Technical GRAMMY Award: Lexicon

Multi-platinum producer Brian Malouf honors the magical sounds of the esteemed audio equipment manufacturer
  • Photo: Brian Twede
    Lexicon's 960L Digital Effects System with LARC remote control
  • Photo: Ana Donovan/FilmMagic/Getty Images
    Brian Malouf
January 19, 2014 -- 6:00 am PST
By Brian Malouf / GRAMMY.com

(In addition to the GRAMMY Awards, The Recording Academy presents Special Merit Awards recognizing contributions of significance to the recording field, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, Trustees Award and Technical GRAMMY Award. In the days leading up to the 56th GRAMMY Awards, GRAMMY.com will present the tributes to the 2014 Special Merit Awards recipients.)

It was the first thing you noticed, even before the iconic console upon which it was often perched (sometimes on its own special plexiglass shelf) — that magical remote control known as the LARC (Lexicon Alphanumeric Remote Control). The off-white, fader-driven controller of the awesome digital reverb hidden away in the machine room that announced that the studio you were in was firmly entrenched in the new, modern digital age of reverberation.

It was in the control room of the studio I was taught in — the place where I learned to be a recording engineer — and it was the most fun and challenging of all the devices I stayed up nights learning how to use. I'm still employing those wonderful sounds today, and making new presets all the time.

The Lexicon 224 Digital Reverb was the most advanced and versatile digital processing device of its generation and a pioneering and mind-boggling way to enhance with echo, delay, time shift, and reverberation any source you cared to feed into it, and in the most convincing of ways. It gave engineers vast new powers of controlling the ambience in which to spatially place the elements of a recording in the bold new automation-driven mixdown suites of the early '80s. It was the predecessor of the 224XL and the 480L, those monster Lexicon digital reverbs against which all others have since been compared.

It was intoxicating. In addition to the superb reverb algorithms there were six delay taps in the delays section, all with individual control over high and low pass filters, depth of oscillation, time and panning. With this singular device, Lexicon products were vaulted into the stratosphere of the elite, must-have audio effects that the most demanding artists on the planet had to see (and hear) used on their tracks. We never had it so good.

From the humble beginnings of the first Lexicon Delta digital delay, to the Prime Time I — Lexicon's unique digital delay device with detent knobs that selected only prime numbers as possibilities for delay times — to today's PCM96, which allows an engineer to control all the parameters of a very sophisticated standalone reverb device from a Digital Audio Workstation and reset it with each new session and offers the range of reverb plug-ins that faithfully reproduce the algorithms of the reverb programs that made the company famous in the first place, Lexicon has remained a prime innovator and thrived in an era of almost unimaginable change in the processes associated with sound recording. The company and the designers behind these products have remained relevant to recording engineers working out of their bedroom or in the most serious recording studios in the world, and all the employees in every department at Lexicon are the most deserving recipients of the 2014 Technical GRAMMY Award.

(Brian Malouf is a multi-platinum producer, engineer and mixer who has worked with artists such as the Dave Matthews Band, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Pearl Jam, Queen, and Stevie Wonder, among others.)

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