I'm just getting back into playing after 30 years. I only use the one guitar I kept since then, an archtop f-hole Guild single cutaway with soap bars (ES-175 style).
Of course, the built-in set-ups are proposed like a well lit showcase and sometime over-kill. But there is room to tweak a fair sound, even a credible distortion with the vast amount of parameters one can set manually. I'm from the old school and as far as my experience goes for modern hi-gain amps, it's zero. All we had then was hitting the front end of a classic amp with a gain enhancing sustainer like the Big-Muff Pi. A far cry from any modern sound.
But, I could rapidly get up the par by just using the RP1 in a set of headphones. It would instantly give me a grasp on those tones I heard on the radio but didn't have any clue about, since I had given up playing. Right away I could whistle artificial harmonics and do all sorts of incredible things I didn't know I was able to.
The most surprising thing for such an early all-in-one-effect-preamp is that I started playing with a friend of mine who owns every single effect pedal and now had narrowed down his playing into a Bryston or BGW (don't remember, and really don't care)driving a Vox Tonelab SE or else straight into a Mesa Stiletto pushing in 12" Eminence Men-O-War or vintage Celestions. Would you beleive that that tone freak never questionned my sound. It did the job always.
For the time domain and modulation effects, the thing is just incredible. So many parameters one can adjust. It makes my head turn. I wouldn't mind the rotary speaker option of the more modern pedals offerd by Digitech. I'm using Stereo amps and am planning to use extended cabinets. So...
I feed the pedal directly into the amp stage of both a Peavey Classic Chorus 212 or a Stereo Chorus 212. With all that, I'm at the stage of putting 16ohms in the Classic to drive 4 of them (2 open-back combo and 2 closed ported 2x12 enclosure) and doing the same with the Stereo Chorus with 8ohms speakers.
In a nutshell, that pedal started the fire, it is very exciting. Much so that I am looking for an RP20 or RP21 just to see the difference or the improvement, if there is. Besides, it made me buy a Peavey Falcon (to use as a Strat) an another Strat-like that I am modifying into a hard-tail high gain rock-axe. When both those guitars will be working, the real excitement will begin. All of that, I presume, because of the true inherent qualities of the RP1.
Well, here you can forget about all the previous stuff I wrote. I merely answered the questions while not having much experience. But as far as reported problems with early Digitech pedal boards, I can say this and in that respect, I know what I'm talking about. I am an electronics technician.
These old things have lots of socketted chips and with time the contacts oxidize and if not, the chip would migrate out of the socket altogether. I would say that up to 75% of the problems could be fixed by cleaning the contacts on the socketted chips and modules (display) and/or reseating them properly with an even thumb pressure.
Of course, make sure that you don't hold any static charge when doing so. Connect yourself with a piece of wire to the chassis of any home appliance and make sure that the unit you are repairing is not plugged in the wall outlet :O))
Otherwise, it is solidly built and made for the road.
All in all, it is a great entry point into the "forget the front end of your amp and jump right into the amp section" world. Would I be very tight on budget that I would consider keeping it with great joy for years to come, but since I can manage to explore a little bit, I might let it go for a more modern unit. But that doesn't mean that it is not good. It just means that it is good enough to want more...