Power of Eight
Alesis Quadraverb 2
New version of multi-effects classic
Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the reverb ocean, Quadraverb 2 - The Sequel is here! Donning his fx swimsuit and haircap, Roger Brown plunges headfirst into the deep and mysterious waters of Octal Processing with the Alesis Quadraverb 2
In following the sequel path, Alesis have not taken the easy route and simply repackaged a top-selling product with a few extra bells and whistles, but have opted instead to make a good thing better.
So Quadraverb 2 is not just an updated Quadraverb, it's the equivalent of two Quadraverbs morphed together, with up to eight effect blocks chainable in a single program, doubling the four effect blocks available in the original.
Extensive routing options and real-time MIDI control modules add to the enhanced nature of the new beast, and the final feature, the ability to treat signals entirely in digital mode from input through to output, means Quadraverb 2 will be coming to get you soon and it's very likely you will be powerless to resist!
It's not just the clarity and sheer physicality of the algorithms that impresses, but the flexible routing options and easy programming (via a nice big backlit LED) which make up an effects unit to kill for. Alesis had a big hit with the Quadraverb and Quadraverb GT, its guitar processing brother, and it looks as though they are set to repeat that achievement with Quadraverb 2.
On powering up Quadraverb 2 you're back immediately to the last selected program. If you were in the midst of editing that program when you powered down, the display shows 'edited' and your changes are retained intact. A nice touch this, and a good intro to the shape of things to come. Many a killer reverb patch has been lost this way, unless you are one of those dweebs who always saves.
With stereo inputs and outputs and a plethora of digital routing options the Quadraverb 2 can be used in one of three main ways:-
1. As a dual effects unit, utilising the left and right inputs as two separate channels and setting both channels with separate effects.
2. As a stereo effects unit, using the stereo output from a desk or instrument to treat the sound in true stereo mode and output the same.
3. As a standard mono in/stereo out processor feeding a signal from the aux out of a desk or from the line output of a guitar or keyboard into the Quadraverb, with glorious stereo effects emerging at the other end ready to be patched into your aux returns or directly into a stereo channel (or two mono channels) on your mixer.
So, what do you get? Well, there are 99 presets in ROM and 99 user programs in RAM, which come loaded with a very usable clutch of algorithms including the magnificent "Floydian Slip", an exercise in pitch and delay nonsense which had me fumbling for my fast attack analogue patches and scrambling everyone's brains in the process. A simple sysex dump later to preserve the user programs for future use, and I was merrily programming my own effects, exploring the eight EQ blocks, 10 pitch effects, four delays and 14 reverbs, the latter including a reverse setting which is a joy to use for those backward drums á la Model 500's "No UFOs".
"Stuff the analogue revival, here comes the digital nostalgia boom!"
And that's not all folks! Realtime modulation via MIDI or via internal 'Local Generators' (it sez 'ere) provides smooth control over various parameters such as delay time, room size etc.
Imagine a reverb that begins as a small room, sweeping the pad up to a concert hall over four bars as the strings swell - reverb of my dreams indeed! In fact Alesis provide a program with just such a title (almost), 'VerbOfMyDreams', and it is indeed a classic Quadraverb style reverb, using just three blocks: a 3-band parametric EQ feeding into a Mono Delay and thence into a Room Reverb for that familiar floating reverb effect.
There are multi effect processors, which do a very usable job of chaining together EQ, delay and reverb, and save the studio from investing in three separate boxes. Then there are multi effect units which are almost instruments in their own right, so individual and recognisable are their sounds.
Yamaha's SPX 990 falls into this category, as does the first generation of Quadraverbs, and Alesis have capitalised on this aspect of their own reputation. They even furnish us with a program on Quadraverb 2 called RetroQuadraVrb, saluting their own sound antecedents, "for that vintage Alesis sound" as it proudly states on the list of presets. Stuff the analogue revival, here comes the digital nostalgia boom!
Selecting one of the presets requires a simple turn of the Value/Enter knob to the right of the large, backlit LCD display. Then press said knob inwards, to dial up the program of your choice.
Alternatively, you can switch the Quadraverb 2 into Immediate (as opposed to Deferred) mode. This knob is also used to change parameters in just the same way when editing settings. Plus it has one other special function. When editing the delay time of a delay block set to either 'Tap Tempo Mono Delay' or 'Tap Tempo Ping Pong', you can use this knob as a button to 'tap' in the desired tempo. Another nice touch this, and a further indication of the thought that has gone into the design of Quadraverb 2. More thoughtful design in the Global Direct Signal Muting which is included for a studio environment, where most of us prefer to mix the dry and wet signals at the desk.
Simply press the 'Global' button, then the 'Page' button to reveal the LCD message 'Global Direct Muting: Off', turn the 'Value' knob to the right until the last word reads 'on', and voila! Your aux return is now receiving only a wet signal, allowing you to mix the levels of affected and unaffected signal at the desk.
At the heart of the Quadraverb 2 is a system of effects 'blocks' which you chain together in any order you want, through a system of virtual 'patch cords' all displayed on the backlit LCD screen. Octal processing means you can chain up to eight of these together, for that killer reverb.
"The 'patch cord' routing system employed on the Quadraverb is extremely versatile and intuitive to use"
So just what are all these glorious effect 'blocks' Alesis give you to build your chains with? Well, under Equalisation we have a choice of: Lowpass, Bandpass and Highpass Filters; a couple of shelving EQs (Lowpass and Highpass) to boost or cut frequencies within their band; 2 single band parametric EQs (Low and High again) to boost individual frequencies without affecting frequencies outside their range; 3 multiband EQs (2 Band Sweep Shelf, 3 Band & 4 Band Parametric) and a 5 band graphic EQ for fine tuning and general tonal shaping.
There is also a Resonator with a sharp response, which imparts a pitch to any signal passing through it. This will dramatically alter the character of an instrument's sound. Mono and Stereo Tremelo are available with speed, depth and shape variables. The Stereo Tremelo alternates the loudness of the signal on opposite channels according to these variables. At slow speeds with a soft shape, stereo tremelo provides continuous automated panning.
Finally, under EQ we have a Stereo simulator which is very effective at widening a flat sound to produce a broader stereo field.
Pitch Effects include: Mono and Stereo Chorus; Quad Chorus with (you guessed it) four delayed signals; Mono and Stereo Flanging; a 'Phasor' or phase shifter (similar to flanging); Mono/Stereo Leslie Cabinet effect; Pitch Shift and Detune, and a Ring Modulator for those spacey, metallic sounds.
Delays include Mono & Stereo Delay, Ping Pong and Multi Tap, which is like 5 delays at once, as each 'tap' has individual volume, delay, panning and feedback controls. 'Tap Tempo Mono Delay' and 'Tap Tempo Ping Pong' are similar to Mono and Ping Pong Delays but can have their delay time parameters set using the time-honoured technique of tap tempo, whereby you literally tap in the tempo to establish delay time. This can be achieved using either the 'Value/Enter' button or (the more usual method) using a footswitch.
Reverb types are comprehensive, starting with a Mono room which uses very little processing power to leave the DSP free for you to stack up loads of other effects. There are 3 other rooms to choose from: A medium studio sized room, a full reflective studio room and a large 'rock' style room.
There are 2 reverb chambers, 3 types of plate and 2 Halls. The Spring reverb is a good approximation of the classic suspended-spring-in-a-box, and Nonlinear reverb also emulates standard 'gated' reverb. But perhaps the most innovative of the 'retro' reverbs is Reverse, which does a very good imitation of the classic trick of recording the reverb, then flipping the tape over for reversed reverb.
When it comes to creating your own effects chains, most people will start from a program which is close to the effect they are after, usually just adjusting a few EQ and delay or room size parameters to fine-tune the effect. Quadraverb 2 makes this process as simple as possible. Four dedicated buttons grouped together under the heading 'Block' select the Type, Routing, Parameter and Mix of dry and wet signal. Pressing the large button to the left marked 'Block' moves the cursor to the next block in the chain (each block is clearly represented in the LCD display along with patch cords showing the routing), whereupon the top line of the display changes to show the Type, Routing, Parameter or Mix level, thereby allowing you to change the values with the Value knob. Comparing edited programs to their original settings is as simple as pressing the 'Compare' button, which flips you back and forth between edited and original versions.
Storing edits couldn't be easier either. As previously mentioned, any edits are stored in the unit's buffers, even when the power is turned off, and writing your sparkling new patch into the user memory is a simple matter of pressing the STORE button, entering a user reference for the edits, and pressing the VALUE/ENTER button to confirm.
"Quadraverb 2 is the first in a new generation of 'digital-ready' products which will soon become the norm"
The 'patch cord' routing system employed on the Quadraverb is extremely versatile and intuitive to use. Routes between the inputs and the first block can be from the Left or Right or both, with input levels for either being separately adjustable. From there, links may be effected between blocks and finally to the outputs. You can even route a blocks mix output back to its own input for some searing feedback effects, just watch your level settings (unless you're a fan of the first track on RE:MIX).
Because there are a maximum of eight blocks available, some fascinating layers of sound can be built up. As each block is free to be one of whatever type's available, it's possible to have a lowpass shelving EQ followed by a highpass shelving to brighten the top end, and eliminate lowpass rumble before processing the sound through reverb and then finally through a 3 band parametric EQ to rebalance the signal. As they say in all the best studios, the end result is up to you. There is even a 5 band graphic EQ for detailed tonal shaping.
But these aren't the only tricks Quadraverb 2 has up its sleeve. Nestling snugly at the rear of the unit you'll find a little set of input and output plugs marked simply 'Digital In/Out'. This is where you make your connections to the world of complete digital signal processing.
With a digital path synth such as Alesis's very own Quadrasynth connected to this input and the output feeding into an Alesis ADAT, the entire process takes place in the digital domain with the associated clarity of signal source and increased flexibility of routing options.
Indeed you could output two previously recorded tracks from an ADAT into the Quadraverb 2, process the signal through whatever internal blocks take your fancy, then record the result onto two completely separate tracks for comparison or eventual mixdown.
Like Yamaha's Pro-Mix 01, the Quadraverb keeps signal processing in the digital domain, and while this isn't a feature a lot of users are going to need right now, with the cost of D-2-D recording tumbling, it won't be long before we are all used to working with the clarity and lack of signal-loss which digital processing affords.
My feeling is that Quadraverb 2 is the first in a new generation of "digital-ready" products which will soon become the norm. Suffice it to say this normally cynical reviewer was quite bowled over by the power and presence of Quadraverb 2's preset programs and, after diving head first into the digital soup and actually programming some effects of my own, I want one - now!
Price inc VAT: £899
More from: Sound Technology plc, (Contact Details)
On The Re:Mix CD:
68 Alesis Quadraverb 2 demo
This disk has been archived in full and disk images and further downloads are available at Archive.org - Re:Mix #4.
Review by Roger Brown
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