AdrenaLinn III

Sunday, May 3, 2009| by Will Chen

When the original AdrenaLinn was released in 2001, it really opened up a new world of beat-synched effects processing to guitarists in unique ways, which had only existed in our dreams before. The compact box was a king of the niche market it had created. As with all good ideas, the concept was copied and tempo-synched effects are now common practice within most higher-end effects processors. However, Roger Linn has continued to refine the unit, the latest of which is the AdrenaLinn III.

The AdrenaLinn III is a compact and pedal board friendly 7.25" (W) × 1.50" (H) × 4.50" (D), weighing around two pounds in a steel enclosure with two stomp switches, four knobs to modify parameters, two buttons to toggle matrix rows for programming, a toggle for parameter functions, and an input gain trim knob. The back panel features an input, left/right outputs, midi in/out jacks, headphone jack, and external power jack.

Programming the unit is matrix driven and fairly intuitive, but you’ll want to reference the manual to really understand exactly what you are hearing, due to the multiple functions of controls and the extreme versatility available.

...the real fun begins when you unlock the magic of the beat-synched modulation effects...As to be expected from the father of the drum machine, Roger Linn has taken an approach more akin to a synthesizer than a typical guitar processor.

The amp modeling offerings are surprisingly good with over 40 guitar and bass amp models, covering all the classics and then some. You don’t get the depth of programming you get from offerings by Digitech or Boss, but you don’t really need it. Generally, things sound good and are very easy and intuitive to dial in. The cleaner tones are lively, with excellent sustain and the heavy tones are capable of brutal amounts of chunk. The input trim knob also allows you to goose the input to get an absolute scorching sound, as if running a boost in front of the unit. In many modelers, there is a sameness about the tones, which renders the wide selection of sound down to a handful that are really usable. The AdrenaLinn III does not suffer from this ailment and the amps generally capture the prominent characteristics of their real life versions. Particularly impressive were the big warm lows of the Marshall JTM-45, the subtle breakup of the Fender Twin, the krang and tight low-end of the Marshall Plexi, and the Diezel VH4, whose ultra smooth breakup and cutting high-end were perfect for lead shredding. Also very impressive, was the restraint of the programmers of many of the unit’s presets, which were stripped down to really show off the wide range of amp modeled tones; a breath of fresh air in a market which usually hides their presets behind layers of delay and modulation. Kudos! However, the amp modeling is only the tip of the tonal iceberg.

The AdrenaLinn III features a full complement of delay and reverb effects, which are all more than capable of getting the job done, despite the fact that the reverb imparts a slightly bright tone which can be imposing for those who prefer more subtle ambience. But the real fun begins when you unlock the magic of the beat-synched modulation effects, as every modulation effect can be synched to either the internal metronome or an external device via MIDI. As to be expected from the father of the drum machine, Roger Linn has taken an approach more akin to a synthesizer than a typical guitar processor. Per the manual:

All of the Modulation Effects are created by passing the signal through one of 9 Filter Types and modulating the frequency of the selected filter with one of the Modulation Sources...For example, the Auto Filter effect is created by modulating the frequency of a Bandpass Filter with an Envelope Follower modulation source

Ok, you say, that's all Geek Speak to me, what does it mean? Quite simply, the AdrenaLinn III is extremely unique in its approach and is capable of sounds I’ve never heard from another unit, including a two measure programmable sequencer, which allows you to trigger melodic sequences from individual notes (ex the intro of John Mayer’s Bigger Than My Body). I literally spent hours jamming different time synched effects and barely scratched the surface. You can get almost any sound you can imagine from rhythmically complex stutters to whacked out spaceships ascending into the great beyond, and everything in-between. The shear versatility of the modulation effects block alone almost justifies the unit’s price.

For all its strengths, in usage the AdrenaLinn III is kind of stuck between identities. It’s small enough to appeal to pedal boarders who typically don’t embrace amp modeling and digital multi-fx units. However, in that application, the unit is grossly overpowered and a bit expensive. On the other hand, digital guitarists typically want more control out of their all-in-one units than the limited amount here (without an additional MIDI controller) may leave many wanting.

The AdrenaLinn III is a very impressive unit; one that not only provides a vivid aural palette for guitarists to create their tones, but is likely to inspire many to look beyond their typical tonal horizon. It’s no surprise that the AdrenaLinn III has made its way into many professional guitarists’ rigs, including John Mayer and Peter Frampton. In fact, I’m a bit surprised I don’t see it far more regularly…

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Price: $99 USD (Upgrade from Version I or II) to ~$400USD
Pros: Incredibly unique and powerful all in one multi effects processor.
Cons: Some will lament the lack of included real time control.

Filed Under: Reviews, Roger Linn Design