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Alesis Microverb IV

Alesis reverbs seem to get ever‑more cheap and cheerful. But can low price and simplicity go hand in hand with studio‑quality performance? Paul White finds out.

Ask Alesis owners why they use Alesis effects, and they'll probably tell you it's because their products offer the right balance of quality and price — but I think it goes further than that.

Part of the success of the Alesis product range must surely be attributed to their sensible marketing policy, where every product is given a name that leaves you in no doubt as to what you're getting. While other companies confuse the potential buyer with dozens of outwardly similar products that sound as though they've been named after food additives or Skoda spare parts, at least you know what to expect from Alesis. A Microverb is going to be a simple‑to‑use effects device centred around presets, a Midiverb is likely to be more comprehensive but still pretty easy‑going, while a Quadraverb is certain to run the full gamut of multi‑effect mayhem, with all the bells and whistles. Alesis don't necessarily give you the most effects for your money, but they tend to deliver on sound, and with the possible exception of the rather sophisticated Q2, operation is generally straightforward and intuitive.

The Microverb IV, as its name implies, is the fourth product to bear the Microverb crest, but unlike its ancestor which offered only 16 switchable presets in a one third rack‑width case, the 1U Microverb IV comes with 100 factory presets plus a further 100 user patches. The idea is that you can call up any factory patch, change just two key parameters via the front panel controls, then store the edited patch in user memory. This isn't all that far removed from the Lexicon Alex operating system, except that the Microverb IV has more presets and more user memories. The effects balance and output levels are controlled via conventional knobs, and are not stored along with the patches.

While the original Microverb was a reverb‑only device, the Microverb IV is a multieffects processor which appears to employ the same technology as the Midiverb IV, making it capable of extremely clean and natural‑sounding effects. Admittedly, the effects are mainly one at a time: reverb, chorus, flange, delay and pitch shift, but there are a few multi‑effects options too. These comprise up to three simultaneous effects, as well as a handful of dual‑send patches, where each of the two inputs is processed by a different mono‑in, stereo‑out effect. For those with no other effects units, this latter mode provides a means to add, for example, reverb to some channels of a mix, and delay to others.

The Black Box

The Microverb IV package is spectacularly slim, but even so, the inside of the case is mainly empty due to the use of custom circuitry for most of the hard work. Power comes from the usual external adaptor, and the display is a simple three‑digit LED window. The only two buttons are labelled Bank and Store. Bank toggles between the user and preset banks, but is also used to set up the MIDI channel for the unit. MIDI In and Out/Thru connections are fitted, allowing patches to be called up via MIDI, or edited patches to be dumped and reloaded from an external MIDI device, while a footswitch jack enables the effects to be bypassed in live situations. A data entry wheel is used to skip through the patches, or to set the MIDI channel when used with the Bank/MIDI button. A pair of LED level meters monitor the input to the processor.

Two parameters per patch may be controlled in real time over MIDI using controller information, but these are factory set, not user‑configurable. The manual warns that the chorus effects may glitch if the chorus depth is changed while a signal is passing through the unit, but no such restrictions would appear to apply to the other parameters.

In Use

As expected, the Microverb IV is staggeringly easy to use, but for those who haven't yet heard the Midiverb IV (with which the Microverb IV has much in common), the real surprise will be the sound quality. It is noticeably better than anything in the III series, and indeed, rather cleaner than the original Quadraverb. The reverbs are bright, smooth and very open‑sounding, without the metallic harshness often associated with budget effects units, while the multieffects programs all have a nice sense of depth and movement.

Alesis don't necessarily give you the most effects for your money, but they tend to deliver on sound.

In fact, other than the simplistic editing system, everything about the Microverb IV proclaims professionalism. The pitch‑shifter only really works well for detuning effect, but units costing ten times the price have the same problem. All pitch shifters of this type work by breaking up the original sound into a stream of very short, looped samples, and as the amount of shift is increased, the modulation caused by the looping process makes the sound appear out of tune. For amusing (well, it was once...) voice effects and sci‑fi sounds, this isn't a great problem, but for more musical applications, you have to be very careful to hide the shifted sound behind something else.

The modulation effects, on the other hand, are all very smooth and flattering, and the usual stalwarts are augmented by a Leslie speaker simulator and an autopanner, which can be speed‑controlled via MIDI if required.


I sometimes get quite nostalgic when I see reviewers going on about the lack of features on reverb units, because for the first few years of my recording career, all that was available was a spring reverb with no parameters at all. The only way you could reduce the decay time was to jam bits of cotton wool between the springs, and if you wanted pre‑delay, you had to rig up your Revox as an echo unit. Try telling that to kids of today, and they won't believe you! Spring? You were lucky — we used to 'ave to put oor 'eads int' galvanised bucket and sing!

Digital reverbs provide far more flexibility than that, but I've spent more time than I care to admit tweaking reverb and effects patches, only to find that in the context of the mix, I can't tell the difference between the edited patch and the original. Very often, the only parameters that make any significant difference are decay time and brightness, both of which you can change on the Microverb IV.

If, like me, you belong to the 'life's too short for buggering about' school of sound creation, you may find something like the Microverb IV fills most of your processing needs — though it's always good to have at least one heavyweight multieffects device in the rack, for special 'fire and brimstone' effects. That being the case, I'd have no hesitation in recommending the Microverb IV to anyone looking for a simple effects unit that doesn't skimp on quality. This really is a very versatile effects processor that would make an ideal second or third processor in a serious project studio, yet it's flexible enough to use as the main processor in a budget‑conscious home studio. Personally, I opted to pay the little extra for a Midiverb IV, which offers a little more editability plus the ability to name patches. If the Microverb IV had been around at the time though, I would have been very tempted. It's a great little unit that sounds a lot bigger than it looks.

The Effects

The Microverb IV has two inputs and two outputs, though for all but the dual effect configurations, only the dry input is maintained in stereo, while the effect is generated from a mono mix of the left and right inputs. This is the most conventional way to use an effects unit, and when used in a mixer send and return loop, the left input may be used on its own and the mix control set to full up.

The Concert Hall, Real Room and Plate reverbs have user control over Decay and High Cut but not over pre‑delay. In the Chorus/Flange section is a selection of stereo chorus/flange effects, plus multi‑tap chorus (four taps) and Autopan. On all these effects, the Rate and Depth may be adjusted.

Delays are available in mono or stereo, including ping pong and triple‑tapped variations with control over Delay Time and Feedback. The longest delay time is the mono delay, which goes right up to 1270mS.

Pitch shifting can be used for transposition or for detuning, with control over both coarse and fine shift, up to a maximum of plus or minus one octave. That leaves the Multieffects patches, which comprise up to three effects at once, and provide control over Decay time and effect Rate.

In the Dual Effects section, the choices are Reverb/Delay, Reverb/Chorus or Reverb/Flange, with the edit knobs doing different jobs depending on which combination is selected. Reverb/Delay mode gives the user control over reverb decay and delay time, while Reverb/Chorus and Reverb/Flange allow the adjustment of reverb decay and chorus/flange rate.


  • Very clean, 'expensive' sound.
  • A doddle to use.
  • Useful multi and dual modes.


  • Pitch shifter still not stunning.


If the Microverb IV was alive, it would be living proof that you can combine low cost and simplicity with professional performance.