The recent release of v2.5 software and the imminent release of v3.0 mark the continuing development of Lexicon’s flagship multichannel reverb and effects processor. Additional surround reverb algorithms have been added as well as new stereo and multichannel delays. Version 3.0, scheduled for release early this year, will introduce MIDI timecode automation of all operational parameters, including input and output panning, as well as complete archiving of sessions on the mainframe’s floppy disk drive. These upgrades significantly advance the versatility of 960L in the realm of multichannel music mixing and audio post production.
Product PointsApplications: High-resolution reverb/effects processor for music production, sound-for-picture, and sound reinforcement.
Key Features: Versatile multimachine 5-channel architecture, double-sampling rates supported, color LCD remote with software assignable moving faders and joystick, flexible I/O.
Price: Lexicon 960L MSRP: 960L and LARC2, $15,000 960LD and LARC2 (digital I/O only version) $11,995; v2.5 N/C (must register on website) v3.0 Automation, $999; v3.0 LOGIC7 UpMix $TBD
Contact: Lexicon at 781-280-0300 or see Web Site
+ Classic Lexicon reverb and effects upgraded to high-resolution multichannel operation.
+ New 3D perceptual-modeling algorithms
+ Onboard automation
+ Flexible architechture and ease of control
– Some presets not accessible at double sampling rates
– Loud fan
The Score: Top-of-the-line stereo/surround reverb and effects processor raises the bar for versatility and control.
My focus here will be on what is new in the latest release, especially as it pertains to surround mixing. With v2.5, virtually all aspects of the machine’s extensive capabilities are now offered in surround and at double sampling rates. In prior versions, the hall algorithm was the only surround reverb available; v2.5 introduces high-resolution multichannel implementations of the classic Lexicon chamber and plate algorithms as well. This will be especially good news to music mixers for whom these reverbs have long been standards. Four new stereo and five new multichannel delay algorithms have also been added. The flavors of multichannel delay algorithms are designated as simple surround, random surround, surround frame, eight – channel zone, and eight channel frame. They range from simple implementations (two delays, one pannable voice per delay) to dizzyingly complex (four delays, three pannable voices per delay). The zone and frame delays are intended for live and post production applications respectively, the former for time aligning up to eight loudspeaker groups and the latter for adjusting synchronization in audio-for-video work. There are also seven banks of new stereo delay programs in the form of simple delays, dual delays, random delays and stereo frame delays. Finally, there is also a bank of stereo delay programs ported from the 480L.
Previous 960L owners will automatically receive a free v2.5 upgrade if the machine has been registered with the company. With the advent of v3.0, Lexicon introduces a new licensing arrangement under which features can be purchased individually as they become available. The v3.0 automation package carries a list price of $999. The end-user unlocks new features by entering company-issued activation codes into the mainframe via the LARC2. New buyers of the 960L will find that their machines are shipped with v3.0 already installed but that features only up to v2.4 are active. Upon registering the machine, a free code will be issued that unlocks v2.5.
Ever since the introduction of the venerable 480L, Lexicon algorithms have entered the lexicon of music and post production mixing the world over. The new multichannel implementations, combined with the interactive ease of the LARC2, are fun and even inspiring to play with. Real-time use of the touch-sensitive faders and joystick leads to a world of interesting dynamic results. It is an unmitigated hoot to work with such classics as Fat Plate or Brick Wall in high-resolution surround. Three different surround configurations are available: two-in, five-out; five-in, five-out; and four-in four-out – the latter mode intended for addressing a phantom center. Users who feel that a discrete center channel is not always appropriate for surround music will welcome its inclusion; it also ensures the 960L’s compatibility with the many existing four-channel surround recordings.
At sampling rates of 44.1/48 kHz, audio quality from the 960L is both pristine and virtually noiseless, but switching to 88.2/96 kHz produces markedly cleaner-sounding early reflections and substantially smoother reverb tails. Users working in either the analog domain or digital domain will benefit from a worthwhile quality boost by operating the mainframe at double-sampling rates, although some configuration flexibility must be traded off in order to do so. With a single DSP board installed the 960L will act as four stereo machines or two surround. At double-sampling rates, this is halved at two stereo machines or one surround. A second DSP card can be installed which doubles these capacities.
I auditioned the new v2.5 programs using some dry recordings of classical guitar, solo cello, percussion, chamber orchestra, symphony orchestra, spoken voice and library SFX. Cycling my sources though various programs it was apparent that satisfying realistic – as well as surrealistic – results are easily achieved, and that artifacts can either be eliminated or exaggerated at whim. The surround plate and chamber algorithms more than met my expectations. By calling up a five-channel plate I was able to envelope the listening area in a 360-degree pop sparkle.
One of the unique aspects of the 960L’s proprietary 3D perceptual modeling is that the joystick can be assigned to move any input smoothly throughout a coherent and continuous virtual room. This feature and the real-time control afforded by the eight faders raise the 960L to nearly the expressiveness of a musical instrument. For example, by moving faders controlling early reflection level and wet/dry ratio with one hand, and the joystick with the other, I was able to create the illusion of a roving guitarist entering the room, walking around me while playing, and leaving through another exit. It is easy to extrapolate that an especially talented mixer could achieve virtuoso performance status in working with this box. By accessing a “V-page” the sliders and joystick can be reassigned to any of the underlying parameters, thus opening the way to some very creative sonic dynamics. The joystick can also be assigned to vary any pair of parameters at once, allowing for two-dimensional matrixing with a single control. Although v3.0 was not yet available at the time of this writing, one can only hope that multiple automation passes will allow for the additive layering of intricate parameter sweeps. [Editor’s note: Lexicon has confirmed this to be the case.]
The addition of floppy disk archiving in v3.0 will enable freelance mixers to take their own custom presets and complex control assignments with them.
I was especially impressed by the 960L’s possibilities in surround processing of spoken voice. Post guys will have a field day, as voice quality through the box is stunning. The new “Nebula” surround preset, aptly named, created the illusion of the voice emanating from a futuristic off-world space. Calling up a 2×5 version of the new “Golden Room” program and a quick adjustment of the mix fader produced a very pleasing sense of depth and ambience.
There is a moderate learning curve to the LARC2, but once familiar it becomes quite effective at getting you to where you need to go with a minimum of fuss. I became so fast at changing things that I came to wish that Lexicon had provided an ‘undo’ button for cases where you might whiz past something before realizing too late that it’s gone! As a minor nit, it appears that in double-sampling mode there are some inconsistencies as to which programs are available. In bank 03 for example, everything was loadable but Big Stage and On Stage, while in bank 06, Ziggy’s Room was accessible but Lulu’s Room was definitely off-limits. Still, the majority of presets are available and there is enough flexibility so that the few that have been omitted are not really missed. While on the subject of nits, the review model had an extremely loud fan and if this is the norm, the mainframe will need to be remote mounted or upgraded with an ultra-quiet replacement fan.
The release of Versions 2.5 and 3.0 will position an already formidable and standard-setting tool at the forefront of creative surround mixing. The expressiveness of the user interface opens new possibilities during the mix and the coherent integration of multichannel inputs greatly simplifies the task of creating a realistic surround-sound field. If the automation lives up to its promise, indelible dynamic effects can be created external to whatever mixing console is in use. The latest version of the 960L introduces new features that should be welcome in multichannel music-mixing, audio post production, and live sound environments.
Sequoia multichannel DAV, Mytek 8×96 DAC, EMM Labs Switchman Quartet, Dunlavy Aletha monitors.