio gear you place above it may not appreciate the extra heat.
The SRV-3030D offers an attractive combination of flexibility and great sound. Roland engineers gave the processor lots of power and then succeeded in making that power quite easy to use. Folks searching for a top-of-the-rack reverb processor that doesn’t take an engineering degree to operate should give the SRC-3030D a close listen.