Hands-On Review:Roger Linn Design AdrenaLinn Groove Filter FX, Amp Modeler and Drum Box.
by Brian Stillman
Roger Linn Design’s new AdrenaLinn is a multipurpose guitar effects processor unlike any yet seen or heard. Combining groove filter effects, an amp modeler and a drum machine, the AdrenaLinn offers players an unprecedented level of control and diversity over sounds, and the ability to create innovative effects. With it, guitarists—or musicians of any kind—can produce delayed sweeps that sync perfectly to a song’s tempo, arpeggiated delays that rebound through the stereo field and squelching bleeps that morph into pristine tone. This sonic power, coupled with an intuitive, user-friendly design, allows for tones and effects limited only by the musician’s imagination.
To achieve its otherworldly sounds, the AdrenaLinn routes an instrument’s signal through a filter/modulation bank: the filters shape the signal, while the modulation effects determine how slow or fast the filters shape the signal over time. From here, the tones pass through an amp modeler and a delay unit. Not only is this signal chain versatile but it syncs to an internal rhythm machine that can dictate the rate of the modulation effects.
But while the AdrenaLinn’s soul lies in its modulators, its heart resides firmly in its filter bank, which includes two resonant low-pass filters, a flanger, a reverse flanger, a panner and volume. While these last four aren’t typically thought of as filters, they play a major role in the AdrenaLinn’s tone-shaping power, so Linn and Co. treat them as such.
These filters are then put through the sonic wringer by the AdrenaLinn’s 10 modulation sources. These consist of a filter sequencer, envelope generator, LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator), audio envelope and “hold peak” function, as well as controllers that respond to MIDI messages, including MIDI note number, velocity, bend wheel, controller and pressure data. Musicians looking for plug-and-play power at a gig or rehearsal will probably gravitate toward the first five mod sources; the controllers are better suited to a studio environment.
The filter sequencer is one of the AdrenaLinn’s most exciting functions. It has 32 steps, each of which can adjust the filter over the course of the sequence, all while syncing to the tempo set by the internal rhythm machine. This allows for incredibly complex, repeating rhythmic patterns: imagine, for instance, having up to 32 different delay settings, each of which is stepped through sequentially and in time to the music. The processor’s envelope generator, on the other hand, is triggered by incoming notes and causes the frequency to rise over an adjustable attack time (think of a slow, nonrepeated wah). If you’re looking for a more cyclical effect, the five LFOs—sine, triangle, pulse, sawtooth and random—can be applied to different parameters to produce everything from gentle tremolo and auto-panning to wild wah effects and chorusing.
The AdrenaLinn’s amp modeler has tones inspired by such amps as the Dual Rectifier, Fender Deluxe Reverb, Vox AC30 and a Marshall stack. While the models are, at best, close approximations of the originals, users will likely find that they possess their own endearing qualities, making them valuable in and of themselves. Consider them another powerful sonic sculpting tool rather than replacements for an amp or rig.
The AdrenaLinn’s rhythm machine comes preprogrammed with 100 patterns, each of which can be edited with respect to individual hits. The drum samples are uniformly excellent, with pumping kicks, snappy snares and ringing cymbals. The rhythm’s output can be panned to either side of the stereo field, or muted.
Editing the AdrenaLinn is a breeze. A list of its parameters is organized into a four-by-eight matrix that’s conveniently silkscreened right onto the box’s face. Simply choose the desired parameter and twist the knob at the top of the column to adjust it. Drum parts can be edited in the same way, as can the sequencer. Be warned, though: unless you remember to save your changes in one of the 100 user slots, they’ll disappear when you switch to another preset.
The AdrenaLinn’s well-constructed, stomp box–size metal casing has input and output jacks as well as MIDI in and out ports. The unit features a sturdy start/stop footswitch for activating the filter and drum sequences, and a handy bypass switch. All knobs and buttons are tight-fitting and sturdy, making the effects processor nearly perfect for the gigging guitarist. I say “nearly,” as there’s no way to scroll through presets without using your hands, which could be tough in the middle of the gig. That small quibble aside, the AdrenaLinn is a groundbreaking device, one that could easily stir you to new heights of creativity.
The Bottom Line
With its innovative meld of technology and simple user interface, the AdrenaLinn is one of those rare pieces of gear that seems destined to be a classic. It’s inspirational, fun to use and, best of all, light on your wallet.