Multiple Effects Unit
Alesis seem to have the golden touch at the moment; first the gloriously brilliant Midiverb, with its 63 preset reverb programmes for under £400; now here comes the Midifex, at the same price, and with the same potential glorious brilliance.
So what is it? It's a digital effects unit, offering 63 preset delays, reverbs, and doubling effects, in stereo, and with MIDI switching. It's a clever little box, which does things many more expensive DDLs and reverbs refuse to even contemplate, and it shares the M'verb's ridiculous ease of use, and its ridiculously low price.
The Midifex lives in a box that is identical to the Midiverb's - half rack-mounting with, (1U) high, roughly square, with a minimum of controls mounted on a cutout ledge at the front. The holes in the back are also the same as the Midiverb: stereo phono in/out, Mix control, Midi In/Thru.
The first 21 programs go like this: there are six single repeat longish echoes, seven single repeat medium delay echoes, six short, and two extra-short. These come with a selection of different EQ and stereo position settings. They can be LPF (Low Pass Filter, which is bassy), BPF (Band Pass Filter - middly), HPF (High Pass Filter - toppy), or FLAT (which is tonally uncoloured); stereo settings are WIDE, which spreads the echoed signal, AMBI, as in ambience, or stereo reverb surrounding the central mono echo, and THICK, which fattens the echoes up, making the ambience sound warmer.
The programs live up to their parameters - WIDE really does spread the signal across your headphones, and AMBI certainly gives mono inputs a stereo feel. Comparing the shorter echoes on progs 18 and 19, the change from the basic mono to artificial stereo is like the sun coming out over your recording. I was convinced, anyway.
Programs 22 to 30 are described as two tap delays: as far as my professionally trained ears could tell, they give a delay with two repeats. There are four medium length, four short, and two extra short delays, again offering the selection of EQ settings, plus PAN on prog. 27, which actively bounces the signal from side to side of the stereo.
The next six presets (one medium, four short, one extra short) are three tap delays, giving - can you guess? - three repeats. The extra short three-repeats-in-the-twinkling-of-an-ear is too harsh for use with anything but drum machines.
I found a minor mistake in the labelling of the next batch of presets, them what's described as REGEN (for regeneration, in the sense of lots - I counted nine - of repeated echoes). Progs 37-40 are all described as medium, though they are of varying length. Thirty-seven is long, 38 is medium, while 39 and 40 qualify as short in my opinion. This quibble aside, they do their job, giving a repeat that works well when mixed low under floaty vocals. The extra short REGEN programme gives a rockabilly type slapback.
This leads very neatly onto programs 43-47, which are yer actual slapback single repeat Sun Studios stuff. Almost. They double up vocals neatly, and help broaden out drum machine sounds, giving a touch of nastiness to otherwise tame rhythm boxes. The last and longest of these also duplicates program 20, one of the extra short delays.
Next, the reverbs. Forty-eight is short and gated, good on drums and staccato sequences; 49 is a large school hall with heavy curtains preventing it sounding too bright, and preset 50 is the first of the special effects, described on the casing as BLOOM. Play a short note on this setting, and you will hear the reverb swell up after the note, then die away. It's not as unsubtle as a long predelay, and sounds good mixed in behind arpeggiated chords. Fifty-one is a panned reverb, that spreads across the stereo from left to right (if you're wearing your cans that way round); 52 is a simple long (five seconds, approx.) bright stereo reverb, which sounds luscious; 53 and 54 are backwards reverbs - this doesn't mean reverb before you play, but the normal decaying reverb that occurs behind the note turned round. So you hear your note, then the reverb crescendos up from nothing; sounds weird in isolation, but works as a good psychedelic effect in with the track.
The multitap echo/reverbs on 55, 56, and 57, have the same effect as short stereo delays, spreading the signal, and making it sound harder. The remaining six Midifex programs are known as THICKENER and STEREOGEN, and come equipped with a variety of EQ settings. These presets double up the signal, giving breadth and stereoness to mono signals, presumably by adding a slight delay.
I had a good time playing with it - the ambient echoes are far more realistic than those produced by ordinary DDLs, and the Midifex's reverb settings are delicious in headphones. But I still don't think that the Midifex is as gloriously brilliant as the Midiverb.
The main problem is a conceptual one; echo effects are often used in time with existing rhythm tracks, which means a DDL offering fixed delay times must have a limited application. Also the recent glut of cheap DDLs (as opposed to the comparative scarcity of reverbs) means that many home recordists will already own a similar machine. And while the reverbs and stereo enhancement programs are sublimely easy to use, would they be attraction enough?
But there's no deception going on - the Midifex does all that it claims to do, and very well at that. Put it next to the Midiverb in the £9.95 rack-mount adaptor that Sound Technology supply, and you would have a powerful selection of semi-pro effects at your disposal.
Review by Jon Lewin
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