As Grace Design’s Felix manual states, it’s designed for “working musicians, engineers, sound companies or venues looking for the highest quality solution for amplifying string instruments.” That’s me, and that’s many of you, too. I’ve long been a fan of Grace Design products and the owner of both its m906 5.1 monitor controller and m103 channel strip. I’ve always associated Grace Design with super clean, premium performance studio equipment, so looking at a stomp box primarily designed for live work is a bit unusual.
Grace Design Felix Right out of the box though, you can tell that this unit is of Grace Design pedigree. Its anodized aluminum and steel chassis is quite attractive, and although seemingly loaded with knobs, it’s easy to use. That’s because Channels 1 and 2, which both provide the equivalent of Grace’s m101 preamp, are identical yet fully independent. Provided per channel is Gain and a signal/clip LED (green when signal is present, red when clipping), followed by a sweepable HPF from 20 Hz to 1 kHz, notch-able with a side panel dipswitch. The latter is great for reducing unneeded low-end rumble from your instrument—a great feature for live use. Then there is a +/- 12 dB low shelf (125 Hz corner/40 Hz peak) followed by a fully parametric mid section with Q control from 0.5 to 5 and mid frequency adjustment that goes from 70 to 880 Hz, or 670 Hz to 8 kHz, selectable again on the side panel with a switch. Next is a fixed +/- 12dB high frequency adjustment (2 kHz shelving).
Grace Design also included a 10 dB boost switch (0 to 10 dB) for all outputs when the Boost foot switch is engaged. The Mix knob allows Felix’s two channels to be blended into one or sent out as individual channels. Last is Amp Out level control for the unbalanced amp output on the back of the unit; it also sets the level for the eighth-inch mini-headphone jack on the side panel.
Using the front panel switches, the Mix switch will light up both 1 and 2 when the Mix knob is set to both channels. But if the side panel dip is set to A-B, it turns the Felix into a dual mono box, where each output and input are fully independent, selected with the Mix footswitch. This is a very useful thing to have if, for example, users have two instruments plugged in. Finally, there’s a Mute/Tune switch, muting all outputs except the dedicated tuner output on the back.
Felix’s rear panel features two XLR outs with ground lift, source select and line/mic level buttons, quarter-inch external footswitch, a tuner, amp output and effects inserts, XLR input, two quarter-inch line inputs (channels 1 and 2), amp source select and line/mic input buttons, and even med/high/low input impedance select switches. On the side, Felix provides dip switches, 48V phantom power and polarity reverse buttons for Channels 1 and 2.
In the studio, I ran my Martin OM-28 Marquis Madagascar with a Fishman Ellipse Aura through Felix as well as my old 70 Fender Precision. The first thing that came to mind was how clean and transparent it was—very much in line with what I expect of Grace Design. The EQ is smooth and having fully sweepable mids is quite valuable, and low-end cut is quite useful, too. Taking it a step further, guitarist/vocalist Scott E. Moore ran his 1934 Gibson L00 acoustic through it into a full QSC PA system. His guitar outputs a stereo signal: channel 1 is a Fishman rare earth blend magnetic humbucking pickup with a mic; channel 2 is a K&K pure western mini soundboard transducer. Running both into Felix, we were able to dial up a great variety of sounds from just one great-sounding guitar. EQing each channel differently and creating a blend that sounded just tremendous through the PA was an easy task. We then tested it against two of Scott E.’s other acoustic “blender” boxes, and the Felix easily came out on top, both sonically and in the flexibility department (however, it was more expensive).
Within Felix, Grace Design has given us two studio-quality acoustic DI/instrument and mic preamps and a blending system with EQ built for any kind of stringed instrument. Without a doubt, Felix’s build quality, attention to detail and flexibility is pro-worthy and 100 percent Grace Design quality. Here, for $995 street, you certainly get what you pay for, if not much more.