Electrix audio processors all share a very distinctive look, like a cross between a heat sink and a Scandinavian washing machine panel. It is what the engineers at Electrix put inside these cases, however, that makes them stand out.
Product PointsApplications: Music remixing; club DJ; live performance; studio and post production
Key Features: Hands-on adjustment of all parameters; MIDI sync and control
Contact: Contact: Electrix/IVL Technologies at 250-544-4091; www.electrixpro.com;
Electrix has broken some interesting ground with the Mo-FX ($449), a time-synchronized multi-effect processor consisting of four effect stages – or blocks, as the manual calls them. There is a distortion stage, a flanger, a tremolo generator and a delay line, clocked via MIDI or a handy Tap Tempo button.
The addition of MIDI control frees the Mo-FX from being only a real-time performance device for remixing and deejaying. All parameters can be sent and received as MIDI Control Change data, allowing the device to function as part of a MIDI music production system. The Mo-FX is an 18-bit/44.1 kHz digital device, but it features classic analog-like effects.
The rear panel contains 1/4-inch TRS and RCA inputs and outputs, a set of TRS insert jacks, MIDI in/out/thru jacks with a 16-position channel selector switch, a footswitch jack and a fused IEC power socket with on-off switch. A button on the back panel selects line or phono levels on the RCA inputs.
Features common to blocks on the front panel include three-band filtering on the Flange, Tremolo and Delay blocks, and large Momentary buttons on all four blocks. Each block can be set to respond to one or more frequency ranges by stepping through the Band buttons. By tapping the button, you may choose high, mid or low bands, or any combination of the three.
Pressing a Momentary button drops the selected effect into the line for as long as it is held down. This is a classic club deejay effect when used to accent a musical phrase or drum break. When a block is hard-switched in line (via the Engage buttons), the Momentary button works in reverse and bypasses the effect.
The Mo-FX excels when clocked internally or via MIDI clock signals. For the moment, Iwill concentrate on its live performance aspects.
Working from left to right, the Distortion/Insert stage comes first. Two dials control the overall level and amount of drive on this effect. If desired, the distorted signal can be used to feed the successive blocks; otherwise, the effects work in parallel. Here, too, is where an external device can be patched in on the insert jacks.
For all it has going for it, the Distortion effect on my demo unit had one problem: the level control did not affect any change until about the 9 o’clock position, or one-fifth through its travel.
The Flange block is thick and meaty, offering plenty of control over positive and negative depth, regeneration and flange speed. The Mix knob goes up to 100 percent level, then just a little beyond. According to the manual, an extra 9 dB of boost is available to lift the flanged material above the main mix.
When the Flange Speed knob is fully set counterclockwise, the flanger can be manually swept by the Depth control – a pretty hip feature to beat-match flange accents during live performance. The Band button lets you pick the frequency range you want flanged.
The Sync button ties the Flange block to the Tap Tempo button or to MIDI clock messages – more on synchronization shortly.
The Tremolo block modulates the amplitude (volume) for a nifty old-time, surf-guitar, Silvertone amp tremelo sound. Again, the Mix control tacks on an extra 9 dB if needed, and the Band button selects the frequency range you want modulated. The Wave control dials in one of seven tremolo contours, from an unadorned sine wave to a 12 percent duty-cycle square wave for a choppy effect.
Don’t neglect the Auto-Pan button on the Tremolo block. This creates a wide stereo panoramic effect that sounds great in monitor speakers or on the club floor.
Expect some fun with the Delay block. When engaged, it delays (or stores) up to 3.3 seconds of audio. Using the Regeneration knob, the Delay block can play back a single delay hit, a repetitive loop or anything in between. With the P-Pong button locked in, the stored audio ping-pongs from left to right.
Giving the Speed dial a spin during looped playback causes “time smear,” warping and bending the playback pitch in a manner similar to working the delay lever on the old Echoplex box. A slice of music or even a spoken-word recording can be bent into a wild new effect by grabbing and holding a sample in looped playback.
By the way, speeds are marked as ratios compared to the sync clock rather than as arbitrary numbers or measurements in
milliseconds. A setting of 1:1 locks an effect to each beat, while a setting of 2:1 causes an effect to occur rhythmically twice in a beat, and so on. Flange and Tremolo settings range from 1:8 up to 8:1, while the Delay tops out at 4:1. The settings are at best an approximation, and the controls must be nudged to score an exact ratio on the fly.
To the far right can be found the Tap Tempo button (for rhythmic synchronization), the Bypass button and the Dry button, which provides a constant or interrupted feed-through of the original signal.
The Tap Tempo button lays down the sync clock on the Mo-FX. Tapping the button at least twice to the beat of the music syncs up the flanger, tremolo and delay duration. Tapping more than twice refines the accuracy of the timing.
With an old Roland drum machine as the audio input, I got busy with the Tap Tempo button. True to form, all blocks synced up closely, but it was still necessary to tweak the speed dials to lock precisely onto the beat.
Said drum machine was then MIDI’d to the Mo-FX. The device latches onto MIDI clock messages after the Tap Tempo button is held down for 600 ms. The trouble is, the Mo-FX does not know where the downbeat is; no problem, though, as a single tap puts everything in step.
The Mo-FX shines over its fellow Electrix products when you tie its MIDI Out port to a sequencer. Each knob and button sends Control Change data that can be recorded into a sequence and will unfailingly repeat the same performance every time.
When running a sequenced mix from a computer, one or more tracks can be tapped from the multichannel audio interface and patched to the Mo-FX. The sequence data will “work the panel” on playback, modifying parameters exactly as they were entered.
The Delay block does not function as a triggered sampler, and sending Note Numbers or Velocity data does nothing for the Mo-FX. Your pitchbend lever, however, does affect the flange depth. And remember to alter the MIDI Channel rotary switch in the back if you reassign the Mo-FX’s data to a new channel in the sequencer.
If you are a born button-pusher and derive pleasure in creating or remixing audio with your fingertips rather than a mouse, check out the Electrix Mo-FX. The real-time experience is fun and gratifying, and the ability to record all performance data is a creative lifesaver.
Some might wish for an onboard sample playback feature in the Delay block, but it is presumed the Mo-FX will be used as part of a greater system, and some means of sample playback already exists. I would have enjoyed a sample reversal feature to flop the playback of the Delay block’s contents; there is nothing quite like playing instant satanic messages for the dance floor!
In a world where flashy digital effects reign supreme, it is refreshing to hear some big fat distortion and classic flanging.