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Re: Ground Control

At 9:15 PM 12/8/96, Patrick Smith wrote:
>On Sunday 12/8/96 Kim wrote:
>>He also complained a lot about having too many footpedals, and the fact
>>that nobody makes a good midi foot controller. He was using a Ground
>>Control, which he was very dissatisfied with. His problems with that 
>>are similar to my complaints about it. It's midi implementation is
>>ridiculously limited, having only program change and a couple of cont.
>>controllers that can't be accessed from the footswitches. Worst is the 
>>of a midi in, so you can't dump your programming to disk and reload it.
>>This made things very complicated since he needed to maintain redundant
>>gear for touring.
>Now I've been in communication with Ed Drake who likes this unit and I was
>preparing to buy one. Does anyone know if Mr. Fripp was using Version 2 of
>this unit? Also I'd appreciate any one else's experience with this or
>similar unit's. For now I'll keep my credit card in the wallet.

I recently bought a Digitech PMC-10 for about $100 used. It has a way
better midi implementation. Unfortunately they are out of production, so
you have to look at the used market for them.

The PMC-10 gives you 500 patches which can be organized any way you like in
100 banks. Each patch lets you set two midi strings, which can be used in
different ways. So, for instance you can have string A sent the first time
you press a footswitch, and String B the second time. Or you can have the
switch operate as a momentary, where string A is sent when you press the
switch and string b is sent when you release it. Naturally, you can send
any midi messages in the string, including notes, continous controllers,
and even sysex. So in addition to changing programs on an effect unit, you
can have a footswitch playing chords on a synth, or sending a specific
controller number to set a volume on your preamp. Or what ever.

Midi out and in, with filtering options on the in. Two continous controller
inputs, with the pedal able to control several continuous controllers at
once, with independant polarities. Also has a voltage level output for
controlling amplifier channel switching and such.

The versatility offered is pretty amazing, which is probably why they
didn't sell well and went out of production. You can even organize the
banks into 5 sets, so you can set the thing up to work differntly for
differnt gigs. I'm just starting to figure the thing out, since I haven't
had time to dig through the manual, but the more I learn the happier I am
with it.

My only complaints are that the display should be bigger, and you program
it using a handheld unit with a very wimpy cable. The handheld unit itself
is pretty rugged, but I've already had to fix the cable once.

Another good pedal is the Rocktron All Access. That's based on the Bradshaw
switching systems, I think. It's pretty expensive, though.

Another thing you should know if you own or are planning to get an
Echoplex, is that the Ground Control cannot control an echoplex. At least
not with the plexes current software. This is because the plex doesn't use
Program Change to control its functions, and that is all the Ground Control
sends. (I talked with the President of Digital Music about this, with the
idea that maybe we could work out some deal where he adds some more
functionality to his pedal and we recommend it as the preferred pedal for
our products. That's when I decided the guy was a jerk, because he had that
"guitar players are too dumb to understand anything like that, so there's
no point in changing" attitude.)

There are a few reasons for the Echoplex being that way. One is just
adhering to the midi spec. Midi program change messages are intended for
changing programs, not executing functions like Start Record. If anything,
those should fall under Midi Machine Control, but that didn't really exist
when the plex was developed. Another reason is that midi program change is
a singular event, carrying only a small amount of information. Many of the
echoplex's functions take advantage of both the pressing of the switch and
the release, which gives the musician greater control without adding dozens
of extra switches. So program change just doesn't work well for that.
Therefore, control of the echoplex is done with either note on/offs or
continuos controllers, which allow much greater degrees of control and seem
more appropriate.

That being said, in reality a lot of people use dumb midi pedals like the
Ground Control. It frankly baffles me that this pedal enjoys such a good
reputation, but then it wouldn't be the first time I had trouble
understanding why people accept mediocrity just because it's well marketed.
Anyway, in developing the not quite available yet upgrade, we caved in and
figured out ways to make midi program change messages control Echoplex
functions. It doesn't work nearly as well as note-on/offs, but at least all
the people with Ground Controls will be able to use them.

I guess I should right some sort of "pedals and the echoplex" tutorial.
Maybe I'll get to that next weekend....


Kim Flint                   | Looper's Delight
kflint@annihilist.com       | http://www.annihilist.com/loop/loop.html
http://www.annihilist.com/  | Loopers-Delight-request@annihilist.com