My initial DAW-centric (and perhaps postmodern) reaction to the Lexicon PCM92 was: “Why a new hardware reverb now, in this age of plug-ins?” But I must say that this unit slowly won me over for its ergonomics, wide palette and great-sounding reverbs.
The PCM92 is a 1U multi-effects processor with an emphasis on reverbs, as more than 700 factory presets are offered with many of the classic Lexicon algorithms that have become ubiquitous. The PCM92 can be configured as a single processor or as up to four processor “machines” for various mono/stereo/cascading/combined configurations.
Analog and AES/EBU digital I/O are both on XLRs, with quarter-inch analog I/O too. Sample rates are from 44.1 to 96 kHz with 32-bit floating-point math. The PCM92 is networkable via MIDI or Ethernet for use as part of a larger, remote-controlled effects system.
Control is intuitive, largely via the big “Select” knob (one of those useful twist/push types) and the “A, B and C” knobs. These smaller twist/push knobs allow direct access to the first three parameters for a given preset (e.g., important parameters such as pre-delay, room size and EQ point) and when pushed, access the deeper parameter selections.
I found the Preset Category selection to have all the usual suspects: 16 categories of Halls, Rooms, Chambers, Plates, Reverse, Delays, Modulation effects (Chorus and Flange) and Pitch effects, etc., with five variations offered for most of the reverb presets (regular, dark, light, band and notch). Having these five options readily adjacent to compare proves to be very helpful when selecting sounds.
I found numerous useful presets in each of the 16 groupings. Standouts include: Small Abrupt Hall, which is nicely airy with a good sense of space; Ginormous Large Hall would be perfect for film FX and dream sequences; and Colored Plate Medium is quite lively. Within Rooms were some starkly realistic interiors (closets, stairways, etc.); Environments contains some exteriors like Yards, Dracula’s Tomb and many useful Canyons (some with tasty echoes); and the Choruses, in general, are nice and glassy, although the Flangers were a bit sterile. Resonance offers Beam Me Up and its perfect sci-fi overtones. Within Pitch Effects, the three Fatteners offer perfect lead vocal stereo width creators. An “infinite” button neatly turns any reverb’s decay infinite: very nice.
So the next question is: “How does the PCM92 compare to a premium reverb (convolution or otherwise) in your DAW?” Well, I use Universal Audio’s Dreamverb and MOTU’s popular Proverb both quite a bit; I really like them, too. But over the course of this review, I have found myself drawn more to the PCM92. It’s not that the Lexicon algorithms are more “realistic” or “believable” to my ears; the qualities I found in the PCM92 are quite varied, possibly intangible, beyond words. (Is it imaging, lushness, density or depth? I can’t be sure.) I simply prefer the way they sit in the mix. I’m not loyal when it comes to reverbs and enjoy almost all flavors: from the classic Lexicon M480L to Eventide to AMS, from the real EMT plates to Universal Audio’s emulations, even the good ol’ tacky SPX90. They all work, but this utilitarian PCM92 covers the most ground overall of anything I’ve heard, and every preset sounds like something I could ideally use on some song.
I should also mention that there’s a new, free firmware update for the PCM92 (and its big brother, the surroundcapable PCM96, which is usable as a DAW plug-in via FireWire), downloadable at Lexicon Pro’s website. I did not download and install the update, as its changes were focused around networking improvements, expanded MIDI capabilities and driver flexibilities rather than the effects themselves, my main concern in this evaluation.
Considering the quality of its effects algorithms and the inherent ease of using them, there’s not much, if anything, to criticize in the PCM92. But such utility comes at a price: $2,699 MSRP, to be exact.
Nearly $2k street price will buy you lots of plug-ins that admittedly sound as good as — or more likely, nearly as good as — this Lexicon hardware. Yet the PCM92 is addressing the specific needs of a small, discriminatingly professional segment of today’s market. If you mix outside the box; if you’d prefer multiple pre-tweaked reverb options at the ready over tweaking your own; if your large install or complicated live show requires network control of your effects; and/or if you’d prefer the tactile twisting of ergonomic knobs over mouse clicking; the PCM92 is made just for you.
Rob Tavaglione has owned and operated Catalyst Recording in Charlotte NC since 1995.
Price: $2,699 list
Contact: Lexicon Professional | lexiconpro.com