We’ve long been fans of Donner pedals at KGR. This is where the brand got their start, and where they’ve consistently built their best products, so when we heard about the Donner Arena 2000 Multi FX unit we were very intrigued to see if it would live up to their previously stellar FX reputation.
Many guitarists have been looking to get on board with digital modeling and rig reduction using pedals, but have been limited by the price when it comes to the high end units, and the perceived quality of the cheaper products. Now Donner has come out with what we think is a fantastic little pedal at an incredible price.
In this KillerGuitarRigs Review, we took a deep dive into the Donner Arena 2000. We explored its features, tones, build quality, and overall usability. If you’ve been in the market for a multi FX pedal like this and you’re looking to save a few bucks, you won’t want to miss this.
Donner did provide us with an Arena 2000 for the purpose of this review, but no direction was given, so all opinions expressed are our own.
Who Is This For?
The Donner Arena 2000 Multi FX Pedal is a powerful and feature-rich multi FX processor and modeler for guitarists looking for a really compact and dynamic rig. We think it’s a great pedal for guitarists at any stage of their journey. It’s affordable enough for newer players to justify buying, and it’s got enough in the way of features and sound quality to keep more experienced players happy.
Appearance / Features / Controls
To look at, the Arena 2000 reminded us a lot of the Headrush MX-5 or the Mooer GE200. It’s a 3 button unit with an expression pedal and a whole slew of connectivity options on the back. It measures 11.5 inches wide by 2 inches high by 5.8 inches deep , and weighs just 3 lbs.
Despite being slightly larger than some other multiFX pedals on the market, it was still extremely portable, and slipped easily into a backpack and the pouch on a gig bag.
In terms of sounds/tones it came with 80 amp models, along with 50 free slots for IR’s, and even 10 mic simulations.
Additionally, there were 138 onboard effects, which could either be used individually, or combined in a signal chain. It also came with 150 modifiable presets to play with in case you need some inspiration (or you just don’t want to build your own!).
It was controlled via three stomp button switches, as well as a host of dials for controlling parameters, and touch sensitive buttons for accessing the amps, cabs, mic, and FX. On the right, there was an expression pedal that can be used for wah, modulation, and volume control.
It had a TFT LED screen, which very clearly displayed the settings we had active, and made it pretty easy to navigate through the menus.
As for connectivity, it included headphone out, mono and stereo input jacks, mono and stereo audio out, and a MIDI in port for connecting external midi controllers. Additionally, it had a USB Type C port for direct connection to your Mac or PC. This port is used for both accessing the companion software, and also so that the pedal can be used as a USB interface for recording.
Performance / Sound
During the test we played through the Arena 2000 exclusively using in ear monitors to prevent any coloration from our own amps affecting the tone.
For the money, this really is an exceptional modeling pedal, but we do need to frame the performance review with the fact that it wasn’t the most intuitive unit, and the instructions were somewhat incomplete.
Calling this pedal a Multi FX unit is a bit of a misnomer. Yes, it does have multi FX capabilities, but it’s most useful as a modeler. The volume of amp and cab models, the ability to mix and match between those models, and the fact that you can upload your own IRs makes it a pretty powerful tool.
We found ourselves incredibly impressed with the range of tones we were able to get from this pedal. We spent a long time playing with the various amps and cabs, mixing and matching to try and find some interesting sounds. We thought that the output was pretty accurate, and while it wasn’t quite on the same level as something like a Neural DSP Quad Cortex, for under $300 this thing got us a good portion of the way there.
The amps and cabs had names that were suspiciously similar to some very famous pieces of equipment, which did make it a little easier to dial in tones, but what we really thought was missing was a comprehensive list in the instructions.
We particularly liked the range of overdrive pedal simulations. Our favorites were the RAT, Big Muff, and Klon clones. When isolated,you could tell you weren’t using the real things, but in a mix, they sounded really effective. In addition, it had 3 noise gates, 10 delay FX, and 10 different reverbs.
The expression pedal was a nice touch, too. It had a good amount of resistance, but was still sensitive enough for a light touch, too.
While it does have the ability to load impulse responses, this is something we didn’t get around to trying. This is another area that was noticeably missing from the instructions, and if there’s a potential V2 in the works, we’d like to see Donner make this process a little clearer.
We found the mobile companion app to be quite useful, and actually found it easier to navigate than the actual on board controls. It connected via Bluetooth to the unit, and we found the connection to be reliable, and without lag or latency – a big plus for the Arena 2000.
Final Thoughts on the Donner Arena 2000
Overall, we were impressed with the sound quality, as well as the array of amps, cabs and FX that this modeler offered. Considering the price, you’re getting a lot for your money with the Donner Arena 2000, and provided you’ve got the patience to sit with it and spend some time learning the layout of the settings, we think you’ll get a lot of value from this pedal.
It’s a huge step forward from Donner, and with some minor improvements like improving the instructions, we think it will be a real contender amongst budget modelers. We don’t think anyone is going to replace their Kemper with it, but If you’ve been considering a Headrush MX5, or a Line 6 HX Stomp, this Donner Pedal is definitely worth considering if you want to save some money.