Carlsbro AD1 Echo
A new addition to the Carlsbro range, a robust and inexpensive stage echo machine
With so many new delay and echo machines on the market, it becomes a little easy to be blasé about what, initially at least, looks to be a fairly standard echo machine.
But the Carlsbro AD1 is not quite what it seems. At the price, it comes over much cheaper than tape based echo units with similar facilities and is even cheaper than a number of delay pedals that are on the market with much fewer facilities. How Carlsbro quite manage to put them out at this price eludes me, for the quality of the unit is certainly not in question - as we will see later.
Available in the now familiar Carlsbro plastic casing, the AD1 can also be removed for simple rack mounting (standard 19"). A carrying handle is supplied on one end that is comfortable, and also folds down flat to allow the unit to be stacked neatly.
The rear panel contains just the power supply input, a three way bulgin socket, and the lead is supplied with the unit. Also complete with the unit is a footswitch and cover. The facia panel contains 'the works', making all the connections simple and easy in performance.
On the far left is a single input socket, with an adjacent peak limit indicator. (Max input is 1V at 300Hz). Next along is the control section, from l to r: Gain, Delay, Regen, Bass, Treble and Echo Volume. Strangely, the Gain and Delay are 300° with '5' at the top (0-9), while Regen is the same, but with '4' at the top (0-8), the same as Echo Volume. Bass and Treble controls are + or - 4 with '0' at the top. Spice of life I suppose.
Next section, is the Effect on/off 'push on' type switch, with a tiny (but bright) LED to denote status. The remote switch socket is also situated here (logically). Then comes no less than three separate outputs: Direct, Mix, and Delay. Finally, an on/off 'push on' type mains switch completes the controls, again with its own LED status indicator.
So, to operation. The first thing that struck me was quite how quiet the unit was, even when wound up to extreme levels in an attempt to detect noise. Yes, there is some there in the form of a slight HF hiss, but what is that compared to the clunk, buzz, rattle and chatter from the equivalent tape unit? Tested with a Beyer B500 microphone however, a slight problem was discovered in that a fairly 'gutsy' vocalist will cause the PPL on the input to start its flashing. This is supposed to be variable via the gain control, but even down as low as mark 3 on the dial the same emerged. Guitarists and keyboardists could rectify this with the flick of a switch, but for vocalists there seems little that can be done - you can't turn down a mic! The fact is that some microphones have an output that will trigger this so it is just a case of trying to get the matching right, or of using a small volume pedal. Output gain was good and very fluid, with a standard rise in volume, with no obvious 'jumps'. The manufacturers state that the delay is from 40ms-340ms, and that can't really be argued with. The Regen control orders the return rate for the unit and IT IS FIERCE!
But back to the output sections supplied. The three of them allow the user much greater freedom - and a mass of extra applications.
The 'direct' out gives the dry, un-echoed signal, the 'mix' out gives both dry and echo, while the 'delay' out gives echo only. Any combination may be used and thus - a left signal can be taken to the left output on mixer or recording using the 'direct' out, and the 'delay' out to the right, and a superb cross-stereo effect is set up. In addition, the monitors for performance can be fed from the 'mix' out.
Experimentation with the AD1 proved that this is a capable delay machine with some interesting and exciting additions that are quite out of the price range.
Obviously this is not a studio quality effect, but is certainly quite capable of delivering a good reverb and echo sound for performance. The quality of the components used is to the usual Carlsbro level - robust and functional rather than fancy, but that is no detriment to its value as a low priced efficient effects unit.
Perhaps Carlsbro will consider manufacturing a slightly larger version of AD1 (AD2 perhaps?) with three or four inputs with separate volume controls. This would then allow the unit to be used as mixer/echo for musicians - and would, I imagine, add little to the cost compared to the purchase of mixer and echo units as separate items. This would, of course, be functional rather than creative, but a cost cutter at any level of the market is a benefit.
In conclusion then - a well priced, well built echo/reverb that is a credit to its manufacturers.
The Carlsbro AD1 retails at £151.51. Further information is available from Carlsbro (Sales) Ltd, (Contact Details).