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"Cheap'o" gear your brave enough to admit you use.

Okay. How about a topic where we can put aside our gear snobbery and risk the wrath of others who would thumb there noses at cheap gear and people who have used said cheap gear, and you tell us, what cheap gear you have used that you actually ended up liking.

Mind you, I'm not asking what cheap gear you though was super fantastic since those two things don't usually go together... but what really cheap gear do you find useable and that you would actually not be ashamed to say you have used from time to time.

By "cheap" I dont necessarily mean an exact dollar value... but more along the lines of manufacturers that generally gets visciously mocked by others like Alesis or Behringer, Nady, etc...

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Okay, so this is my confession. I have purchased my share of cheap crap, more often because sometimes I just needed something "in a pinch" and not so much because I like buying cheap crap... but once in a rare while I find a cheap toy that I actually think is "useable" and is underrated. Today, I want to talk about Alesis CLX-440 compressor which is now defunct. Alesis also produced a PEQ-450 which I found to be much less favorable.

Very few people have used this unit, which is why Alesis stopped selling it,and its why hardly anybody ever mentions in on recording forums. so I happen toown this hunker... and for the benefit of somebody who happens to see this unit on e-bay. I will tell you my opinion of it.

The Alesis CLX-440 and its cousin the PEQ-450? (parametric EQ) was one of the first toys I purchased when I started building my small studio many years ago and I was on a tight budget. Its been a long time since I have used it... and my taste in gear has gone up quite a bit since then. and I have not used it in quite a while to where I could recite every flaw or positive aspect of the unit. but my overall opinion of the CLX-440 was quite favorable (speaking perspective-wise based on its low cost).


Alesis takes a lot of sh*t and personally I think they are seriously underrated and misnderstood. Alesis is one of those companies that is either "hot" or "cold". Theres like not a whole lot of in-between with them.

Once in a while, Alesis manages to do it right... and when they do it right. its really, really good. The HD24XR is an example of when they got it seriously right. The Alesis Andromeda (one of the most sougt after and desireable analog synthesizers in teh world) is an example of when they got it right. The 3630 compressor is a perfect example of them getting it wrong.

The CLX-440 in my opinion is an example of them doing it fairly right. although in this case, this was one of those examples when they created something average (maybe above slightly average) and it really never garnered the attention it should have because for the money it really was fairly decent and I'm surprised it didnt at least grab a little bit more market share, if not on aesthetic value alone. The unit really had that pseudo-vintage, mastering unit quality look to it (despite not being of the latters quality). Unfortunately this product line died out real, real quick. I was never really sure why.


The thing that I like most about this unit is just that the metering is absolutely fantastic. No unit on the market, ever has, or ever will, have better or more useful metering than this Alesis CLX-440, and that, I find to be the greatest tragedy of all. because this is what I think that Alesis got really, really right about this unit, even if the signal path and sound aint' fantastic.

Metering is what I like most abut the unit, and I kind of wish other manufacturers would follow suit and adopt something similar.

The unit has 4 meters per channel (as opposed to 1 meter per channel like most other compressors on the market). It has a meter for both the input level as well as the output level so you can precisely set the make-up gain knob. and it also has seperate meters for the amount of compression, as well as the amount of downward expansion (or gating). Thats 4 meters per channel. Me likey'. Me likey that idea a whole lot.

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Now. For the sound?

To be honest, I have not used the unit in about a year so I probably shouldnt give you my opinion by memory. but I'll say this. The noise floor is sufficiently low. It could stand to be a bit lower, but definitely acceptable compared to how noisy a lot of "vintage" equipment can be. Alesis idiotic mistake here was putting 20 bit converters into these things instead of 24 bit converters. and while they were at it, they should have designed those 24 bit converters the same as their HD24XR, and had they done this. this would be one piece of sweet gear. but no sense talking about what they should have done instead of what they did... which was take a shortcut.

The sound is "clean". Most definitely in the transparent compressor category.

The compression is extremely pleasing and gentle in my opinion. That I can tell you is my subjective opinion. To my recollection, you can really slam the compression on, and yet it still sounds barely like your compressing so its much like one of Aphexes compellors which also has this unique quality of being transparent in its compression operation.

I don't normally set my compressors to do anything extreme on purpose, so I dont recall if you can get this pony to do any little tricks, and I doubt you much can for two reasons: (1) First, because its just too transparent it its operation, and (b) Secondly, because its a digitally based compressor, I think if you tried to intentionally slam it too much... all you would get is harsh digital artifact sh*t sound instead of smoothed out pleasing distortion effects like you might get in a decent analog unit.

I wouldn't say the unit produces "harsh" sound because its digital... but thats just my subjective opinion. I am used to dealing with very transparent equipment because ransparency is my preference. so "clean" or "harsh digital" sound doesnt sound harsh to me... it just sounds "real" like the way it should be.

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You can find them on e-bay and the price has been cut in half in the last 2 years. They used to be around $200, but now you should find them for around $100. I actually check from time to time because I really love these little units, and kind of would like to have some "back-ups" for whatever reason, maybe for live use or something.


Only problem I ever had was I blew one of these units out once, which may or may not be a sign that they are a little bit sensitive to overvoltage. In fairness, I was plugging and unplugging a defectiove high wattage space heater repeatedly, like 40 times (dumb, dumb, dumb) which was malfunctioning and was on the same circuit. ummm... I kind of think that was what blew it out :-) Still, as with most Alesis products, the unit is filled with integrated circuits (I reopair the units, I know them inside and out) so its a little on the flimsy side in comparison to units with discrete components.

The other problem is, since the units are digital, they have an inherent delay to them... so it would be more adviseable to use them for tracking than for adding effects during mixdown if your routing your signal from in the box, into these units, and then back into the box. You can set your DAW software up to compensate for this problem if you can figure out what the latency time is.


Oh, I'm a little less a fan of the PEQ 450 parametric EQ which is the CLX440's matching "sister" unit. You should probably buy one just to have a matching set since they are cheap enough. but the units really sound like crap when you change the filter "Q" beyond reasonable limits... Not bad for small tweaks though.

Comments

Pro Audio Guest Mon, 02/12/2007 - 07:17
5 Track Behringer Eurorack, 2 Behringer condensors, 3 Behringer Dynamics all for under £200 and a random digitech effects rack from 1708. But I dont care, i love them all and ive got some sweet sounds out of them. we all know kids thats its not just the equipment. And to be fair I run through logic express with god knows how many cracked plug ins I could make a fat man with the runs sound good.

Davedog Tue, 02/13/2007 - 09:45
All right....I'll admit to more. I also bought two of the ADK studio paks a few years back. A51 model V LDC and an SC1 SDC mic with clips and cords in each pak....Speaking of cords, these are GREAT BTW! Anyway....long story short, the A51's sounded okay but had some electronic problems after a year or so... Larry (owner of ADK) took great care of this and provided a set of new electronics for the mics.(I believe I got the newer electronics for Viennas)... I installed them and I gotta say, these sound GREAT. They are my secret weapon guitar amp mics. Used with cleaner settings, such as blues or country, the huge frequency response curve as well as detailed sensitivity, gives the amp that up front and in your face quality. Theres no harsh sizzle and no honk at all. I still love the 57 and the KEL HM-1 for this application, but if I want that intimate detail for electric guitar amp, this is where I go.

Then theres the SC1's. I use em live on the overs. These are cheap but NOT expendable. They make cymbals sound real. The pattern is a little wider than one would like for studio, and for acoustic intruments a bit honky....but something about the tone, does cymbals exactly as they should be. And for some reason, theres this separation of toms and cymbals in the voicing. These are very limited mics as to their usage but what they do is very very good...And for the price.....!!!!

Davedog Mon, 02/19/2007 - 22:25
The C3 is a very nice mic. Its well made and they really stand behind their products. I own a B3 which is unbelieveable at its price. No hyped anything and patterns.

BUT...Andy....Ask yerself..."Self, how good does my AT 2020 sound?"

And you'll find your multipattern mic choice will be an AT 4050. Save for it. Its that much better.

Davedog Tue, 02/20/2007 - 17:36
Andy...the 4040 is a nice mic. It is also the 'blandest' of the 40 series. I would say its a lot like the KSM32 that Shure makes. It will sound as much like the source as it can. It will never sound 'bad' but on vocals it'll never get to that special place. The 4050 will. As will the 4047.

The 4050 has patterns, and for me thats a no-brainer.

The 4040 will be a better sounding mic for you than the 2020 and so may prove the point about the 40 series as a natural step-up for you and how you like to record. Dont forget about the 4033 which is in a class by itself. NOT a suggested vocal mic per se, but a friend to all studios everywhere that have em.

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