DigiTech 2120 VGS Artist vs. ZOOM 707 II

Guitar Multi Effects Processors
While it may seem unfair to compare the $200 Zoom processor to the $1000+ Digitech processor, my reasoning is that they both aspire to occupy the same place on stage, hopefully enhancing my guitar playing. To compare these two is really not as improper as your first impression might lead you to believe. Digitech stopped producing the 2120 Artist several years ago, while the Zoom 707 II is a fairly recent offering. That fact alone should serve to level the playing field between the two units. This review could cover many pages of technical babble, but I'm going to attempt to keep it brief.

Let's start with the factory presets. Bear in mind that effects are a very personal matter for each individual, and my tastes in tones are probably completely different from your tastes. The Zoom processor wins hands-down as far as out of the box sounds are concerned. I found a whopping six usable patches out of the hundred plus available (sad). With the Digitech there were two out of a hundred and twenty plus factory presets that had even a hint of appeal (sadder). It is obvious that Digitech wanted me to notice their much ballyhooed noise gate. So much so that they turned the cut off threshold up to such a high level that some of the presets would not make a sound unless I hit the strings with a hammer. The situation improved greatly once I turned the noise gate down to a more realistic level. Still, Digitech should have been ashamed of their factory presets. I can't imagine any prospective buyer, even the squids among us, being dazzled by the default patches. Bottom line? Neither of these units is very satisfying out of the box. Both will require some serious tweaking and tedious experimentation before they will be allowed to appear on stage as my stompee.

ZOOM 707II multi effects processor DigiTech 2120 VGS multi effects processor
Aahhh, tweaking the knobs. This is where the story really begins to unfold. Both units are easy to adjust and modify, no winner here as far as ease of adjustment. However, tweaking brings the Digitech processor to life, while in comparison tweaking the Zoom changes it in a minimal and somewhat boring sort-of way. In my estimation the difference that tweaking instills in these units is partly because of the difference in sampling rates; 32k for the Zoom and 44.1k for the Digitech. This makes Digitech the obvious choice for studio work. You might think that Digitech would automatically be the unquestionable champ between the two just because of the higher sampling rate and tube preamp. That is a reasonable assumption, and the Digitech really is the champ... but by a smaller margin than seems logical to expect. The Zoom unit relies on digital modelling for its sound, thus changes are less dramatic in their results. So, where actual tones are concerned... I could be happy with either of these processors on stage (once tweaked in a jolly way), but now that I have tried both of them I would certainly prefer the Digitech; mainly because of its crisper highs and more luxurious overall sound. Digitech's seamless, overlapping patch changes are also a big plus although the word "seamless" does not always apply. A glitch occasionally occurs.

The Zoom is strictly a processor and meant to be plugged into the guitar input on your amp. The Digitech is a preamp/processor and works best when plugged directly into a power amp or the effects return jack. Because the Zoom is made of plastic, I fully expect that one day it will crumble beneath my foot. The Digitech's Control One foot controller is far more rugged, but I fully expect the switches beneath the foot pads to stop functioning at some point. Why do I fully expect these malfunctions? Because other users have already complained about those and other weaknesses in both units. Other users have also commented about the Digitech being quite responsive to different preamp tubes. I have no complaints about the Digitech tones with the stock Sovtek tubes... I can adjust the overdrive for a creamy two-stroke chainsaw tone or a completely wet flatulence tone or anything in-between. Considering that the Zoom has no tubes, the overdriven tones are quite believable, actually good.

The best thing about both these processors is their excellent dynamic response. Most other processors I've used have a definite compressed (choked) feel to them regardless of the settings. The Digitech and Zoom both have a hot, direct to the amp sort of feel. For me, that translates into inspiration and energetic enthusiasm in my playing technique. One other thing these two animals have in common is the inclusion of a wah-wah that absolutely stinks. This is extra-bad for DigiTech, because they actually boast about their wah being so good. Someone in Utah is utterly confused. On a brighter note, clean tones through the Digitech are super, probably its finest asset. Clean tones through the Zoom are nice but nowhere close in comparison to the Digitech. My favorite Zoom preset is "Cats", a fairly righteous copy of Brian Setzer's Gretsch tone. At the other end of the spectrum, the most disappointing preset on the Digitech is the ZZ Top overdrive. I don't know if Billy Gibbons designed this patch for Digitech, I'm curious as to what he might say if forced to use that sound for an entire gig. But now, I might be mistaken (uh, haw haw).

One big advantage of the Digitech is the amount of user support to be found in a number of internet forums. There are plenty of user created patches available on the web for loading directly into the processor via midi connections between the unit and your computer using the RPedit software available (free) at Harmony Central.

In the interest of keeping this review brief I'll close with the suggestion that you read the user reviews at Harmony Central for both units. Each processor has its good and bad points. In my opinion the Digitech is a pro level unit which can be adjusted to provide any sound you could possibly desire... with an emphasis on the word "adjusted". The Zoom is a cool thing but limited in comparison, more of an entry level or lazy man's processor. Either unit can make you a happy squid if you are willing to tweak a bit.

RPedit patch editor for the DigiTech 2120 processor
RPedit patch editor