REVIEW: DV Mark Multiamp

multiampthumbIt’s a very interesting time to be a guitarist. Companies have been trying to make great digital gear for decades now, but until recently it’s always been a little hit-and-miss. Remember the digital distortion pedals of the 80s? Exactly. But digital technology has well and truly come of age. Just look at the proliferation of devices by the likes of Kemper, Axe-FX and Line 6. DV Mark’s Multiamp seeks to do something a bit similar to those devices but with a distinctly DV Mark approach which seems specifically geared at professional players working in live situations – although of course it’s designed to be a studio tool as well (and virtuoso Andy James seems to be doing an amazing job of showcasing that side of it – check him out on YouTube). But everything about the Multiamp, from the simple control layout to the hardy construction, seems to scream “Stage!”, unlike some similar devices which feel a little too busy for live use by more analog-minded players.

The Multiamp may look like a rack-mountable stereo effects processor – and it is, because it comes with rack ‘ears’ if you wish to install them, instead of sitting the unit on top of a speaker cab – but it’s also an analog power amp, a three-channel preamp and a cab/mic simulator. It’s capable of dishing out up to 500 watts at 8ohm in bridge mode or, 250+250 watts at 4ohm or 150+150 watts at 8ohm. To maintain the amp-like feel it gives you three channels (Clean, Crunch and Lead, selectable from buttons on the left side of the control surface) and a suite of amp-style controls: Gain, Presence, Bass, Mid, High, Level and Master. There’s an effects loop (selectable between series and parallel modes, and movable anywhere within the signal chain), cabinet-simulating stereo XLR line outs and stereo 1/4″ line outs, MIDI In and Thru jacks (so you can control your patch changes and effects parameters via any MIDI controller or DAW). The Multiamp’s memory bank includes eight slots (three for factory presets and five for user presets), each of which holds 128 presets. The factory presets are divided into Live Mono, Live Stereo and Studio PA categories, letting you quickly optimise the output for whatever you’re plugging into. And you can save a whole bank of items on an SD Card, which is very handy if you’re in a touring band or going to a studio that already has a Multiamp.

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The effects include various overdrives and distortions, fuzz, flanger, stereo chorus, phasers, vibratos, several delays, reverb, auto wah, tremolo and a very effective noise gate. The amp models include  replications of the DV Mark Triple 6’s three channels as well as quite a few models whose names offer hints as to their inspirations: Darkface ’65, Recto, Bassface ’59, Slodrive, XTC, Top 30, Heavy ’51, Rock 900 – while the speaker section gives you plenty of control over the virtual speaker and the way it’s virtually mic’d.

I tested the Multiamp with a DV Mark C 212 FG speaker cabinet. The guitars were my Gibson Les Paul Traditional with Seymour Duncan Seth Lover humbuckers and my Fender American Vintage ’62 Stratocaster Reissue with stock pickups. The first thing that became apparent was that this thing was quiet. Even with my Strat’s single coils there was no noise when I wasn’t playing. That noise gate is really something. The next thing I noticed was just how articulate and interactive the Multiamp was. One area where many digital modellers fall down is in the responsivity (or lack thereof) to changes in pick attack or pickup selection. No such problems with the Multiamp: it really sings like an amp, especially on the ‘Fusion’ preset which simply has to be heard to be believed. Blues, country and jazz players will feel right at home with the clean and Crunch settings, as will indie players looking for a wider range of tones in a simple package. And if you’re into progressive metal or djent, check out the ‘Thorendal’ preset (yes, Meshuggah’s Frederick Thordendal is a Multiamp fan and he designed this preset). I couldn’t resist plugging in my Ibanez Iron Label 8-string with Duncan passives and chugging out on some math metal. Oh and the handful of octave presets are incredible, full of character and vibe.

Unlike many modellers, the factory presets are perfect right out of the box. Usually companies kind of go overboard with their presets so you can really hear what the gear can do, but in this case every preset is musical and gig-ready. Some of the effects have a little more personality and distinctiveness than others – for example, the overdrives, distortions and fuzzes are full of unique character, while the delays, reverbs and chorus are a little more utilitarian and a little less flashy. You can change effect order quite easily, which helps to maximise the authenticness of the effects in whichever context you place them in.

What makes the Multiamp so successful is that once you start playing it becomes easy to forget you’re even using it, until it’s time to make an edit or a tweak, and then you’re struck by how damn easy it is to make a change and get back to playing. If you’re a live player who likes to change things on the fly, this is a huge asset. If you’re a live player who wishes to have every preset-change controlled by a laptop while you jump around unfettered, you can do that too. And if you’re a studio player looking for a wealth of tones within easy reach and with plenty of control, it can be that too.