Imagine a studio effects box, that you could NOT buy, but instead had to rent it by the minute? This would not fly today, but back in 1975 when the Aphex Aural Exciter was released by Aphex Systems, it was only available to rent, and you paid US$30 per minute of the final track.
So, if you made a 3-minute single, it was US$90 for the use of the Aphex Aural Exciter. Amazingly, this thing was a massive hit, and everybody wanted it!
So, what exactly did this thing do? The Aphex Aural Exciter did exactly what its name implies, it added excitement to an otherwise ‘dull’ sounding recording. It did this by synthesising harmonically rich distortion, to the upper frequencies of the signal, along with some ‘musically’ sweet phase shifting. The synthesis process involved creating higher order harmonics from the fundamental frequency, which unlike a boost of an EQ did not increase the level of the noise floor.
The arrival of the Aphex Aural Exciter could not have had better timing. It arrived at a time where bands were either sub-mixing down to allow more tracks on 8 and 16 track machines or if you were Fleetwood Mac, wearing out the tapes!
Lindsey Buckingham’s almost maniacal pursuit of perfection took a toll on the 2″ 24 Track tapes used to record the now infamous ‘Rumours’ album. Having spent several months in the studio and running the tapes back and forth hundreds of times, the oxide on the tape was wearing thin, and that resulted in a dull playback. This is where the Aphex Aural Exciter came in, to rescue the sound of what is now regarded as one of the greatest rock records ever made. (So, who can argue with Lindsey’s perfectionism?)
The original Aphex Aural Exciter from 1975 shown here is so rare, simply because they were never sold to the public, and as they improved on the product, it is assumed they destroyed the older models. However, because of the demand for this product they eventually yielded and manufactured product for sale. This resulted in the Aphex Aural Exciter Type B and Type C solid state models which enjoyed a huge amount of success in the analogue days but see much less use in the digital age.