Alesis airFX

alesis airFXThe Alesis airFX offers fifty of their well-established effects, with three (fixed) parameters that can be altered for any given patch. In this respect it’s similar to the Ineko and Akira devices. However, this unit is radically different to most in that you alter the parameters by a hand movement, like the ancient theremin or the Roland “d-beam”.

You connect the airFX via two phono sockets to any line-level sound source and output via two similar sockets. Moving your hand, (or any other body part!) through the invisible 3D sphere formed by the internal sensors, triggers the effect. You can move in any direction; up / down, left / right, in or out, and the three parameters are altered accordingly. When you have a sound you like, you can freeze it by pressing and holding the patch selection knob for a couple of seconds, after which you can remove your hand. The sound resets when you either press again or change patch. There is no other way to control the patches, sadly midi is completely absent.

The first 40 or so patches are used to process incoming signals. Each one works best with certain types of signal – I have about 10 settings that work well with my loops. The last few patches generate osound such as drums, synths, wind etc. These are great, but the output volume is massively higher than the processed input signal, so you have to watch out!

The unit delights me because it seems alive – you cannot realistically reproduce an exact sound live, so the performance is far more organic and physical than if you were turning rotary knobs. Don’t underestimate the visual appeal as well – many, many people come up after a set and ask what I was waving my hand about for 😉

Typically for Alesis, they have no plans to develop the airFX and it has been discontinued. However, they are still to be found quite cheaply and I wouldn’t be without mine!

Nick Robinson

Alesis air-FX User Manual (pdf)

Here is a list of patches with the Alesis description.

Special FX 1
0 Pitch Out Like holding your finger on a record player, slows it down then stops the music
1 Lord of the Flies A vocoder effect that fades between noise and synth tones
2 Vinylizer Feed your tunes through this scratchy record player
3 Percolator Your music bubbles to the surface through bandpass filter peaks
4 Frankenstein’s Lab Random tones to accompany your next experiment
5 Overdrive Makes your CD player sound like it’s been thrown out of a moving bus
6 Kenneth’s Frequency Like it’s being beamed from the killer satellites that follow you around
7 Horror Show Ultra-fast vibrato for creepy effects
8 Decimator Digital distortion that sounds like you’re chewing on sand
9 SunSpot Smoother, filtered distortion sounds great on drums
# Program Name Filters
10 Telephone Tight filter, great for thinning out the mix
11 Big Bottom Six-pole lowpass filter, perfect for synths and bass
12 Snake Bite Highpass filter, sucks all the bass out for icy sweeps
13 Bow Wow The Lowpass LFO Filter wags in time with the music
14 Smoke Like #13, but with a highpass filter for a thinner sound
15 AutoWah This “wah” is triggered by the music level
16 Formented Sounds like the music is coming out of someone’s mouth, great on a full mix
17 Streetsweeper Crazy filters that change frequency and panning when you wave right to left
18 Orlyfilter Beat-synced random filter keeps time with the music
19 Killswitch Notch filter adds a narrow sweep to the mix
Flange/Phase
20 Tokyo Phase Phaser with positive feedback, like wasabi for guitars
21 Phasors on Stun Other-worldly phasor with negative feedback
22 Liquid Metal 25-band phase shifter for amazing metallic stereo effects
23 Spin Cycle Rubbery stereo phasor that plays in time with the music
24 Psychofaze Trippy stereo phasor makes you see helicopters
25 AutoFaze Phase pulsates based on the level of the music, give it a heavy beat to play with
26 Ghost Flange Deep flanger kicks you back to the ’70s
27 Satellite Oscillating flanger, cool on pads and drums
28 Fazed Out Both a phasor and a flanger, for when a sound must be completely obliterated
29 Forever Flange Barber-pole flanger that keeps going and going…
Special FX 2
30 Strobe Gate Stuttering tremolo effect that keeps time with the music
31 Nervous A tremolo effect, it rapidly changes the volume up and down
32 Psychic Pan Autopanner in sync to the beat, too much makes the dancefloor get dizzy
33 Kung-Fu Panner Pan the music with your hand – it doesn’t get much cooler
34 Stop it! Kill the music with a wave of the hand, try it with applause for an ego boost
35 Freq It! Pitch shifter to change your voice or someone else’s
36 Pitch Transporter Pitch transposer goes up or down an octave. Munchkin power!
37 Gender Bender Another pitch transposer, this one goes up or down 4 steps
38 Waterbed Vibrato effect for everything from a subtle shake to a sickening wobble
39 Spin the Bottle Rotating speaker effect, it makes the room spin
40 Centrifuge Another rotating speaker, great for keyboards and guitars
41 Bottom Feeder Bass synthesizer adds punch and mass to any mix
# Program Name Description
42 Skratch! The sound of a record scratching. Chicka-chicka
43 Haunted Landscape Spooky wind effects to keep you up nights
44 Headhunter Talking drum, move your hand down faster for a louder sound
45 Beatbox Boombox: kick on the right and clap on the left. Keep away from breakdancers
46 Slap Synth Synth tone, move hand faster for a louder sound
47 Jungle Rip Bass synth slide, faster “hit” gets a higher pitch
48 War! Noise synth, watch the bullets fly
49 Sci-Fi Theatre Spooky synth tone for 50’s Sci-Fi movies

 


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