Roger Linn Adrenalinn Stompbox/Effects Unit

A studio full of equipment in a 5”x7” box

Adding to a long legacy of groundbreaking products that included the Linndrum, LM-1, Linn 9000, and the MRC series of production drumstations designed in conjunction with Akai, Roger Linn has now developed the Adrenalinn. The first question that everybody always has about the Adrenalinn is, what is it?

The Adrenalinn is a stompbox format unit that includes a programmable 32-step filter, a step programmable drum machine, time-domain effects, and amp modeling. All of this in a sturdy cast aluminum box that measures 5” x 7”! What makes the Adrenalinn unique is the way the various functions of the unit work with each other.

The Adrenalinn features 100 factory programmed (rom-based) presets, and an additional 100 user editable presets that are initially filled with identical data as the factory presets. These presets control both the effects (including filter and delays) as well as which amp model is in use. The amplifier modeling section includes 10 amplifier simulations, ranging from Fender Champ to Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier. Included as well are a fuzzbox and “clean console preamp” simulations.

About the size of a paperback book, the Adrenalinn is an attractively designed unit finished in a very nice shade of purple. The Adrenalinn’s control surface provides four main rotary encoder potentiometers, 1 small level potentiometer (with an associated LED to indicated clipping, four buttons, two stomp box style momentary (foot activated) push buttons, and a three-digit numeric display. In addition, most of the front panel contains legending that corresponds to the unit’s functions with LED’s that indicate current status. On the rear panel of the unit there are input, and left/right outputs (on ¼” jacks), midi in and out jacks, and an input for a wall wart (7.5 V DC) power supply. The only things that the Adrenalinn is missing are a dedicated headphone output, and digital inputs and outputs. The Adrenalinn is built in Northern California.

The four main rotary encoder potentiometers control a pretty wide variety of parameters depending upon the mode that the Adrenalinn is in, but their nominal functions are Preset, Drumbeat, Tempo, and Volume. There are status LED’s that light up next to the particular function that is in use.

The two footswitches (labeled Start and Bypass) can have multiple functions as well. The Start button provides its nominal function of starting (and stopping) the active drum machine (or filter sequence), but can also provide a one measure hihat count-in, or if the drum/sequence is playing, holding the start button down will allow the Adrenalinn to play to the end of the measure.

The Bypass footswitch can act as a conventional effects bypass, but it can also be used to set the tempo of the drum/filter sequence via an interesting take on “tap tempo”. Instead of tapping in time with the tempo, the footswitch is held down for an entire measure of the tempo you are trying to sync with. In addition it can also be used to switch between two presets, depending upon how the switch is configured via the interface.

The amp models include: Fender Bassman, Fender Deluxe Reverb, Old Small Fender, Early Marshall, Classic Marshall, Modern Marshall, Vox AC-30 Top Boost, Matchless Chieftain, Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier, Soldano, Fuzz Box, and Clean Console preamp. Each of the amp models has drive, bass, mid, and treble controls that model the actual range and frequency response of the device that is being simulated.

Available effects include: Two-pole filter, four poll filter, flanger, inverted flanger, pitch (for harmonization and vibrato), volume (for tremolo effects), and delay. These building blocks can be combined to produce other effects such as autopanning, vibrato, chorus, and other effects. Conspicuous in its absence is reverb, but that’s okay since there are plenty of other effects available, and I think it is much better to have no reverb than not-so-great reverb.

The drum machine section of the Adrenalinn also contains 100 factory and 100 user presets. The presets range from pretty normal rock and pop type beats, to some pretty wacked out electronic sounding beats, and some slightly stiff sounding hip-hop/R&B beats. All in all though, they are pretty good, and certainly good enough for a rough demo, or better yet, as something to jam over.

There are nine kick drum sounds, nice snare sounds, and nine high-hat sounds to choose from. In addition, there are fifteen percussion sounds that may be selected, but they are configured as five groups of three sounds. Did that make sense? The drum sounds themselves are well recorded and punchy in general, with a couple of standout kick drums in particular.

Patterns are input solely in step programming mode. Any step of the pattern may contain up to four voices (bass, snare, hihat, and percussion), and like the original Linndrum, there are only three volume levels available for the voices (except for the percussion voice, which plays at only one volume). Panning and volume are controllable, pitch and decay are not.

The drum machine’s output may be routed through the filters, amp models, or delays, and as you would imagine, some very interesting textures are possible. Unfortunately the drum machines sounds are not individually accessible through midi, though it can be synced to incoming MIDI. That is a shame, as the quality of some of the drum sounds are certainly of stand alone drum module quality. The good news is that the sounds are excellent, and with a bit of work good sounding patterns can be developed within the unit.

The unit may also be programmed (and controlled) via MIDI. Currently there is a module for E-magic’s Soundiver program that is available to download at Happily Soundiver is a cross-platform application, so both PC and Mac users are taken care of. According to the manufacturer, other options for editors are currently being explored.

In the meantime, Soundiver does make creating and editing drum and sequence patterns much easier since they become much more visual. Unfortunately, Soundiver is not what you would call inexpensive, especially compared to the price of the Adrenalinn, so unless you already are using it, it may be kind of tough to justify the outlay to use it solely with the Adrenalinn.

One thing to keep in mind is that the Adrenalinn is a very deep box, and it can take a little while to understand the interface, to the point where it seems like second nature to edit and create programs. The good news is that the manual, which is co-written by Roger Linn and Craig Anderton, is well written and concise.

The filter module is also set up as a step programmed 32 step sequence, though alternate timebases (note resolutions) will move the number of steps down to 16 or 24. Each of the steps has modulation level (0-99) and envelope generator trigger parameters. As with the drum module, the front panel of the Adrenalinn contains the legending for the filter modules steps. The sequencer is setup so that it is in-sync with the drum machine section, or alternately it can be synced via MIDI. The first element of the filter is a lowpass filter that is configurable for two pole (12dB Oberheim style) or four pole (24 dB Moog Style) operation. Cutoff frequency and resonance parameters are available.

An envelope generator provides control over the filters attack and decay settings. A LFO section with sine, triangle, sawtooth, pulse, and random waveforms is available for autopanning, filter-sweeps, and chorusing. An audio envelope generator that tracks the input signal is available to provide auto-wah and mutron/bass-balls type envelope effects.

The filter section is also able to respond to MIDI messages such as; MIDI note number, MIDI velocity, MIDI bend wheel, MIDI controller, and MIDI pressure. All of these incoming messages can be configured to raise (and in some cases lower) the filters frequency.


I know that we have covered a lot of ground in describing the features of the Adrenalinn, but this is the section where we talk about the important stuff….what can you do with it, and how does it sound?

I used a few different instruments in conjunction with the Adrenalinn: an Paul Reed Smith CE-24, a Warmoth Gecko 5-string bass, an antique Radio Shack/Moog MG-1, and a Fender Chroma Polaris II. I patched the Adrenalinn right into my Neotek IIIc console, and monitored using a combination of Fostex NF-1’s and Urei 809’s.

Although the Adrenalinn is not fitted with a dedicated headphone jack, I was able to extract a pretty healthy output from a pair of Audio-Technica D-40 headphones by using a y-cable that I constructed, that combined the two mono ¼” outputs into one three conductor stereo ¼” jack. I am fairly certain you could purchase a similar cable at your local Radio Shack. I am surprised that a headphone jack was not included, because the Adrenalinn is absolutely perfect for solo jams and practicing. For a couple of bucks though, you can easily adapt the Adrenalinn for this use.

Moving through the various presets can be an almost disorienting process. How so? The range of the presets is startling. At times, especially while playing guitar through the Adrenalinn, I had to remind myself that I was listening to a guitar, and not a sequenced synth! That’s how radical the Adrenalinn can get. I would liken my first reaction to the Adrenalinn to the first time I heard the Korg Wavestation, in that I was amazed to hear such dynamic and evolving tones coming from a synth (or in this case, a stomp box the size of a paperback book.)

I will freely admit that I am a gear freak, so it’s natural for me to be excited about a cool piece of gear like the Adrenalinn, but when my wife (who is a classically trained vocalist) wanders into the control room and asks how I am getting such a wild sound from a guitar, I know that I’m right to be excited.

I don’t mean to give the impression that the Adrenalinn is capable of only bombastic, highly modified sounds, that’s not the case at all. Some of the more restrained presets, such as the Fender deluxe (preset 72) simply sound like a good amp with a decent mic in front of it. Some of the flanger and vibrato/tremolo programs are also highly usable sounds that are well within the bounds of good taste fitting easily into many production styles.

But truthfully, it’s the extreme sounds that make the Adrenalinn such a compelling box. Presets like number 28 (Filter Sequence – Ascending) bring textures to the guitar that recalls the work of Pete Townsend (both solo and with the Who), and producer Glen Ballard (especially his work with Alesis….oops I mean Alanis Morrisette) in their sonic and rhythmic complexity. I think that it is safe to say that I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear the Adrenalinn on some upcoming records this year.

The filters themselves are particularly impressive, nailing the sound of an analog filter so well, that I found it almost a little bit un-nerving. I had no problems dialing in copious amounts of resonance to provide some pretty “quacky” sounds that were dead ringers for Jerry Garcia’s envelope filter laden 1970’s tones. I found that rolling off some of the treble on my guitar enhanced the effect of the envelope filter (preset 7).

The amplifier modeling section sounds very good. Obviously it’s difficult to compare the sound of a modeling device to the actual amplifier since there are so many variables like aging of speakers, differences in rooms and microphones, etc. At the same time, the main thing that amp modelers can provide is a semblance of the “vibe” and overall tonality of the amp that is being simulated.

Since I have several amps that are similar to the amps modeled by the Adrenalinn, I did a side-by-side comparison. The amps I compared to the Adrenalinn included the Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier (through a Marshall 4×12 loaded with Celestion 75 watt speakers), a Marshall JCM 800 2210 (which I compared to the Modern and Classic Marshall models), a Fender Vibrolux 1970’s silverface model, which I compared to the Deluxe reverb simulation. And finally a Bedrock 1200 series head which has a bit of the Vox midrangy sound was the target for the Vox AC 30 model’s sound.

Of all the amp models that I compared with the (more or less) real thing, I felt that the Dual Rectifier model was closest to the actual sound and feel of the real amplifier. The tight and aggressive tone produced by the Adrenalinn was very similar to my Dual Rectifier, especially at high gain settings. The Marshall model was very good, but at times I thought it sounded a little honkier and thinner than the real thing. The Fender sounds were very good as well, lacking only spring reverb to complete the illusion. As for the Vox AC 30 model, it had the same midrange “push” as my Bedrock, but a different tonal balance. That’s not surprising, as the Bedrock is an EL 34 based amplifier, unlike a Vox AC 30, which uses an entirely different tube compliment. Perhaps you should take that comparison with a grain of salt!

I tried the Adrenalinn plugged right into a Mesa/Boogie Strategy 400 tube power amp, which was connected to two 4×12 slant cabinets. I was able to get some devastating tones out of that rig, which to my ears sounded better than the (1980’s) Marshall 9001 tube preamp that I often use. Though it would be tricky to use just the Adrenalinn for a live gig, it could be done, especially in conjunction with a MIDI’d pedal board. I suspect most users will use it in conjunction with a regular combo or preamp/poweramp setup, rather than as the sole preamp stage.

The Adrenalinn sounded great with two vintage-esque synths (a Fender Chroma Polaris II and a Radio Shack/Moog MG-1). Both synths lack an onboard effects section, and sadly, both of them provide just one mono output. The Adrenalinn breathed new life into both synths, animating them in a way that made them sound much more modern, without robbing them completely of their identity. I think the Adrenalinn is a great tool for “stereoizing”, not to mention adding a programmable sequencing filter, to any mono instrument.

My final application of the Adrenalinn was utilizing it as a processor during mixdown. I can say with certainty, that the Adrenalinn is my tool of choice for taking a boring track and making it interesting. I used the Adrenalinn’s excellent flanger to enliven a pretty stale rhythm guitar track on a recent production. I have a pretty decent selection of outboard gear to choose from, but the deepness (and whooshieness) of the flanger is truly impressive.

The sequenced filter programs in the Adrenalinn can do some crazy things to vocals, far beyond the realm of “simple” effects. The Adrenalinn’s only downside as a standalone processor is that it only has a mono input. You could get around that by using two units, locked together by MIDI, and it would still be a cost effective proposition for the quality of processing.

Rush out and buy one

The Adrenalinn would be worth purchasing for any of its three main functions (Programmable Filter/Amp Modeling/Drum Machine), but getting two extra “modules” thrown in, make the Adrenalinn an exceptional value. The Adrenalinn is truly a groundbreaking product and it’s a great idea generator, the kind of tool that inspires you to write new material, and create new sonic textures. Isn’t that the point of gear in the first place?

Personally I think the Adrenalinn’s standout feature is its programmable filter. I can’t think of another device (especially at the Adrenalinn’s price point) that can provide the percolating textures to the guitarist, bassist, or synth player as well as the Adrenalinn does. Ideal for live use, as well as a primo tool for mangling recorded tracks, this box is a winner.