Coming from a situation of having all my wish list effects in the rack and not achieving the sound I was after, I decided to go down….Going down in such a way to shrink the hardware in my studio setup completely. Not from the angle of the transition to switch to a software setup, oh no, but from the tweaking and shaping point of view.
My rented studio room setup is about 12 square meters and I have about 12 or more full sized synthesizers (keyboard version), a 20 channel analogue mixing console and two 19“ fully equipped racks with effects, compressors and even more rack synths. I was really into the Sony DPS R7 and its hundred parameters to emulate rooms, the Roland SRV 2000 and some spring reverbs as well, along with other multi effects units.
I really loved the bandwidth of the Sony DPS R7 and its detailed approach, but in a studio situation, when you are after that very reverb for that particular snare? Not really the unit you want to go to and start tweaking here and there, just to get that snare gate reverb you are after in that very moment. The Sony MU-R201, which I have had at the same time, was quite a diva and was not working most of the time. The Roland SRV 2000, gave me some output issues that time as well. There was always one of the outputs that failed. Long story short: I sold almost all my gear to be much more focused on the sound I am after for my electro project.
About the Vesta Fire RVD901
Of course you can at that point argue: why the heck is he wasting time and effort on cheap gear? Yes indeed, but if you want to have some mid eighties reverb sound and a straight forward user interface – here we go. The Vesta Fire RVD901 was released in 1986 by the Japanese company and operates digitally in 16 bit with a 39Khz sample rate.
They previously released under the brand Vesta Kaza/Kozo, some 19“ effects gear as well. My unit is a Vesta Fire RVD901 from the year 1986 featuring 6 dials and 3 knobs for the sound control. It has eight reverb modes and RAM or ROM sound presets – so nothing to save. A gift and a curse at the same time. From where I came from: perfect!
- MODE 1: LARGE HALL
- MODE 2: LOFT
- MODE 3: LARGE ROOM
- MODE 4: GATE REVERB
- MODE 5: SMALL HALL
- MODE 6: SMALL ROOM
- MODE 7: PLATE
- MODE 8: REVERSE
So, some real knobs and a few algorithms is the cast and crew of the reverb unit. Further down the boring line of facts and figures is the input and output section of the RVD901:
- 2 inputs: (1 mono) and a second mono and 2 outputs.
- Foot pedal Input of BYPASS on off – in this case bypass means: dry signal only.
- And an EFFECT LOOP IN OUT: here you can hook up another FX unit prior to the FX processing oft he RVD-901. Nice to have!
- All of them in a standard phone jack layout
Besides the in-and output dials on the front panel, you have a dial for Pre-Delay up to 200ms, Decay for the room Decay and a High pass Filter to cut off from 3Khz to 16Khz (12dB/Octave) and a DRY – WET dial. And that’s it? Yeah right! That’s it!
Last but not least you have three knobs to step thru the 8 Modes (upwards only), a High and a Low Frequency knob to make additional frequency adjustments. That’s it!
The look and feel
What if your studio isn’t talking to you or has no appeal to it? It kills creativity, right? The Vesta Fire RVD901 has that mid-eighties reduced and technical look to it. Beige and brown dials and black paintwork with brown squares above the user interface. Full score regarding the 1980s look – from my point of view. The unit does not require much depth in your 19“ rack as a Roland SRV 2000 or an Sony MU-201 would do. It´s less than 30cm in depth and can be opened with the 4 screws on the sides. The knobs and dials are OK and at least on my unit are not making any noise while in use. The layout of the front panel is simple and logical. Everything feels precise and not at all cheap. I downloaded the user manual, but the whole layout is very straight forward and the order of the knobs and dials follows the usual workflow in the studio.
…the 1980s. Like all the Miami Vice episodes with reverb on the 808s and DX7s. Seriously: I was really surprised how fast I finally achieve the desired reverb from the Vesta Fire.
I used MODE 1 on a simple mono Pad sound of a Nordlead 2 and bang! – there it was: a real bright sky high spacy reverb sound that I wanted. MODE 3 and 4 I used on an 808 Loop directly from the unit into the RVD901, I like it. Giving that Paul Hardcastle 19 reverb to the drums. Right now, the unit is connected via AUX to my mixing desk and responsible for the reverb. From a sound design perspective, the engineers made some sweet spot design. The high pass frequency range from 3-16Khz makes fully sense.
The same goes for additional LOW or HIGH cuts. Less is more and you really get to a point of getting what you want in terms of reverb in a blink of an eye. You cannot save anything, but given how easy it is to get a sound, why do you need to? Within seconds you are there, where you want to be. Sometimes it seems better not having tons of gated reverb presets for that very snare drum.
To me, hence it still is a low budget unit, its sound is mid eighties and comparable to…A Roland SRV 2000 for an example can do more. Features more parameters, and more detailed control of your reverbs than the Vesta Fire. A Sony MU-R201 can do Delay as well and so on. The quick response and the easy to go with just a few parameters makes the point for the Vesta Fire RVD901 – at least to me. I am not a purist or telling people about the holy grail of studio technology and what is good or not, but to me it is a valuable unit to go to if you are after 198s reverb.
There is nothing more that sucks then unboxing a used FX unit from a smoker´s studio – at least to my taste. I got my unit for 100,-€ from a non-smoking owner without any scratches around the ‘rackears’ (as we Germans say). A used price range from under 100 – 150,-€ is a realistic price range. Probably not after that review. Good to know is as well that, there is a similar unit on the market called ‘Vestax RVD-900’. They re-named the brand most probably form ‘Vesta’ to ‘Vestax’ – but here I am missing facts to really state anything around the brand and its politics. Anyhow. The Vestax RVD-900 is just the Vestax edition oft he RVD-901, with a bright grey-ish paint and the Bypass-knob is slightly different.
Review by Guest Reviewer, René Kirchner