Sunday, 29 May 2022

The Zoom MS-70CDR MultiStomp Multi-Effects Pedal Arrived!

The pandemic must have been tricky for the Zoom Corporation (the web-site is at: ), the Japanese manufacturer of a wide range of hi-tech audio devices from field recorders thru multi-track recorders to guitar multi-effects units. The world added a new verb: 'to zoom' to mean using videoconferencing, via the USA's Zoom Video Conferencing, Inc. (the web-site is at ) company, and so there are now two 'Zooms': one for audio, and one for video. 

In the pro-audio world, Zoom is synonymous with field recorders (alongside Tascam, another Japanese company), and in the guitar effects world (plus synths at line level, of course!) for a range of multi-effects devices. If like me, you have also been using videoconferencing a lot more over the last couple of years, then the double use of the same word has probably been intriguing. At times like this, I refer back to one of those useful sayings:

'The Universe is NOT stranger than you can imagine. 

It is stranger than you are CAPABLE of imagining...'

Which puts me in my place very firmly. 

One thing which I was capable of doing was ordering a Zoom MS-70CDR multi-effects pedal as part of my ongoing investigation into obtaining a dual modulation effects pedal. It all started when I looked at the GFI System Synesthesia and was very impressed with what it could do, but I was intrigued that there wasn't a stereo version. The vast majority of my pedals are stereo, mainly because most of my synths and drum machines are stereo (with some glorious exceptions, of course!), and so except for specialist uses (my Yamaha TX7 processing via a Valeton GP-100 multi-pedal intended for guitars), I tend to only research stereo pedals when I'm looking to satiate my GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome, for which pedals are my 'relatively low-cost' mitigation... well, that's my rather weak excuse, at least...)...

There has been a lot of news about 'Supply Chain Difficulties' for several months now, and for a while, it looked like the Zoom MS-70CDR had been affected. My back order kept getting updated with a new 'slip' of a month or so, and it looked like I wouldn't be getting one until the end of June 2022, assuming that more slip didn't occur. So it was a very pleasant surprise when I got a package from Andertons (I have bought an alarming quantity of stuff from them, over the years...) in May, some time before their estimate. Excellent!

The Zoom MS-70CDR

The MS-70CDR 'MultiStomp' is pretty much a 'classic' in synthesizer circles. When I posted a Tweet on Twitter about my search for a dual stereo modulation pedal, then it was 'up front and centre' in the feedback that I got. Which is of course, why I ordered one! I should probably point out that this isn't me following the 'YouTube Influencer' Play-Book, because I'm nowhere near from getting even the required minimum number of subscribers and viewing time... I just think that when something is a 'classic', then it is probably worth looking at. As a subscriber to Ricky Tinez's YouTube Channel ( ), then I concur with his philosophy:

 'Share the Knowledge. Share the Love. Knowledge is Power. Peace.' 

(...and I've exchanged emails with him in the past - on a different topic...) 

I have to admit, the Zoom MS-70CDR is small, has an 'unusual 'User Interface', and is a complete bargain in comparison to most of my other 'boutique' pedals - it was only slightly more expensive than the 'budget' Joyo Vision pedal which I also really liked. Am I growing out of high-end pedals? 

The Zoom MS-70CDR (I'm already bored with typing that every time, so I'm going to shorten it to MS-70!) has an LCD display, which is unusual at the lower end of the market. The display tends to focus on graphics rather than text and numbers, which is refreshingly different - I'm kind of reminded of Elektron's use of graphics on displays (and the irony of the opposite end of the price spectrum doesn't escape me!). When you power it up, you get some animations, and end up at a box that shows the number and name of the current patch/preset ('patch' seems like the better word...). You then get a graphic representing the 'pedal' that is in one of the six 'slots' that the MS-70 provides - virtually of course.

So the basic metaphor is a pedal-board, which is perfect for a multi-effect device that is effectively a pedal-board inside a pedal. Moving between 'pedals' in the pedal-board is done by using the buttons that are in a ring around the big chrome foot-switch that activates or bypasses the effect (of which more later). The box that he MS-70 came in has a sticker for version 2.0 of the firmware, which announces that there are 137 effects inside! This is a lot of effects, and is probably a response to the well-known 'secret' software that allows you to access effects from any of the Zoom MS pedal range (You can find out about it on YouTube...). More recently, 'ToneLib Zoom' provides online computer-editing and cloud storage of patches...

137 effects is a lot!

I mentioned six slots for effects, and this is where things move from advertising hyperbole to the slightly more mundane real world. One of those slots is used up for a Bypass/Effect 'Line Selector' function, so there are really five slots for effects - which is still a lot! If you don't have the Line Selector in your patch, then the effects is on all the time - until you select another patch. You could always have a patch stored which is just a bypass, of course. So let's call it 'six' slots, but five if you want a bypass. Of course, as with all digital pedals, there is a limit to how much processing can be achieved by the internal chips, and so that wonderful caveat of 'up to' applies to the six or five. If you use a complex effect that uses lots of processing power, then you may not be able to fill all five slots - but, having said that, I was able to put multiple chorus effects, reverbs and other effects, and the processing restriction warning didn't pop up very often. 

There are three rotary controls, of which the middle one is the 'Memory' or Patch Select control. This gives access to a list of the effects (you click to activate the rotary control, twist it to select an effect, and click to select the effect (and click again to exit back to the main 'pedal-board' view), so this is easy and quick - arguably faster and easier than some of my boutique pedals!) . The rotary control on the left is a traditional 'Menu' button, which gives access to various pedal management functions like settings, deleting effects or patches, etc. The rotary control on the right turns the display into a tabbed page view showing up to three named rotary control graphics (pie charts), which the rotary controls can control.

Again, having a click on the rotary control itself is quick and very convenient. I've got very used to doing mental gymnastics with using multiple foot-switches to do things on my other boutique pedals, so this was a refreshing change! Everything you need to do with fine-tuning an effect is done with these three soft-controls (rotary plus click) and it works very nicely indeed! I'm explaining all of this because it really isn't obvious until you have used an MS-70, so all of the graphic labels make perfect sense when you know what they mean, but at fist glance, you may not understand what everything does - I certainly looked at lots of photos of MS-70s and didn't 'get' what was going on with the controls!

Power is from the standard barrel connector, USB (Mini!), or batteries!

I mentioned ToneLib Zoom, the freeware editor/librarian for macOS and Windows, and I have to say that I really liked it! I used version 4.3.1, and it was easy to use, and links to a forum/community of shared patches.

ToneLib Zoom is free, shows the complete chain of effects (all six slots), and the far right has all of the 137 official effects divided into three categories. I couldn't resist stretching the factory default 'C D R' patch with a bit more chorus, so above is my 'C D R !' patch where there are four 'StereoCho' stereo chorus effects in series, as well as the Delay and Hall Reverb.

Here's another of my patches for the MS-70 that I edited in ToneLib Zoom. '6ChorusMR' has six chorus effects (two different effects in three pairs) and sounds amazing! I've always like chorus...

Here's the 'C D R !' patch modified by replacing one effect with the 'LineSel' Bypass/Effect switcher, which enables the foot-switch. As I said, using the middle rotary control allows rapid selection of patches, including a bypass one if you program it, and so you don't need to have the LineSel in the chain of effects, and that sixth slot can be very useful!

There are three categories of effect in the MS-70CDR: Chorus, Delay and Reverb. Whilst I might have been distracted by the Reverb sections (with the ParticleR granular effect especially), it is the Chorus section that is most relevant to the Dual Stereo Modulation goal, and there are plenty of effects in this category: more than 40 chorus, tremolo, chopper, phaser, vibrato, detune, ensemble, flanger, pitch-shifter, ring-mod, panner, and rotary-speaker effects. So there is enormous scope for multiple modulation effects using the six (five) slots, especially as the modulation effects do nto seem to have high processing demands (unlike reverb!). 

I will save some of my effects patches to the ToneLib Zoom cloud storage area...

Size considerations

The Zoom MS-70CDR is small, but note those stereo jack sockets on either side (boutique pedals tend to put all the sockets on the rear panel...). If you put straight jack plugs into them, then you get this:

By the time you have factored in chunky jack plugs, decent strain relief, not over-stressing the cables by over-bending them (tight bend radii are bad!), and the MS-70CDR's 75mm width, then you are talking a total width of about 200mm, which is wider than my Empress Reverb! So you might like to consider some right angle jack plugs (note the close spacing of the sockets, which can rule out some right-angle jack plugs!) or some right angle jack-to-jack adapters - I bought some from Amazon and they help a lot in keeping things more compact, although the routing of the cables can require some planning...

Dual Stereo Modulation Effects Pedal

I started out looking for a dual stereo modulation effects pedal, and the Zoom MS-70CDR provides up to six effects, which is kind of 3x what I was looking for! Quality-wise, then the modulation and delay effects sound very good, whilst the reverbs are okay, but do not sound as sophisticated as some high-end pedals (like the Empress Reverb). But for the price, I didn't have any problem with the sound, and in fact, I rather liked using multiple chorus effects (six in a chain is shown above!) to get deep and complex chorus effects (beyond 'triple' chorus!), as well as reverbs (I chained 3 ModVerbs in series, for example) to get very thick sounding ambient reverb effects, and I went further into ambient 'smearing' territory by chaining the HD Reverb, ParticleR and DuoPhase to go full psychodelia! Sequencer plus synth plus Zoom MS-70CDR can equal a very full-sounding live rig, and actually, for some purposes, I really love the slightly imperfect reverbs. Maybe only using high-end reverbs is not the only way to sound different and have a broad palette of timbres... But for modulation, then I had no problems at all - there were plenty of good-sounding deep, effective chorus, flanger, tremolo, vibrato, detune effects to play with!

So that's a solid thumbs-up for the Zoom MS-70CDR and the ToneLib Zoom software. From a starting point of not being able to find what I wanted at the boutique end of the market, trying out budget alternatives has been a fascinating and illuminating journey - and I have even more timbres and effects  available now...


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