The Aphex Aural Exciter and Big Bottom processors have been standard fare in studio equipment as long as I can remember. More recently they evolved into plug-ins for DAW users. Now they have been incorporated into a trio of pedals designed for amplified music instruments. These three models have identical features and controls but are each voiced for a specific class of instrument.
Product PointsApplications: Live sound, studio
Key Features: Lo Tune, Lo Blend, Hi Tune, Hi Blend controls for each pedal; Aural Exciter, Big Bottom processing; Active/Passive switch
Price: $199 each
Contact: Aphex at 818-767-2929, Web Site.
The Model 1401-Acoustic is optimized for use with acoustic guitars, violins, cellos, violas, accordions, keyboards or any acoustic instrument equipped with active or passive pickups. The Model 1402-Bass is optimized for use with all types of basses with magnetic or piezo pickups, active or passive. The Model 1403-Guitar is optimized for electric guitar with magnetic coil pickups.
The 14 ounce (with 9 volt battery) 1400 series pedals all measure 4.75 inches wide x 3.75 inches deep x 2.5 inches high and boast a frequency of 10 Hz – 30 kHz (±1 dB). The pedals can be powered by either a 9 volt battery or an external power supply (not included) but unfortunately not by phantom power. As a matter of fact, the manual warns that phantom power can damage the unit, so keep it off. A high-grade alkaline battery provides 150 – 200 continuous hours of use. On the pedals’ rear panel, a 1/4-inch phone jack provides audio input. A second 1/4-inch jack provides instrument output (1000 ohms) and a male XLR connector provides DI output (150 ohms). The Active/Passive switch sets the input impedance to either active (50,000 ohms) or passive (10,000,000 ohms). When activated, the ground lift switch lifts the ground on the XLR output.
A Wet/Dry switch determines whether the pedals processing is applied to the XLR output (wet) or not (dry). A foot switch on the top of the pedal allows the pedal’s processing to be bypassed. When the pedal is activated, the foot switch LED indicator illuminates.
For the few that aren’t familiar with Aphex Aural Exciter processing, this patented process adds transient discriminate harmonic details to the sound source without adding distortion. The Aural Exciter has two controls, Hi Tune and Hi Blend. The High Tune function sets the lower frequency limit for treble enhancement. The enhancement will occur for all frequencies above this point. The Hi Tune is adjustable from 300 Hz – 3 kHz (1401-Acoustic) and 500 Hz – 5 kHz (1402-Bass and 1403-Guitar). The Hi Blend allows the desired amount of the Aural Exciter process to be mixed in with the direct signal.
The Big Bottom is an intelligent system that adapts and improves low frequencies that are already present. The process allows speakers to gain an extension of their low end without being overloaded. Sustain is improved without losing punch. In addition to the low frequency improvement, Big Bottom can add warmth and roundness to virtually any instrument. The Big Bottom has two controls Lo Tune and Lo Blend. The Lo Tune function sets the upper frequency limit for bass enhancement. Enhancement occurs for all frequencies below this point. Lo Tune is adjustable from 40 Hz – 210 Hz (1401-Acoustic and 1403-Guitar) and 30 Hz – 210 Hz (1402-Bass). The Lo Blend allows the desired amount of the Big Bottom process to be mixed in with the direct signal.
I had wonderful results using the Aphex 1400 series pedals. Aphex did an exceptional job tailoring each of the pedals to a specific family of instruments.
I rarely record acoustic instruments through a direct box but I went ahead and listened to acoustic guitar, violin and mandolin through the Model 1401 and I found the sound to be particularly pleasing and very controllable. The box improves clarity and articulation and should work exceptionally well for live sound applications.
I’m always up for trying something new while recording bass guitar so I was excited to put the Model 1402 to the test. I had outstanding results. I found that the Model 1402 improves sustain while increasing definition. The resulting sound was somewhat compressed yet particularly full and punchy. I recorded bass guitars with both active and passive pickups and always had good results. The pedal also worked extremely well recording an upright bass with a piezo pickup.
After such first-rate results recording bass I was inclined to let Nashville session ace bassist Matt Pierson borrow the 1402 to use with a variety of engineers and producers. Except for one incident where it was determined that the pedal just wasn’t right for the job (it sounded too processed for this situation), he had only positive feedback. One engineer even commented on how much he loved recording with the Big Bottom process. He explained that since it is something he always uses on bass guitar in the mix, it was nice for the tracking sound to be that much closer to the final bass sound.
I also had great results using the Model 1403 in a variety of situations to record electric guitar (both direct and by miking a cabinet). I found that when used in conjunction with other effect pedals it works best if the Model 1403 is the last in line. In this configuration, not only the sound of the guitar is improved but the sound of the other effects is also improved.
Besides the obvious uses for the 1400 series pedals, I recently discovered, while working at a studio where the control room was about 50 feet from the main studio, a nifty feature of the pedals. To ease communication, the producer wanted the guitar player to play in the control room. The guitar player was using a Fender Twin so placing the amp in the control room with us and running a long speaker cable wasn’t an option and running a 50-foot instrument cable degraded the signal beyond usability. We ended up using the 1403 as a driver and found that placing it in line effortlessly provided the same signal to the guitar amp as if the musician had a 4-foot cable running from the guitar into the amp.
The new Aphex 1401, 1402 and 1403 pedal/direct boxes are new option for recording and sound reinforcement. The boxes’ rugged construction promises years of quality performance at an extremely reasonable price.