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Sherman Filterbank 2 Compact

Effects Processor
By Rory Dow

Sherman Filterbank 2 Compact

The Filterbank's status as an analogue sound mangler is legendary. Can this smaller variant keep it relevant in the modern world?

after spending most of the 1980s making proto-industrial new beat music, Herman Gillis turned his attention to electronic musical instruments. He'd always tinkered with electronics for his various bands, but in the early 1990s he decided to focus on it full time and in 1995 early prototypes of the Sherman Filterbank appeared. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Filterbank is based around two flexible, 12dB/oct, multimode filters. Throw in a beastly input overdrive circuit, pitch tracking, frequency modulation, amplitude modulation, envelope following, an LFO, flexible routing and a generous number of audio, MIDI and CV inputs/outputs, and you have an effects unit that can turn its hand to many tasks in the studio and on stage.


The Filterbank 2 Compact is the latest variant, of which there are several (see the 'All The Options' box), and the layout and functionality is almost exactly the same as the Filterbank 2, bar a few very minor tweaks. The smallest Filterbank to date (3700 x 1200 x 440 mm), the biggest change is in its height, with the older Filterbank 2 standing twice as tall. Also, the audio and MIDI ports are on the top of this unit, rather than on the rear, which is great for a tabletop setup: you don't lose space to cables sticking out the rear, and re-patching, which you'll want to do often, is easy.

Audio inputs and outputs are on mono 6.35mm TS unbalanced jacks. As well as the main audio input and output there are a number of audio and CV connectors, including FM input, ADSR trigger, ADSR output, amplitude modulation input, AR trigger and a separate output for filter 1. A pedal input allows you to toggle bypass with a footswitch, and a modified pedal can be used to control filter 1's frequency.

The lack of connectivity on the rear panel is intentional — with all the I/O on the top panel, the Compact lives up to its name.The lack of connectivity on the rear panel is intentional — with all the I/O on the top panel, the Compact lives up to its name.Nestled among the audio sockets are five MIDI ports: an input, an output and three (yes three!) thrus. The input can be used to control various things, like filter cutoff, FM amount, AM depth, and envelope settings. You can trigger the AR and ADSR using specific MIDI notes. The envelopes also send MIDI notes when triggered, though the knobs don't send MIDI control changes. Then there's the three MIDI thru ports. It's not clear why there are so many, but in my years of using a Filterbank 2 in the studio they've come in handy several times.

The front-panel controls are laid out pretty much in signal-flow order. At the left, the input gain allows for attenuation or amplification of the input signal. The 12 o'clock position is roughly unity level. Boosting the signal quickly results in a beautiful overdrive which ranges from subtle warming to total distortion. The input level also adjusts the trigger sensitivity for the ADSR and AR envelopes. A three-way switch allows you to boost or cut high frequencies in the amplifier circuit.

The output, on the right, is controlled...

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Published August 2019