Powerful, pristine performance/recording effects for a whole lot less!
By Bill Bradbury
Lexicon has long been hailed as the king of digital reverb. The amazing range of 24-bit reverbs on the Lexicon MX200 leave no question as to why. And, though it’s called a Dual Reverb Effects Processor, this unit has a whole lot more going for it than just reverb. Compression, reverse delay, pitch shift, rotary, tremolo, vibrato, phaser, flanger, and chorus effects are added to a broad range of longer delays. I was amazed by the phenomenally clean sound quality. Its USB port makes the MX200 the perfect hardware plug-in for any computer recording software—such as Cubase—that uses the VST or Audio Units protocols. All this makes it very clear why the MX200 has become such a popular unit, especially when you consider its independent twin processors, 99 user presets, 99 factory presets, and ultrafriendly price tag.
Touching the void
My nephew Brandon recently got into computer recording. At 19 he’s not bringing down a pile of excess moolah. So, at my prompting, he scored an interface and cadged some software from a generous uncle. Now he’s obsessed with recording his alt band on his laptop. Unfortunately that laptop is a few years old and the high-end reverb software plug-in I sent him uses up so much processing power it causes nasty stuff like noisy glitches, reduced track count on his sequencer, and even playback stoppage.
He called me to whine and I’ve since discovered a black hole where there should be a less resource-intensive software plug-in that still sounds good. Then I got the MX200 for review. It didn’t occur to me this could be the solution to Brandon’s issues until I noticed the USB port on the back. In the manual I quickly discovered that the MX200 works as a hardware plug-in with VST or Audio Units protocols.
Straightaway, I loaded the drivers and hooked it to my system to discover it even has a very user-friendly cross-platform plug-in window that looks and works just like a software plug-in without burdening your CPU. The MX-Edit editor/librarian lets you edit each of the 99 user presets and adjust the 99 factory presets just as if you were working from the unit’s front panel.
Johnny on the spot
Though I was first impressed with its prodigious computer savvy, the MX200 is also built to shine in live applications. Two independent processors are controlled by three knobs and three buttons each. They can be activated in any of four possible routing configurations: dual stereo (parallel), cascade (serial), mono split, or dual mono. Tap twice on the same button to save the result with the effects settings on both processors. Simply turn the jog wheel to call up your presets and push it to activate. The preset bank is so cool, I doubt if I’d ever need to create my own, but if I do, the process is a piece of cake. Finding the right preset for recording is made a lot easier by the audition button which provides digital samples of a hi-hat hit, snare hit, bass-drum hit, vocal, and guitar chord to test the various reverbs.
Each processor features a tap tempo button, an effect selector that lights LEDs next to the listed effects including 16 types of reverb, six longer delays, and 10 special effects. A bypass switch lets you instantly remove the processor from the loop. Input and wet/dry mix control knobs for each processor make setting your levels a breeze.
The MX200’s back panel features a footswitch jack for an optional two-button footswitch that gives you independent bypass control of each processor. MIDI I/O allows full MIDI control of the unit, including presets and individual effects controls. S/PDIF I/O gives you more options and lets you avoid unnecessary D/A/D conversions. Left (mono) and right 1/4" ins and outs provide primary access.
Breath of fresh air
The MX200 impressed me most in its sheer musicality and clarity of sound. I used it as a guitar processor in the effects loop of my tube amp and was thoroughly satisfied with its performance and ease of use. It is extremely guitar-friendly and produced truly professional-quality sound that I wouldn’t hesitate to use on any gig. Integrated with my computer-based studio gear it performed admirably as well, whether working with guitar, bass, drums, flute, or vocals. I have a pair of reverb units that each cost over five times what the MX200 cost and in some ways the MX200 kicked their butt—not just in flexibility but also in the quality of some of the reverbs—particularly the vocal hall, large hall, and chamber effects.
All in all, the MX200 completely blew my mind. This level of quality and functionality is not unheard of. But to find them at this price point definitely is. Brandon is going to be one very happy nephew.
Features & Specs
- 16 legendary Lexicon reverbs
- 6 delay types
- De-esser, compressor, chorus, flanger, phaser, tremolo/pan, rotary, vibrato, pitch shift, detune
- USB computer interface
- VST and Audio Units cross-platform hardware plug-in software
- MX-Edit editor/librarian
- Dual-processor design
- Tap tempo
- 4 routing configurations: dual mono, cascade, dual stereo (parallel), mono split
- 99 factory/99 user programs
- 24-bit/48kHz sample rate
- S/PDIF digital I/O
- 1/4" balanced/unbalanced I/O
- Required for computer connectivity: Pentium III, 500mHz or better, Windows XP, service pack 2 or higher; Mac OSX 10.3 or higher