MIDI controllable reverb
Lexicon have long known how to package their ultra-desirable reverb algorithms in cost-effective units. To a list including the LXP15, LXP5 and Alex, they've now added the benefit of dynamic MIDI control. Roger Brown flexes his Reflex...
Lexicon's Alex quickly established itself as a first class reverb unit, and as an upgraded, MIDI-controllable version, the Reflex can only enhance its standing.
Introduced two years ago, the Alex was the first of a series of affordable units aimed at live and studio musicians. The Jam Man followed, a sampling, looping, MIDI controllable unit that brought true 'playability' to the genre. Next came the Vortex, with its unique ability to 'morph' between effects.
Now we have the Reflex, with advanced programming features, not least of which is the facility to control various parameters of its algorithms via MIDI controllers. A two in, two out unit, the Reflex's unbalanced 50 kΩ inputs make it well-suited to your mixing desk, but it will work equally as well in mono input mode, with a 25 kΩ unbalanced input level.
Straight out of the box you can use the Reflex just like a super Alex, choosing one of the 16 presets with the large Register/Preset knob to the right. Pushing the smaller Register/Preset switch lights up a small LED to indicate you are in Register mode, from where you may select from the 128 programs which Lexicon have provided.
Lexicon have stored the same 16 presets in the first and last 16 memory locations, as an aid to programming and storing your own variations. Adjusting the decay, delay and effects level from the central knob is a breeze, with another switch toggling between each of these three, while a small LED to the right of the larger digital display indicates which of the three parameters you are currently adjusting. An even smaller LED lights up to indicate when edits have been made, and a press and hold on the Store switch saves your changes to memory.
The Reflex comes shipped from the factory with 128 presets loaded into its memory, the 128 slots corresponding to our old friend MIDI Program Change Numbers, and these are indeed changeable over MIDI.
But this is only the beginning. Important as it is to retain the factory settings, the Reflex allows you to dump its internal settings via MIDI Sys ex; pretty useful when memory systems can be so volatile. The Reflex also boasts a number of parameters which can be controlled via MIDI.
First among these is the delay time on tap tempo and chorus algorithms. These are programmable down to a 64th note resolution with a simple Learn function, which reads incoming MIDI clocks and sets the delay times accordingly. You simply choose the note resolution you want for your delays, and the Reflex reads incoming MIDI clocks and does the rest.
It has to be said that programming the Reflex is not the most intuitive of jobs, with only a two figure LED showing cryptic abbreviations. Other aspects are so easy in contrast, that this becomes less bother than you would expect.
APM (Advanced Programming Mode) is accessed by holding down two of the Reflex's three front push buttons. Three small LEDs next to the large three figure display light up simultaneously, and then we can start changing parameters and mapping MIDI controllers to those same aspects of the Reflex's algorithms.
The Lexicon manual provides graphs of the eight basic algorithms and their parameters, and these are essential to making sense of the cryptic abbreviations. Essentially there are up to ten settings for each effect, with these accessible in APM via the first ten positions on the far right knob, previously used to change programs.
"Straightforward it may be, but that does little to describe the cleanness of this most stunning of effects."
Once a parameter is dialled up, it is a simple matter of altering its setting by rotating the central Value knob. Turning the far right Register/Preset knob to the 16th position will display which algorithm you are currently using. Once you become used to this mode of operation, programming is a breeze and should present no problem to most users.
It is from here you can also set the Reflex to respond to MIDI controllers, with each of the parameters being assignable to a MIDI controller. As well as being able to map continuous controllers 0-31 and 64-95 to this mode of operation, it is also possible to map the parameters to be controlled by Velocity, Aftertouch, Pitchbend or Tempo. Lexicon refer to this as Dynamic MIDI, and why not? With a further facility to set the controller for positive or negative scaling, a fine degree of MIDI control is possible over everything from delay times to feedback and effects level.
Being able to dynamically control reverbs like this is wonderful, and it really is worth taking the time to learn this mode of the Reflex's operation. If all those cryptic abbreviations are too much for you, the Reflex is designed to be compatible with existing editing software (Cubase Mixer Maps, Galaxy and Unison software) as well as the Lexicon MRC, both of which recognise the Reflex as a Lexicon LXP-1.
If MIDI is all too much for you, or you simply want to control the Reflex live, then these same parameters can be assigned to a MIDI foot controller. Alternatively, for the simplest form of live playing, simply chain together a series of reverbs, and use a normal footswitch to step through your chain.
Setting up such a chain is simplicity itself. Each patch, or register as Lexicon insist on calling them, is accessible from the front panel, with a plus or minus sign to indicate whether or not that patch is active. Simply press the Store/Clear button to activate or disable a register, and then each click of your footswitch will step through the 128 programs in order, jumping over any you may have disabled.
Once you've mastered all of the above, the Reflex is a joy to use, and the quality of the reverbs is as one would expect from Lexicon: Clean Room, Hall and Club reverbs with a magnificent sense of presence, a rather nice take on reverse reverb called Inverse, a Gate for cutting off percussion hits, plus some rather nice Plates which are truly excellent at adding that vintage 'sheet of metal hanging from the ceiling' effect. There's also a Flanger (which I still haven't finished playing with) and some rather impressive Chorus, Multi Tap and Resonance effects, all of which do a truly wonderful job, adding their own sense of wonder and movement into a mix.
Lexicon's initial 16 presets provide an extremely workable set of variations on the above 8 algorithms, and provide an easy intro to the range of effects. Lexicon's famous Hall Reverb is here in the guise of a Large, Vocal and Piano Hall, the latter providing a small, dense initial envelope which works well with the percussive nature of most pianos. The Hall reverb also forms the basis of Music Club, which has a claustrophobic 'Ronnie Scott's' feel.
Stepping the reflections up to a slap provides us with the next variation, Guitar Stage, which works well with both acoustic and electric guitars, and is also effective on percussion voices for small stage ambience. Finally, among the room presets we have Small Room, which is great for adding ambience to vocal patches.
The Inverse register is present among the initial 16 in its original setting, and provides a long, rising attack followed by a sharp cutoff, to produce an effect not dissimilar to reverse settings, but far more dramatic. Altering the Decay setting on this one alters the length of the effect, while Delay varies the predelay. The Gate preset has a very dense initial reverb with a sudden cutoff, and is extremely effective on drums and percussion voices as you would expect.
A series of variations on Plate reverb follow, the first up, Rich Plate, mimicking the settings of a metal plate very effectively, with lots of sizzle on hi-hats and snares. Drum Plate is next up, and has a very short and dense reverb time for that noisy rock drum effect. Finally among the selection of preset plates, we have Vocal Plate, which adds a nice dark, velvety sheen to your vocals.
"The depth and quality of these reverbs are simply the best, and you should have no trouble at all in producing some stunning variations."
The Flanger is described by Lexicon as 'a straightforward stereo flange'. Straightforward it may be, but that does little to describe the cleaness of this most stunning of effects. I have used many of these on different effects units recently, and I can honestly say this is my favourite.
Left and Right delay are individually programmable between 0-1000ms, with the flange depth being definable between 0.25 and 8.2ms. The flanging effect is alterable by circulating the delays with the feedback controls, and placing this under MIDI control provided me with an extremely playable effects patch, which will definitely be appearing on future In-2-One releases (Are you moonlighting again, Roger? - Ed). This unit arrived too late to include some samples of its effects on Re:Mix, so you'll have to imagine them or watch out for the next release from DJ Barney Rumble and myself.
It's the turn of chorus effects next, with straight Chorus, and a six voice stereo chorus, which is interesting in that it allows for both chorusing and delay effects. It produces a particularly rich and warm chorus. Canyon, the next chorus effect, has a single recirculating echo which is very realistic.
MultiTaps is a 4-Tap bouncing delay, which bounces back and forth between left and right outputs. The texture of your sound will vary significantly as you vary delay on this one, and setting the Reflex into Advanced Programming Mode will enable the Reflex to read the MIDI clocks at its MIDI In port, and set the delay accordingly.
Finally we come to the Resonator. Lexicon claim it is designed to mimic the effect of resonance, but it sounds more like a ring modulator to my ears, colouring its source material in much the same way with a metallic ring. Very useful for techno sounds, it also adds a very full resonance to pads and brass patches.
Lexicon supply further variations to these basic building blocks, useful in themselves or as pointers to further programming of your own customised patches. Once I had sussed out the LED abbreviations in APM mode, it was a simple matter of dumping all of these as a prelude to setting up my own variations. The depth and quality of these reverbs are simply the best, and you should have no trouble at all in producing some stunning variations.
Lexicon have certainly put out a winner this time. The quality of the Reflex's custom chip is easily up to the standard of their top of the line PCM range, and the degree of control afforded by MIDI mapping makes it possible to weave some truly stunning effects into your tracks.
Although I was a little daunted by the limited LED display at first, I was soon merrily flipping through the parameters with all the aplomb of a professional, and discovering that the Cubase Mixer Map I already had for the LXP-5 only increased my affection for the unit.
I'm still not a fan of remote power units, and don't like the lack of a power switch, although the Reflex's startup routine does obviate any unseemly burst of noise. My reservations paled into insignificance against the quality of the reverbs which finally put my niggling reservations to one side, and my only real regret is that I can't enter the competition in this month's issue of the mix and win one for myself!
WIN a Lexicon Reflex on page 24!
Price inc VAT: £469.00
More from: Stirling Audio systems, (Contact Details)
Review by Roger Brown
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