ROGER LINN DESIGN ADRENALINN
Groove FilterFX/Amp Modeler/Drum Box
From the father of the LinnDrum digital drum machine and Akai's MPCSeries groove boxes, Roger Linn's AdrenaLinn takes the stompbox conceptto the limit by adding a bank of filters, a looping sequencer,synth-style modulators and amp modeling for a wide array of rhythmiceffects. Playing in sync to MIDI or its internal 40-sound drum machine,effects range from traditional (tremolo/flanging/auto pan, etc.) tosequence-driven, dynamically looped filter tones, creating a bazillionsounds that you've never heard.
AdrenaLinn is housed in a 4.5×7×2-inch stompbox chassis.The back panel has ¼-inch jacks for instrument input (mono),stereo main outputs, a headphone jack, MIDI In/Out ports and aconnector for the (included) wallwart DC supply; there's no provisionfor onboard batteries.
Considering the unit's power, the interface is deceptively simple.Besides its two momentary footswitches (for bypass/tempo entry andsequence start/stop), the top panel has a three-digit alphanumeric LED,an input level pot, four selector pushbuttons, four multifunctionrotary controls that either set presets/drumbeats/tempo/output volumeor — in Edit mode — control dozens of parametersettings.
This box could really use a nice rack enclosure and a large LCD, asnavigating the interface takes some getting used to, and editing can bea chore. Alternatively, all parameters are MIDI-accessible, and one canedit using Emagic's SoundDiver editor/librarian program, which alsoprovides unlimited preset storage on a PC or Mac. AdrenaLinn doesinclude 100 cool factory presets and space to store 100 user settings,so finding the right sound is often a case of starting with a preset,tweaking it a bit and storing the result.
Functions can be used in combination or separately, so it's justpunch and go if you just need drum grooves (100 presets or make yourown from the 40 onboard sounds) or excellent amp modeling (choice of12: Fenders, Marshalls, Vox, Boogie, fuzz, clean DI and more). But whatreally sets AdrenaLinn apart is its Groove Filter Effects, which altertone dynamically, synched to the drum machine or an external MIDIclock. These beat-synched effects include modulation (flange, tremolo,delays, rotary and more), filter sequences (looped patterns of filteredtones) and filters (auto-wah, envelope filter or talk box, etc.).
AdrenaLinn does a have a few minuses — such as no line input(guitar input only), tiny knobs and a sometimes-vexing edit interface— but considering AdrenaLinn's power and miniscule $395 retail,nothing else comes close. On guitar, bass or keys, the sounds areamazing (even otherworldly), but when the drums are routed through thesuperb filter effects, you're into some huge, slamming stereo groovesthat nobody's ever heard — fast!
AdrenaLinn inspires. Plug in, click it on and ideas start flowing.And that may be its most valuable feature.
Roger Linn Design, 510/898-4878, www.rogerlinndesign.com.
— George Petersen
GROOVE TUBES DITTO
Direct Box/Line Driver
The Groove Tubes DITTO box (Direct Input, Tube Transformer Output)is a direct box/line driver with 12AU7 and 12AX7 tubes; a custom,nickel-core, transformer-balanced output; and ground lift switch.Retailing at $399, DITTO's primary application is to provide anisolated, balanced, low-impedance output for electric guitars, acousticguitars with pickups, keyboards and electric basses for studiorecording and as a line driver for live sound.
The front end has two ¼-inch unbalanced input jacks: One servesas a “loop,” allowing the DITTO to feed an amp onstagewhile also driving the balanced output. A pot between the stages offersup to 30dB gain to the balanced output.
In the studio, using a Digi 001 to record tracks from my customThinline '72 Tele with humbucking pickups, I compared a straight-inconnection, a Whirlwind passive IMP-2 direct box and the DITTO.Straight in, the Tele sounded like mud. The IMP-2 restored some of theclarity. The DITTO pulled out more mud and restored the top. It didn'thave the edge I get when I plug into my '67 Fender Super Reverb, but itwas a lot better than the other two options.
I also checked out DITTO in a live situation with bassist CareyZiegler at a recent gig. Ziegler, recording engineer Doug Milton andJeff Byron (who mixes Ziegler's band) said Ziegler's PRS bass soundedmuch better than with the bassist's usual passive direct box. Gettingimproved bass through his floor monitors allowed Ziegler to keep thevibe and back off his stage amp. The band, Byron and the front rowappreciated the DITTO as much as Ziegler did. In the studio or onstage,Groove Tubes' DITTO was a win-win.
Groove Tubes, 818/361-4500, www.groovetubes.com.
— Ty Ford
SENNHEISER E609 SILVER
Instrument Amplifier Mic
Years ago, I had the pleasure of recording guitar genius RonnieMontrose. In anticipation of his arrival — and to save time— I set up about six different mics: condensers, tubes anddynamics. When Montrose showed up, he said that he had a favorite micand asked if we could try that, as well. He pulled out a Sennheiser MD409 dynamic with a flat-bar mount that slid into a slot cut into hisamp, putting the mic about an inch in front of the grille and towardthe edge of the speaker cone.
We tried them all, and sure enough, his mic won out over everythingelse! I became an instant convert to the mystic 409 cult and wasgreatly saddened when Sennheiser (what were they thinking?)discontinued the 409 a few years later. Later, Sennheiser came out withthe Evolution 609, which resembled the original but wasn't thesame.
Fortunately, with the debut of the new E609 Silver, the magic isback. Like the original, it's a side-address design so it can be simplyhung over an amp, suspended by the cable (with three inches of ducttape to secure it) and be exactly in the sweet spot. With its high-SPLhandling and supercardioid pattern to eliminate any bleed, this one'sready for anything.
On a variety of amps — Marshall, Fender, Ampeg, Yamaha andeven funky Danelectro — the E609 Silver was spot-on, particularlywhen combined with a distant tube mic. The Sennheiser provided thepunch, fury, growl and edge, with the room mic adding a smoothhugeness. Yeah!
But it's not just for amps: The E609 Silver was also great on bassamps, toms, trumpets and trombones. At an affordable list of $199.95,this one's a great addition to anyone's mic cabinet.
Sennheiser USA, 860/434-9190, www.sennheiserusa.com.
— George Petersen
APPLIED ACOUSTICS SYSTEMSLOUNGE LIZARD
Virtual Electric Piano Software
Lounge Lizard uses physical modeling to emulate the soniccharacteristics of Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric pianos from the '70s(and imaginary instruments that never physically existed). The resultis a dynamic and expressive virtual instrument that can function instand-alone mode or as a plug-in for several DAWs.
Lounge Lizard will run under Mac OS 9.x with a 400MHz G3 processoror better (G4 recommended), or in Windows 98, ME, 2000 or XP running ona 500MHz PIII processor. The program requires 32MB RAM in both Macs andPCs. Supported plug-in formats are MAS, VST, DXi and DirectConnect. Iworked with Version 1.0, mostly in Digital Performer V. 3.02.
The software's intuitive interface gives you wide-ranging virtualcontrol over numerous parameters. For example, you can adjust themallet's hardness and how forcefully it hits the fork, and applykeyboard tracking and velocity scaling independently to either or bothof these mallet parameters. In real instruments, the mallet producesnoise in addition to a musical tone when it hits the fork. LoungeLizard gives you outstanding control over noise parameters, such asvolume, decay time, pitch/spectral content and decay-time keyboardtracking.
Four other controls independently adjust the volume and decay timesfor the tine and tone bar (i.e., two controls for each part of thefork). You can also apply keyboard tracking to the tine's decay timeand adjust the tine's pitch over a four-semitone range. The harmoniccontent of the tine's output can be tweaked by moving the virtualposition of the piano's pickup vertically and/or horizontally withrespect to the tine. Along with pickup I/O level controls, theseparameters give you a wide range of sounds from sparkly clean tooverdriven and downright funky.
Lounge Lizard supplies a helpful pallet of effects tailored tocreate classic keyboard sounds. You'll find wah, phaser, tremolo anddelay sections here, each offering control over several parameters.Neither delay time nor modulation rates can currently be synced to MIDIclock. But on the plus side, all of Lounge Lizard's parameters can becontrolled by MIDI continuous controllers of your choice.
Beyond providing convincing emulations of vintage keyboards ofyesteryear, its plethora of wide-ranging controls allows you to createhybrid instruments and even startling synth tones that venture beyondpiano bars and soul trains. With a $199 list, Lounge Lizard is morethan a class act, it's a bargain.
Applied Acoustics Systems, 514/871-8100, www.applied-acoustics.com.
— Michael Cooper
MASSENBURG DESIGN WORKS MS269
Massenburg Design Works signature MS269 EQ for Mac-based ProTools|HD — a single-channel, 5-band EQ — is the progeny ofthe ubiquitous Model 8200 stereo EQ, a favorite of discerning engineersworldwide. However, in no way should these be compared: The plug-in issonically and visually unique.
The EQ's familiar-looking gain/frequency x/y graph provides instantfeedback as you change parameters. Its dB scale can be set to show 6,12 or 24 dB of gain change, and input level can be set from -24 dB to+6 dB. Three “LED”s let the user know if overdrive occursat the input, EQ or output sections. The screen's five identical bandsdefault to high/low-shelving filters on the ends with three fullyparametric bands in the center. However, in the digital world, any bandcan be anything. A pulldown menu can alter each band's duty, so userscan call up an EQ offering a parametric peak/dip, low/high shelf orlow/highpass at -6 dB or -12 dB per octave.
A series of circles with a center parameter on each band lets yougrab-and-drag a parameter up/down, double-click to enter a valuemanually or Command-drag to fine-tune the value. Bands can range from10 Hz to 41k Hz, which makes sense, as the plug-in operates at up to96k Hz. (Internal processing is extended even when operating at 44.1kHz.) Q control is adjustable from 0.1 to an absolutely surgical 25.6,and gain can be cut/boost ±24 dB. Operation can be mono ormulti-mono, and all individual parameters are automatable.
The EQ is a standout for what it doesn't do: sound harsh atextremes. Its subtle nature lets users craft a track's sonic quality ina number of ways. The simple interface is great: At first, I wasunderwhelmed with the design, but soon I appreciated its ease of use.It was also a hit with nontech-types in the studio: One user called ita great “EQ for Dummies.” However, even a dummy can hearhow excellent this EQ sounds. On a variety of sources, it excelled,especially when used with vocals or to add air to percussion and drumoverheads. Knocking off a boomy acoustic guitar's low end, using thehighpass filter at the -6dB per octave setting, produced nice, naturalresults.
At $795, this tool should be in everyone's digital bag of tricks. Itwill quickly become a nouveau classic for Pro Tools users searching forsonic excellence.
MDW, dist. by Digidesign, 800/333-2137, www.digidesign.com.
— Kevin Becka