Tucked away in a closet-sized work space in Brunswick, a very clever tinkerer is soldering, assembling, testing, loading and shipping out cute little pink boxes to all corners of the world. Loki is the sole creator and operator of Poly Effects, a small business in Melbourne that is producing some of the most inventive and diverse effects units I have ever seen.
The unit in particular that has me so smitten is called a ‘Digit’, these little gems offer 100’s of reverbs, multiple delays, filters, cab sims, parametric EQ, 4 channel routing, tap tempo, preset/save options and probably more that I am yet to discover. Oh.. and it’s largely done via touch screen.
Here’s a video from SNAMM2019…
Now I needed something to serve as an amp-less rig for interstate shows and Loki graciously lent me a unit to take out.
I approached Digit as a bass player, arguably not the intended audience for what is essentially a very sophisticated reverb pedal! However I booted it up and chose a 59 Fender Bassman cab sim from the list and loaded it. Whilst I could have gone with the exact rig I use live.. (an Ampeg if you’re wondering) I chose the dream amp I wish I had!! This was already fun!
Next I dove next into the Marianas Trench of reverb and delay options. Filtered reverse delay into dotted 8’s with a moon-catherdral space verb was a particular highlight!!! After an hour of stuffing around with absolutely insane and mesmerizing combinations I chose a modest impulse response taken from RCA Studio B in Nashville. (famous studio where Elvis recorded) I tend to find reverb on bass a little off putting …but this convinced my ears that what I was hearing was in a room coming through a monitor. Uncanny. I pulled up the EQ settings and drew a line on the screen to cut the reverb from effecting the lowest frequencies so it only applied to the ‘high frequencies’. I drew it..with my finger…on the screen. That took care of the muddied low frequencies. The ability to EQ the reverb is awesome!
I added some of my effects into the loop..Digit has 2 sends and 2 returns..if you wanted to run something in the loop and something in front of the loop you can. This is particularly useful when routing the internal effects out/in and onto other ‘channels’. It gets deep this thing. I’m not good at that yet, I need another tutorial with Loki to figure that science out. If you decide the fuzz needs to interact with the reverb, not the delay…you can set that up. You want to throw a chorus or phaser in but have it only effect every ‘second or third’ repeat…you could do that. I don’t want to. I needed dirt.
My wireless & Boss ME-50B ran in front of the Digit. They interacted with it absolutely seamlessly. I know how these sounds behave live..and in this oddly realistic yet simulated ‘amp in a room’ in a box..it was doing just that. My ears could easily be convinced this was a live studio feed.
I brought up the EQ and tweaked a bit more.. using the touch screen again. Then I saved it as a pre-set and everything was sorted. The extra fun here is that I can dial it all in again but with different amps and EQ’s and effects, save it as in new slot and then create a sort of playlist for settings and bring them up using the center footswitch.
The fact that it has so much more to offer in there is a bonus for a rainy day…or when you’re waiting for your sound check because the international headliners need 2 hours to get it together. Anyway..
Here’s how it weighs up..
On the downside..
- 1) There’s no manual. You need time and patience to get your bearings with the UI.
- 2) Steep AF learning curve..seek other users experiences.
- *For comparison…I own a Meris ‘Enzo’ and I had the same experience. Even with their manual..but you do find your feet after a while.
- 3) Touchscreen is accurate and responsive 80% of the time..under stage lights it’s hard to read with glare coming off it.
- 4) Touchscreens don’t like feet. Get some button-toppers for the switches to keep a safe distance between your kicks and the screen.
- 5) Boot-up takes at least 30 seconds. If you loose power mid set..be patient.
- 6) Also ‘Digit’ wont remember what patch you last had open after power down, you’ll need to select your save from the menu.
- 7) Doesn’t currently offer an ‘effects bypass’ option separate to the cab sims. So it’s all on or not at all.
- 8) No XLR out.
- For reverb and delay this is a dream. So much to play with and tweak.
- Load your own IR’s.. all the ding dong damn day. Want something that isn’t in there already? Chuck a USB in and load it.
- Buttons are big, footswitches are well spaced and easy to hit.
- Assign knobs and switches to perform tasks..super handy.
- Set list saves to scroll through. Genius.
- Tap tempo…never leave home without it.
- Replace at least one reverb pedal and two delay pedals from your existing pedal board with one box. #boardrealestate
- Updates coming through firmware upgrades and additions. (soon actually!)
- CV inputs…if that’s your thing. Modular nerds.
- Runs off a standard 9v PSU and pulls just under 500ma.
Now..if this is making you curious.. I don’t blame you. Before I knew half of this, I was watching vids and reading up on it and they didn’t do it justice. Poly Effects is a one man operation…Loki doesn’t have a team of marketing and promo people, no sponsors doing shootouts or features on web sites. Likewise there is no cupboard full of completed units shooting off an assembly line ready to ship at a moments notice ..so when you place an order, be prepared to wait while he builds it!
Or you can try your luck in store or online.
For the price point, build quality and what it offers ‘out of the box’ it’s a dead set winner. The possibilities and options and sheer number of uses make it pretty damn desirable. When scouring the web to research amp-less options, the most frequent suggestion was a Line 6 HX Stomp. Whilst that product needs a computer to properly edit and map the sounds to save on the unit, Digit is all contained in the box. For what a Helix can offer in terms of gain, effects and such, Digit competes on a different level with reverbs, delays and tweak ability. I had a Mooer Radar already and whilst it does have a significantly smaller footprint and shares a few of these product features….it’s still only a cab sim pedal with a singular knob for controls, limited editing options and no effects (plus it runs off 12V which sucks).
For the improvements coming, additions and discoveries yet to be made..it’s going to be one of those tools that only grows in its usefulness. I love this thing and I love that it comes from right here in Melbourne, made by one guy…by hand..and it slays.