The M2000 is a 20-bit dual multi-fx unit in a shallow, lightweight, but solidly-built 1U box, aimed firmly at the Project Studio section of the market, in direct competition with units such as Lexicon's PCM80. Previous units from this Danish company such as the 2290 delay and M5000 modular multi-purpose unit have been very popular with high-end studios for their superb audio quality and features, but they have been criticised by some for their somewhat unfriendly operation. This new unit is clearly designed to overcome these criticisms, as you might tell from the prominence of the computing term 'Wizard' on the packaging. This is one of a number of 'helper' features which characterise the unit, which almost gets itself out of the box, plugs itself in then selects the program it thinks you will like. (Well, almost!)
The cheerful, clearly laid-out manual starts off by acknowledging that most people don't read manuals: the 'ease of use' marketing concept of Windows 95 hasn't passed t.c. by: "Plug and Play" they say (although I'm not sure what Bill Gates' lawyer might say!) There is a Help section built into the unit that displays a scrollable summary of functions - a great idea that saves time spent hunting for the manual when you are stuck. Now you can just pretend you are adjusting the settings, when really you are trying to find out HOW to!
The M2000 has two effects "Engines", which are configurable in six different routing options. This gives you the possibility of combining two independent effects in series or parallel; using it as two separate effects units with mono inputs and a shared stereo output; a 'true stereo' parallel mode which links the edit pages of the two engines (the 'combi' section also has its own edit page); dual mono; and Preset Glide which cross-fades from one engine to the other. Each engine comes with the basic 128 programs, and there are also 128 'combi' programs combining different effects from the two engines.
The front panel has a large backlit LCD; a PCMCIA card slot for storing and loading programs; six logically arranged rows each of four John-Major-grey coloured switches, each with tiny legending beside it, and infinitesimally small legending in blue underneath to describe its 'shifted' function (none of which is very easy to see in a dark studio); a Tempo Tap button (sets delay/modulation times between 20 and 200BPM depending on tap rate); and a very satisfying smooth-clicking Adjust knob. The back panel crams in the following: IEC mains socket and power switch (although a standby switch graces the front); stereo balanced XLR inputs and outputs; AES/EBU and S/PDIF digital in and out; MIDI In, Thru and Out, (disappointingly only program change implemented: no MIDI clock á lá PCM80); and a jack socket for footpedal, which disappointingly only operates as a bypass switch (no fast/slow switch for Leslie speaker simulation program for example).
Setting up is a piece of....Danish pastry?!. Press the I/O button to select inputs and outputs, mix or 100% effects, digital clock rate and dithering. One can mix digital and analogue inputs. Press the Levels button to select -10dB or +4dB operation, and trim the levels. Unfortunately the level trims have a very narrow range, e.g. in +4 mode you can only turn the inputs between -6dB and +16dB. Unforgiveable, as there is no level knob on the front: in times of trouble one might want to turn the input right down on the unit, perhaps to locate a source of unwanted noise.
There is a wide range of algorithms: Reverb, (Hall, Room, Plate, Ambience or Gated, all of which can be switched to 'Expert' which has a full set of parameters covering all reverb types); Chorus; Flanger; Delay; Phaser; Multi Pitch-Shift (six independent harmonizers); EQ; Tremolo; Stereo (Spacial expansion and Hi-Cut); Dynamics (Compressor, Limiter, Gate and De-Esser).
The Wizard is a feature to help you locate a program appropriate to your needs. You select the type of effect you want, type of instrument and intensity of effect and the M2000 presents you with a selection of suitable programs for quick comparison. This is quite a useful gimmick when looking for similar programs, although you might not agree with the Wizard's choice. Four Snapshot buttons usefully store edited settings for instant recall. Internal RAM gives you a plentiful 128 store locations.
For me, the best gimmick is Dynamic Morphing. This takes full advantage of the two effects engines and as you might expect allows, well, morphing between the two selected effects at a selected input level threshold. This gives you the opportunity for example to send quiet sounds to a long wet reverb and loud stabs to an in-yer-face phaser with a very smooth join. Unfortunately, most presets don't have anything as exciting as my example: generally, the programs are somewhat bland, lacking some of the inventiveness of, say Eventide's H3000D/SE's mod factory programs or Lexicon's PCM80's more wacky offerings. Although most presets are useful, I found myself twiddling about to get really juicy and inspiring stuff. This is simply unimaginative software programming. Just my opinion of course - others may disagree - and I am sure that before too long a PCMCIA will appear on the market with some better programs. One cannot fault the t.c. on a technical level: the sound quality is fantastic, the reverbs very smooth, and the noise levels very low. Digital compression and limiting is a long way off say, a valve Fairchild 660, but it is not unusable, and the pitch-changer is remarkably glitch-free.
In conclusion: a fantastic piece of kit and great value if priced similarly to the Lexicon PCM80 - far more user friendly. I'll be looking forwards to Version 2 with hopefully MIDI Clock tempo setting, patchable footswitch parameter and some more exciting and juicy presets.
Reproduced with kind permission from www.George.Shilling.Com. Copyright ©