The Filterbank 2 ($799) from Sherman Productions offers a number of electronic enhancements and cosmetic refinements to the original Filterbank (see the March 1999 issue for a review). Like its predecessor, the Filterbank 2 is an analog processor with MIDI I/O for added control.
The original Filterbank's white finish has been supplanted by a metallic gray, and the front-panel layout has changed slightly with the addition of several key features. Although the changes are not a dramatic departure from the original device, they do increase the Filterbank 2's functionality.
Under the Hood
The Filterbank's circuit-design changes are based primarily on user input. They include high-frequency shelving (cut/boost), a monophonic pitch tracker, a sensitivity control, a limiter, an octave switch, and faster envelopes as well as a sawtooth wave shape and attack/release (AR) retriggering capabilities for the LFO. In addition, the Filterbank 2's rear panel has an added ¼-inch pedal-input jack. Sherman is developing a proprietary pedal that can be used as a frequency control for Filter 1 or as a global effect bypass. A standard two-position switch plugged into the jack gives you effect bypass only.
In addition, the front panel has two added LEDs. The white LED indicates that the pitch-tracking function is locked to the audio input. The green LED indicates that the Filterbank 2 is on. Like the original Filterbank, the Filterbank 2 employs a wall-wart power supply and does not include a power switch.
Addition and Subtraction
The Hi Boost/Hi Cut switch allows broad tailoring of the frequency response at the input stage, permitting the Filterbank 2 to accommodate different input signals. That welcome addition lets you escape the sometimes harsh tone of the original Filterbank.
The Filterbank 2 includes another much-needed feature: variable trigger sensitivity. The new three-position toggle switch lets you increase (Sensitrig) or decrease (Limit) the trigger sensitivity so that the Filterbank 2 can handle a variety of input signals.
An octave (+1 Octave) or a fifth (+ Quint) can be added to the filter cutoff by using the next toggle switch. That feature works best with monophonic material, although users may enjoy the unpredictable results that come from processing a polyphonic source.
The Filterbank 2's most interesting new feature, however, is the pitch tracker. The tracking function forces the frequency of both filters to track a monophonic source connected to the rear-panel FM In jack. The tracking function tends to lag a bit, so Sherman recommends using the + Quint setting to alleviate the problem.
Overall, the Filterbank 2 is more rewarding to work with because it has a greater range of timbres than the earlier model. Of particular interest are the muted sounds available with the Lo Cut setting. The pitch-tracking feature also opens up new possibilities, proving itself useful on a variety of sources, such as basses and melodic synths.
In addition, the Filterbank 2 has an improved noise specification. Although the Filterbank 2 is by no means silent, it's quite likely that many users will welcome the change.
You don't need to throw away your original Filterbank in favor of the Filterbank 2, however. Simply connect the older unit to the Filterbank 2 using the Link In and Link Out jacks and then take advantage of the pitch-tracking capabilities of the newer device.
The Filterbank 2 is completely analog and sounds like it. As such, it is difficult at times to achieve subtle results. However, the Filterbank 2 is still a little more grown up than its sibling and behaves slightly better.
Although the Filterbank 2 isn't a radical improvement in design and sound over the earlier version, I enjoyed its flexibility. The Filterbank 2 retains the distinctive character of the original and offers greater flexibility and a cleaner sound.