• Pros: Tons of effects; great drum beats; useful signal chain display.
• Cons: Small 3 digit display; clean tones are a bit lackluster.
• Overall: Affordable, easy-to-use multi-effects processor that still offers you a great deal of variety and flexibility.
The DigiTech Element and Element XP were released in October 2013. Both of these multi-effects pedals are extremely versatile and affordable. They are jam packed with hundreds of effects and amp and cabinet modulations, and come complete with a built in tuner and drum machine. The only difference between the two is that the Element XP comes with an expression pedal and four additional expression-based effects.
Both the Element and the Element XP are built out of extremely durable plastic and can easily withstand the wear and tear of either a studio or live environment. And measuring at just 6.25″ x 4.5″ and 6.25″ x 7.95″ respectively, they are both quite compact and fit easily in most gig bags. The DigiTech Element XP also weighs in at a little over a pound and the Element weighs in at roughly half that weight, making both pedals a cinch to transport.
The pedalboard style interfaces of both the Element and Element XP are wonderfully simple to use. And the great thing about both these pedals is the fact that even if you are an absolute beginner when it comes to multi-effects processors, you can simply plug these in and start playing without having to rifle through a huge manual. In fact, both these pedals come with a Quick Start Guide which includes the very basics of operating the pedal.
Another cool thing about these two pedals is that both their interfaces include a signal chain diagram. This helps players keep track of the various effects and modulations in their signal chain and is a great way for beginners to understand how multi-effects signal chains function. Say for instance you particularly like a specific factory preset of the pedal, using the signal chain diagram you’re easily able to break down and analyze the tone in terms of the compressor, amp modulation, distortion, noise gates, EQ, effects, delay and reverb used.
As far as navigating and adjusting various settings on the pedal goes, it’s a fairly straightforward procedure. When the pedal is in “Play” mode, you simply tap the left of right footswitch to scroll up or down through the 100 factory presets. Alternatively, you can also scroll through the presets by turning the control knob next to the display. You’ll notice that the display screen will show a number 1-100 indicating the current preset. You can also program and save up to 100 personal presets on top of the factory presets. To begin, all of the personal presets mirror the factory presets so you can use the factory settings as a starting point, then fine tune your sound to your liking.
To edit a preset, Digitech has tried to make the process as easy as possible by giving you more even presets to choose to experiment with. You will have the option of editing your preset with the 20 presets in the “Tone Bank” or 20 presets in the “FX Bank.” To access these options, you press either the “Tone Bank” or “FX Bank” buttons and then use the control knob to scroll through numbers which are assigned to different presets. Scrolling through some of these options allows you to quickly and easily try out different configurations to see how they sound.
Some of the tones in the Tone Bank include Rock, Metal, Blues, Country, Crunch, Chunky, Rockabilly, Fuzz, Scooped, Acoustic, etc. The FX Bank holds various effects chain combinations. Some examples of FX presets include chorus, chorus + delay + reverb, phaser + tape delay, etc. You can even select specific effects by pressing either the Tone Bank or FX Bank buttons is lit. So for example, if you want to choose a specific delay pedal, you would press the FX Bank button repeatedly until the LED under the delay pedal is lit. Then you could use the control knob to try various simulated pedals. There are various types of delay pedals to choose from including tape delays, digital delays, ping pong delays and analog delays.
One drawback to the pedal is that the screen can only display three digits at a time. This means that you won’t really know what preset you are selecting in the Tone Bank or the FX Bank unless you refer back to the manual to see what number corresponds to which preset. For example, No. 6 in the Tone Bank is the “Warm Drive” tone. If you are editing a preset to add a specific type of delay, then you’ll have to refer to the manual to see what the options are. Alternatively, you could just scroll through the numbers and see what sounds good without really knowing what you are doing. On the other end of the spectrum, there are pedals out there like the Digitech iPB-10 which give you a complete visual representation of a virtual pedal board on your iPad so you know exactly what you are using.
What’s great about both the Element and Element XP is that DigiTech uses the same processor chip that it uses on most of its higher-end multi-effects processors on these pedals. So there really is no loss in quality of the tone that you’re getting here. To be honest, the 100 factory presets sound pretty darn good. DigiTech made a smart decision to avoid assigning cabinet simulations to the built-in patches that can sometimes make the tones sound artificial.
Although the individual amp modulations and effects sound fairly authentic, the Element and Element XP’s clean tones do tend to lack power and presence. However this isn’t an issue for most beginner and casual players; and more serious players that do decide to use these pedals can often fix this issue with a little extra gain added in their effects loop. You could easily use this one multi-effects pedal to play a whole gig, saving you the hassle of hauling a ton of separate effects pedals with you.
As mentioned above, the preset tones available on both pedals range from bluesy rhythms to all-out wailing leads, and cover quite a sonic spectrum in between. This variety of preset tones available again make both these pedals an excellent choice especially for guitarists who want an inexpensive and lightweight way to have a have at least a few dozen tones that they can work with off the bat. And tweaking these tones by adjusting the specific elements of their signal chains will make sure you don’t hit the limits of this pedal for quite a while.
Both the Element and Element XP offer various classic stompboxes like the Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer, Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal and Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi. The amp modulations on offer include timeless classics lke the ’57 Fender Tweed Deluxe, ’65 Fender “Blackface” Twin Reverd, ’63 Vox AC 30 Top Boost with “Blue Back” Speakers, and the ’83 Marshall JCM800. The 32/38 effects on offer includes compressor, 3-band EQ, flanger, phaser, tremolo, vibrato, chorus, reverb, and acoustic simulation effects. The Element XP adds four expression-based effects including the Dunlop Cry Baby, Vox Clyde Mcoy Wah and volume pedal.
What I truly love about this pedal above all else is the drum machine. Both these pedals come with a built-in drum machine with 45 different drum and rhythm tracks. While this won’t replace a real-life drummer in your studio, it can make practicing and jamming by yourself a whole lot more fun. It also has a built-in tuner, and a headphone out jack so you don’t wake the neighbors.
In conclusion, if you are on the lookout for an affordable, easy-to-use multi-effects processor that still offers you a great deal of variety and flexibility, the DigiTech Element and Element XP are definitely worth a look.