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Hands-On Review: Lexicon MX400 and MX400XL Processors

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Plug-in technology, USB, and legendary effects

By Ed Samuels

The MX400 and MX400XL are single rackspace, dual-stereo/surround reverb processors that follow on the heels of the popular MX200 and share that unit’s "Hardware Plug-In" technology, USB control, and VST/Audio Units interface for use with software, while adding a large LED screen, four-in/four-out I/O, and two additional operating modes. The MX400 has TRS balanced I/O while the MX400XL has XLR I/O.

Hall of fame

The 17 reverbs include the large hall settings that made Lexicon famous decades ago, plate reverbs, plus many room, chamber, and gated reverbs. Many of the excellent delays allow you to tap in the tempo via the front-panel button. A full palette of modulation effects includes chorus, phasing, flanging, tremolo, vibrato, and pitch-shift.

The dbx dynamics processing gives the unit an additional set of capabilities particularly useful for vocals, including a stereo de-esser and compressor. The unit’s presets are organized into 99 factory and 99 user presets for stereo use, and another 99 factory and 99 user patches in dual-stereo format. Surround sound aficionados will find plenty of four-channel surround algorithms, assembled in groupings of 25 factory and 25 user slots.

Plug-in programming

Run a USB cable from your Mac or PC to the MX400 and it appears as a plug-in to any VST- or Audio Units-compatible software, with all presets ready for access, recall, and editing on your desktop. Because you’re drawing on the MX400’s hardware power and I/O, this is done without taxing your DAW’s processor like other effects plug-ins. Included MX-Edit™ software lets you store and recall custom programs easily or choose from among 223 Lexicon settings with the convenience of drop-down menus.

Live Lexicon

For live front-of-house sound applications, the MX400’s studio-quality effects are easy and intuitive to use. The front-panel control surface features a new and improved interface with a large backlit LCD screen that makes it easy to adjust parameters and access menus.

Lexicon MX400 Dual Stereo/Surround Reverb Effects Processor

Scrolling through menus or adjusting parameters is kept to a minimum, however, as the unit’s blue front-plate features various knobs for hands—on adjustments. These include Input Gain Level, a Page Select knob for effects and system menus, three dedicated parameter knobs, and a factory/user program select knob. There are buttons for Exit, Tap Tempo, Bypass, System Menu, and Store/Copy.

Seven routing options and the four-in/four-out configuration allow great versatility, and handle setups ranging from quad mono to stereo to dual stereo and more. This flexibility allows you to stack effects, run different effects for different channels on your board, and perform other routing and rerouting tasks, all from the front panel without having to unplug and re-plug cables.

Effects wizard

I put the MX400 through its paces in my home studio. Getting it up and running was easy, never necessitating opening the manual. The rich sounds gave a new dimension to my home studio productions. Classic large hall Lexicon reverbs like Rich Drum Hall and Echoverb gave enormous ambience to drum, acoustic piano, and vocal tracks. A Big Pop Vocal patch combined hall reverb with a studio delay for focused yet evocative sound. The shorter plate reverbs gave percussion more punch. There’s a realistic spring reverb provided for retro fans.

Modulation effects include chorus, flanging, and phasing. They add the desired fluidity and transparency to electric and acoustic guitar sounds as well as bass.

The jaw-dropping special effects patches probe the outer limits of processing. Patches like Voice of Evil and Huh? create amazing sonic convolutions with massive low-end pitch shift layered with reverse delays and reverbs. These effects would be perfect for soundtracks, techno, hip-hop, and ambient productions. The dbx dynamics processing and de-essing are welcome vocal enhancers, and can be chained with the other effects.

Final mix

After decades of recording drum tracks I still remember the first time I heard how the sound of a snare drum was enhanced when the engineer "put a little Lexicon" on it in the form of digital reverb. Lexicon still rules when it comes to pure sonic quality. The MX400 and MX400XL make an incredible addition to the gear rack of musicians, producers, sound designers, and others who desire exceptional effects without dropping a bundle. The plug-in technology and software editing facilities make them especially alluring for computer-based production. In a music world that’s always changing, the classy Lexicon sound is as good and inimitable as ever. That it comes in an economical package that’s easy to work with and stays current with the latest technology is great news indeed.

Lexicon MX400XL Dual Stereo/Surround Reverb Processor

Lexicon MX400

  • 17 reverbs
  • 6 delays
  • 7 modulation effects
  • dbx® compression and de-essing
  • Quad-processor design
  • 7 effect routing options
  • 99 factory/99 user stereo programs
  • 99 factory/99 user dual-stereo programs
  • 25 factory/25 user surround programs
  • USB "Hardware Plug-In"
  • VST® and Audio Units compatible
  • MX-Edit™ editor/librarian software
  • Dual S/PDIF digital I/O
  • 24-bit, 48kHz/44.1kHz sample rates
  • Large front-panel LCD display
  • MIDI IN and THRU
  • 1/4" balanced/unbalanced TRS I/O

Tags: Recording Signal Processors

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