Alesis Quadraverb Plus
Possibly the most popular budget multi-fx processor currently available, the Quadraverb has just been upgraded and promoted to the rank of 'Plus'. Nigel Lord investigates.
The recession bites, and many of us are looking for the most cost-effective way of improving our studios. One option is equipment upgrades - Quadraverb owners come on down.
BACK IN THE late '70s/early '80s, there wasn't a synthesiser worth its salt which didn't sport a ring modulator amongst its complement of sound manipulating tools. As the mass "digitalisation" of equipment took place, however, this particular form of modulation became less and less common. Today it seems to have all but disappeared from hi-tech instruments - and represents a criminal omission from the synthesist's palette. Full marks, then, to Alesis for acknowledging its potential and including it as an effect among those we are more accustomed to seeing on signal processors.
Essentially, the ring modulator provides us with a means of amplitude modulating two signals such that the resultant output comprises only of sum and difference harmonics. This contrasts with conventional forms of modulation where sum and difference frequencies are heard in addition to the modulated signals themselves. The resultant sound, has, depending on the type of input signal, a ringing, metallic quality, rich in harmonics and very resonant.
On the Quadraverb Plus, the Up and Down output signals produced by the ring modulator are routed to the left and right outputs. These represent versions of the input signal with its harmonic spectrum shifted up and with it shifted down and you can adjust the overall level of each. Don't confuse its effect with that of an exciter which simply adds a little top-end sparkle. This is a very distinctive form of signal processing which needs considerable care in setting up if it isn't to sound clangorous and unusably discordant.
A similar, but more straightforward effect is provided by the Resonators which the Quadraverb Plus now sports. Like the ring modulator, these generate harmonic derivatives of the input signal - but in a much more controlled way. The Plus boasts a total of five Resonators; the fundamental frequency of each may be adjusted in semitone steps from -24 to +36 (in other words, across a five-octave chromatic scale). This takes place in Continuous mode, where it is also possible to adjust the decay time of each resonator on a 0-99 scale.
In the second Resonator mode, MIDI Gate, the frequencies generated can be made to track incoming MIDI notes from an external device. And because resonator frequencies can be adjusted, you can therefore program the Quadraverb to generate up to five-note chords from any type of input signal. Pretty neat. And it works too. With a little patient setting up, you can produce some excellent results which more than justify the inclusion of the Resonators on what is, after all, a sound processor rather than a sound generator.
As an effect, multi-tap delays have been around for quite some time now, and it is perhaps surprising that the Quadraverb was not capable of generating such useful multiple repeats in its original form. No matter, they're here now, and the versatility of their implementation on the Quadraverb Plus is likely to make them a very popular effect indeed. Basically, you can tap into the overall delay span - which may extend to some 1.55 secs - at up to eight individual points and adjust each signal for delay time, volume and pan position.
As you may imagine, this allows you to set up very complex/interesting delay patterns, whilst maintaining precise control over where and when repeats take place.
The last two new effects, Auto-Panning and Tremelo Modulation, share a common identity in that they're both essentially amplitude modulation effects, and to that extent are mutually exclusive - you can't run both simultaneously. Both of them are included within the Quadraverb's EQ-Pitch-Delay-Reverb and Five Band EQ-Pitch-Delay configurations, and both are adjustable for speed and depth. Neither, I hope, require any explanation from me.
WITH THE SORT of "extras" we've been looking at here, it would have been quite easy for Alesis to justify the release of an entirely new effects unit and left owners of existing Quadraverbs to hawk their machines around the shops looking for a good part-exchange deal or chance their arm in the classified columns - in other words, upgrading the hard way. Similarly, it wouldn't have been difficult for them to justify adding at least another 50 quid to the price of the Quadraverb to cover all the extra features, and put it down to inflation. That they have done neither will, I'm sure, reflect very positively on them and ensure some loyal customer support in the years to come.
Though by no means the last word in their respective areas of operation, all these effects are extremely usable and as in so many other areas of hi-tech equipment, help blur the line drawn between creative and non-creative instruments. Recommended.
Price Quadraverb Plus, £399; £12 update for existing users. Both prices include VAT.
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Review by Nigel Lord
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