Do four things at once with this multi effects processor from Alesis - John Renwick reports
As anyone who listens to the radio will know - good use of effects can really enhance a good song - Alesis have brought this technology down to realistic price levels with the Quadraverb - John Renwick hooks it up to his system.
It's a surprise that a company which made its name in the pro audio market has adapted so well to the demands of the smaller studio. With products like the MIDIVerb, the first affordable MIDI-controlled reverb unit, and the related MIDIVerb II and MicroVerb, Alesis has shown the Japanese that they can't have everything their own way!
With the Quadraverb, Alesis has achieved both quality and economy by applying high technology and the principle of "more bangs per buck". It boasts a 20K bandwidth, with 16Hz to 20KHz frequency response, so it's as suitable for a discerning professional studio as it is for a home set-up.
As you might have gathered, the Quadraverb is in effect FOUR independent MIDI-controllable effects units in one 19-inch rack-mounting unit. But don't get the impression that the Quadraverb requires a lot of hard study of a thick manual to use; on the contrary, you may never feel the need to do anything other than select one of the ninety factory preset effects.
If you do need to create your own sounds, though, the Quadraverb makes life easy; unlike some multieffects units, which use a numerical editing method, it has a dedicated control button for most functions. Hitting a button brings up a number of pages on the 32-character LCD display, and you edit parameters using the cursor control keys. You don't have to worry about messing up the original programs either; a simple control sequence restores either a single program, or the entire memory full of presets.
The hardware is finished in fashionable black, and comes complete with a 9V external power supply unit. Around the back you'll find stereo inputs and outputs; if you don't have two mixer return channels spare, you can of course just use one channel for a mono result, but you'll lose some of the Quadraverb's stunning stereo effects.
Also around the back is the MIDI IN socket which allows you to select an effect program from an external keyboard controller or sequencer. Alternatively, you can use an optional program advance footswitch, which plugs into another socket on the back.
A MIDI THRU socket allows you to make the Quadraverb part of a chain with other MIDI effects units or sound modules, while a Bypass foot-switch socket lets you switch the effect off altogether, without cutting off the signal going through it. Things get more exciting when we look at the front panel, as you'd expect! Everything is very clearly and logically laid out; first there's the input level LED, which has a red clipping indicator so you can adjust the manual Input and Output level knobs to a suitable setting. Next to these is the LCD display, then the cursor controls, the function selector buttons, and the power and bypass switches. All pretty straightforward.
At its simplest,the Quadraverb can just be used as a box full of effects; in Program mode, you step through them using the Value cursors. Each effect has a name of up to sixteen characters, which usually gives a good idea of its type ("Gated Reverb" for instance). Since the names are editable, you could if you like choose an effect for each of your songs, and rename the effects appropriately.
You might suspect that each effect type would have only a limited number of parameters. Not so. In fact, each offers more than some dedicated single-effect units. There are three types of Delay, for a start. Two use the stereo outputs, so they're not much use in mono. "Ping-pong" bounces the echo from left to right, while Stereo Delay is in fact two distinct echos, one on the left and one on the right, with a maximum time of 750 milliseconds. By combining these two into a single mono effect, you can achieve a respectable 1500 millisecond delay, and of course the number of repeats is programmable.
Reverb also has a choice of basic settings; Plate, Room, Chamber, Hall and Reverse, each of which has its distinct tonal qualities. You can edit functions such as pre-delay, decay time, density and diffusion, and even set different levels for the decay of low and high frequencies.
For that popular gated reverb effect, where the sound cuts off sharply rather than dying away naturally, there's a gate function with programmable open time, release time and release level. It's also possible to mix reverb inputs from two different points in the signal chain, as indeed you can with the Delay; for instance, from before the delay and after the equalisation section.
The EQ section offers a lot more than simple bass/mid/treble equalisation. It operates in three modes; three band parametric, five band parametric, and eleven band graphic. We don't have space here to go into the implications of parametric equalisation - let's just say that it allows you to shape the frequency spectrum of sounds very precisely, in this case allowing you to boost or cut the frequency, amplitude and bandwidth of each band in 1 Hz steps.
Lastly, there's the Pitch Change section. This is another form of digital delay, but operating on much shorter time periods to give phasing, flanging and chorus effects. There's a wide choice of modulation waveshapes, with programmable depth and speed, detuning, and stereo separation for Leslie speaker effects.
The effects mix levels and signal routing are edited through another series of menu pages, where you also set the MIDI control response parameters.
Even if you have all four effects going at once the sound is stunning; bright, punchy reverb, clean delays, precise tone control and full chorus and phasing effects. Since many of the parameters, such as modulation speed, can be varied in real time using a MIDI controller, you aren't even limited by your pre-programmed set-ups - and if it's fast change-overs you want, the whole memory can be dumped to a MIDI System Exclusive recording device (such as one of many compatible software sequencers).
At the price, there isn't much competition for the Quadraverb at the moment; until Korg and,Yamaha produce the products previewed at the Frankfurt Show, Alesis has the field to itself.
Product: Alesis Quadraverb
Supplier: Sound Technology, (Contact Details).
Review by Chris Jenkins writing as John Renwick
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