ADA 2FX Digital Multi-Effects
The word 'digital' invariably equates with quality these days and suffice to say the new processor from American manufacturers ADA won't let you down on this count. Housed in a 19" wide, 1¾" high, rack-mounting black metal case,the 2FX combines a digital flanger, digital chorus and digital delay line with each effect having its own set of dedicated front panel controls. "So what?" I hear you cry, "you can get all that from most digital delays on the market already". Very true, but few offer the equivalent degree of sound quality as this ADA unit, and none in this price bracket allow you to select and hear two effects simultaneously. Interested? Read on...
Connection of the ADA unit to a mixer is made via quarter-inch jack sockets located on the somewhat bare rear panel. Their high impedance (500k) makes them suitable for both line and instrument level connections, so you could use this device connected in-line with a guitar or keyboard and an amp/combo if you prefer to add effects at source rather than on mixdown.
Once connected up via the send/return effects (auxiliary) loop of a mixer, the unit's input and output levels can be optimised using the appropriate front panel controls. Care must be taken with digital devices when setting input levels so that the headroom indicator or red 'clip' LED (as in the case of this model) flashes only on the very loudest passages of sound. Too high an input level and the unit will distort, obviously. Unlike analogue distortion caused by overloading the preamp of a valve combo, however, digital distortion is not very pleasant to the ear, so be warned.
After the level controls come the effect selector switches of which there are six. Since the flanger or chorus can be used simultaneously with the delay section, it makes sense to incorporate a function that allows you to change the order in which these treat the incoming sound - which is exactly what the 'Patch' switch does. If you're using chorus and delay modes, for example, it means you can select either chorus routed to the delay or vice-versa, something which would otherwise require re-patching externally if separate effects devices were being employed. The aural difference in the two treatments produced is considerable too.
The remaining five switches - Bypass, Flange, Chorus, Delay and Repeat Hold - are all duplicated on the optional, floor-mounted DM-2 Controller. This provides remote control of the above functions and is recommended if you're working at home or in a one-man operation.
With the Memory Bypass remote switch, you can also preset any combination of effects, then automatically and silently (thank heavens) punch them in as and when they're required. If you're engineering and have to be economical with your tape tracks, this facility is ideal for recording several different treatments on one instrument throughout a track.
The remainder of the controls are grouped into sections for each effect. First off is the flanger which offers the ever familiar four controls: Manual (which sets a fixed delay time between 0.5 and 5 milliseconds); Depth (which controls the amount of flange effect heard); Rate (which determines the sweep speed, from 0.1 to 25 seconds, for modulation effects such as vibrato); and Regen (which sets the level of flanged signal being fed back to the input to produce resonance). Finally, a Phase Invert switch reverses the polarity (positive or negative) of the flanged signal for the creation of 'drainpipe' effects - doubtless familiar to all Gary Numan fans.
The chorus section provides control of only two parameters - Depth and Rate - and has preset delay times between 2.5 and 20 milliseconds, an excellent compromise range. The designers, reassuringly, have also looked to the practical uses of the unit, as the control knob caps fitted to the chorus section are black as opposed to the light grey colour of the other effects, making them immediately discernible in a dimly lit studio control room (or bedroom). A minor cosmetic consideration perhaps, but an important one when you're in the throes of a hectic mixdown session. Full marks ADA!
The digital delay line featured in this unit offers a maximum delay time of 1024 milliseconds - that's just over one second for our younger readers still coming to grips with mathematics.
There's no display readout of the chosen delay time, but in its place the manufacturers have provided a red LED which pulses at the rate set by the repeat delay time control. You set up a delay using one of three preset time buttons: Double (64ms); Echo 1 (256ms) or Echo 2 (1024ms), which get you quickly into the right delay ballpark after which fine time adjustments can be implemented with the Multiplier control. Set fully clockwise, this gives you the maximum time delay set by each range button, whilst anticlockwise, it gradually reduces the delay to one quarter of the preset value. All in all, a cost-effective and simple method of delay programming.
To obtain multiple echo, slapback or hard reverb effects, you naturally have to employ the Feedback control as on any other digital delay. Finally, the Mix control determines the blend of dry (uneffected) and delayed signals appearing at the rear panel Effect Output socket. The dry signal only is available at the Direct Out socket, permitting pseudo-stereo effects to be achieved if both outputs are returned to a mixer's spare input channels (or auxiliary returns) and panned hard left and right.
Words are inadequate I always feel when it comes to describing sound effects, so you'll have to make do with a purely subjective comment like "this is the best-sounding, deepest, digital flanger I've heard to date". Record producer and Sarm West studio owner Trevor Horn (he of Frankie Goes To Hollywood fame) swears by his Bel analogue flangers so I'm informed, which is exactly what he'll do if he ever listens to this one... know what I mean? It really is superb.
The chorus sounds, likewise, were exceptionally bright, thick and full of top-end sparkle - superb for Police impersonators, if that's your penchant. The delay section produced very clean, noiseless echo treatments which didn't appear to crack up as the echo repeats faded away. This can be the case with low-cost digitals whose excessive quantisation noise is often overbearing but does not apply to this ADA model.
The Repeat Hold functioned well, giving glitch-free splices where the sound frozen into the 256K memory formed a loop. There's no external trigger of a sound frozen (or should I say 'sampled') into memory, but this can hardly be expected for the price considering what else you have available. A dedicated sound-sampler is a much better bet - try the Boss DE200 or Powertran's MCS1 - if this is where your desires lie.
This is an impressive device whose delay signal bandwidth of 17kHz and 90dB dynamic range make it ideal for studio sessions where the quality and versatility of sound is what counts. At £460 plus VAT, the ADA takes a lot of beating, for you'll pay £250 alone for a digital delay which may give you flanging and chorus as well, but not simultaneously.
Retail price £529 including VAT from selected dealers or UK distributors: Music Lab Sales, (Contact Details).
Review by Ian Gilby
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