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Re: Hardware Loopers--Tools or Collector's items?

Art Simon wrote:
> As a former owner of an edp owner and a current repeater owner, 
> I'm wondering if the handwriting is on the wall for hardware loopers. 

Unless that handwriting includes the complete, bug-free code to
perfectly emulate every known hardware looper, with zero input and
processing latency in a computer-based environment, then I'd say no.  :)

> I recently downloaded AudioMulch and Ellotronix XL(both free!) 
> and was impressed by what I could do.  While they don't have the 
> same capabilites as the edp and repeater, they are equally powerful 
> in their own way. 

The EDP and Reepater themselves don't have the same capabilities, so
lumping them together in comparison to freeware softs is doing them both
a bit of a disservice.

I did a Google search for "Ellotronix XL" and only found six results,
none of them in English, so I can't talk about that.  As far as
Audiomulch, it does look like a very impressive package for what it
does.  But what it does is coming from a totally different paradigm than
something like an EDP, and comparing the two of them against each other
is like comparing a Hammond organ to a software synthesizer.

> So I'm thinking, should I sell my repeater?

If you can do everything you want to do with the Repeater in software
instead, and are happy to be tied to a computer for your looping, then
maybe so.

> Have hardware loopers become valuble collector's items while 
> software loopers are becoming more powerful musician's tools? 


For one thing (and to reiterate the first idea), there's no direct
competition for something like an Echoplex in the software world,
because there's no software that does everything the Echoplex already
does (and was doing 10 years ago, for that matter).

Sure, you could hypothetically sit down with Max/MSP or Reaktor or some
other modular system, and try to assemble your own version of it, or you
could write the code from scatch.  That's assuming you're willing to
spend however many months or years it will take to get all of the
functions intact (and usable in rapid succession, in a stable, bug-free
manner) before you can actually stop building your instrument and start
making music with it.  It also assumes you'll be able to live with
whatever latency your software and interface will impose on both your
input audio, and your actual post-input looping functions. 

There's apparently a UNIX emulation of the EDP LoopIII software, written
by a guy who read the EDP manual but never actually used one in person. 
I'd be interested to know how stable and bug-free it is, what kind of
latency it has, and what sorts of possibilities exist for interfaces
(both in terms of getting audio in and out of the computer, and in terms
of controlling the looping functions) for something like this.  But I've
never heard of someone using it, so it doesn't seem to be serious
competition as of yet.

> My guitar isn't worth more than a month's rent--should my looper be?

If your looper is a program like Audiomulch, MAX, Ableton Live, or any
other piece of pure software, then a true "cost benefit analysis" needs
to take the full package into consideration.

So, beyond the cost of the software itself, you need to budget for:

- The computer itself (and if you're looking at using this in a true
performance situation, you need to assume you're running a laptop)

- Sufficient RAM for the computer to juggle all of the necessary
functions in real time

- An audio interface that can pipe your input into the software, and
pipe the computer sound back out

- A controller that can send all of the necessary commands to make your
software do what it needs to, and can send the kinds of commands that
particular piece of software can recognize.  (And, again, if you're a
performer, one that can do so in a manner that's efficient for the
player, and hopefully elegant for the audience)

Ultimately, though, this is all kind of academic.  The bottom line is:
what do you want to do, and how are you willing to do it?  

A rock bassist who wants to loop backing chords to solo over while he
plays in a bar isn't going to need a program like Audiomulch.  Ask him
if he'd rather spend several thousand dollars on a laptop rig, or less
than $300 for a DL4 or Boss looper.

Likewise, a programmer who wants to have four seperate loops of
different lengths running simultaneously, with individual volume and
feedback controls, sending each loop to a seperate processing path and
audio output, isn't going to be satisfied with one Echoplex.  (Nor
should he be, because that's not what the EDP was designed to do in the
first place.)

Some day hardware loopers may be completely eliminated by software.  But
I don't want to put my music making on indefinite hold while I wait for
someone to emulate what's already readily available here and now. 
Especially not when there's still so much I have to learn about my 

--Andre LaFosse