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The APHEX Xciter stompbox.

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by Flux Jetson, Nov 30, 2012.

  1. I just got one of these recently. I've had the APHEX 204 2 channel rack unit for a number of years and loved how it makes my bass sound.

    But this new stompbox by AHPEX is a wonder. It can give me every tonal variation that the the rack mounted 204 does, but it has far better input impedance for use with passive basses when used right off the pickups. The 204 has a 40kohm input impedance, with is kinda ~meh~ when running a passive bass into it like a J or P. But this new Xciter has a 10Mega ohm input impedance (!!!) which makes it WAY WAY better for use with passive pickups when plugging directly into it from the bass.

    Aside from the obvious things ... like how frelling GREAT any of these APHEX Aural Exciters with Big Bottom sound ... this new Xciter is built better than any of the older stompbox exciters they've offered. The jacks have nuts on them, indicating that they have the support of the all metal chassis. The pots also have nuts on them under the real machined aluminum knobs (no plastic knobs on this one!). This new Xciter is just far and away a better product than any stompbox APHEX has offered before.

    I opened it up to see what is really going on inside one of these. The main pcb is supported by the pots themselves (a common practice) as the pots are soldered directly to the pcb without the use of flying leads. While not what I considered optimal, it is certainly far better than having jacks or pots soldered directly to the pcb while not securing the pots or jacks to the chassis, relying on the solder joints to support those parts. This APHEX is made the other way around. The pots are secured to the chassis very solidly, and the pcb is soldered to the pots, which means the pots are holding the pcb in place. This is just fine. The jacks are Marshall style "easy insert easy retract" jacks that are not soldered to the pcb and use flying leads to connect them to the board (this is EXCELLENT to see, especially these days). The footswitch uses the same setup as the jacks, with flying leads to connect it to the board. That's excellent. That way any forces applied to the footswitch are not transferred to the pcb at all. The DI output is also secured to the chassis with screws and attached to the main pcb with flying leads. And the chassis itself is a very thick die-cast enclosure, giving it weight and a confident, solid feel.

    It even has a recessed flat area on the bottom cover for using velcro (which is even supplied!). The battery access panel is also located on the bottom and is easily removed without tools. These units run on anything from 5vac to 32vac .. OR .. 7vdc+/- to 48vdc+/- ... so you can use either AC or DC, and when DC is used either polarity is a go! So nearly any type of PSU is ok to use with the Aphex Xciter. Killa.

    And the sound ... do we really need to talk about the sound? I mean, it is SO good. I've always really loved how you can raise the low end levels with any of the Aphex units that are equipped with Big Bottom circuits ... and raise it a LOT .. and it's very focused low end, with totally adjustable frequency and level. But not just that, it's the fact that when you add more bottom end, your speakers aren't being taxed, nor is your power amp. At least not like they are when you just use EQ to boost low end. You can add a bunch of tight bottom end and watch your output level meters on your amp not even budge! That Big Bottom circuitry is really something. And the Aural Exciter that is built into these things sounds amazingly good. There is no "cut" with these APHEX designs, all you can do is add. So to create scoop, just dial in low end and upper end and you've created scoop. It's best to treat these Aphex units like two separate processors, one for bottom, one for the top.

    I tend to prefer that 70's rock bass sound, so to get there I set the aural exciter at around 800hz or so, and add however much "amount" as I deem as good. For the low end, I usually set it at around 80hz or lower, and add "amount" accordingly.

    Instant huge rhino balls.

    With a freq range of 700hz to 7khz on the aural exciter side of the unit there's plenty of freq range to create whatever type of sound you are looking for.

    This new Xciter provides Hardware Bypass (aka True Bypass) was well.

    They will even run on friggin 48v phantom power! There's a balanced XLR output jack on the back for what AHPEX calls "DI output". It also has a ground lift button on the back to help with any loop issues. This DI output is setup to be used with the "mic" input of a mixer or recording device.

    So I just wanted to blabber about this unit a bit. It's really nice. And in spite of what the pictures of these things suggest, they are all metal designs, with all metal machined aluminum knobs, pots that are secured to the chassis with nuts, and jacks that are secured to the chassis with nuts. I've been an Aphex fan and user for over ten years, and I'm very .... ahem ... ~excited~ about this device.

    You can find them for less than $150 if you do your homework.

    L8r T8rs!

    EDIT: I'll be adding a Soundcloud track to this thread to demonstrate this thing when I do my next recording session, a few days maybe a week from now.
  2. LowGrowl


    Jan 20, 2011
    Mexico City
    I was looking for info about this pedal. I'd love to see other opinions as is clear that Flux is sold to aphex (no ofense)

    It seems to be the icing on the cake for my pedalboard and a good quality Direct Box also.

  3. EskimoBassist


    Nov 2, 2007
    Leeds, UK
    The old Aphex units were meant to be pretty great but IIRC the jacks were soldered directly onto the pcb and didn't have a history of lasting too long.

    Seems like they may have addressed these issues (http://www.aphex.com/product-category/instrument-pedals/) although I don't think they look very pretty.
  4. Yea, that issue is totally fixed with the new Xciter. I'll open it up again and snap some pics tonight.

    And yea, they are a bit ~alien~ looking units. Good thing looks don't affect sound. The designer of the enclosure actually has his signature on the front panel of the unit. So I guess it's a big deal with Aphex.
  5. No offense taken, not even a little bitty bit, because what you said is totally true. I am sold on the Aphex aural exciter and big bottom circuits. As I said in my review of the Xciter here, I own an Aphex 204, and I also have owned all three of the previous Aphex stompboxes (the ones that had the poorly designed jack mounts). I had the bass one, the acoustic guitar one, and the guitar one. In the end I liked the 204 the best, and sold the stompboxes. The 204 is still available, but it has a new look to it and a new name. It's known simply as the Aphex Exciter. Same exact unit as the old 204, just new look, new graphics, new designator.

    The Xciter stompbox that is available today is more like the 204 than the older stompboxes were. They've essentially taken one entire channel out of the 204 and put it in an all metal box and added a bypass footswitch. It sounds exactly like the 204, which is a good thing. There are some very slight specification differences, but nothing of any consequence. In fact the Xciter stompbox has far better input impedance specs than the 204 does. So the Xciter is well suited to be used with basses equipped with passive electronics (it also works just fine with active basses). The 204 works better if some sortof input channel is used in front of it when used as the first device in the signal chain of a passive bass, due to the 204's comparitively low input impedance specs.

    So yea, I'm sold on the Aphex aural exciter and the big bottom circuitry. I feel no shame in admitting that either. They are way better than using just EQ because the Aphex units add very little (if any) signal boost to the sound. So you can add more bottom end (a LOT, with tunable frequency as well) and your speakers are not travelling further or being punished, neither is the amplifier. These Aphex things are perfect for placing at the very end of the signal chain after all of your other processing has been done.

    And they sound REALLY good when overdriven a bit with some input gain! A nice natural sounding distortion, not something synthetic or created sounding.

    And they're built very well, whether it be stompbox or rack mount.

  6. LowGrowl


    Jan 20, 2011
    Mexico City
    That is very appealing, I have only used the plugin version from waves to add sparkle to rock vocals, and cymbals. Obviously is not the same as the hardware units. Definitely Im going to try the stompbox for bass.

    Would you mind to share some settings to get close to that ¨big bottom without increasing the lows¨ tone you are talking about?

    BTW Thank you for the comprehensive review!
  7. LaBassGuy

    LaBassGuy Supporting Member

    Aug 26, 2008
    Yah, I'd love to try this too. I have an SWR Marcus Miller pre which as a bass intensifier circuit, and I guess it acts the same way as the Aphex Big Bottom: it adds low end plus compression, such that your volume remains unchanged. But I go easy on it.
  8. ryansalmond


    Nov 21, 2007
    The big bottom circuit makes the lows seem louder without actually making them louder via some kind of brief delay algorithm (I believe) - do note that it does not sound in anyway like a delay. But yeah, it's no particular settings, it's what the circuit inherently does.
  9. ryansalmond


    Nov 21, 2007
    Flux- how big is the pcb in there? Could it be rehoused in a smaller box?
  10. Here ya go ....


    Jacks securely mounted to the chassis and not mechanically attached to the PCB. The little tiny pcb on the jacks are called "chiclets" that make it easier to do final assembly soldering joints. Note the use of ribbon wire.


    Same with the footswitch, securely mounted to the thick chassis but not mechanically attached to the pcb.


    Nice, heavy duty die cast chassis. Not positive but I think it may be powdercoated.

    High quality allen head screws secure the bottom cover plate to the main chassis.

    Fully enclosed battery box with ~no tools needed~ access to the 9v battery.

    This was nice to see ....

    For whatever reasons Aphex gave a nod to the designer of this oddly shaped stompbox. I rather dig the hell out of the way it looks. Sortof has this alien space ship look about it, or perhaps Milspec "stealth" angular shape.

    Look closely and you can clearly see a nut under that knob that secures the control pots directly to the chassis. The knobs are machined aluminum as well.


    These are the same type of jacks used on Marshall amplifiers. They're very smoothe, easy-insert/easy-extract type.

    Gold plated connectors on the DI XLR jack. Also note the screws that secure the DI jack to the chassis, and the 48volt phantom power graphic.

    Input power graphic. This thing runs on nearly anything!

    There you go. As you can see this new Xciter is nothing at all like the old crappy design. These new ones are built like a shovel.

    As far settings, it's just too easy. The minimum freq for the bass setting is roughly 70hz. The max is roughly 250hz. Set the bass section's level control up to at least ~noon~ (even more is better just to get the initial feel at first). Then sweep the freq knob until you hit the freq-area you wish to address ... use your ears here. Then reset the level to whatever suits you. I usually have the freq at around 8 o'clock or so, but it depends on what I'm doing at the time. My rig is very versatile and is capable of many things, so I use a lot of different settings.

    For the high end, use the exact same process. I prefer the freq set to around 800hz or so, with the level totally maxxed out. If you set the level up really high, you can REALLY hear the filter sweep as you work with the FREQ control. So once you find ~the good spot~ you can reduce the level control.

    I saw it mentioned that some sortof delay circuitry is used to produce the magic this thing makes. Perhaps, but know that this is NOT a delay pedal. I personally think that Aphex uses a combination of compression and semi-parametric EQ simultaneously to get done what it gets done. I use it to re-establish the low end that is sucked out of my tone when I use a POD Pro. The POD is primarily a guitar processor and it tends to have low end freq centers around 125hz or so. The Big Bottom circuitry of any of my Aphex units TOTALLY rebuilds the low end after having the signal run through the POD. So using these Aphex units allows me to use any number of guitar type FX and then rebuild the low end after the guitar processors. This opens up many doors for me. It allows me to use the bazillions of guitar-oriented processors and still have my bass sound like a dang bass.

    Here's the POD and the Aphex 204 ...

    I can reef on the Big Bottom control and the level LEDs on my Mackie 1400 watt power amps don't even budge. Actually, I only need to turn the BB level up to roughly 2 o'clock.

    To address what was asked of me regarding BB settings (you can kinda see the settings in the picture above), on my 204 I typically set the "TUNE" control to about 1 o'clock (40 to 50hz or so), the "DRIVE" to the spot where the drive light is just blinking when I spank the strings, and the "MIX" is set to roughly 2 o'clock. I little goes a very long way with these things. I try to tune the BB to the same freq centers that most of the better Ampeg amps are centered at (40 or 50 hz). Your better bass preamps usually center the bass controls around 40-50, on up to 80hz (Tech 21 BDDI uses 80hz, 750hz, and 3.2khz freq centers on the bass, "non-mid", and treble controls). Just so ya know.

    And just to add to this, know that I use no bass amp. I use just processors and a Mackie power amp that is set in 2-channel mode (aka "stereo"). It drives a 2x10 front shelf ported cab and a 4x10 sealed cab, both are 4ohms. And of late I've been adding a guitar amp to help with clarity and definition, that is a Marshall JTM45 (36 watt tube head) powering a 2x12 open back cab with a pair of Celestion vintage 30s in it. The cab is set up for 4ohm loads. I use a special distribution setup to send signals to all three amp channels. No crossover. See my sig for roughly ten+ pages of details.

    So I just use stuff like these Aphex aural exciters with Big Bottom, a POD Pro, a Presonus EQ3B 3 band fully parametric EQ, and a few other tricks to produce my bass tones. No traditional bass amp is used at all. I've been down that road MANY times.

    Ok, that's it. I hope this helped. I'll try to answer any other questions as best I can. Thanks! :)

    Oh and btw .... these Xciter stomp boxes street price at around $199 or so (you can find them as low as $159 though ... or lower .. read on!). However, we were sniffin' around on ebay and found this one for $109. Brand new, still in the box and sealed up. It was obvious that the box had never been opened up when we got it. The seller was a big retailer. All I can figure is that whoever was hired to input items into their ebay ads accidently hit a zero instead of a nine and typed $109 instead of $199. Not knowing any better (just being a person that inputs numbers and specs to ads) the person didn't catch the error. So we got a shmokin' deal on this one. We couldn't really afford it but it was one of those things you just DO NOT pass up when it's presented to you.

    L8r T8rs!!! :)
  11. M Sterling

    M Sterling Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 23, 2010
    Pittsburgh, PA
    I was wondering if you had any experience with the waves aphex vintage exciter plugin. If so, do you have an opinion on it's sound compared to the new pedal? Thanks!
  12. Nope, no experience with the plug in I'm afraid. All I can say about the new pedal is that I'm able to get the same sounds out of it that I can from the 204 rack unit. There are some differences at extreme ends of the spec limits, not that they sound any different at the ends, but that they both have different extreme end specs. For instance I think the lowest extreme freq of the 204 is 49hz and the low end spec on the Xciter pedal is 70hz. That type of thing. But as for sounds they are pretty much identical once you get the controls figured out.

    The thing about comparing plug ins to hardware counterparts is the issue of how the host sounds, as well as how ~good~ (or bad) the audio interface sounds. That most surely will affect how the plug in would compare to the hardware version.

    Sorry I'm no more help than that. :meh:

    I would offer that the Xciter pedal is a good "front end" for those with passive basses, due to the high impedance input it has (10meg ohm).
  13. JCooper

    JCooper ...meep. Supporting Member

    Oct 21, 2009
    I've been looking for some type of DI, got the wheels spinning with your glowing review.
    I used to have an Aphex rack unit which I remember liking, don't remember why I got rid of it....
    Santa is seriously considering giving me one of these.
  14. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Some words on the "delay" aspect: The dealio there is that with one of these Exciters, I don't honestly recall whether it's the Aphex or the BBE or both, they attempt to align the peaks of the waves of both high and low frequencies, ostensibly for crisper attack, less mush. They do this by applying a teensy smidge of delay to the high frequencies, to match up with lower freqs that have waves that peak a fraction of a millisecond later.

    This is completely separate from the "big bottom" processing, which uses compression and EQ.
  15. Interesting stuff. Sonically tha aural exciter portion reminds me of a very well designed parametric EQ. The Big Bottom thing .... they got the mixture of eq and compression tuned to a "T". It's the exact right amount of both, so much so that they totally compliment each other so that the balance of compression and eq is always ~right~. I also love the sustain of the low end that turns out to be the bonus thrown in with everything else that is good about it.

    And to anyone and everyone that has read my review of this thing, it's been a long time that I've been this enthused about a mass produced anything. So please forgive my fanboy praise. So many things made these days are just so ~meh~.

    It takes a little while to get friendly with these Aphex toys, but once you get the jist and the light comes on in your head, it's tough to play without it. You instantly know when it isn't turned on.
  16. ryansalmond


    Nov 21, 2007
  17. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    Looks like a cool pedal but why the weird enclosure?

    JAUQO III-X Banned

    Jan 4, 2002
    Endorsing artist:see profile.
    About two or three weeks Aphex sold all remaining Aphex pedals to musicians friend and at some point MF has plans to sell them for under $100.

    Aphex will no longer be making pedals. They are done with the business of pedals.
  19. No way! Really? I'm good for another one of these Xciters, no two ways about it!

    Where did you locate that info at btw?
  20. Who knows, I mean why does anyone do anything? Look at the :Line 6 POD.