Roger Linn Design Adrenalinn

Roger Linn Design Adrenalinn

Byline: Mike Levine

EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE a piece of gear comes along that not only helps you make music but actually inspires you to do so. The AdrenaLinn from Roger Linn Design is just such a product. Linn, the designer of numerous innovative products such as the Linn Drum and the Akai MPC-series workstations, has created a multifaceted processor that opens up new sonic territory for guitar players and other instrumentalists, both live and in the studio.

The AdrenaLinn has four essential components: a modeling guitar preamp, a drum machine, a digital delay, and what Linn calls a Groove Filter. This last item is what sets the unit completely apart from the pack; it lets you play pulsating, arpeggiated, sequence-type grooves and filter sweeps that were previously the province of keyboardists. (For example, it can make your guitar sound a lot like the synth in the opening of the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”)


For a device this powerful, the AdrenaLinn is deceptively small. The sleek blue box is about the size of a large stomp-box, with a front panel that sports two multifunction footswitches (one on each side), four rotary encoders at the top, an input level knob, and four edit selection buttons.

The edit parameters for the various functions are printed on the front panel in an eight-row, four-column matrix. There’s a status LED for each row, and the four columns correspond to the four rotary encoder knobs. You choose the row that contains the parameter you want to edit by pressing the up or down edit buttons; you then change the parameter value with the appropriate encoder knob. As soon as you turn the knob, the values are displayed in the AdrenaLinn’s three-character LED display. (The company recently made some modifications to the AdrenaLinn, including the addition of a headphone jack.)

The unit’s rear panel (see Fig. 1) has an AC adapter input, MIDI In and Out ports, a pair of 1/4-inch audio outputs (more on these later), and an instrument-level input.


When your guitar’s signal enters the AdrenaLinn, its first destination is the Filters section, where there are five filter types to choose from: Two-Pole, Four-Pole, Flanger, Inverted Flanger, and Pitch. (There’s also a sixth setting called Volume that isn’t really a filter but is used in volume-modulation effects such as Tremolo.)

The filter can be modulated in ten ways, including by the Filter Sequencer (an onboard 32-step sequencer that sends out control signals that affect the filter frequency in a rhythmic fashion); LFO; MIDI note, Velocity and Pitch Bend; and audio envelope. You can control parameters such as Resonance, LFO type, Envelope Attack and Decay, and Filter Frequency.

Although you can radically alter your guitar sound in the Filters section, turning it into a swirling, pulsating, resonant sound of synthlike complexity, the AdrenaLinn also offers standard effects such as Tremolo, Flanger, Auto-Wah, and Auto Pan. Most importantly, the LFO and the sequencer can be synced to the internal drum machine, allowing the filter effects to be totally beat-synced. Very cool.


The next stop on the signal path is the Amp Modeling section, where you can choose from 12 models, including emulations of several old Fenders (Bassman, Deluxe, and “Old Small Fender”); Early, Classic, and Modern Marshall; Vox AC-30 Top Boost; Matchless Chieftan; Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier; and Soldano. Overall, the models are pretty convincing. I especially liked Classic Marshall and Boogie Dual Rectifier.

In addition to model type, the Amp Model section gives you Drive, Bass, Mid, and Treble controls. Your settings for those can be saved, along with the filter and delay parameters, into any of the 100 user preset locations. (There are also 100 factory presets containing a wide range of sounds.) Additionally, there’s a noise gate, and you have the option of choosing output settings that are optimized for either plugging in to an amp or going direct.


After the Amp Modeling section, the signal goes to the digital Delay section, which offers up to one second of delay. The delay sounds clean and is very user-friendly.

You can dial in a delay time or choose one synced to the beat (quarter note, eighth note, 16th note, and so on) of the drum machine or an external sync source. Besides Delay Time, there are controls for Delay Volume and Feedback.


The guitar sound is mixed at the outputs with the signal from the AdrenaLinn’s internal drum machine. (For additional sonic variety, the drums can be routed through the Filters section). The Drum Box section is not as fully featured as a standalone drum machine, and it functions more as a time-keeper and a feel generator. It offers 100 two-measure patterns (called Drumbeats), ranging in style from rock to dance to hip-hop. The preset drum patterns are decent, although not particularly inspired.

Once you’ve selected a Drumbeat, you can edit the drum sounds and their levels. A variety of drum sounds are available – including TR-808 and TR-909 sounds – for Kick, Snare, Hi-hat, and Percussion. No crash cymbals are available. There’s also no way to write “songs” into the drum machine, and you’re limited to two-measure patterns.

You can edit and program the Drumbeats themselves, but it’s a slow and somewhat tedious process, requiring a great deal of button pushing. (The AdrenaLinn is supported by Emagic’s SoundDiver editing software, which makes the programming and editing process much easier.) Edited Drumbeats can be stored in any of 100 user locations.

Even with its limitations, the AdrenaLinn’s drum machine works beautifully in conjunction with the groove-filtered guitar presets. The unit’s interface makes it easy to mix and match them, opening up a huge range of possible feels.

The AdrenaLinn can be synced (as master or slave) to MIDI sequencers and other devices that recognize MIDI Clock. You can’t access the drum sounds individually using MIDI, however, so it’s not really suited to do double duty as a drum module for your MIDI studio.


If you want to use the AdrenaLinn in a performance situation and take full advantage of its Groove Filter capabilities, you’ll need a way to sync it up with the rest of the musicians or vice versa. Otherwise, it will be tough to keep the rhythmic filter effects in time with the band. Naturally, if your group uses a sequencer onstage, just slave the AdrenaLinn to it and off you go.

For those of you without sequencers, your best bet is to use the AdrenaLinn to provide an audible tempo reference. Generally, that will mean using the drum output as a steady click for the band to play to. The easiest way to do that is to set the outputs to SEP (separate) mode, which splits the drums to the right output and the guitar to the left. You can then plug the left output in to your amp and send the Drumbeat (which can be changed to a quarter-note click if you want) to the monitors so that your bandmates can play along with it.

Performers will appreciate the AdrenaLinn’s two footswitches: Start – located in the bottom left-hand corner of the unit – can play a four-beat count-off before starting the actual drum pattern, and it can stop the pattern at the end of a song. The Bypass switch allows you to turn off the AdrenaLinn’s processing, toggle between two presets, or retrigger the start of the Drumbeat.


The AdrenaLinn is a groundbreaking product that opens up all sorts of new sonic horizons. I found that every time I plugged my guitar in to it and started playing, it inspired me to create music. I haven’t been as consistently amazed by a piece of gear in a long time.

That said, I do have a couple of minor quibbles. I wish the programming interface for the drums and filter sequencers were more user-friendly. Also, it would be nice if there were an LCD instead of the somewhat cryptic three-digit LED, so that more status information could be provided at a glance.

But frankly, those points are pretty insignificant when you look at the AdrenaLinn as a whole. This device allows you to take your guitar (or other instrument) to places no other processor can. It has an incredibly plentiful feature set, and, considering its power, a remarkably low price. The AdrenaLinn is a must-buy for anyone looking to break free from the limitations of the typical guitar-amp-effects setup.

Mike Levine is the editor of Onstage and spent entirely too much time playing with the AdrenaLinn when he should have been doing his work.


Inputs (1) 1/4″ unbalanced

Outputs (2) 1/4″ unbalanced

Bit Rate/Sampling Frequency 24-bit, 40 kHz

Preset Effects/Filter Patches (100) factory; (100) user

Drumbeats 100/100

Amp Models 12

Total Delay Time 1 second

MIDI Ports In, Out

Display 1.50″ (W) x 0.75″ (H) 3-digit LED

Dimensions 7.25″ (W) x 1.50″ (H) x 4.50″ (D)

Weight 2 lb.


Roger Linn Design

AdrenaLinn Guitar-effects processor $395

Onstage Ratings

PROS: Groove filter allows for unique, beat-synced rhythmic effects. Good amp models. Clean and usable digital delay and modulation effects. Drum machine capabilities. Footswitches for live use. Flexible output routing.

CONS: Laborious programming interface for drum patterns and filter sequences. Limited display. Individual drum sounds can’t be triggered using MIDI.

Contact: Roger Linn Design tel. (510) 898-4878 e-mail Web

Onstage Ratings Guide

Products are rated (from 1 through 5) in four categories: Features, Sound Quality, Ease of Use, and Value. a Poor a a Fair a a a Good a a a a Very Good a a a a a Amazing

To hear audio clips from the AdrenaLinn, go to and click on ONLINEEXTRAS

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