Eighteen new or significantly upgraded digital hardware multi-effects processors have been released in the 18 months since January 2001's Winter NAMM. When Mix last surveyed this product category, 29 multi-effects units had appeared during a similar 18-month period. A challenging post-9/11 economy, the rising use of software plug-in effects, and the popularity of exotic, single-duty, boutique signal processors may all be factors in the relatively low number of new product introductions. But hardware multi-effects processors nonetheless remain very powerful studio tools; the current crop offers more sound-making possibilities than ever before. Increased DSP firepower, improved user interfaces, 24-bit/96kHz performance, parameter automation and add-on algorithms are just some of the exciting features in this year's roundup. Not included in this list are dynamics-only processors, portable digital recorders with built-in multi-effects, guitar multi-effects processors or reverb-only digital effects processors with fewer than five onboard multi-effects.
The Ineko ($199) from Alesis is a powerful desktop processor. Introduced at this year's Winter NAMM show, the tiny Ineko fits 24-bit converters, three parameter knobs, program-up/down and Bypass buttons, stereo ¼-inch in and output connectors, and a very simple interface into a slender, silver tabletop casing. Program names like “Stereo Trix,” “VocoBend” and “VibroWobl” and 48 effect parameter names are handily printed side-by-side atop the unit, and two rows of LEDs cross-index which preset is loaded or which parameter is selected to control one of Ineko's 48 high-quality reverbs, delays, phasers, filters and other effects.
Alesis' Akira ($299) is a rackmounted, programmable, 2-channel multi-effects processor with 24-bit AD/DA, 28-bit internal processing, 48kHz sample rate, and 100 reverb, delay, pitch modulation, filter and special effects presets. MIDI I/O, balanced +4dBu/-10dBV ¼-inch TRS analog I/O and three parameter knobs are included, the latter for real-time parameter control of any selected preset.
Another new Alesis multi-effects entry is the PicoVerb ($99), a simple preset reverb/multi-effects overachiever. The PicoVerb provides 16 effects presets at 24-bit/48kHz resolution, including reverb, flange, delay, chorus/flange and rotary speaker settings. Truly a “compact effects processor,” the PicoVerb can fit in a ⅓-rackspace or sit on a tabletop.
Behringer has revitalized its Virtualizer Pro DSP2024P ($149) dual-engine, 24-bit, multi-effects processor both inside and out. The user interface has been greatly enhanced, and true stereo processing on most algorithms is now available, as is a separate high/low-EQ per preset. New special effects, such as Ring Modulator, Vinylizer and Voice Canceller, have been added, along with virtual room reverb algorithms, including a variety of dynamic and psychoacoustics processing algorithms. All effects parameters can now be fully remote-controlled via MIDI, and users can also now edit up to seven parameters per preset, as well as high and low EQ, when customizing the 100 onboard factory presets. New additions to the Virtualizer Pro's 100 individual programs include distortion and tube and amp simulation effects.
Check out last month's issue for a review of Eventide's next-generation multi-effects processor, the Eclipse Harmonizer Effects Processor ($2,250). The company's first single-rackspace product, Eclipse debuted last year as a sort of H3000 with a dose of more power and twice as many features squeezed into one rackspace. Sporting many of Eventide's signature reverb, pitch change and special effects presets, Eclipse's dual-engine architecture can be configured in series, parallel, stereo or dual-mono modes. Further, its programs can be rapid-searched by category or application, and a memory card slot allows for portable presets. A well-thought-out front panel looks like a breeze to use: a Tap Tempo button, a 15-pad keypad, large silver parameter knob, two-line menu-interface screen, a pair of 7-segment signal-level meters, and lights indicating in which of the Eclipse's 44.1, 48, 88.2 and 96kHz sampling rates the unit is operating. Eclipse's Version 1.1 software update added 50 new programs and the ability to rename hotkeys, save and load setups and control one Eclipse with another via MIDI.
Take one Eventide Orville Harmonizer multichannel effects processor, remove all front panel controls, come up with a hefty discount and what do you have? One Orville/R “Blank Front Panel” Processor ($4,995). The unit is designed for use with Eventide's own Eve/Net remote-control system, and any combination of standard Orville, Orville/R multichannel and DSP7000 stereo-effects processors can be controlled with Eve/Net to create an unlimited number of digital and/or analog effects channels, a useful application for multichannel facilities. In the upper echelons of mainframe effects and reverb processors, Orville/R offers all of the effects and I/O-routing capabilities of the now-legendary Orville Harmonizer effects processor engine, including 4-channel reverb, distortion, dynamics, pitch shift, phasing, flanging, EQ and more.
A respected company name not typically associated with studio effects processors is back. The Gibson Echoplex Digital Pro ($1,150) is a rackmounted, MIDI-savvy, digital update of the classic tape-based Echoplex that incorporates elements of loop-based sampling, recording and delay with a nifty foot pedal controller (EFC7, $165) to get crazy live and in the studio with up to nine simultaneous loops. Onboard is 16 MB (198 seconds) of 16-bit memory time, tap-tempo control, and access to all Record, Play, Loop, Edit and Undo functions from the foot pedal. Loops and sound files can be saved and loaded via MIDI, and multi-effects presets include delay, chorus and flange settings.
Picking up where the Kurzweil K2600 synthesizer's world-class effects left off, the company has released the KSP8 mega multi-effects processor ($2,995) and its companion RSP8 remote controller ($595). Built in a two-space rackmount chassis and billed as a high-end 8-channel multibus signal processor with great real-time control, the KSP8 doubles the K2600 KDFX's processing power and adds a number of new algorithms, including new surround reverbs and additional stereo and mono algorithms. Up to eight channels of audio can be processed simultaneously in mono, stereo and surround combos, each sharing one of 16 available processing units on up to eight effects buses. Users can customize effect presets and signal chains for up to 999 object locations and store them to SmartMedia cards, each holding a “studio” snapshot of physical connections, analog and digital I/O routing and levels, effects chains, bus assignments and more per program. Also impressive is the fact that the KSP8 offers 249 DSP algorithms including reverbs, choruses, delays, distortions, EQs, cabinet simulators and compressors, as well as 5.1 surround audio algorithms with multichannel compression. I/O options include analog, AES/EBU, S/PDIF, Lightpipe, TDIF and wordclock connections.
From under the umbrella of the company's flagship 2001 TEC Award-winning 960L mainframe reverb platform, Lexicon released the MPX 200 ($399) last year and recently came out with the MPX 110 ($329) effects processor. The MPX 110 is another affordable, dual-channel, multi-effects rackmount unit from the MPX line that includes Lexichip heart, 24-bit AD/DA converters, true stereo processing, and 240 reverb, delay, modulation and pitch presets. Users can store and edit 16 programs, tempo can be tapped in with a foot pedal, and a 44.1kHz S/PDIF output can be set to wet or dry to use the MPX 110 as a high-quality, stand-alone sample-rate converter, if needed.
Lexicon's MPX 200, also a true stereo, dual-channel processor, combines the best of the original MPX 100 with many new features, including 24-bit internal processing, digital compression and an internal power supply. The MPX 200 adds 64 user settings, and its 240 presets include all of the classic Lexichip reverbs and choruses of its predecessor. Features include up to 5.5 seconds of delay, detune, echo, flange, pitch shift, rotary speaker and tremolo effects. Up to four program and compression parameters can be controlled by the MPX 200's front panel adjust knob, and simultaneous analog and digital streams can be output.
Already well-known for its line of POD amp-modeling units and an expanding line of high-quality floor pedals for guitarists, Line 6 now has set its sights on a studio line — and it's one of the best-looking lines of rackmount gear to come along in a while. The Studio Modelers line of rackmount effects processors includes the Echo Pro, Filter Pro and Modulation Pro, each listing at $699.99. Each unit emulates features of one or more classic effects units and is ready to be synchronized and locked to MIDI clock and tap tempo right out of the box. Able to lock in to a 16th-note triplet, dotted whole note and everything in between, each of the Studio Modelers' extensive MIDI and synchronization features and expression pedal controls (pedal optional) are well-suited for performance, experimentation and live studio mixing.
All three Studio Modelers feature 24-bit internal processing and AD/DA conversion; tap tempo; XLR balanced and ¼-inch unbalanced I/O; and dry, analog, input mute and all mute mix options. Echo Pro emulates classic machines such as the Maestro EP-1 Tube Echoplex, TC Electronic's TC2290 Dynamic Delay, the Boss DM-2 Analog Delay, and a variety of various pingpongs and reverse effects. Filter Pro pays homage to a Mu-Tron III (both up and down positions), an Oberheim VCF, an Octisynth, and a number of Moog, Sequential Circuits and ARP synthesizer filter banks. Modulation Pro covers all of the sonic territory of a Fender Deluxe Optical Tremolo, an Ibanez Flying Pan, a Leslie 145, an MXR Flanger and a Song Bird/Dytronics Tri-Stereo Chorus.
In the past 18 months, TC Electronic introduced four new multi-effects processors and a major software upgrade for System 6000, its flagship reverb platform. Improvements include the first stereo-to-5.1 surround-conversion processor released for the music and film industries.
The TC Electronic M-One XL ($699) does its own classic hall, large room and grainy snare reverbs quite nicely, while including a generous selection of high-quality compressor, limiter, EQ, flanger, gate, expander, de-esser, phaser and tremolo algorithms.
The new M300 Dual-Engine Processor ($299) puts high-quality TC reverb and multi-effects channels in the hands of budget-minded studios, live mixers and musicians who are looking for 24-bit true-stereo processing, auto-sensing S/PDIF input, MIDI control, and a decent dose of reverb and delay, vintage phase shift, hard tremolo, soft chorus and dynamics processor presets.
TC's D-Two Multitap Rhythm Delay ($699) incorporates the company's new Rhythm Tap feature, which allows rhythmic tapping and actual rhythm patterns to be tapped or quantized according to a specific tempo and subdivision. Also included are chorus, filter, spatial, dynamic delay and pingpong effects for locking together one incredible tempo- or MIDI-based effects loop with the rhythmically inclined D-Two.
Randy Alberts is a California-based audio and music journalist affected by multi-effects. His first book, Tascam: 25 Years of Recording Evolution, is being printed by Hal Leonard Publishing.