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Hands On – Lexicon PCM 70 (part 2)

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Redoubtable Reverberation

Ask anyone who makes the best reverb units and they’ll tell you Lexicon
do. Lexicon have been producing high quality digital reverb units for over a
decade and their reputation is second to none, although now there are many devices
which could make a reasonable claim to be the best unit available. Once upon
a time we had to depend on plate reverb units which were bulky and inflexible,
although their basic sound quality was good. Lexicon’s early model 224
showed us how we could manipulate the quality of the sound by adjusting the
reverberation time separately for high and low frequencies, among other features,
even though it didn’t in all honesty sound all that great. Lexicon’s
more recent top-of-the-range models have certainly gone far beyond what their
early attempts achieved sonically, and the fruits of their research filtered
down to the more affordable PCM70. The Lexicon PCM70 has certainly been one
of the most popular effects units ever and you will find it in many studios
across the length and breadth of the country (and around the rest of the world
for that matter). If you want to be sure that you are using one of the world’s
favourite effects units then patch into the PCM70 and you definitely will not
be disappointed.

Astounding Abilities

I have already looked at that other classic effects unit, the Yamaha SPX90,
in a previous Hands On instalment. The SPX90 was the first of the multieffects
units and could produce just about any effect you were likely to need in the
studio. The Lexicon PCM70 doesn’t have quite this superabundance of effects
(which some more recent units have taken to the degree of overkill), but there
is a little more on offer than just reverb. Basically, a digital reverb unit
consists of a lot of memory and the processing brainpower to shuffle the temporarily
stored audio data about in a way that will sound to our ears like multiple reflections
in a room. With appropriate software, the same hardware can be used to create
delay, chorus, phase and flange effects, and the PCM70 does pretty well in these
departments too. But first, let’s look at the way the PCM70 is organised.
Once you understand this you’ll be able to dive into the editing parameters
and manipulate the programs to get exactly the sound you want.


Figure 1 shows the front panel of the PCM70. When it first came out we were
still getting used to the idea of operating equipment which didn’t have
too many knobs – either one or none – and all the button pushing you had to
do was seen as a necessary unpleasantness (but it was the lack of mechanical
hardware that made the equipment affordable). If you were an equipment designer
and you were trying to develop an interface to a synthesiser or effects units
which used a form of up/down key interface then you would actually find it quite
difficult to work out which was the best of the many ways you could implement
it. Lexicon chose to use a method which isn’t at all intuitive and it is
unlikely you could sit down at a PCM70 and get much joy out of it without some
serious consideration. With Yamaha’s SPX processors you use one button
to call up the parameter you want to adjust, and another pair of buttons actually
to adjust it. With the PCM70 things are a little more complex.

David Mellor

Spatial Effects

Spatial Effects

Learn the techniques of creating spatial reverberation FX in this deep listening course by the engineers at Singing Canary and Modern World Recording.

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David Mellor