Not too long ago, we did a review of Elektron's latest effect unit, the Analog Drive. In that review, we mentioned that it was based on the Heat, a distortion unit that had the ability to add life to your digital productions. In this review, we will be going over just how flexible the unit is. So without further ado, let's dive in.
What is it? Like the Drive, the Analog Heat is a multi-circuit distortion unit, but with a built-in soundcard and the ability to be used as a plugin via the Overbridge VST, something the Drive was lacking. The Heat is also MIDI compatible, having MIDI In/Out/Thru. Design-wise, it's easy to see that the Drive was built off the Heat's backbone. Both feature a large adjustable knob that lets you select one of the 8 different circuits, but the Heat features, even more, precision editing with the filter and modulation capabilities. The Heat is also fully stereo.
How does it work? One of the great things about this unit is that it can be used in so many different ways. At it's simplest, it's a plug-and-play guitar pedal. At its best, it's a distortion unit that, as stated earlier, can inject real analog power into your digital workspace, and can be used to create textures and add weight that you just will not find in any plugin. If you want to stay out of the box, every control is accessible via a couple buttons max. Should you want to use automation in your DAW, when used in plugin mode, everything you do on the interface can be automated.
How does it sound? The best thing, in my opinion, is the sound. From a nice and subtle grit to industrial grade distortion, the Heat can do it all. Using it on kicks or percussion add rich tones to your sounds, and when used on things like acid basslines, game over. You can even use it on the master channel, and dial in just a tiny bit of saturation with the wet/dry knob. This really creates a nice and full sounding mix. Or you could just go full industrial noise using the High Gain circuit. For a full list and demo of each circuit, below is a playlist with the Heat being used on various types of sounds.
So what do I think of it? Personally, I love it. I love the ease of use, and the massive sound it carries. I love that you can run it fully analog, or instantly connect to your DAW, and there is no audible difference in sound. I've said it probably three times now, but I can't stress enough how great it is to add real analog power to your digital domain. Normally to do this, you'd need to run whatever part you want to beef up, be that a bass or the entire mix, out of your computer, into a mixing board (should you have access to a Neeve or something), then back into your computer. But as soon as you open Overbridge, you've gained the same abilities using a single USB cable. That in itself is worthy of celebration. And to make things better, Overbridge itself is a breeze to use and is instantly recognizable after using the Heat.
My final thoughts? My three biggest things I look for are power, ease of use, and enjoyment. All three of these are present in this little black box, and the fact that it can be as simple or as in-depth as you want it to be makes it a real winner. Design-wise, it follows Elektron's Analog Four, Rtym, and Octatrack units, all of which have just been updated, so it will be interesting to see if they make a version two of this as well. Other than that, if you are looking to add some spice to your setup, without going overboard with gear and cables, this is the unit for you. Oh, and there is a sweet dust cover that doubles as a protective case you can get for it as well.
Pros: Raw analog power, controllable via plugin
Cons: The price, although you can find them for less online
Final Score: 9/10