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XIX EH1901; CP1902; ME1903

Enhancer; Compressor; Multi-effects Unit By Paul White
Published July 2000

XIX EH1901; CP1902; ME1903

What do you get when you take three from Nineteen? A compressor, an enhancer and an effects unit... Paul White explains.

This aggressively priced, eyecatchingly styled new rack outboard range from XIX (Nineteen) is aimed unashamedly at the cost‑conscious end of the project‑studio market. Though the three units launched so far might be considered to offer nothing that can't be found elsewhere, despite their low cost, each of the designs incorporates an 'added value' twist. There are also no nasty external power adaptors and the overall construction quality is solid. The unmistakable front‑panel look, if nothing else, acts as a useful navigational aid in the midst of a rack full of black boxes!

CP1902 Compressor

Top‑to‑bottom: 1903 effects, 1902 compressor and 1901 enhancer rear panels.Top‑to‑bottom: 1903 effects, 1902 compressor and 1901 enhancer rear panels.

First out of the crate was the CP1902, a surprisingly flexible two‑channel VCA‑based compressor with integral expanders to keep programme noise down during pauses. The device also includes side‑chain insert points enabling equalisers to be patched in for de‑essing, but curiously there's no channel linking for true‑stereo operation. The inputs are fully balanced whereas the outputs are unbalanced (jacks) — not that the lack of balanced outs matters in most home studio setups as console insert points are invariably unbalanced.

The control layout for the compressor is pretty standard, with knobs governing Threshold, Ratio, Attack, Release and Output (level); there is also an Auto button that makes the attack and release time constants programme‑dependent. All the knobs have clear pointers and a multi‑detented movement. Ratio is fully adjustable from 1:1 (no compressio n) to hard limiting, and both auto mode and bypass are flagged by status LEDs. A simple slide switch puts the channel in or out of bypass mode and the degree of compression is shown by a pair of eight‑section LED gain‑reduction meters.

Expansion comes before the compressor stage and is controlled by a single Threshold control with a status LED to show when attenuation is taking place. There are no input or output level meters and there's no separate bypass for the expander — if you don't need it, you simply set the threshold knob fully anticlockwise. Though the expander seems simple, it is again linked to the programme material and has a control‑curve characteristic optimised for minimal side‑effects. In practice, this lessens the need to make detailed adjustments to the expander threshold.

One problem with all standard compressors is that gain reduction is often triggered by high‑energy, low‑frequency signals such as kick drums, meaning that any high‑frequency sounds occurring at the same time also get pulled down in level, causing a dulling of the sound. One way around this is to set a slightly longer attack time so that high‑frequency transients can sneak by 'under the wire', but the XIX designers have gone one further by including a dynamic enhancer to boost the high end only while compression is taking place. This has a single‑knob user interface that provides more enhancement as you turn it clockwise.

Dynamically Speaking

Though the CP1902 is a budget compressor, it performs pretty well with a wide range of programme material, from solo vocals or drums to complex mixes. It strikes a sensible balance between transparency and flattery but the lack of a stereo link button means you probably wouldn't want to use it for stereo signals as some image shifting may be audible when the left and right channels are radically different in level. Realistically, few people are likely to trust stereo mastering to a budget compressor, but providing you don't overdo the amount of compression, you can get away with processing stereo material or submixes nine times out of 10.

The Auto feature is really useful for vocal or bass guitar parts that change a lot during a track, while the manual mode is good for guitars, rock vocals or in situations when you need the compression to be more obvious. As with most compressors, the higher the ratio, the more obvious the processing. I found the enhancer was useful to inject a little air back into the sound and I was also pleased to discover that the designers hadn't overdone it — the top‑lift effect is nicely subtle.

EH1901 Enhancer

Like the compressor, the EH1901 enhancer features balanced inputs and unbalanced outputs. Rather than provide a single mode of enhancement however, it is capable of both dynamic enhancement (dynamic EQ plus phase manipulation) and harmonic excitation. It also includes a bass‑enhancement system that's able to provide either a tight, focused bass sound or a broader, warmer bass boost, depending on what the material requires. This is a us eful addition as the increased impression of high end created by most enhancers generally needs to be balanced by a little extra bass.

The EH1901 is a dual‑channel processor where both channels are controlled by a single bypass switch, even though all other controls are independent. Just four knobs are needed to set up the enhancer, the first of which is Low Mix. This has a centre‑off function with tight bass boost in the clockwise direction or soft boost in the anticlockwise direction. The further away from the centre position the knob is set, the more enhancement is provided.

A Tune control sets the frequency above which high‑frequency enhancement occurs, and this can be adjusted over the range 1 to 8kHz. Somewhere close to the middle usually works best. The Process control seems to vary the function of the high‑end processor between dynamic EQ (Enhance) and harmonic enhancement (Excite). The Excite option is generally best for material that is lacking in high‑frequency content, whereas the Enhance setting may be better where the original material has plenty of HF content, but still needs to be made to sound more focused or detailed. Finally, the High Mix control determines how much of the processed HF signal is added back into the main signal path.


I checked out the EH1901 with a variety of material and found that it worked pretty well on most of it. It's also easy to set up as, unlike some earlier enhancers, it doesn't require a Drive control. As expected, the Excite mode has more of an edge to it than Enhance, but both improve the sense of focus and detail of mix without being too aggressive. The bass enhancement works particularly well, though care must be taken when using nearfield monitors as the processor may be boosting frequencies lower than those the monitors can reproduce. This is especially true when using the Warm bass setting. I wouldn't swap my SPL Classic Vitalizer for one of these units, but the EH1901 certainly achieves what it sets out to do and helps add depth and gloss to mixes or individual sounds. Given the price, it's a good performer, but if you don't need the dual‑mono operation, check out the stereo Vitalizer Jack, which still has the edge when it comes to overall performance, albeit at a slightly higher price.

ME1903 Multi‑Effects Unit

The third unit in the XIX range is a simple preset multi‑effects box. I say it's simple, but like the other boxes, it has a hidden extra — in this case a pair of onboard mic amps which allow the ME1903 to be used as a combined mic preamp and effects box for live use, or as an input device to a soundcard where it may be used to add effects as you record. Each of the two channels features a Mic/Inst/Line switch which allows the mixing of instrument and mic inputs. In Mic mo de, the mic input has the effects added as normal while the line input remains dry; however, in Inst mode, both the mic and line inputs are treated with effects, though both the Mic and Inst settings seem to have far less line input gain than the Line setting.

Each channel may be used to provide a different mono effect (using suitable dual effect presets) or they may be used, more conventionally, to provide stereo effects. Rotary controls are provided for Input, Mix and Output level, with two more knobs dedicated to the mic preamp.

The mic preamps are designed for use with dynamic microphones, offering no phantom power, and are fed from front‑panel jack sockets while the line ins and outs on the rear panel are furnished with balanced jacks, balanced XLRs and unbalanced phono connectors for maximum flexibility. Given that there is an XLR input on the rear panel, it would probably have made more sense for this to be made available as a mic input.

Basic Signal and Clip LEDS show the input signal level; in practice, I found that the green Signal LEDs work more like I'd expect an amber 'nominal level' LED to — they don't come on unless a healthy signal is present. In any event, care must be taken to prevent more than the briefest flicker from the clip LED, otherwise the distortion caused can be quite audible.

The effects themselves comprise 16 banks with 16 variations on each, selectable via a pair of 16‑way rotary switches. There's no bypass switch and no footswitch jack, so if you're using the unit live, you'll need to mute the effects when necessary, either at your mixer or by turning the Mix control fully anticlockwise. There's no tweak knob, so it's a matter of choosing the nearest effect to the one you'd like and then setting the mix level.

Generating the effects is a digital engine running at a sample rate of 31.25kHz, giving an effect bandwidth of around 15kHz. Rather than detracting too much from the quality, the restricted bandwidth actually produces a slightly warmer‑than‑usual sound. The converters are 16‑bit, yielding an adequate 80dB dynamic range on the effects, while the dry signal path has a 100dB dynamic range.

Within the effects banks are a wide variety of reverbs, including gated and reverse options as well as the usual mono, stereo and ping‑pong delays. Around two‑thirds of the patches are multi‑effects (reverb or delay plus a modulation effect or reverb plus delay) and dual effects, the latter providing a different effect or variation on each of the two channels. Most of the effects are fairly conventional and include chorus, flanger, tremolo and so on, in addition to the reverbs and delays, although there's no pitch‑shifter.


The effects stand up fairly well in comparison with other budget effects boxes — the reverbs are a little 'ringy' when compared to units that can afford more processing power, but they're still musically very usable, and there's plenty of variety, especially at the shorter end of the range. At the extreme are the seemingly obligatory, but less immediately useful, cathedrals and caverns. In general, the more useful reverb lengths sound more convincing than the really long ones.

The remaining effects and combinations offer nothing out of the ordinary, but most are perfectly proficient and the delays actually benefit a little from the warmth afforded by the limited 15kHz bandwidth. All the usual flanging and chorus variants are on offer, but there's nothing you could call esoteric. Clearly this isn't the effects unit you'd choose if money was no object, but at the sub‑£150 end of the market it acquits itself pretty well, and the dual‑mono operation could be a bonus, particularly for PA operators. However, the lack of a bypass button/footswitch is a little remiss and the gain variation between the Line and Mic/Inst input modes is puzzling. The mic level is also different between the Mic and Inst modes — it's louder when Inst is selected. Nevertheless, the mic amps are extremely welcome in situations where you need to add effects to a signal without having to use mixers or separate mic amps, though with a basic dynamic mic, you have to sing pretty close to get enough level.

On the whole, this is a tidy little effects unit, well suited to basic demo recording or small PA work. The ability to mix mic and line inputs is also useful and should appeal to those recording with soundcard studios or live performers working without mixers.


  • Inexpensive.
  • Includes expansion and enhancement facilities.
  • Side‑chain insert points provided.


  • No stereo linking.


An affordable and flexible compressor with a useful enhancement feature that keeps the high end intact when more aggressive compression is being used.