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Tape Loops vs Echoplex


Great to hear from you.  I'm sorry you didn't come up after the Santa Cruz
concert but I sure know about the kids thing (congrats on the two boys,
I've got one).

About your questions regarding my old 4-track tape loop system and the move
to Echoplex:  a variety of choices led to the switch.  The first being that
I felt I had explored pretty much all I could do with the 4-track system,
as wonderful as it was, after a while it made me compose in a certain way
and I needed to find newers tools for the new musical ideas.  Also, as you
know, the system is very heavy and since it was built in 1979, and had
millions of (both internal and external) miles on it, it was becoming
somewhat unreliable.  At almost every venue on a tour, I had to open it up
and fix something, usually just a loose or dirty connector but it was a

I find the Echolplex to be a very powerful new tool with many features
unattainable on the tape loop system.  But there are some things the tape
system could do which the Echoplex can't.  First, I use 3 Echoplexes to
just get close to the kind of multitrack stereo field I could create with
the 4 track loop (essentially 4 stereo signals).  More would be even better
but I would feel even more guilty hogging so many of the hard to get units.
 The other major drawback is that with the tape loop system, I had
completely control over variable speed,  from around 4 inches per second to
almost 30 IPS.  This allowed me to record parts at one speed and then to
play them back at radically different speeds (and thus pitches).  Many of
my pieces used this aspect (pretty much the way samplers work, but this was
way before samplers) and it is simply not possible on the Echoplex.  I've
spoken to Kim about this and apparently this kind of feature would have to
be implemented at the deepest design stage and would essentially make it a
different instrument, or something similarly impossible.  

I control features such as Feedback and output volume with MIDI (via a
Digitech PMC-10) and I have to say, the sum total of the resolution of the
combination of footpedal and 127 steps of MIDI is still rather coarse and
at times feels unreliable.  I preferred the smoothness of my homemade
analog footpedals for really slow smooth fade ins and outs.  MIDI may just
be too coarse, (or my foot pedal perhaps).  I think volume should have 1024
increments, not 127.  After all, we can really discern very fine
differences in volume.  One other small complaint, I wish the input were
not so sensitive to overload, but they built a huge amount of gain into the
input stage in order to deal with all levels, from mics to hot signals.  (I
put a peak limiter/compressor on my signal going to input in order not to
overload the unit in the excitment of performance or when experimenting
with wild new patches.)

But all this slight complaining aside, I really love the musical and
compositional possibilities the desigers have put into the unit and so
would recommend it without hesitation.  Maybe I just put the complaints in
so that they would get on someone's list for the next design upgrade.  Are
you listening Kim?

Hope to see you again soon Eric, I have and still listen to your olds

Best Regards,

Paul Dresher