Alesis Microverb 4

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The Microverb 4 is a 1U rackmountable FX unit. Contained behind its (sparse) front panel is an 18-bit true stereo digital signal processor. The Microverb is an essentially preset FX unit, but does provide for some tweaking.
You have acces to two parameters of each sound, as well as input / output / mix. Each control has a dedicated knob. There is also a three digit LED display, two associated buttons, (store and bank/midi) and a large dial.
Alesis have provided 100 user storage locations (for FX that you have created), and 100 presets, which are simple generic FX, that you can alter and then store in user location.

Round the back of the unit, there is the a power socket. Power is supplied through a small wall wart plug, and although it is very small (fitting happily on a plug block next to other plugs), it is still a wall wart, and I would much prefer it if Alesis has supplied the Microverb with an IEC power inlet. However, this would probably have increased the price. There is also a footswitch, which provides access to the tap tempo and bypass functions. Next up there are midi in and out connectors. (Midi is discussed further here). Finally there are the input and output sockets, all supplied in stereo on 1 / 4" unbalanced jacks.

The effects are split in to eight discrete sections (handily illustrated on the front panel) :

Hall Room Plate Chorus / Flange Delay Pitch shift Multi effect Dual send

The first three of these sections covers reverberation effects, and between them, they cover the first third of the effects available. The reverbs are smooth and warm, or harsh and bright, and any stage in between, depending on where you start. But they all have one thing in common - they sound (considering the price of the microverb) unbelievably good! You can rapidly find a reverb for any sound, and the presets that Alesis have provided are a sensible starting point in almost every case.
Chorus and flange effects take up the next 19 effect ‘spaces’. These on the whole are not the greatest examples of their type, however in small amounts they can add an nice stereo width to a sound. I think that the problem with these effects is that in general they tend to ‘swamp’ the sound, making it very ‘mushy’ in the mix, and difficult to EQ properly. They do have a place though, and it is handy to have them as a back up chorus.
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The next 19 spaces are taken up with delay effects. WITHOUT A DOUBT THIS IS THE BEST SECTION ON THE MIDIVERB! The delays provided here ARE NOT the average straight delay that is provided with a budget FX unit of this type. Almost all of the delays are swung, or have multiple taps, which turn boring, lifeless loops in to mind bendingly groovy beats!
Pitchshift effects take over 19 spaces as well, and these are useful, if nothing else. Fairly uninteresting, a ‘does what it says on the tin’ kind of effect.
The Multi effect bank is next. This allows effect combinations to be used (such as chorus / reverb). This is not as great as it seems at first glance, as you will soon see!
Finally we have the dual send section. This allows each audio path (ie left or right) to be used as a mono effect. In this way you can have a delay on the left channel and a seperate, independent reverb on the right channel.

The unit operates smoothly, and also very intuitively, as a result of the ‘cutdown’ control panel.

As there are only two parameters available for adjustment, nice-sounding effects can very quickly be created. As values are entered by the front panel knobs, the display changes to give a readout of the current value. Patches can easily be visually assesed due to the Microverb’s ‘one-knob-per-function’ approach. The metering provided is better than on any effect unit I have seen at this price thus far, and consists of two (one per channel) 5 LED bar graphs. These have an unusual characteristics, not mentioned in the manual. Alesis describe the meters as :

4. Level Meters. The level meters display the signal level coming in to the Input.....

However, in practice the meters actually seem to be connected to both the Input and Output. The main bar graph meters only light for the inputs, however, the peak hold lights seem to reponds just to the output. An example of this in use, is that you see the m’verb is clipping, so you back off the input level control. The overall level of the m’verb output drops to well below clipping point, and yet the clip lights still flash as if a signal is clipping. So you back off the output, and the clipping stops. I am not sure if this is a built in design, (if you are know please email and let us know) or my microverb doing strange things (which it has a habit of doing, admittedly usually when I am using it in a strange way!). If it is part of the original design, then it is a fantastic piece of engineering! Thank you Alesis designers for giving us meters that are not only dual purpose but also incredibly easy to use. The sound of the unit is also very clear (18bit converters) and the effects themselves have a nice warmth - they don’t sound overtly digital. PAIA Tube head

That's the good stuff, so what is wrong with the unit? Well, the list is a fairly long one. Firstly, there is the slim number of controls on the unit itself. I do like to edit sounds more extensivly, and as a sound creation tool the unit is not ideal.

In my opinion, the absence of a dedicated bypass control and tap tempo button is criminal. I find that these are two of the most necessary controls, and although they can be added through the use of footpedals, this does obviously mean that extra cost is incurred.

The MIDI implementation is also woeful. NONE of the panel controls transmit midi, and only edits A and B can recieve midi controllers; although not on every program. Nowhere in the manual do Alesis say which ones cannot be controlled. The unit cannot recieve midi clock, only program changes. Not amazing!

Also (and worryingly) the microverb seems overly susceptible to hum. Depending upon the power supply used, the Microverb can emit a humming at about 50Hz and a matching signal at about 2k. However, in my current setup (which is on a seperate ring from any heavy appliances, such as fridges) this noise issue has not presented itself. PAIA Tube head

So what are my conclusions? After reading my criticisms you could believe that I disliked the Microverb, which couldn’t be further from the truth!
Simply for the delay banks, the microverb is worth the money. In all honesty I would pay the cash for a Microverb simply for patch 158 - ambient dance echo effect. Hear it at work on Festiver. It is a stunningly funky, twisted stereo delay. Works on everything.
If used as a subtle mixing tool, then the Microverb is perfectly suited. Just don’t try to use it to bend your sounds!