Saturday, November 14, 2009

Secret Weapon

The Allen & Heath VF-1 1U rackmount filter has turned out to be an indispensable studio tool for me. In many ways its the best "vintage warmer" I've ever used. However, it's quite capable of a wide variety of tasks and shouldn't be pigeonholed as "just a processor for cold digital sources" - though it does that in spades!

The VF-1 can be an extremely subtle effect, maybe used just to add some phase movement, or it can be totally in-your-face with squelchy lowpass sweeps and scorching tube distortion. That said, I still wouldn't generally classify it as an "extreme" processor like say a Sherman filterbank, but more as a surgical sound-sculpting tool that is also capable of imparting a lot of warmth.

Multiple resonant filter responses are available simultaneously, including lowpass, highpass, bandpass and a really lovely all-pass for the aforementioned phase effects. Simultaneous combinations of multiple filter types are available via lighted enables on the front panel. Besides the filters, the VF-1 sports an LFO, a tube-based drive section and an Envelope Follower with flexible routing. This allows for a huge variety of sound-manipulation just using the VF-1 by itself!

Though it is very warm-sounding, it's not what I would call a "fat" or "beefy" filter, more like an extremely resonant multiband EQ with a really low-noise tube circuit built in - there is somehow a very pristine quality to the second-order tube harmonics and not a lot of "fuzz" if you get my drift - more like a high-end mic pre or DI box rather than a distortion pedal. You can get some very bold distortion if you push it but it's more often useful as a less blatent effect.

In many configurations the VF-1 can be almost "transparent" though it's hugely obvious by its absence if you go into bypass mode.

All-in-all an extremely useful tool and a very handy "secret weapon" for any electronic musician's arsenal! ;)

More info at Allen &

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