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Re: EDP Footpedal vs. FCB1010 ? ?

i just re-read my reply to u.

i really have to say that i commend what u guys have done in getting so many criteria INTO the design. cause thats how i feel. u accomplised the task. it IS quite simple and easy to fix. i DO love the fact that it has no power requirements and all it needs is a 1/4" cable.

i also like midi controllers for the fact that i can chain the midi's together from station to station. if they were all edp fc's, id need the same length of 1/4" cable each time. i have no prob with the need for a ac outlet though other than increasing setup time (well, pull down time). this whole looping thing has GREATLY increased that. i have a gig tonight and im NOT looking forward to tearing down after it. thats the worst part of LIFE. 'specially if im "altered":-)

but yeah, great job on the design. i wish there was some way to make it NOT go bad so relatively easily. (i know ur going to chew me out on that last sentence).
Adrian Bartholomew
Leawood KS
On Sep 13, 2005, at 3:45 AM, Kim Flint wrote:

At 08:49 AM 9/11/2005, Adrian Bartholomew wrote:
ITS PERFECT. go with the 1010.

hmmm, I would say the FCB1010 is ok, but only compared to other midi controllers currently available. But that is only because most of the others available today are really horrible. Only the Rocktron All Access seems better than the Behringer FCB1010, but much more expensive.

Compared to some past midi controllers however, the Behringer FCB1010 is really weak. The Digitech PMC-10 and the Lake-Butler RFC-1 Midigator were really exceptional, full-featured midi pedals, and completely blow away anything available today. Both are long out of production. They are really hard to find today because people really treasure them. If you can find one, get it.

It is really sad that nobody makes something comparable. I wish somebody would just copy the old Digitech PMC-10 architecture.

the EDP foot controller response time is good. dont get me wrong. but the reliability is NOT. from what i understand, its not voltage controlled, its RESISTANCE controlled. maybe that is the problem in the 1st place. others may refute me but i have one and it sucks. any contamination of the buttons can set off the resistances and ur then screwed...ONSTAGE.

I've seen you make these accusations about our poor pedal design a few times Adrian, so allow me to explain the design goals we sought in creating the Echoplex footpedal controller.

First of all, the people involved in the Echoplex design are all musicians in addition to engineers. In fact we were all musicians before we were engineers. We've used many different pieces of gear as musicians. We've dragged our gear around for rehearsals and gigs. We've experienced problematic gear over time that irritated us or broke on us or couldn't be worked around at the last minute, and we sought to do better with the Echoplex. We designed the Echoplex pedal to hopefully address many of these problems that we had been irritated by in other gear.

So despite what you say, reliability was one of the key design goals. (I'll come back to the issue of what "reliability" means a bit later.)

First, let's cover the design requirements we came up with for the Echoplex pedal:

- The pedal should not use a proprietary cable. Cables will go bad. We've all experienced it. If you can't replace the cable at the last minute because it is some proprietary special-order thing, you are screwed. So, the pedal must use a cable anybody can get easily, or preferably something they likely have anyway.

- The cable must not be fixed to the unit. Since we don't know how big your stage is, we want to let you choose how long of a cable you need. We also want you to be able to replace it easily if the cable dies. Especially for transporting gear, attached cables get bent in strange ways and suffer tremendous strain. It will be better if it is easily detached.

- There should only be one cable between pedal and rack. More cables means more points of failure. More cost to the user. More crap cluttering up the stage. More connections to be made while setting up before the gig. More things to connect the wrong way by mistake. More jacks to fail. One cable must be enough for the Echoplex pedal.

- The pedal should not require power. Power supplies fail often, especially power supplies out on stage where they deal with beer, power surges, booted stage divers and etc., and therefore anything requiring a power supply is less reliable than a passive device. A power supply requirement also adds to the inconvenience. This requires power brought out to the stage, and an additional cable connection be made to the pedal.

- The pedal must be very simple in design, so it is easy to repair on the road. Anything on the floor of a stage will get broken eventually, so assume field repairable is essential. This pedal will be getting stomped on, kicked around, getting beer spilled on it, getting rained on, sitting in the hot sun in the summer, freezing in the winter, etc. No matter what you do it will break for somebody. It should be easy for the user to open the pedal up and fix it.

- It should be easy for people to make custom controllers. Most people probably want a pedal, but not all. Some want to make their own custom pedal. We have no idea what the others may want. It should be easy for those who want something different to create their own controller without much engineering knowledge or other sophistication. The pedal design should be very simple for this to be possible.

- The pedal design must be very inexpensive to produce. People are spending their money on the EDP, the foot controller should not be a huge extra expense. The target manufacturing cost for parts, fabrication, assembly, packaging, etc. should be less than $20.

- The switches themselves must a) be quiet when pressed, b) have reasonably low force required for activation, c) have a reasonably short throw length, d) have a good tactile feel. This is so the musician can easily feel the connection point for tapping loop functions, which a generally very rhythmic and demand precision.

In our opinion, these design goals were very friendly towards musicians, at least according to our real-world experience as musicians.

So my challenge to you Adrian, is what would you design to meet these requirements? You think our design sucks, so I would very much like to hear your better idea. Perhaps you are a brilliant engineer, and we can all learn from you!

Now, given the design goals above, allow me to tell you how we chose to meet them when we designed the Echoplex Digital Pro. Our Echoplex pedal design used 7 resistors, 7 switches, one mono 1/4" patch cable (just like you would use for a guitar, or even a speaker cable), one cable jack, steel chassis, and no external power. This means:
- Very few components, so there is little there to break.
- It is really easy to figure out how the pedal works if you open it, so most anybody can figure out how to repair it quickly if there is a problem.
- We published the resistor values in the manual, so anybody could make their own controller if they wished. It's really easy to do.
- The switches are common momentary switches, and there are numerous options for those if you want to use something different from what we used. However we did spend a lot of time trying switches, and we did not find anything that met our goals for remotely close to the cost of the ones we used.

We created the pedal itself to be a very simple design to ensure reliability, while all the smarts are in the rack unit. Simple stuff has less ways to break. The pedal simply sets a voltage, and the rack unit reads the voltage with an a/d convertor to interpret the function. Contrary to recent claims here on the LD list, the switch is debounced twice. First it is debounced in the rack with a capacitor before the a/d convertor , and then debounced again in software, where the value is checked multiple times to ensure it is correctly read. There is a wide tolerance given to the voltage range for each function, so even if things are off a bit, it should still work.

I thought our design was rather clever, and I was always proud that we managed to get 7 buttons of control communicated through just a simple patch cord. But I'm now looking forward to Adrian educating me on better ideas.

Our Echoplex design has been working pretty well since 1994. Many pedals have been working that long without problems (including mine). The design itself generally does not fail. Usually the only problems seen are with switches failing in various ways. (like getting dirty.) A failing switch is a failing switch. Any pedal will have a problem if the switches fail, so that is not a problem unique to the Echoplex.

And that brings up an interesting point. If you are into looping, you will be tapping buttons and switches a lot. Probably much more than on any other device you use. Switches wear out when used frequently. (you may not be used to this.) They get dirty. They break. They become intermittent. You need to start thinking about switches similar to the way guitarists think about strings, or DJ's think about crossfaders, or saxophonists think about reeds, or drummers think about drum heads, or like the oil in your car. Looper switches are commodities that wear out and need regular replacement and/or care. It has nothing to do with it being an Echoplex pedal or a boss or a digitech or whatever. If you are stepping on it a lot, the switch will wear out. Be prepared or be sorry.

And I can guarantee you - you know those switches on your FCB1010? If you use it for looping, their gonna break also. It's just a matter of time. Do you know how to fix them?

Now, let's talk about reliability. What is more reliable, the Echoplex pedal, or a midi pedal like the Behringer FCB1010? How do you determine that objectively?

Reliability is an engineering science. It is not a guessing game. It is also not my engineering specialty, but I work with reliability engineers who are very good. I don't know exactly how they do their reliability calculations, but I do know what information I need to specify to them, and what results they provide back. (another reason why I think it is funny when people think laptops are a good thing to bring on stage, but that is another topic.) Here are some parameters that go into a reliability calculation:

- how many components are used
- what is the individual reliability of each component in the usage conditions
- how many component pins are connected
- how many electrical connection points (solder joints, connectors, sockets, etc.)
- what sort of shock and vibration will it experience
- Is the device powered
- If it is powered, what voltages and voltage tolerances are used (and how do they affect individual device reliability characteristics, as each device will be different depending on its own manufacturing process.)
- if powered, What are the temperature ranges where it operates
- what are humidity ranges where it operates

All these factors go into calculating the MTBF (mean time before failure). Half the units made will fail before that time, and half after, with some statistical distribution. (I think it is gaussian, but I'm not sure.)

Now, considering all that, any midi pedal (including the Behringer FCB) will have far more parts, far more device pins, far more connection points, will be powered, will have more external connections, will be more affected by temperature, more affected by humidity, etc., than the overwhelmingly simple Echoplex pedal.

In other words, if you really do a serious reliability analysis, a midi pedal will always prove to be less reliable than the Echoplex pedal, and probably it is the least reliable device you are using.

On the other hand, if you do use a good midi controller pedal with the Echoplex, you will have far more flexibility and access to commands than you do with the pedal or the Echoplex front panel (assuming you are using LoopIV in your Echoplex, LoopIII wasn't so interesting for midi). A good midi pedal is far more useful with the Echoplex, and that may be an excellent reason to choose the midi pedal option!

It is great to have choices,

Kim Flint | Looper's Delight
kflint@loopers-delight.com | http://www.loopers-delight.com