LEXICON REVERB REVIEW
by Mark King for Proworkshop.com
I've been a big fan of Lexicon digital reverb since 1984 when I acquired a new PCM-60 stereo digital reverb. Up until the day that piece arrived in my studio all my reverb effects were typically done with high quality spring reverbs. I also had a room upstairs in my house that had over 30 angled surfaces and a solid wood floor, when it was empty it had a great short reverb sound. I put a Fostex studio monitor in one corner of the room along with a widely spaced pair of microphones and used the room as a reverb chamber on lots of recordings.
I remember the day the Lexicon arrived, a good friend and bass player was over recording when UPS knocked on the door. It was incredible how fast we got that package open and installed. The sound was glorious, it had none of the dreaded spring reverb anomalies and it had real sustain. I used that PCM-60 for six years and then sold it for almost as much as I paid for it. I replaced it with other Lexicon reverbs that had more adjustable parameters and more algorithms. Ever since 1984 I've had at least one Lexicon reverb in my kit, today I've got five Lexicon rack mount reverb units.
PCM-92 AND MX200 HARDWARE
THE PCM-92 AND THE MX200 REVERB HARDWARE
These two units represent the high and the low end of the current Lexicon reverb product range today. the MX200 is $199 and the PCM-92 is $1799 (Sweetwater prices). The PCM-92 is essentially the exact same product as the much more expensive PCM-96, the PCM-92 does not have any Firewire connectivity like the PCM-96 does and the PCM-92 is stereo-only where the 96 has some surround capability by using the Firewire connections.
Lexicon has not been very good about keeping the drivers up to date for the PCM 96 so you should do your homework and be sure it will be compatible with your DAW if you're planning on going that way. The PCM-92 only processes audio through its analog inputs and outputs or AES digital input /output, there is no DAW integration which is perfect in our studio where we mix on an analog console.
The PCM-92 has midi in-out-thru on the rear. It also has two 1/4" jacks, one is for an expression pedal and the other is for a bypass footswitch.
The MX-200 has two midi jacks on the rear, one for midi in and one for midi thru/out combined. There are RCA/phono connectors for SPDIF digital input and output. The MX200 has one TRS 1/4" jack to control bypass on the two processors independently.
We have two of the MX200 in the Proworkshop studio, one is dedicated to the snare drum track, the other is available to be patched on whatever it's needed on (usually the featured guitar track).
Both of these units have the classic Lexicon reverb sound, they sound like acoustic spaces, not blasts of steam. Many lesser quality reverbs lack this elusive acoustic sound quality.
In a recent reverb shootout we compared all our Lexicon reverbs with various units from Alesis, TC and Behringer on percussive sounds. We repeatedly chose the Lexicon units over the others because the reverb sounded like the source only with ambience added. The Behringer had very nice reverb qualities as well but the Lexicon pieces were repeatedly our chosen favorites in that round of listening tests.
In the Proworkshop studio we usually use the PCM-92 set to Fat Plate as a vocal enhancement and it pretty much lives in that position because it sounds so good on vocals. I would describe the PCM-92 sound quality as sweet. There is a smoothness and gentle quality to the PCM-92, this lets it slide right into a mix and disappear like a ghost, but mute the output and suddenly you'll realize how much the PCM-92 is contributing without becoming obtrusive.
One of our MX200s lives on the direct output from the snare drum mixer channel. It has some of the classic Lexicon algorithms that you've heard on countless classic rock recordings.
The MX200 has knob controls for pre delay and decay time right on the face of the unit. The MX200 has two processors which are connected in series internally. Each processor has its own mix control so if you only want to use the second processor you can set the first one to dry only.
The PCM-92 is a complex piece to operate and definitely requires the manual to fully implement what is on offer. The PCM-92 does not have a user friendly control layout, it requires a cryptic combination of button presses and knob turns to navigate through the menus, we keep a pdf of the manual on the desktop of our DAW for easy referral. There is no mono input, stereo output configuration on the PCM-92, if you want to use it like this you must externally Y-connect the two inputs and feed them with the same signal.
Where the PCM-92 is difficult to use, the MX200 is fast and simple. Algorithms are selected on the front panel by dedicated up-down rocker switches. All the algorithms on offer are shown in a front panel matrix of LED indicators, it is fast and intuitive to operate. There is a dedicated predelay knob on the front of the MX200 which makes it very quick and easy to adjust this important parameter to fit the song and the tempo. A dedicated knob for decay is also provided, this makes it very easy to tweak the reverb to sit in the mix just right.
AUDIO AND POWER CONNECTIONS
The PCM-92 has combo XLR-F/TRS inputs and both XLR-M and TRS output jacks. All the inputs and outputs are balanced. The PCM-92 has the power supply built in and it has vents in the top and bottom of the unit which means you should leave air space for it between other pieces of equipment.
The MX200 has balanced TRS inputs and outputs. It uses an external 9-VAC wall wart for power (we hate these things mainly because they're difficult to mount out of the way and they induce noise into nearby audio cables). There are no vents on the MX200 but it should not be mounted between two other hot pieces of equipment. Our studio racks are designed to leave 1/4" of air space between every piece of equipment. Heat is one of the worst enemies of electronic equipment.
The MX200 is the best economy reverb Lexicon has ever offered and even after being on the market for over 10 years it continues to sell well. For $199 it is a no-brainer reverb choice for mixing out-of-the-box.
The PCM-92 is the best sounding mid priced reverb on the market today, it offers the depth and professional sound studios have come to expect from high end Lexicon products. I wish that Lexicon would create an app for editing the PCM-92, adjusting the unit and the user interface is definitely its weakest feature.
You can read more reviews and specifications for the PCM-92 on the Sweetwater web site.
You can read more reviews and specifications for the MX-200 on the Sweetwater web site.
You can read more reviews and specifications for the MX200 on Amazon.
We purchased our PCM-92 and one MX200 from Sweetwater.
One of our MX200 was purchased from Amazon