Alesis Bitrman effects processor. $49.95 blowout - might not be available new anymore - Gotta love Alesis! My first effects processor was a Midiverb II back in 1988 (or 9 who remembers?)! In 2003, when I originally saw the ads for the ModFX line by Alesis (some dozen or so different processors) I thought it was vaporware. That is, that they were testing out the waters to see if it was worth introducing such a product line (remember this is only my opinion). Seemed like a lot to bite off in an already crowded market. Well, here it is, 2004, Musican's Friend was blowing out the Bitrman (and a couple of other ModFX processors) at $50 so, what the hell, since I'm a fan of cheap audio destruction, I ordered one.
The Bitrman provides 4 effects that can be used at once, and even shuffled in order of processing via the "configure" button. Compression, Distortion, Dual Phasor, and Bitrness are able to be adjusted by variable knob, and the Bitrness option provides 6 additional effects to choose from: Comb filter, Decimator, Bit Reducer, FM, Ring Mod, and Freq Shift. The Bitrness knob adjusts whichever of the previous effects is chosen. Alesis tags the Bitrman as "Sound mangling for extreme audio deconstruction" (see why I was foaming at the mouth?). And, after a few minutes with my new device, my reaction was that Alesis got it right.
More than just a simple, cheap, digital effects processor, Bitrman is made to link digitally with other processors of the ModFX line via 9 pin ports on both sides of the box (more on this later). Plus, 3 units can be rackmounted with the help of a rack adapter available from Alesis.
So what does this baby do to audio? I had a blast destroying audio with the Bitrman. I kept mainly within the "extreme" end of the processing spectrum as that was where this unit really shines best (my opinion). Bitrman has it's own "sound", taking pure audio and changing it into a digital mutant: gritty, unpredictable, somewhat circuit bent, if you will. Changing the order of the effects chain via the "configure" button yielded sonic variations beyond what I had expected. The only drawback being a "pop" sound when a configuration was changed during processing. For $50, I can live with that.
Taken on its individual effects, the Bitrman is no big deal. But, as a whole, Alesis has something here. Too bad it's been discontinued (I'm guessing from the "Blowout" and all). It's going to make a fine addition to my audio destruction arsenal!
Check the Alesis website for specs and other details - www.alesis.com
P.S. For all you circuitbenders out there.... The Alesis ModFX line could have a lot of potential. Not that I've bent one yet, but the fact that it's got 9 pin ports already in it means that a custom breakout box could be added. See what I'm getting at? I may try bending this Bitrman, and if I do, I'll post info here.
AKG C1000s microphone. $199 approx. street price - I've also seen them sold as pairs for around $300. This small diaphragm condenser microphone takes a little extra preamp gain to get a good signal level which results in a slightly higher noise floor. Runs on phantom power or 9v battery (a plus on location), and from what I remember, doesn't have the greatest specs. But, forget specs. For 10 years, I've used this mic on voice overs for nationally broadcast radio spots (usually where much higher priced mics are requested), as drum overheads, piano mics, room ambiance recording, acoustic guitar and even some sound effects sampling. Every time, this microphone has worked very well for me.
Durable enough to take on location, and cheap enough so that if it gets stolen or damaged, I'm not out of business. This microphone is my first call for any voice work. Comes with an adapter to take it from cardioid to hypercardioid, and I believe that the newer models have an eq adapter as well. Here's another kicker. Back when I purchased my pair, the were going for about $325 EACH!!! and they were worth the money at that price. In recent years, the flood of less expensive, and quality microphones to the market have dropped the prices on lots of microphones - our gain!
If you're looking for a good, solid condenser microphone, check out the AKG C1000s.
DOD DFX-9 guitar pedal. approx. $70 (or less) eBay. Digital delay has come a long way, and that's why I keep this pedal handy. Sometimes you just need a lo-fi delay, no questions asked, and here it is. A hard-core battery drainer (keep spare 9v's handy), the DFX-9 has a "something special" kind of voice that I have yet to hear in a modeled delay. I highly recommend real time manipulation of its knobs for adding life to vocal tracks, drums, synths, and special effects. OK, guitars too, if you must.
Another plus, is that you can modify this pedal (don't try if you don't know about electronics or circuit bending). A quick and non-permanent circuit bend of mine yielded some pretty insane digital mayhem - nice. After removal of the extra circuitry, the pedal was back to its former self (another plus).
I purchased my DFX-9 in 1993 for around $100, new. At that time, I remember thinking that the delay pedals from Boss sounded better on guitar. Thankfully, I kept it anyway. I'm going to grab a few more off eBay to permanently circuit bend for more extreme audio fun.
Digidesign Mbox. approx. $450 street. Let's get this out of the way. I'm a long-time Pro Tools user. Not that I think it's the best, or that everyone has to use it, but it's one of my "weapons of choice". I've got a 24 Mix TDM system on my main computer, where most of my work gets done. So what's the big deal with the Mbox? How about mobile recording on my iBook in Pro Tools LE, with sessions immediately available on my main TDM system via Firewire hard drives? What a timesaver! In the "old days" I'd record on location to DAT, bring the tapes back and play them into my Pro Tools system in "real time". 7 hours of DATs = 7 hours of "load-in". Not any longer. Now, its record on location (in 24 bit!!!), return to the studio and connect the Firewire drive to my main system: BOOM, in business! And, because of the wonder of the Mbox, I was able to edit sounds for my latest sound effects release Concept:FX CircuitBenT MaTH while waiting for repairs on my car at the dealer. Time, once lost, is now gained :-)
The Mbox, laptop, microphones, and external Firewire drive easily fit in a backpack. And, if I need better quality, I can add my Grace Lunatec V2 preamps and Apogee Rosetta into the mix.
Let's do a quick comparison: In 1993, I purchased my first Pro Tools system. It could record and play back ONLY 4 tracks of 16 bit digital audio. It constantly crashed. Cost with the audio interface was about $9000. My external rackmount SCSI hard drive (1Gb) hit me for another $2400. Oh, and my computer, a Mac IIci w/20 Mb of RAM $2500 (used at that time). Total costs - around $14,000 without any of the other lovely studio items like cables, microphones, mixer, monitors and other stuff.
Fast forward to today. Digidesign Mbox, $450 street. Mac iBook G4 $1300 w/512 Mb RAM. External 80 Gb 7200 rpm Firewire drive $180. Total costs - around $2000. Oh and today's Pro Tools LE can play back up to 32 tracks of 24 bit digital audio, has preamps and headphone monitoring included, runs on Windows (if you must), AND it's got a HEMI! OK, it doesn't have a HEMI, but what the hell!