Although the Digitech MV-5 is admirably easy to use, those who like to push their equipment to its limits will find that that there are extra functions that can only be accessed via MIDI. You may have noticed that the MV-5 doesn't offer factory or user preset programs. It doesn't need to since you can set the unit from scratch almost as quickly as you could recall a preset. You might think that this means you can't automate the MV-5 as you can with other effects units, but you would be wrong. Each time you press a button on the MV-5, a MIDI message is output which you can record into a sequencer. This could include Harmony Mode, Voicing, Key/Scale, Chord Root/Type and Setup changes. When you play back the sequence, the MV-5 will respond as though you were pressing the buttons yourself. This includes the Bypass control which receives more use than the bypass in any other type of effects unit, since the MV-5 creates harmonies in response to the input signal all the time, and you almost certainly wouldn't want those harmonies all the way through the song. You can also send a MIDI control change message to set the vibrato depth, something which the front panel doesn't offer. Also, extra voicings are available via MIDI messages just in case you can't find what you are looking for from the six front panel Harmony Voicing buttons.
You are probably aware that Digitech have an immense amount of experience in making pitch shifters, so you would be entitled to expect pretty good sound quality. If you bear in mind that real time pitch shifting is the most difficult effect to achieve, and that perfection will probably remain unattainable for many years yet, then I think you will be very satisfied with the sound of the MV-5. Even though the sampling rate is only 31.25kHz resulting in an audio bandwidth of 11.5kHz, when used for backing vocals no-one is going to point at you and accuse you of cheating with a fancy effects unit. They'll think you did all the harmonies for real, without a doubt (unless they notice that they are too perfect!). I couldn't say that the pitch shifted output sounds absolutely as clean as the original signal, but I couldn't say that about any pitch shifter - even the most expensive. In conclusion, I'll repeat myself and say that I think you will be very satisfied with the Digitech MV-5. It does a good solid job of work and you don't need a brain expansion to use it.
Probably the simplest intelligent pitch shifter available, and one of the most effective. Doesn't have every function of the more expensive Digitech Studio Vocalist but it's a lot easier to use to the full.
By David Mellor, Course Director of Audio Masterclass
This article was previously published in Record-Producer.com
or in print, republished by Audio Masterclass January 1, 2009