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Lexicon 960L: Multichannel Digital Effects System

Since debuting the Delta-T 101 (the world's first commercial digital audio product) nearly three decades ago, Lexicon has maintained a position as a leading

Since debuting the Delta-T 101 (the world’s first commercial digital audio product) nearly three decades ago, Lexicon has maintained a position as a leading designer of signal processing. Despite its short 100ms delay time and 10kHz bandwidth, the Delta-T 101 was revolutionary in its time, and Lexicon continued with innovative delay devices such as the Prime Time series and the PCM41/PCM42, which, even today, are highly prized tools in studio racks worldwide.

At the 1978 AES show, Lexicon unveiled the 224, the world’s first commercially viable digital reverb. Eventually the 224 evolved into the improved 224X and 224XL, which included the LARC (Lexicon Alphanumeric Remote Control), offering fingertip access to programs and parameters with dedicated function keys, six data sliders and a 24-character LED display. Lexicon’s next flagship arrived in 1986. Christened the 480L, this 2-in/4-out reverb box featured sampling capability, removable memory carts and compatibility with existing LARCs. Among the longest-lived digital devices on the market, the 14-year-old 480L thrives and will continue to be available, thanks to ongoing updates, such as an AES/EBU I/O option and, more recently, a Surround Cart with new algorithms for 5.1 surround production.

ENTER THE 960LAt last month’s AES show in Paris, Lexicon announced the heir to its flagship throne, the 960L. Like its predecessors, the 224XL and 480L, the 960L is based on an outboard reverb CPU linked to a LARC unit. However, the 960L takes the approach to the cutting edge, offering powerful new algorithms, 3DPM Perceptual Modeling(tm), a new, advanced LARC2(tm) remote and a 24-bit, 8-in/8-out architecture that’s designed specifically for surround mixing in broadcast, film, video post and music applications.

The four-rackspace main CPU has slots for multiple DSP cards, each equipped with four proprietary Lexichip(tm)III processors, with the card arrangement providing allocatable (and expandable) resources, supporting up to two surround or four stereo reverbs at 44.1 or 48 kHz, or two stereo reverbs at 96 kHz. Eight balanced inputs and outputs are standard, as are four pairs of AES/EBU digital I/O, word clock in/out/loop on BNCs, MIDI In/Out/Thru, a 3.5-inch floppy drive for saving programs/configurations, and a CD-ROM drive for software updates.

The 960L includes storage for 500 user presets and hundreds of factory programs, with standards such as halls, chambers, rooms, plates, stages, ambiences, wild spaces and “post.” In keeping with Lexicon’s policy to refine and enhance its products continually-as was the case with the 480L-expanded 960L features, programs and software upgrades are planned for future release.

NOT YOUR FATHER’S LARCThe most striking feature of the 960L system is the LARC2 user interface. Fashioned after the industry-standard LARC-which has made dozens of regular console-top appearances on Mix covers during the past decade and a half-the LARC2 takes this once-utilitarian remote to the next level.

Despite its small (8×10.5-inch) footprint and numerous new features-such as eight touch-sensitive moving faders and a dual-axis joystick control for surround-sound panning/placement-LARC2 operations are fast and intuitive. This is due in large part to the unit’s clean layout, eight softkeys and large 256-color backlit LCD, which shows status, program data and parameters at a glance. The LARC2’s 29 dedicated function keys include cursor navigation arrows, increment/decrement buttons, a ten-key pad for numerical entries and quick access to parameters including fader label/value, mute/bypass, tempo and tap control. Various combinations of joystick, faders and input keys can be customized to specific productions or individual requirements.

The 960L design team includes project engineers Paul Mageau and Michael Carnes, engineering VP Jan Wissmuller and Lexicon’s “Chief Scientist” David Griesinger, the Harvard Ph.D. who was instrumental in the development of the company’s landmark Model 224 some 22 years ago. Yet, with its 96kHz clarity and 8-in/8-out routing (expandable in future revs), this new unit takes reverb design much further than its stereo ancestors. “The 960L’s algorithms are more than mixes of mono reverbs-they are dedicated surround algorithms designed to support multichannel audio,” explains company president Wayne Morris. “This is Lexicon’s new technology platform for Y2K. We are certain it will trickle down to a host of new products in the coming years across many market segments.”

The Lexicon 960L will be available in Spring 2000. Pricing had not been determined at press time.

Lexicon, 3 Oak Park, Bedford, MA 01730; 781/280-0300; fax 781/280-0490;