Aphex Channel

Oct 1, 2012 9:00 AM, Mix, By Brandon Hickey



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Aphex Channel rear

Sculpting Tones

The last section before the output gain control is the tone-shaping section—which features the Big Bottom circuit—and a single-band, midrange-frequency parametric EQ, followed by the Aural Exciter. Given the fact that the Aural Exciter is designed to create artificial upper harmonics, the common misconception of the Big Bottom is that it is a sub-harmonic generator, but it is not. Instead, it is a circuit that separates existing bass frequencies and compresses them, which adds weight and sustain, and then selectively adds them back into the signal. When recording voice-over or ADR, I was able to clean up the sound using HPF, the gate, and then the Big Bottom, creating something like a selective proximity effect. Even with a distant shotgun mic, I was able to pull the sound forward or push it back into the scene. Creating the ultimate announcer’s voice was a snap using a close mic and adding some Big Bottom. It was important not to overdo it, because sometimes the bass would sustain beyond the rest of the voice, sounding unnatural.

The single band of parametric EQ sounds good but limits your options. When recording voice, and even more so when recording acoustic guitar, I missed the option of bumping upper midrange while scooping the low-mids. I tried addressing the low-mids with the EQ and hitting the highs with the Aural Exciter, but it wound up just sounding grainy and artificial. It was easier to get this right when recording voice. I found that by boosting upper-mids with the EQ and adding the Big Bottom and Aural Exciter, I was able to effectively punch a hole in the low-mids and get the vocal sound I wanted.

Is It Your Everything?

My experience with the Aphex Channel was positive, especially when recording voice. Using the combination of processors to sculpt a usable tone from any vocal subject couldn’t have been more convenient and pleasant. With the compressor and gate holding the voice steady in a comfortable dynamic range, and a few tweaks of the output control, I was able to quickly park the voice at a steady -23 LKFS referencing a meter compliant with ITU-BS.1770-2. I never had a chance to use the Channel to record hip-hop vocals, but this processing chain would have been perfect for that, too.

Getting so much processing in a small box and in a fixed order sometimes compromises the Channel’s ability to be the perfect box for every situation. For instance, getting the perfect electric bass sound took some experimenting, but certainly this device is capable of producing some unique bass tones. The Aphex Channel’s design makes it better at some uses than others. If you are looking for an “it” vocal chain to add to your setup, I would certainly recommend this one.

Brandon Hickey is a freelance engineer and audio educator.


With tube pre’s like the Channel, even someone who is inexperienced in modifying electronic circuits can try out some different flavors by simply swapping out the tube, which isn’t recommended by the manufacturer. Pulling a socketed tube and replacing it requires no soldering, and is easily reversed. I swapped the stock (unlabeled) 12AT7 for a Groove Tubes 12AT7, and found slightly less noise and a bit of improved detail in the top end. For use as a bass DI, popping in a high-gain 12AX7 might provide a little extra grind.



PRODUCT: Channel

WEBSITE: aphex.com

PRICE: $999 street

PROS: Easy to sculpt great vocal sounds.

CONS: Fixed-order processors make some workflows difficult.

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