The AdrenaLinn 3’s predecessor garnered much praise when it was released in 2004, not least for the great value for money it presented. The AdrenaLinn 3 continues the theme.
At its heart, the AdrenaLinn 3 is an amp simulator and effects unit in the guise of a stompbox, although it’s certainly not a straight ahead unit. You also get MIDI control and, perhaps not surprisingly for a company famous for its drum machines, a drum sequencer.
In reality it’s more of a beat-box than a percussion sequencer. While there are 200 slots, the rhythms are two-bar patterns that are tricky to manipulate from the front panel, so no fancy fills and exotic variations are on tap. That said, the drum sequences sound juicy and certainly beat using a metronome for practising along to. Styles range from straight-ahead rock to swinging and syncopated patterns, encouraging you to try different genres as you play.
Of course, the important thing is the guitar processing. Amp-wise, simulations range from historic Fenders, Vox and Marshall models, though crunchier vintage Marshalls and Boogies, right up to the JCM2000 monster, Van Halen’s signature Peavey 5150 MkII, Boogie Dual Rectifier, Hiwatt and Soldano, with offerings from ENGL, Matchless and more. Bassists, too, can plug into Ampeg SVT, Fender Bassman and Gallien-Krueger rigs.
While you’ve no option to mix and match virtual cabs, or even mess with mic placement, the sims are sweet enough as they are. Just plug straight into an audio interface or mixing desk and enjoy a truly realistic-sounding backline. Even the high-gain models perform in a controllable way, probably thanks to an unobtrusive noise gate that’s new to the Linn 3.
The effects section is where it’s at, however. Delay, reverb, chorus, flange and more are all present. While the distortion sounds are good and analogue in tone, largely helped by a responsive compressor for Tufnel-esque, day-long sustain, the modulation effects are something else. How many studio hours have been wasted trying to get a tremolo effect to match the tempo of a song? The Linn 3’s tremolo locks to the beat-box’s tempo, so it can warble or ping-pong in stereo, in perfect sync. The same goes for chorus, flanger, pan and filter-sweep rates. There’s even the means to have the chorus follow the envelope of the note being played, rather than just cycling away at a set rate.
Auto-wah is notoriously difficult to get right but it’s well-implemented here. The same goes for the Talk Box effect, which emulates the classic Heil effect by using the dynamics of the note played as a control for the filter. The randomise and arpeggio functions are fun too; the former can randomise certain settings of select modulation effects, so you can have a flanger jump about all over the shop, in tempo, rather than just cycling. And the arpeggiator sequences are as you’d imagine: play simple chords and the Linn will bring in extra notes, similar to an arpeggiator on a synth.
Conspicuous by its absence is a USB port for direct link to a computer. It’s rare to find a desktop audio processor without a direct data connection for both on-screen patch editing and streaming audio and MIDI. The MIDI though is ideal for hooking up switches and expression pedals: up to ten of the former and two of the latter.
All is not lost when manipulating the AdrenaLinn 3 on computer, however. Third-party developer SoundTower has developed a patch editor for Mac and PC, with which you can edit effects, drum patterns and sequences on-screen, save your set-ups to disk and then load them onto the Linn via MIDI. At just £20, the SoundTower SoundEditor is a must-buy for those who like to delve into the guts of a device.
The AdrenaLinn does have its faults though. On lifting it out of the box, the preset knob came off. While the metal housing is reasonably sturdy, although not to same degree as say, a Boss stomp-box, the four endless rotaries along the top are tacky, along with the miniscule input-level knob and four mode-change buttons. The non-latching metal footswitches appear sturdy, enabling you to stop and start the drums, engage the main effect for the selected preset and more, but despite these, the Linn is simply not heavy-duty enough for live work (although you could invest in rugged MIDI foot controllers and tuck the unit away in the wings).
It also suffers an affliction similar to that of many hardware synthesizers: there are too few buttons for far too many functions, so programming it from the front panel, even with the clearly laid-out settings matrix, is a bit laborious.
The AdrenaLinn 3 is an unusual beast. It has some great amp tones, excellent effects control and some truly wild treatments that should satisfy even the maddest of you. It’d sit well in the studio and be a boon for struggling songwriters At the price, it’s a bargain. Just be prepared to sweat when attempting to master its finer programming points.