Adding to a long list of groundbreaking products — including the LinnDrum, the LM-1, the Linn 9000, and the Akai MPC-series workstations — Roger Linn has now developed the AdrenaLinn, a guitar-effects processor that includes a programmable 32-step filter, a drum machine, time-domain effects, and amp modeling. All of that is packed into a sturdy cast-aluminum box that's about the size of a paperback book. What makes the AdrenaLinn unique is how everything works together.
The AdrenaLinn features 100 ROM-based factory presets and an additional 100 user-editable presets that initially contain data identical to the factory presets. Those presets control the effects (including filter and delays) and which amp model is in use. The amp-modeling section includes ten amp simulations, ranging from Fender Champ to Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier. Also included are fuzz box and direct-injection simulations.
One thing to keep in mind is that the AdrenaLinn is a very deep box, and it can take a while to understand the interface. Fortunately, the manual is well written and concise.
ON THE SURFACE
The AdrenaLinn's control surface has four main rotary encoders (one of which is a volume knob with an associated LED to indicate clipping), four buttons, two stompbox-style momentary (foot-activated) push buttons, and a three-digit numerical display (see Fig. 1). A legend that covers most of the front panel lists the unit's functions. LEDs indicate the status of the device.
The rear panel has a ¼-inch input, two ¼-inch outputs (left and right), MIDI In and Out jacks, and an input for a 7.5 VDC wall-wart power supply. The only things missing are a dedicated headphone output and digital I/O.
The main rotary encoders control a wide variety of parameters depending upon the mode the AdrenaLinn is in, but their nominal functions are Preset, Drumbeat, Tempo, and Volume. There are status LEDs that light up next to the function that is in use.
The two footswitches (labeled Start and Bypass) can have multiple functions, as well. Besides starting and stopping the active drum machine or filter sequence, the Start button can provide a one-measure hi-hat count-in. If the drum machine or filter sequence is playing, holding down the Start button causes the AdrenaLinn to play to the end of the measure and stop.
The Bypass footswitch acts as a conventional effects bypass, but you can also use it to set the tempo of the drum or filter sequence: instead of tapping in time with the tempo, you hold the footswitch down for an entire measure of the tempo that you want to sync with. In addition, the Bypass footswitch can be configured to switch between two presets.
The drum machine offers nine kick drums, nine snares, and nine hi-hats. Five other groups offer three drum sounds each, mostly assorted percussion and toms. The drums are well recorded and punchy, and in many cases, they sound as though they could have come from a standalone percussion module.
The drum machine's output can be routed internally through the filters, amp models, or delays. Although you can't access the individual drum sounds through MIDI, you can sync the AdrenaLinn to incoming MIDI data.
Patterns are created using the Step-Programming mode. Any step of a pattern can contain four voices (bass, snare, hi-hat, and percussion), and like the original LinnDrum, the AdrenaLinn provides only three volume levels for each voice (except for the percussion voice, which plays at just one volume). Panning and volume are controllable, but pitch and decay are not.
The AdrenaLinn can also be programmed and controlled from a module in Emagic's SoundDiver (see Fig. 2; the module is available for download from the Roger Linn Design Web site). SoundDiver is a cross-platform application, so PC and Mac users are taken care of. According to the manufacturer, options for other editors are being explored.
The AdrenaLinn's drum machine offers 100 factory drumbeats and 100 user-created drumbeats. The presets range from normal rock and pop to fairly wild electronic beats, with some slightly stiff hip-hop and R&B beats in between. The presets are certainly good enough for a rough demo or, better yet, something to jam over.
FILTERS AND EFFECTS
The filter module is controlled by a 32-step sequencer, though alternate note resolutions will move the number of steps down to 16 or 24. Modulation level and envelope-generator trigger parameters can be set for each of the steps. The sequencer is configured so that it is synced with the drum machine; alternatively, it can be synced with MIDI.
The first element of the filter is a low-pass filter that can be configured for 2-pole (12 dB Oberheim-style) or 4-pole (24 dB Moog-style) operation. Cutoff frequency and resonance parameters are programmable.
An envelope generator controls the filter's attack and decay settings. An LFO section — with sine, triangle, sawtooth, pulse, and random waveforms — is available for autopanning, filter sweeps, and chorusing. An amplitude envelope generator that tracks the input signal provides autowah and Mutron-style envelope effects.
The filter section responds to MIDI Control Change messages in addition to Velocity and note number. The filter's cutoff frequency can be raised (and in some cases lowered) in response to incoming MIDI data.
Overall, both filter configurations sound impressive and excel in capturing an analog sound. By dialing in copious amounts of resonance, I easily created a dead ringer for Jerry Garcia's '70s-era envelope-filter tone. Rolling off some of the treble on my guitar enhanced the effect of the filter envelope.
Other effects include flanger, inverted flanger, pitch (for harmonization and vibrato), volume (for tremolo effects), and delay. Those effects can be combined to produce other effects such as autopanning, vibrato, and chorus. Conspicuous in its absence is reverb: the manufacturer told me that was because of the unit's digital signal-processing limitations. In my opinion, it is much better to have no reverb than a poor reverb.
The AdrenaLinn's amp models also sound good. The unit has a decent collection of amps and preamps, as indicated by the preset names: Fender Bassman, Fender Deluxe Reverb, Old Small Fender, Early Marshall, Classic Marshall, Modern Marshall, Vox AC-30 Top Boost, Matchless Chieftain, Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier, Soldano, Fuzz Box, and Clean Console. Each model has drive, bass, mid, and treble controls that model the actual range and frequency response of the device being simulated.
It's difficult to compare the sound of a modeling device to an actual amplifier because there are so many variables, such as speaker age, room characteristics, and microphone placement. The main thing an amp modeler provides is the vibe and overall tonality of the simulated amp.
The amps I used for comparison are a Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier (through a Marshall 4×12 speaker cabinet loaded with Celestion 75W speakers); a Marshall JCM 800 2210, which I compared to the Modern and Classic Marshall models; and a 1970s Fender Vibrolux silverface model, which I compared to the Deluxe Reverb simulation. I also used a Bedrock 1200-series head as the target for the Vox AC-30 model because it has a bit of the midrangy Vox sound.
Of all the amp models, the Dual Rectifier model came closest to the sound and feel of the original. The tight and aggressive tone produced by the AdrenaLinn was similar to the tone of my Dual Rectifier, especially at high gain settings. The Marshall model was good, but at times it sounded a little honkier and thinner than the real thing. The Fender sounds were good as well, lacking only spring reverb to complete the illusion. As for the Vox AC-30 model, it had the same midrange push as my Bedrock, but a different tonal balance. That's not surprising, because the Bedrock is an EL 34-based amplifier, and the Vox AC-30 uses an entirely different tube complement. Still, it made for an interesting comparison.
I tried the AdrenaLinn plugged directly in to a Mesa/Boogie Strategy 400 tube power amp connected to two 4×12 slant cabinets. I was able to get some devastating tones out of that rig, which to my ears sounded better than the '80s Marshall 9001 tube preamp that I often use. Though it would be tricky to use just the AdrenaLinn for a live gig, it could be done, especially in conjunction with a MIDI pedalboard. I suspect most users will use it with a regular combo or preamp/power-amp setup rather than as the sole preamp stage.
The AdrenaLinn sounded great on two vintage synths — a Fender Chroma Polaris and a Moog MG-1. Both synths have mono outputs and lack onboard effects. The AdrenaLinn breathed new life into both synthesizers, animating them in a way that made them sound much more modern without robbing them completely of their identity. The AdrenaLinn is a great tool for “stereoizing,” not to mention adding a programmable sequencing filter to any mono instrument.
THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD
For testing presets, I used a few different instruments: a Paul Reed Smith CE-24, a Warmoth Gecko five-string bass, a Moog MG-1, and a Fender Chroma Polaris. I patched the AdrenaLinn directly into my Neotek IIIc console and monitored using a combination of Fostex NF-1s and Urei 809s.
Moving through the various presets can be disorienting because their range is startling. While playing guitar through the AdrenaLinn, I had to remind myself that I was listening to a guitar and not a sequenced synth! That's how radical the AdrenaLinn can get.
I don't mean to give the impression that the AdrenaLinn is capable of only bombastic, highly modified sounds. Some of the more restrained presets, such as the Fender Deluxe, simply sound like a good amp with a decent mic in front of it. Some of the vibrato/tremolo and flanger programs are well within the bounds of good taste and would fit easily into many production styles.
However, the extreme sounds are what make the AdrenaLinn such a compelling box. Presets such as Filter Sequence — Ascending bring sonic and rhythmic textures to the guitar that recall the work of Pete Townshend and producer Glen Ballard (especially his work with Alanis Morissette).
My final application was using the AdrenaLinn as a processor during mixdown. The AdrenaLinn is my choice for taking a boring track and making it interesting. For example, the flanger is an excellent tool for bringing a stale rhythm-guitar track to life. Even compared with my dedicated outboard processors, the AdrenaLinn's flanger is impressive. Furthermore, the sequenced-filter programs can produce some wacky effects when used on vocals.
The AdrenaLinn's only downside as a standalone processor is the mono input. Of course, you could get around that by using two units locked together by MIDI — a cost-effective solution, considering the quality of the processing.
The AdrenaLinn is not only a revolutionary product but also an exceptional value. Getting a programmable filter, an amp modeler, and a drum machine of this quality in one box is remarkable. The programmable filter alone is worth the price.
For both stage and studio use, the AdrenaLinn is ideal. It's a great idea generator, the kind of tool that inspires you to write new material and create new sounds. The AdrenaLinn is an all-around winner.
Richard Alan Salzis a producer living in Southern Vermont.
Preset Rhythm Patterns(100) factory; (100) userPreset Effects/Filter Patches(100)/(100)Filter Sequencer(32) stepsAmp Models(12)Effects Types(8)Analog Inputs(1) unbalanced ¼" TSAnalog Outputs(2) unbalanced ¼" TSMIDI PortsIn, OutAC Adapter7.5 VDC (wall wart)Display1.50" (W) × 0.75" (H) 3-digit LEDDimensions7.25" (W) × 1.50" (H) × 4.50" (D)Weight2 lb.
Roger Linn Design
FEATURES5.0EASE OF USE4.0AUDIO QUALITY4.5VALUE5.0RATING PRODUCTS FROM 1 TO 5
PROS: Great sound. Sequenced filters. Excellent-sounding presets.
CONS: Mono input. No headphone jack. No digital output.