Snapshot Product Reviews

Jul 1, 2003 12:00 PM


Education Guide

Mix is gearing up to present its longstanding annual Audio Education Guide in its November 2014 issue. Want to have your school listed in the directory, or do you need to update your current directory listing? Add an image, program description, or a logo to your listing! Get your school in the Mix Education Guide 2014.


Groove Filter FX/Amp Modeler/Drum Box

From the father of the LinnDrum digital drum machine and Akai's MPC Series groove boxes, Roger Linn's AdrenaLinn takes the stompbox concept to the limit by adding a bank of filters, a looping sequencer, synth-style modulators and amp modeling for a wide array of rhythmic effects. Playing in sync to MIDI or its internal 40-sound drum machine, effects range from traditional (tremolo/flanging/auto pan, etc.) to sequence-driven, dynamically looped filter tones, creating a bazillion sounds 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 a connector for the (included) wallwart DC supply; there's no provision for onboard batteries.

Considering the unit's power, the interface is deceptively simple. Besides its two momentary footswitches (for bypass/tempo entry and sequence start/stop), the top panel has a three-digit alphanumeric LED, an input level pot, four selector pushbuttons, four multifunction rotary controls that either set presets/drumbeats/tempo/output volume or — in Edit mode — control dozens of parameter settings.

This box could really use a nice rack enclosure and a large LCD, as navigating the interface takes some getting used to, and editing can be a chore. Alternatively, all parameters are MIDI-accessible, and one can edit using Emagic's SoundDiver editor/librarian program, which also provides unlimited preset storage on a PC or Mac. AdrenaLinn does include 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 just punch and go if you just need drum grooves (100 presets or make your own from the 40 onboard sounds) or excellent amp modeling (choice of 12: Fenders, Marshalls, Vox, Boogie, fuzz, clean DI and more). But what really sets AdrenaLinn apart is its Groove Filter Effects, which alter tone dynamically, synched to the drum machine or an external MIDI clock. These beat-synched effects include modulation (flange, tremolo, delays, rotary and more), filter sequences (looped patterns of filtered tones) 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 are amazing (even otherworldly), but when the drums are routed through the superb filter effects, you're into some huge, slamming stereo grooves that 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,
George Petersen


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 an isolated, balanced, low-impedance output for electric guitars, acoustic guitars with pickups, keyboards and electric basses for studio recording and as a line driver for live sound.

The front end has two ¼-inch unbalanced input jacks: One serves as a “loop,” allowing the DITTO to feed an amp onstage while also driving the balanced output. A pot between the stages offers up to 30dB gain to the balanced output.

In the studio, using a Digi 001 to record tracks from my custom Thinline '72 Tele with humbucking pickups, I compared a straight-in connection, a Whirlwind passive IMP-2 direct box and the DITTO. Straight in, the Tele sounded like mud. The IMP-2 restored some of the clarity. The DITTO pulled out more mud and restored the top. It didn't have the edge I get when I plug into my '67 Fender Super Reverb, but it was a lot better than the other two options.

I also checked out DITTO in a live situation with bassist Carey Ziegler at a recent gig. Ziegler, recording engineer Doug Milton and Jeff Byron (who mixes Ziegler's band) said Ziegler's PRS bass sounded much better than with the bassist's usual passive direct box. Getting improved bass through his floor monitors allowed Ziegler to keep the vibe and back off his stage amp. The band, Byron and the front row appreciated the DITTO as much as Ziegler did. In the studio or onstage, Groove Tubes' DITTO was a win-win.

Groove Tubes, 818/361-4500,
Ty Ford


Instrument Amplifier Mic

Years ago, I had the pleasure of recording guitar genius Ronnie Montrose. In anticipation of his arrival — and to save time — I set up about six different mics: condensers, tubes and dynamics. When Montrose showed up, he said that he had a favorite mic and asked if we could try that, as well. He pulled out a Sennheiser MD 409 dynamic with a flat-bar mount that slid into a slot cut into his amp, putting the mic about an inch in front of the grille and toward the edge of the speaker cone.

We tried them all, and sure enough, his mic won out over everything else! I became an instant convert to the mystic 409 cult and was greatly saddened when Sennheiser (what were they thinking?) discontinued the 409 a few years later. Later, Sennheiser came out with the Evolution 609, which resembled the original but wasn't the same.

Fortunately, with the debut of the new E609 Silver, the magic is back. Like the original, it's a side-address design so it can be simply hung over an amp, suspended by the cable (with three inches of duct tape to secure it) and be exactly in the sweet spot. With its high-SPL handling and supercardioid pattern to eliminate any bleed, this one's ready for anything.

On a variety of amps — Marshall, Fender, Ampeg, Yamaha and even funky Danelectro — the E609 Silver was spot-on, particularly when combined with a distant tube mic. The Sennheiser provided the punch, fury, growl and edge, with the room mic adding a smooth hugeness. Yeah!

But it's not just for amps: The E609 Silver was also great on bass amps, 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,
George Petersen


Virtual Electric Piano Software

Lounge Lizard uses physical modeling to emulate the sonic characteristics of Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric pianos from the '70s (and imaginary instruments that never physically existed). The result is a dynamic and expressive virtual instrument that can function in stand-alone mode or as a plug-in for several DAWs.

Lounge Lizard will run under Mac OS 9.x with a 400MHz G3 processor or better (G4 recommended), or in Windows 98, ME, 2000 or XP running on a 500MHz PIII processor. The program requires 32MB RAM in both Macs and PCs. Supported plug-in formats are MAS, VST, DXi and DirectConnect. I worked with Version 1.0, mostly in Digital Performer V. 3.02.

The software's intuitive interface gives you wide-ranging virtual control over numerous parameters. For example, you can adjust the mallet's hardness and how forcefully it hits the fork, and apply keyboard tracking and velocity scaling independently to either or both of these mallet parameters. In real instruments, the mallet produces noise in addition to a musical tone when it hits the fork. Lounge Lizard gives you outstanding control over noise parameters, such as volume, decay time, pitch/spectral content and decay-time keyboard tracking.

Four other controls independently adjust the volume and decay times for the tine and tone bar (i.e., two controls for each part of the fork). You can also apply keyboard tracking to the tine's decay time and adjust the tine's pitch over a four-semitone range. The harmonic content of the tine's output can be tweaked by moving the virtual position of the piano's pickup vertically and/or horizontally with respect to the tine. Along with pickup I/O level controls, these parameters give you a wide range of sounds from sparkly clean to overdriven and downright funky.

Lounge Lizard supplies a helpful pallet of effects tailored to create classic keyboard sounds. You'll find wah, phaser, tremolo and delay sections here, each offering control over several parameters. Neither delay time nor modulation rates can currently be synced to MIDI clock. But on the plus side, all of Lounge Lizard's parameters can be controlled by MIDI continuous controllers of your choice.

Beyond providing convincing emulations of vintage keyboards of yesteryear, its plethora of wide-ranging controls allows you to create hybrid instruments and even startling synth tones that venture beyond piano bars and soul trains. With a $199 list, Lounge Lizard is more than a class act, it's a bargain.

Applied Acoustics Systems, 514/871-8100,
Michael Cooper


High-Resolution EQ Plug-In

Massenburg Design Works signature MS269 EQ for Mac-based Pro Tools|HD — a single-channel, 5-band EQ — is the progeny of the ubiquitous Model 8200 stereo EQ, a favorite of discerning engineers worldwide. However, in no way should these be compared: The plug-in is sonically and visually unique.

The EQ's familiar-looking gain/frequency x/y graph provides instant feedback 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 occurs at the input, EQ or output sections. The screen's five identical bands default to high/low-shelving filters on the ends with three fully parametric bands in the center. However, in the digital world, any band can be anything. A pulldown menu can alter each band's duty, so users can call up an EQ offering a parametric peak/dip, low/high shelf or low/highpass at -6 dB or -12 dB per octave.

A series of circles with a center parameter on each band lets you grab-and-drag a parameter up/down, double-click to enter a value manually or Command-drag to fine-tune the value. Bands can range from 10 Hz to 41k Hz, which makes sense, as the plug-in operates at up to 96k Hz. (Internal processing is extended even when operating at 44.1k Hz.) 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 or multi-mono, and all individual parameters are automatable.

The EQ is a standout for what it doesn't do: sound harsh at extremes. Its subtle nature lets users craft a track's sonic quality in a number of ways. The simple interface is great: At first, I was underwhelmed 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 it a great “EQ for Dummies.” However, even a dummy can hear how excellent this EQ sounds. On a variety of sources, it excelled, especially when used with vocals or to add air to percussion and drum overheads. Knocking off a boomy acoustic guitar's low end, using the highpass filter at the -6dB per octave setting, produced nice, natural results.

At $795, this tool should be in everyone's digital bag of tricks. It will quickly become a nouveau classic for Pro Tools users searching for sonic excellence.

MDW, dist. by Digidesign, 800/333-2137,
Kevin Becka

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