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Hardware vs. software etc... (Re: 900!!!!!!!!!!!)

Well met, O Mark!

Mark Sottilaro wrote:
> Amazing eh?  Good thing you don't want to do stereo looping or your
> looper would set you back about the price of a good used automobile.

Ah good, the obligatory Sottilaro EDP Stereo Gripe is gotten out of the
way at the beginning!  ;)  (Teasing, dude.)

> Frankly, I've abandoned the idea of ever owning an EDP.  Not because I
> couldn't come up with that money, but because I just don't think it's
> worth it, especially now with software loopers starting to hit the
> market that will make your laptop your best looping friend.  

Probably the single biggest gulf between hardware and software loopers
is the ability to work with live-input audio in the way that
EDP/Repeater/DL4 people are accustomed to.  A program like Radial is
amazing, but it doesn't allow for a real-time input.

Those programs that DO allow for live input still don't offer the exact
same feature set as an EDP (for example).  And there's the oft-stated
issue of various kinds of latencies that exist in computer-based
operating systems.  Even if you do get a "perfect" software clone of
LoopIV, will it "feel" exactly the same on a millisecond-by-millisecond
basis?  For someone like myself, who's spent years practicing the manual
timing of unquantized pedal presses, that's a significant issue.

> Basically, I've given up looking for the ultimate dedicated hardware
> looper.  I don't think it will ever exist because of the nitch market
> we are.  The EDP is expensive and it looks like there will never be a
> significant hardware upgrade for it.

One of the main reasons the EDP costs what it does is because it has so
little in the way of direct competition.  Not even so much in terms of
hardware loopers, but in terms of what the EDP itself can specifically
do that nothing else can - hardware OR software.  

Not everyone wants or needs those features, but those of us who do
aren't going to find a program like Ableton Live or Reaktor to be a
replacement.  They're different "instruments," and using them requires a
different set of mental and physical "techniques" (in both the
figurative and literal sense) in order to play them.  

For people who really understand what they can do, and where they're
coming from, an Echoplex and a Repeater are no more in competition with
one another than are an Ibanez 7-string and a Gretsch hollowbody.  

And an Echoplex is no more in competition with a program like Ableton
Live than an analog recording studio is in competition with Pro Tools -
especially for the recording engineer who's spent years learning how to
coax the right sort of sound out of tape oxides, tube preamps, and
console channels... or musicians who have built their craft off of the
limitation/parameter/reality of having to get a take down by playing it
live, rather than recording two dozen takes and comping them together
with a mouse and a hard drive.

The electric guitar's been around for at least 50 years, but has anyone
ever made an "ultimate" electric guitar?  A Les Paul's a wonderful
instrument, and if you build your playing technique around having two
humbuckers and a fixed bridge, you'll get very attatched to it.  But if
you want a whammy bar and single coils, it's not for you.  

Is there a reason why Keller Williams and Phil Keaggy still use JamMans?
 Why David Torn still carries around 20-year-old Lexicon hardware
(including the one emulated by PSP's software) in his performance rack,
even though he uses the latest and greatest software programs in his
home studio?  Why Robert Fripp likes multiple hardware TC Electronics
digital delays?  Why Nels Cline and Bill Frisell still use ancient
Electro-Harmonix pedals?  

Why people still covet MiniMoogs, after a decade of virtual analog
hardware and software synths?  Why people will spend thousands of
dollars on amassing collections of instruments and amps, instead of just
buying a single Line6 modelling guitar and amplifier?

One thing I've noticed about a lot of people who really like the EDP is
that they tend to be serious players/performers.  My theory is that they
gravitate towards the fact that the Echoplex has a very specific,
narrowly-focused feature set, which is designed and implemented by guys
who are themselves instrumental performers, because they're already of
the mindset to develop an approach within a tightly-defined vision.

The very act of "learning to play an instrument" basically involves
being presented with a set of very narrow parameters, and then spending
years/decades/a lifetime learning how to make music by working within
those parameters.  And people who really respond to the EDP seem to zero
in on that aspect of its design.  

On the other hand (and at the risk of over-simplifying), people who
don't dig the EDP are generally looking for "more" options - more audio
channels, more tracks within a given loop, more memory - basically, a
"bigger" and "broader" general universe of possibilities.  The more
subtle (and unique) aspect of the Echoplex - and the VERY deep and broad
world of possibilities within that particular world - don't seem to be
much of an issue for these folks.

So certainly, if someone can comfortably go between Digital Performer,
Reaktor, MAX/MSP, Ableton Live, or a Repeater for their looping needs,
they aren't going to need to bother with an EDP.  Because the common
ground amongst all of those programs is so broad generalized that
there's very little crossover with what an Echoplex can do.

In the meantime, it seems to me the choice is:

1) a $750 EDP and a $130 MIDI pedal 

2) a laptop computer, a control interface to trigger the functions of
the computer without having to use a QWERTY keyboard, a MIDI interface
for the controller to talk to the computer (if my preferred controller
of choice doesn't have a USB port), an audio interface with low enough
input latency to not be (too) noticable (or zero-latency input
monitoring, which would require me to deal with the pre-software sound
of the input instrument), enough dedicated channels within the audio
interface to allow me to blend my live input instrument with the
post-software sound (or, barring that, a dedicated hardware mixer),
enough RAM to allow the programs to run smoothly, however many programs
I might want to run (individually or simultaneously)...

and it STILL won't let me do what an EDP can do.

Not exactly a neck-and-neck competition, from my point of view.


--Andre LaFosse