Lexicon PCM80 & PCM81 Questions, Tips, Tricks & Solutions

Discussion in 'The Rack Space' started by AnalogKid85, Mar 6, 2016.


  1. AnalogKid85

    AnalogKid85 Member

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    [​IMG]

    This is long overdue--if any FX processor needs a thread like this, it's this one! :)

    The DD500 and Nemesis threads really brought together a LOT of great info together, and I'm hoping to do the same with this thread. These units need it even more, because this is one where you have to know the "tips and tricks" just to get some of these effects to work in the first place!

    I've been programming a PCM80 and a Pitch Card for about two years now, and it's easily been the most rewarding experience I've had in the last 8 or 9 years that I've been into effects. It's really changed the way I've thought about a lot of things, and helped me save a LOT of money too (since I haven't had to go out and just buy everything I wanted--oftentimes, I found out that I could just program it here!).

    First off, a basic rundown of what these are, for those who aren't familiar with them...

    These are not 100% dedicated reverb units (though they are often confused with the Lexicon PCM90 and PCM91, which came out around the same time, and are dedicated reverbs)...nor are they your "typical" multi-FX units, ones that might sacrifice processing power to run FX and reverb under one roof...what these are--and what makes them so special--are dedicated reverb AND dedicated FX under one roof, using dedicated chips for both! Nothing is compromised, ever--if you see a Chamber verb in one algorithm that you like, then it's going to be the exact same Chamber in every algorithm where a Chamber appears (i.e. you'll never get a more "limited" version of Chamber in different algorithms--the parameters, power, and sound quality are always the same). Likewise, the FX never share resources with the reverbs either, so your power is always optimized there as well.

    The power of the reverbs in these things are well-attested (and I will certainly go into those here too), but I really want to spend some more time discussing the FX portion of this, since--along with its of LFOs, envelopes, and modular synth-like patching system--that's where most of the "mystery" lies with these units. Nothing is "ready-made" here (there's no "Chorus" or "Flanger" block anywhere), so unless you're lucky enough to come across a factory preset that has the effects you want, you'll have to know how to build it in the algorithms--and that is what I'm hoping to shed some light on here, more than anything else!

    Now, following up on the Vintage Rack Units thread and, in particular, this post, I'm going to break down all the different delays that go into the Chorus+Rvb algorithm--one of the best algorithms for guitarists to be found in this box, and also, possibly the most-optimized one for emulating analog effects :)

    In the Vintage Rack thread, I mentioned that these delays could all be synced to tap tempo...

    V1 Delay
    V2 Delay
    V3 Delay
    V4 Delay
    V5 Delay
    V6 Delay
    RefDelayL
    RefDelayR
    EkoDelayL
    EkoDelayR
    Reverb Predelay

    And here's how they all fit together in the Chorus+Rvb algorithm:

    [​IMG]
    That shows you where all the "Voice Delays" are, which are the main modulated delays--it's basically two groups of 3-tap delays (if you've ever used "Circular Delays"--that's a 3-tap delay, with the taps panned L - R - C as you go from shorter to longer), with feedback on EACH delay (very rare! on most multitap delays, only one of the taps will have feedback).

    That still leaves the RefDelays, the EkoDelays, and the Reverb Predelay, which can all be found here, inside the "reverb shell":

    [​IMG]

    Now here's one cool thing about Lexicons--the reverb has extra delays! Not just "predelay"--there's also the Reflection Delays (RefDlys) and the Echo Delays (EkoDlys), which you can utilitize with or without the reverb...so these really come in handy in the course of programming just delay-centric patches too--or even being the "main delays" if you've used up all your Voice delays doing other things (which can sometimes happen, especially if you're building a 6-voice chorus/flanger). Plates, Chambers, and Infinite verb types especially have the most to offer in this category, so anytime you see an algorithm with one of those, think to yourself that you just got 4 or 5 "bonus delays" ;) The EkoDelays are particularly nice, because they have diffusion ("smear") that re-circulates in the feedback path--one of the "magic" ingredients you don't find in a lot of delay units...so if you don't always find what you're looking for in the Voice delays, you might find it here in the reverb shell delays.

    Now, about the modulation...

    Each of the 6 voice delays has its own modulation rate & depth, so, much like the Rocktron Intellifex, or the Yamaha UD-Stomp/Magicstomp units, you can create some truly spectacular chorus, modulated delays, and combinations of both that even interact in ways that would not be possible to do with separate chorus and mod delay pedals. There are two "groups" of these--one with V1/V2/V3 and one with V4/V5/V6--and in each group, the delays are in parallel, but there is common feedback between each trio of delays, and each feedback can be positive or negative phase (great for flangers!). With very short delay times, multi-voice stereo flangers can easily be created, and with longer times (slapback and a little beyond), you can make clusters of echoes that border on modulated reverbs when all 3 feedbacks are engaged (very nice for swells too!)...all the while, all 3 voices can have different modulation going, so as everything gets fed back, all 3 delays get fed back into the line and then get "re-animated" again by all 3 modulators...so things can get very dense, very quickly! And that's just with one side--there's a whole 'nother one with all the same elements you can use, to either add to what the first side is doing, or

    By the way, I should mention that "side" here just means placement in the drawing--each voice delay has its own panning control, so you are free to pan any delay, anywhere in the stereo spectrum you want on either "side" of that drawing (or even pan it around in realtime with LFOs! I will definitely add more about this later).

    Now, the Voice delays are fairly easy to set up--you can easily set up simple stereo echoes by using one delay from each group (V1 & V4, let's say), turning up the feedback on just those delays, add a little modulation, tap tempo, high-cut, etc....fairly straightforward, and it just "works"; the Shell delays are a little bit different, though...

    If you look up at the drawing, you'll see that the RefDelays don't have their own feedback, but their signal path does go all the way to the output...and the EkoDelays do have feedback, but their signal doesn't go all the way to the output--reason is, the EkoDelays go through the RefDelays, so if you want to have just a "typical" delay sound out of these, all you have to do is set the RefDelay and the EkoDelay to the same delay time (or tap tempo rhythmic subdivision), turn both of their levels up, and then they will act like one "normal" delay. The EkoDelays also do something special here that the Voice delays don't in this algorithm, which is pass through the Diffusion on every delay repeat, so it will "smear" it over a larger amount of time as it feeds back, in a way that the time display won't fully account for (just something to be aware of when making rhythmic delays--sometimes, if you use too much diffusion, it can throw the rhythm off!)

    Now that is one extra step to go through just to set up a simple delay, but the nice thing here is that the RefDelay and the EkoDelay don't have to be the same time--and when you get into the different tap tempo rhythmic subdivisions, this is really nice, because you can really get some crazy patterns going when all 4 (RefL, RefR, EkoL, EkoR) are different :) And that's just the reverb shell delays! You can mix in as many voice delays as you want and create huge, intricate patterns, even ones that can be as dense as reverbs...the sky's the limit!

    One important distinction between the Shell delays and the Voice delays: while the Voice delays can be panned anywhere in the stereo field, the Ref & EkoDelays are by default panned "L" or "R," depending on which one you're using (there is kind of a way around this, but it involves some "tricks" which I will get to later :) ).
     
  2. PurpleJesus

    PurpleJesus Gold Supporting Member

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    Awesome information! Thanks for taking the time to write all that out. I hope this thread grows w info!!!
     
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  3. Bobby D

    Bobby D Member

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    badass.........such a great unit. Lexicon were an amazing company pre-Harman!

    paging @splatt
     
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  4. ellsworthman

    ellsworthman Silver Supporting Member

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  5. Black_Label

    Black_Label Silver Supporting Member

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    I've only scratched the surface on using my PCM 70 so far. Three things I've learned so far are:

    1. Only use it in the loop at line level.
    2. The stock patches are only a starting point. Edit those to create your own.
    3. I have no idea what most of the parameters do, but it usually ends up sounding great.
     
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  6. DigiTechRep

    DigiTechRep Silver Supporting Member

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    Harman buys Lexicon: 1993

    Lexicon releases the PCM 81: 1997
     
  7. AnalogKid85

    AnalogKid85 Member

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    Thanks, and I hope so too! There has been just too much "mystery" and bad/incorrect info floating around about these units for a while now, so I want to do my part to "de-mystify" it somewhat and let people know what's going on...and hopefully, attract some other users who have more experience with it than I do! Like I said, I've only been programming it for 2 years now, but there's people that have had this unit for over 20 years.

    I'd love to see some users come here with some more tips & tricks on the Res1>Plate and Res2>Plate algorithms--I can't say I've spent any significant time with those algorithms, but I am kind of fascinated by the resonator delays and what you can do with them. I think the Resonator algorithms have tremendous potential for ambient-soundscape and looping guitarists, because you could definitely program 8 chords or arpeggios there that could be "activated" by external percussion, or even samples (indeed, you can do similar things with the Pitch algorithms--but the Resonator gives you even more voices to work with).
     
  8. AnalogKid85

    AnalogKid85 Member

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    Nice to see you here, DigiTechRep!

    I'll add to that that the PCM80 came out in the "takeover" year (1993), and the DualFX Card, Pitch Card, Vortex, MPX-1/G2, and the :bow300/L all came out during this time period as well :D

    Now were the late 70s and 80s a greater period of "raw" innovation at Lexicon? Most definitely--that is where almost all of the great reverbs and FX structures were born...but the 90s is where the multi-FX really came to fruition in grand form, with the PCM, and later the MPX series.

    The 90s was also where Lexicon really got to make things more "portable" and reliable--you could get great reverbs like the 90 or 91 (both of which were capable of DUAL independent reverbs, by the way) all in ONE rackspace, and with the same great modifier & patching system from the 80/81. The older verbs were--and still are--some of the greatest achievements in the history of audio, but they still didn't do everything that could be done on the 90s Lexicon units, and they were definitely not as reliable either.

    The greatest achievement of Lexicon during the 90s, in my opinion, was the "OS" and the "modular" patching system of the PCM80/81/90/91--there hasn't really been anything that powerful available in any FX processor since then, with the exception of the bigger 2U Eventides (yes, not even the Eclipse can do a lot of what the PCMs can do in this area!). That and bringing the power of multi-FX and and reverb under one roof in so many great units, with dedicated chips--that cannot be overestimated really, when you look at the big picture.

    Not saying that I think every decision Harman has made since then has been good for Lexicon--but they definitely hit some home runs during this time period :) I do think they killed the PCM concept as it was a little too soon (there is still a PCM line, but it's a very different system now), but I think they deserve a lot of credit for at least allowing that to grow over the years and develop new algorithms and cards (like the Pitch and Dual-FX cards), and extend both the PCM80 and PCM90 into a new product life cycle (PCM81 & PCM91)...that at least allowed the market to be flooded with these amazing machines, which we can now get for such great prices :)

    Now, a question for DigiTechRep...

    I'm curious, how much of this "Lexicon OS" do you get to use in your Digitech designs?

    Personally, I think it's about time for Digitech (or Lexicon) to come out with their own "superverb" pedal like the BigSky and SPACE--the goods are definitely there!

    I know you can't comment on future product development...but let's at least get something going here ;) The momentum has been building at Digitech for a while with all the great new pedals since the Hardwire stuff came along--what better way to keep it going than by bringing out the full Lexicon verb experience to the floor?

    I don't think anybody's saying you'd have to get RANDOM HALL or anything from the PCM96 :rotflmao (don't want to "give away the store")...but CONCERT HALL with modulation from the PCMs, in a BigSky/SPACE-sized pedal...that would be a great achievement indeed :)
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2016
  9. Black_Label

    Black_Label Silver Supporting Member

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    I've read a little about the divide between pre-Harman Lexicon and post-Harman Lexicon but never really heard much about how things changed. What were the differences between the two eras and why do people seem to revere the early stuff?
     
  10. DigiTechRep

    DigiTechRep Silver Supporting Member

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    With our recent big Harman Pro re-org, what you describe becomes even more possible. I now have access to IP Harman-wide, not just the limited access I had previously. What that means exactly is still being determined. So, really interesting things are now more possible than ever.
     
  11. DigiTechRep

    DigiTechRep Silver Supporting Member

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    BTW I don't want to come across like I'm an authority on Lexicon, I most certainly am not! I just know some dates and few little tidbits of insider info.
     
  12. goodhonk

    goodhonk Member

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    Id like it more if i could only control the unit from my iphone 3 and it had cartoon graphics
     
  13. AnalogKid85

    AnalogKid85 Member

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    Tom, that is GREAT news! I'm very glad to hear that :)

    Just curious, when did the Harman Pro re-org happen?
     
  14. DigiTechRep

    DigiTechRep Silver Supporting Member

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  15. splatt

    splatt david torn / splattercell Gold Supporting Member

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    great!
    let's open up the vaults & pull-out the electrix repeater plans, then, and use them as the fundamental start-point for rocket-launching looper #1+ (viz., my silly old rant-thread).
    ha!
    you heard it here, first.
    ;)
     
  16. DigiTechRep

    DigiTechRep Silver Supporting Member

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    We don't own Electrix, they were bought by IVL.
     
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  17. splatt

    splatt david torn / splattercell Gold Supporting Member

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    well, look at the lexicon product roll-outs:
    forward motion in lexicon R&D stalled when executive & R&D staff disappeared, not long after Harman Corp. took control of the reins.

    what came before? damn!
    truly groundbreaking --- not hypey ********, at all --- reverbs & delays & "other", one after the other:
    prime-time, prime-time II, pcm41 & pcm42-MEO, pcm-60, pcm-70, pcm-80, JAMMAN (disappeared), VORTEX, LXP-series, MPX-series, MRC, lex 224, LARC, 224S, 480, 480L:
    there is NOTHING in that list that isn't absolutely (desirably, imo) usable today, nothing there that doesn't still absolutely kick sonic ass, even in relation to higher bit-and-sample rates, better ADC/DAC's, faster processors & what-have-you:
    dude.
    and, i'm no vintage-only freak --- not by a long-shot.

    what came after were "refinements" of those products, or descendants of them or whatever; not much to speak of.
    it could well be that lexicon's been on the increase, again, but i don't hear any more noises about innovation, breakthroughs or simply unbelievably high-quality stuff, as previously..... not hearing it.

    if they'll take a few cues from DigiTech --- another Harman company, but one which clearly means business, i'd say --- they'll pick up their game, again.
     
  18. splatt

    splatt david torn / splattercell Gold Supporting Member

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    IVL isn't held by Harman, tom?
    they were.

    ???

    ok, change-of-plan:
    we can mine the DigiTech and Lexicon vaults, and start there! sooooo much there.....

    j.k.
    don't worry!
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2016
  19. DigiTechRep

    DigiTechRep Silver Supporting Member

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    No, we've never owned IVL. We've partnered with them before.
     
  20. splatt

    splatt david torn / splattercell Gold Supporting Member

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    oopsy!
     

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