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One of the Hippest Guitar Effects Ever Just Got Better



by Craig Anderton


When I first played the original AdrenaLinn, I flipped: Here was a guitar processor that bridged the guitar and synthesizer worlds, offering the ability to overlay sophisticated, synth-style step-sequencing and filtering effects on top of the organic sound of the electric guitar. Not only that, it folded in amp modeling and more traditional effects (like flanging and delay), making it applicable to a variety of musical styles. (In fact I liked it so much I ended up editing the manual - and even though I didn't do any work on subsequent manuals, Roger still gives me a credit.)

Because of its unique sounds, compact size, and rugged construction, it became my #1 go-to box for playing over in Germany with Rei$$dorf Force, Air Liquide, and Dr. Walker. It was all I needed: I took a MIDI out from something like an MPC to get a tempo sync for the AdrenaLinn, plugged in my guitar, sent it to the PA...done. And the sounds wowed the crowds.

When it became increasingly difficult for me to make the commute to Germany, I recorded loops of me playing my favorite AdrenaLinn riffs, and gave it to Dr. Walker. I figured that way even if I couldn't make the gig, he could load a "virtual me" into his MPC and get some of my sounds. That eventually led to the loop library "AdrenaLinn Guitars," done with Roger Linn's permission and released through M-Audio.


Roger Linn Design AdrenaLinn III


The AdrenaLinn moved on to version II, which added more goodies but now we have the AdrenaLinn III ($399 MSRP). For those who haven't yet discovered the joys of "AdrenaLinning," this is the ideal introduction. For those already into the AdrenaLinn, though, it bears a good look because for the $99 upgrade fee, you get what seems like almost a new processor - yes, there are that many changes.



You can get more details and specs online, but here are some highlights.

  • There are now 200 editable user presets and drumbeats instead of the original's 100 factory/100 editable presets. This is significant, as 100 editable presets wasn't quite enough to hold all my favorites.
  • Compression has been on my AdrenaLinn wish list since day one, and my prayers have been answered. You'll also find a stereo reverb; don't expect anything amazing, but it's decent and gives yet another possible color. Also new is that several stereo effects have adjustable width.
  • There's now another page of "Details" you can access by hitting the two Preset buttons at the same time while you're editing. This lets you access a lot of the new parameters and features.


  • The added tuner is very handy. This is another item that's been on my wish list, and now there's one less thing I need to carry to a gig.
  • Those using the AdrenaLinn as a "bread and butter" effect as well as for all the cool synched stuff will be delighted with the 40 new and improved amp models (including four bass amps). With the original AdrenaLinn, the models seemed more like an afterthought but that's no longer the case: In addition to offering more variety, the models are much more "responsive" in the sense of responding better as they go into heavier saturation, and don't have the occasional "murkiness" of the originals. There's also a Drive control so you can tailor the sounds better. These models get a major thumbs-up.
  • The Drum Beat sounds (and loops) are a lot better. Actually the drum thing isn't a feature I use a lot, but I know some AdrenaLinn fans who use it mostly as a songwriting tool - and for them, the drum beats are a big deal. You can also apply distortion to the drum beats independently of the guitar distortion, and in a move that just may get me to use the drums more, you can trigger them via MIDI.
  • Foot control has been redesigned from the ground up. One great feature is that the Bypass switch is now an "Effects" switch, so you can call up, say, a modeled sound and then push on Effects to bring in some cool tempo-synched sound. What's more, this can also be set to turn on when you call up a preset. Among other advantages, this avoids the situation where you call up a tempo-synched effect, but then also have to hit the Start footswitch before it kicks in. Also, the AdrenaLinn III is now pedalboard-friendly: You can assign up to 10 MIDI footswitches and two MIDI expression pedals to control just about all the available parameters. One more thing: The footswitches can be reassigned to control other switched functions.

Those are the highlights; there are other changes, like four new modulation sources, the ability to store a tempo with each preset, a high-cut parameter for the delay, and more. But you can always get more details, including plenty of audio/video examples and info on recommended MIDI footswitches, at the Roger Linn Design web site.



One caution, though, is that all these added features have made the operating system slightly more convoluted. For example, consider the Effect footswitch: If you hold it down, it increments automatically through the presets. Tap it four times, and it sets the tempo; tap and then hold, and the unit goes into Tuner mode, which also bypasses any effects. And if you tap Effect and then hit the Start footswitch, a one-measure countoff leads into the drumbeat preset. Got that? Maybe not, which is why it's good that the AdrenaLinn's front panel has a sort of "cheat sheet" printed on it to help remind you of how to access various functions. This is a smart idea, and frankly, I wish more manufacturers would implement this concept. Even better, how about an actual cheat sheet you could affix to the bottom of the unit? Yeah, that's the ticket.


Personally, I don't find the AdrenaLinn III hard to program because the process is not that much different from previous models and in some ways, it's been improved. But if you're a guitar player who's not conversant with matrix-style editing, it will take a while for you to become familiar with the "AdrenaLinn way of life." Once you do, though, everything falls into place; I'd wager you could come back to it several weeks later, and pick up where you left off (unlike some products where it seems you need to pick up the manual if you've been away for only a few days).



If the original AdrenaLinn had never been updated, I'd still love it and still be using it. However, there's no denying that in every respect - options, sound quality, and flexibility - the AdrenaLinn III outpaces its predecessors.

If you have the original AdrenaLinn, the $99 upgrade is well worth it (especially given the 30-day money-back guarantee). If you put it off and upgrade later, you'll probably kick yourself for not having done it sooner. The upgrade from an AdrenaLinn II may not seem quite as compelling, but you'd think that only if you hadn't heard the new amp models. I'd say this is a must-have upgrade if you're into either AdrenaLinn, because it builds on everything there is to like about the unit.

And if you haven't experienced the AdrenaLinn - well, I can't put the unit in your hands, but the Roger Linn Design web site has a ton of audio examples that show what this sucker can do. This is one of those rare boxes I literally cannot do without, because not only is it great: There's nothing else like it.


CraigGuitarVertical.jpgCraig Anderton is Editor Emeritus of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.

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