Take a copy of Making Music and fold it in half. Not so big, is it? But it's still at least two and half inches wider than the Alesis Midiverb.
This small flattish square box offers a high quality stereo digital reverb for around £200 less than the nearest comparable competitor. It's unbelievably simple to use, and looks set to rubbish the competition (what competition?). This is why.
The Midiverb provides 63 preset reverbs intended to simulate environments ranging from a cupboard to St. Paul's cathedral, and including a number of wholly unnatural reverse and gated settings for special effects. Some potential users might complain that having non-adjustable programmes is a severe limitation; but if you consider that 80 per cent of DX7 owners never alter their presets, it seems less of a drawback.
Psychology aside, the breadth of treatments offered by the Midiverb is sufficient to cover all applications. The programmes are numbered in order of reverb length (between 0.2 and 20 seconds) on the top of the unit, and are described in terms of room size and tone. Rooms can be small, medium, large, or extra large, and either dark, warm, or bright - dark gives a bass heavy reverb, warm is middly and natural sounding, while bright gives the harsh hard reverb you would expect from a studio live room, one devoid of sound absorbent furnishings. As you might expect, the small rooms tend to have the shorter reverb times (with the exception of the exceeding odd Prog.34).
With headphones on, the effect is remarkable: Prog.2 ("0.2 sec; Small; Warm;") puts your head into a cardboard box (it's more realistic if you close your eyes)... Prog.28 ("2.0 sec; Large; Bright") takes you into an empty school hall... Prog.30 ("2.0 sec; Large; Warm") fills the hall with people... Prog.46 ("10 sec; Large; Warm") sends you to church, while Prog.50 ("20 sec; Ex. Large; Dark") turns the church into St Peter's in Rome.
The remaining presets are for less general applications; 51-59 are gated reverbs, just right for heavyweight snare drums (but very peculiar on vocals), while 60-63 are reverse settings.
Because the programmes are all preset, the Midiverb needs few controls - a two digit LED to indicate program number, up/down incrementors for program changing, a defeat button to cancel the reverb signal, and a MIDI channel select button. In addition to this minimal selection there are single green and red LEDs to indicate operating level (guess what the red one's for). These are all located on a shelf cut into the front of the Midiverb, which emphasises its unconventional shape - rack-mountable it is not (though it might squeeze into a Boss Micro Rack). The back of the unit holds the four input/output phono sockets, a dry/reverb mix control, and the MIDI in/thru sockets.
As the phonos suggest, the Midiverb is intended for use with a mixer or Portastudio-type machine, wired into the Effects or Auxiliary sends. Even if you are only sending a mono signal, it's still necessary to wire up both left and right inputs, otherwise the direct signal will only come back on one channel, unbalancing the stereo. Increase the signal send levels until the red LED flashes occasionally, then back the volume off slightly to prevent distortion.
The programmes can only be accessed in order - it's not possible to leap immediately from 10 to 63 without stepping past the intervening numbers. This isn't too awkward as the Midiverb can run through all of its presets in less than five seconds (by my watch), and the new programme does not disengage until the button is released.
For the price, the Midiverb is a superb machine. It's quick, quiet, efficient, simple, effective, and I want one. The longest reverbs are very slightly gritty, with just a hint of multiple echoes, but 16 or 20 seconds of sustained reverb is rarely a major part of any production (unless you're in the Cocteau Twins). Its MIDI compatibility makes it more than just a home recording tool, but even as simply the latter, it deserves to be enormously popular.
Review by Jon Lewin
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