Award Quad-FX Effects Loop Expander
Never again need you bemoan the paucity of FX sends on your 1976 StudioCraftMaster desk — 200 quid on this and you'll have 'em coming out of yer ears.
This new problem solver from Award Design has so many uses, we can't even begin to list them. Derek Johnson goes loopy over the multi-talented Quad-FX.
Let's say you've got a cassette multitracker: it's a brilliant device, but there is only one effects send, and you want to use more than one effects unit. Let's also say you're a guitarist, who owns several effects, pedal and rack-mounting, and you're fed up of the noise that accumulates when you chain them together. Let's further postulate that you're a keyboard player with three or four synths and/or modules with stereo outputs — you don't demand much of a mixer since all processing and panning takes place within the synths. Three problems, one solution: Award Designs' new Quad-FX effects loop expander.
This cunning device was initially aimed at guitarists looking for solutions to problem two, amongst others. It has a high impedance input capable of handling a variety of sources — including the low level effects loop in a vintage valve combo or the direct output of a guitar or bass — followed by four effects send/return loops. Each loop has a mono send and stereo return, and each return has a level control. Additionally, there is a combined effect level control, a dry signal level control and an overall master volume control. Amongst the 17 connectors at the rear are outputs for stereo effects only, as well as the master mix.
The versatility of the Quad-FX becomes apparent when you think about putting it into different situations.
RECORDING: Many budget mixers, as well as cassette multitrackers, feature a single aux send, and many recordists would like to use more than one or two processors. The only way to use all your processors at once is to chain them one after another. This can be restrictive, and can result in noise accumulation - the noise from the first unit in the chain is amplified and added to the noise from the next unit and so on. With the Award effects expander, you can use up to four processors in parallel, with independent control over the mix of the processors' returns - patch your aux send's output to the Quad FX's input, and your four effects units into its four effects send/return loops. Remember, though, that the Quad FX does not give you four totally independent aux sends, since all the unit's sends are driven by the single auxiliary on your desk or multitracker. Individual send pots aren't provided, but apart from the lack of panel space, it's no problem setting the input gain at the processor, balancing the effect level with the return trims.
LINE MIXING: The circuitry of the Quad-FX accepts a wide range of levels and adds little to the signal by way of noise and distortion - the ideal line mixer, useful as emergency inputs in the studio or for sub-mixing keyboards.
LEVEL MATCHING AND DI: The Quad-FX's input level tolerance means that it can function as a level matcher and even a DI box, since guitars or basses can be input directly.
GUITAR FX SETUPS: Guitarists could split their signal to feed four amps or four separate effects chains at once (use a MIDI-controlled pedal board to select which chain is active). Used in the way originally intended, the Quad-FX gives guitarists access to up to four effects at once without having to chain them. The reductions in noise are further enhanced by the low noise circuitry used by Award Designs. The build quality of this circuitry is superb; in fact, the dual ganged pots that are used on the effects returns are hand assembled with tracks balanced within 2dB of each other, so when you adjust the level of the return, there won't be any left/right imbalance; they match right down to silence.
I did have a few niggles; for me, the design is a little on the 'square' (as in L7) side, but the box is sturdy — apart from a tendency for the lid to buckle at the front when pressed.
I am also no great fan of external power supplies; other minor PSU problems are that the mains end terminates in a two-pronged plug and that it provides 18-0-18V. If you should lose or break it, that spare £5, multi-voltage PSU from Argos will definitely not tide you over. On the connector front, it would have been nice to have a duplicate input on the front panel (useful when the Quad-FX is mounted in a gig rack), and a headphone socket.
Well, I think that's enough negative vibes. At £225, Quad-FX is priced quite attractively, and if it has what you want it hasn't got much in the way of competition. A unit that can behave as an effects loop expander, signal splitter, line mixer, level matcher, DI box, and more at this price has to be worth a look — you don't know it yet, but you probably need one! To make it easier, we've negotiated a special offer for readers of RM: buy one from Award during May, and it will cost just £199. Can't say fairer than that.
Quad-FX £225 including VAT; £199 to RM readers in May.
Award Design, (Contact Details).
Review by Derek Johnson
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