Zoë Blade's notebook


QuadraVerb tech specs

  • Released: 1989
  • Company: Alesis
  • Type: Effect
  • Audio in: Stereo pair
  • Audio out: Stereo pair
  • Control: MIDI
  • Display: 16×2 character LCD
  • Size: 1U

The QuadraVerb was a 1U rackmount, MIDI controlled digital effects unit made by Alesis in 1989. It could simultaneously provide a combination of EQ, chorus/flanger/phaser, delay, and reverb.

Pre-MIDI effects, such as the Boss Micro Studio Series, tended to be very hands-on, with a simple interface: each device performed only one effect, and each of its knobs affected one parameter.

Digital devices controlled via MIDI tend to be a bit different. On the plus side, they can be more versatile, performing many different functions, and offering flexible control over how those functions' parameters are set. On the down side, that increased flexibility makes for a more complex interface, especially when accessed chiefly over either MIDI or a handful of buttons and a 16×2 character LCD.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the QuadraVerb is its expressivity: you can route MIDI events to its effects parameters. For example, you can effectively make it listen in on the MIDI notation of a part you're applying an effect to, and make the notes' pitches or velocities affect how much delay or reverb they get. Or, for that matter, you can use MIDI control changes to affect up to eight parameters.[1]

Personally, I didn't get on with the QuadraVerb as much as I'd hoped I would, because I prefer making my own programs to using presets, and I dislike menu diving. Had I found an editor for it on the Atari ST, I might have stuck with it, as I did with the similarly complex and digital Yamaha TX81Z.

It was used by a lot of prominent early 1990s artists, but I'm not sure whether that was because of its great sound, its expressive MIDI modulation, or merely its relatively low cost.

It's probably best to say that individual pre-MIDI effect boxes like the Micro Studio Series gel better with multitrack recording a modular synthesiser one part at a time, with the devices working almost as additional modules. They're also quick and simple to use when noodling around recording single notes for sampling, to make them sound quirkier and more interesting. These happen to be my two main workflows, which might explain my own personal preference.

On the other hand, MIDI-era effects units like the QuadraVerb work better in conjunction with a MIDI sequencer and sampler, allowing for complex and consciously thought out precise control over its effects, and elevating the sequencer+sampler setup's sound above the dry output of a tracker.

Still, with only a single pair of inputs and outputs, you'd surely have to use it as an insert effect with a multitrack recorder for anything other than universal reverb. (Aphex Twin using one without a multitrack recorder explains why all the tracks on Selected Ambient Works 85-92 only have one effects chain, mostly just reverb.) And if you are just using it for universal reverb, a dedicated reverb unit might be simpler.


The QuadraVerb is dark and muddy, and has a nice arrangement of subtle pitch shifting, delays into reverbs, etc. It can be set up very nicely if you spend the time with it. I used it on all the tracks on Selected Ambient Works 85-92. It can be recreated with other units quite easily, but they're cheap as.

Aphex Twin, 2014[2]

Notable users


  1. "QuadraVerb manual" Alesis, pp. 93—94
  2. "Aphex Twin SYROBONKERS! Interview Part 2" Dave Noyze, 2014
  3. "~~ rephlex ~~ aphex ~~ drn ~~" Ben Middleton, alt.rave, Oct 1992
  4. "'Destroy' Aphex Twin studio photo circa 1993"
  5. "Aphex Twin Live in Paris" Apr 1993
  6. "Aphex Twin SYROBONKERS! Interview Part 1" Dave Noyze, 2014
  7. "Apollo Four Forty: Ad Astra" Sam Molineaux, Sound On Sound, Nov 1999
  8. "Aural Technology Redefined?" Simon Trask, Future Music, Jan 1995, pp. 51—53
  9. "Beat Dis" Mike Collins, Sound On Sound, Jun 1991, pp. 24—30
  10. "Lost in Trance" Phil Ward, Music Technology, Apr 1994, pp. 18—20
  11. "Fluke: '80s Dance & Modern Remixes" Nigel Humberstone, Sound On Sound, Oct 1994
  12. "Past, Present and Future" Simon Trask, Music Technology, Aug 1992, pp. 61—66
  13. "Future Talk" Simon Trask, Music Technology, Jan 1994, pp. 16—18
  14. "Calling Occupants" Maff Evans, Future Music, Mar 1995, pp. 61—63
  15. "Message In A Sample" Phil Ward, Music Technology, May 1993, pp. 36—42
  16. Everything Is Wrong Moby, 1995
  17. "The Magic Circle" Phil Ward, Music Technology, Jun 1993, pp. 56—60
  18. "Music of Spheres" Nigel Humberstone, Sound On Sound, Apr 1994
  19. "The Lone Raver" Tim Goodyer, Music Technology, May 1992, pp. 68—72
  20. "Prodigious Talent" David Robinson, Future Music, Feb 1993, pp. 31—34
  21. "Liam Howlett: The Prodigy & Firestarter" Paul Nagle, Sound On Sound, Sep 1996
  22. "Inner Space" Simon Trask, Music Technology, Jun 1992, pp. 44—50
  23. "Rack & Roll" Phil Ward, Music Technology, Dec 1993, pp. 20—22
  24. "Sub Culture" Phil Ward, Music Technology, Jul 1993, pp. 18—21




Alesis: ADAT | ADAT HD24 | MicroVerb III | MicroVerb III guide | QuadraVerb

Effects: DynaMike | MicroVerb III | Micro Rack Series | QuadraVerb | RV-1000