Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Review: Rocktron Xpression

Welcome to this week's article!
Today we are talking about a rack multi effect which is now discontinued but very easy to find on the second hand market at a good price, and that has been for years the main contender, together with the Tc Electronics G-Major, for the role of best selling rack multi effect in the market.

Rack modules has become very popular among guitarists between the second half of the 80s and the first half of the 90s, due to the fact that they were easier to carry around, extremely customizable (it's an orgasm inducing feeling to assembly your favourite preamp, your favourite power amp and your favourite multi effect and create the perfect routing and the perfect presets) and offered an infinite flexibility, thanks especially to the MIDI presets storage, compared to the classic combination of guitar head and stompbox effects that was the standard since the 60s.

During the 90s racks had become so popular among guitar geeks that was very common to see huge flight cases, as big as refrigerators, behind the guitar heroes, before the rack fashion started to lose popularity and since the second half of the 2000s people started going back to the classic guitar amp heads (which in the meanwhile got enriched often by a lot of functions that made the rack preamps, which were much more complicated to setup, less and less appealing).  

What is left today of that golden age of guitar heroism? 
Several all in one systems that integrates in two rack units preamp and multieffect with the best of the digital amp technology around (Kemper, Fractal, Line6) going usually directly in the PA, some other guitarist playing live through the computer using Vst Amp Simulators, and of course an infinity of discontinued, good (and less good) quality rack products that still are available in the market for our delight. 

Today we are talking about one of the most popular of them: Rocktron Xpression, the final evolution of a serie that spanned two decades, and that included the Intelliverb, Intellifex, Intellifex Online and Replifex.
The Xpression was the apex of Rocktron effects technology, and was one of the very few ones that allowed a flexible chain of 10 effects at the same time, 128 presets for guitar and bass fully editable, speaker simulator and 24 bit processing.

In terms of tone the unit sounds still today competitive: the effects are transparent and crystalline (if you don't choose vintage style effects), and provides anything a guitarist could need, from a switch in the input for active and passive pickups (to optimize the input gain) to one of the best noisegate algorythm in the market (Hush), from infinite delays (with tap tempo) to ultra clean reverbs.

The only "defect" I could think of, as of today, is the fact that it cannot be connected to a pc for quick editing, which leaves us fiddling with an ingenious but very complex system of menus and submenus accessible by combining the movement of two knobs, that takes some time and patience to master, and that maybe is ultimately the reason why many guitarists have switched back to the more straightforward head-stompbox system.

In conclusion this unit is a nice piece of guitar effects history, and you should definitely give it a try if you have the chance!
Thumbs up!


- 128 presets for guitar and bass

- Up to 10 effects together
- Vintage and classic stompbox-style effects models
- Multivoiced delay and chorus
- Delay and Rate tap tempo controls
- 4-band parametric EQ
- Active/passive input switch
- D.I. out with speaker simulator
- Analog bypass
- Hush noise reduction
- 24-bit DSP processing

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