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Microphone Month 5

Alesis AirFX Review

Right out of the box I have to say the Alesis AirFX is one unique piece of gear. I had seen the AirFX in passing in a few music stores, had always been curious, but never heard an audio demo. For a tabletop FX box that runs $249.00 retail, this a pretty amazing piece. The layout is very straightforward. There is a hemispheric shaped infrared tracker with which you control various parameters of the effects patch along the x, y, & z axis of the orb’. A single rotary control selects programs and performs a hold function, as well as master bypass. There is a single LED display that gives you patch anRight out of the box I have to say the Alesis AirFX is an extremely unique piece of gear. I had seen the AirFX in passing in a few music stores and was curious, but had never heard an audio demo. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to play with it, for a tabletop FX box that runs $249.00 retail, this a pretty amazing piece! The layout is very straightforward. There is a hemispheric shaped infrared tracker with which you control various parameters of the effects patch along the x, y, & z axis of the orb’. A single rotary control selects programs and performs a hold function, as well as master bypass. There is a single LED display that gives you patch and status info, as well. The connections are also pretty simple. Stereo RCA in and out with an audio pass through function, and a 9v power supply completed the back panel layout. So, with such a simple design, how did the AirFX perform, and how were the sound effects?

In short, I thought the effects were extremely usable and (perhaps best of all) fun to create. I could definitely see this device in a DJ’s setup, home system or sound designer’s toolkit. With a little practice this is a definite crowd pleaser, and there are definite immediate gratification levels. I ran sounds from my iBook into it using iTunes and a great freeware application called “Clutter.” Clutter represents iTunes 4 Album selection’s with the CD cover graphic, so you just click on the CD and it plays. I was able to immediately get up and running and start playing DJ with some cuts from No Doubt, Moby, Seal, etc. The Air FX did not disappoint. Starting with patch 00 and going up through the 50 presets I found a number of not only usable but downright fun effects. The most basic involved modulation effects such as phase shifters, chorus, and flangers that were real-time controllable (sweep, feedback, depth, etc.) via the infrared controller. All you have to do is wave your hand around the AirFX and the experiment begins. You quickly pick up basic techniques especially with the filtering presets. A true DJ connection surfaced with the more pitch and special effect related patches such as “vinylizer” (adding in scratchy’ vinyl grit), stop, scratch (record scratching), and synth rip’ effects. Later, I read through the manual and found the hold’ function. By pressing and holding the program select, you can freeze a particular setting. You release it (try it in time with your hand in another control position) in the same way, by tapping the selector again. This produced some very musically usable settings and I began to see an even greater use in the studio – and for live music – performance effects! All in all a great product, and at the price point it is a breakthrough. You can also get the AirSynth as a companion piece that operates similarly with a synth sound generator. Innovative, fun stuff from Alesis, and something that should be a part of every DJ’s arsenal.

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