Roger Linn Design AdrenaLinn II
When you first plug into the AdrenaLinn II ($499 retail/$375 street), it’s easy to feel for a few cocky moments that you’re nothing less than God’s gift to modern rock guitar. That’s because this ingenious stompbox makes even the most mundane riffs sound heavenly—especially when the pedal is run in stereo through a pair of studio monitors. As with the original AdrenaLinn (reviewed May ’02), the AdrenaLinn II uses various combinations of digital delay, flange, chorus, tremolo and filter sequencing, harmonization, amp modeling, and other effects to generate hypnotic textures that pulsate, ricochet, and shimmer in perfect time to the internal drum machine or MIDI clock. (The tempo is set via MIDI, or with the unit’s Tempo knob or Tap button.)
Improving on its predecessor, the AdrenaLinn II delivers 12 new amp models (for a total of 24), extended delay time (up to three seconds), more filter choices, a headphone output, and—most importantly—a more intuitive user interface. That said, as far as multi-effects guitar pedals go, going beyond the presets in the AdrenaLinn II does involve a steep learning curve—if only because the pedal packs a staggering amount of programmability, editing power, and hidden parameters into its deceptively simple front panel.
MXR M-134 Stereo Chorus
Sporting a blindingly bright yellow enclosure, the MXR M-134 Stereo Chorus ($239 retail/street price N/A) produces lush, rich effects dripping with all of the finger-lickin’ goodness that analog chorus is famous for. Even with extreme settings of the Intensity, Rate, or Width controls, the M-134 never gives off an undefined, gross warble. Instead, it just gets thicker.
The M-134 also has two hip tricks up its sleeve. First, is its inclusion of Bass and Treble controls. These let you EQ the effected signal only, making your modulated machinations cool, dark, and smoky or crispy clean. The other feature is a Bass Filter button that adds chorus to the higher frequencies only, leaving your bass notes untouched. It’s a subtle effect, but it makes a ton of difference in adding punch to complex chord voicings that would otherwise get washed away in a sea of goop. Too cool. All this is why the M-134 receives an Editors’ Pick Award.
Anyone who is truly into compression should have a schizoid relationship with the process. This is because some compressors (such as the fab Joemeeks) can aggressively color the sound to produce larger-than-life impact, and others (such as the exquisite Focusrite Red Series) are so transparent that you barely perceive them as working at all.
The handmade Keeley Compressor ($219 direct) is like a Focusrite studio processor housed in a pedal, and it will put the clean side of your compression schizophrenia into fits of rapture. This magic box clarifies tone attack and detail—as well as stretches sustain into the near feedback zone—without changing your guitar tone or introducing objectionable hiss. All your notes are just there—each articulated with presence and chunky resonance. The two controls (Sustain and Level) are dead simple, and the Keeley is activated via an expensive 3PDT true-bypass switch. This is the most transparent stompbox compressor I’ve ever plugged into, and it’s a no-brainer for an Editors’ Pick Award.