The Alesis airFX offers fifty of their well-established effects, with three (fixed) parameters that can be altered for any given patch. In this respect it’s similar to the Ineko and Akira devices. However, this unit is radically different to most in that you alter the parameters by a hand movement, like the ancient theremin or the Roland “d-beam”.
You connect the airFX via two phono sockets to any line-level sound source and output via two similar sockets. Moving your hand, (or any other body part!) through the invisible 3D sphere formed by the internal sensors, triggers the effect. You can move in any direction; up / down, left / right, in or out, and the three parameters are altered accordingly. When you have a sound you like, you can freeze it by pressing and holding the patch selection knob for a couple of seconds, after which you can remove your hand. The sound resets when you either press again or change patch. There is no other way to control the patches, sadly midi is completely absent.
The first 40 or so patches are used to process incoming signals. Each one works best with certain types of signal – I have about 10 settings that work well with my loops. The unit delights me because it seems alive – you cannot realistically reproduce an exact sound live, so the performance is far more organic and physical than if you were turning rotary knobs. Don’t underestimate the visual appeal as well – many, many people come up after a set and ask what I was waving my hand about for
Typically for Alesis, they have no plans to develop the airFX and it has been discontinued. However, they are still to be found quite cheaply and I wouldn’t be without mine!