This is the story of how I recorded the most emotionally shattering harp part I’ve ever laid on a track. Like Ringo said: you know it don’t come easy.
I performed last night (5 April 2014) with Lowlands in Milan, and it was a great gig. The venue, Spazio Teatro 89, is a very nice theatre that seats about 250, and the place was packed. The acoustics in the room and onstage were wonderful. I could hear every detail of my own and the band’s performance without straining. The band—which actually consisted of a core unit of Ed Abbiatti (guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter), a keyboardist (on piano, organ, and accordion), a drummer, a mandolinist, augmented by a range of performers (including me, a cellist, a horn section, a lap steel guitarist, and two bassists, one standup, one electric) who played on some tunes but not all (I played on 17 tunes, which shows you how long the set was)—was in fine form, and the audience went nuts basically from the first piece through the end of the show. Very cool.
I published most of this post in a response to a question posted in the comments here. I figured that it was worth publishing as a post in its own right. So here are a half dozen things I think about when I’m choosing between a Digitech RP360XP and an RP500.
Blog, Hunter's Effects, Hunter's Music, Recommended Gear, Recorded Performances (live and otherwise), Upcoming Performances
I’m doing a gig in Milan, Italy at Spazio Teatro 89 on April 5 with Ed Abbiatti and his band Lowlands. It’s an all-acoustic show in (I’m told) a big theatre, and it’s going to be recorded and video’d, so there should be some cool stuff to see and hear afterwards (like an “Unplugged” DVD). I’m spending a few more days in Milan after that to record a few more songs with Ed and Lowlands for the next record. I’ve been on just about every record Ed’s made with this group, and it’s cool to be part of that history.
I’m bringing the Digitech RP360XP with me on this trip, not the RP500. I ran the two boxes side by side tonight, comparing identical patch setups, and the RP360XP sounded better overall–the same vivid tones as the 500, which after all is based on the same chip, but bigger and more detailed somehow. Like Bill Clayton at Digitech tech support told me: subtly better.
That wouldn’t be enough to get me off the 500, which has very, very superior performance features compared to the 360XP, except for two things:
1) The 360XP runs on Euro standard wall power as well as US standard, and the 500 doesn’t. So I’d have to drag a transformer to the gig with the 500. Much simpler with the 360XP. Also…
2) With this band, I won’t be doing the rapid tone changes I use on my own stuff–for the most part I’ll stick to one basic sound per song, and use the expression pedal to modulate the sound. So the performance features of the RP500 aren’t so important this time.
And oh, yeah: if you’re flying a long way, every extra pound and cubic inch in your luggage matters. The 360XP is a lot smaller and lighter than the 500, and that makes a difference here. (However, I have to carry a direct box with the 360XP, because there are no XLR outs.)
The other big difference for me is that the RP500 is programmed with all the tailored sounds I use for my own repertoire, as well as the v17 patch set I offer in my store. The RP360XP only has the v17 patch set in it, and even a few of those patches need some tweaking. (Did you wonder why I haven’t released a set for the RP360 yet? That’s why.) However, I don’t think I’ll miss the customized tones on this gig. Most of them are variations on the v17 sounds anyway, with EQ adjustments for the layered arrangements I do in my solo work. So I don’t expect to miss the repertoire-specific sounds, which is a good thing given that I don’t have time to program them into the RP360XP before I get to Milan, either.
The biggest problem I may have is convincing Ed to let me use the RP–it’s an Unplugged gig, after all. But I’ll work on it. Stay tuned for more details on the gig. See you in Milan.
I’ve been pissing and moaning a lot about my RP360XP the last few days. I think it’s only fair to note that the folks at Digitech Tech Support (firstname.lastname@example.org) are the best I’ve dealt with just about anywhere. They are unfailingly prompt, polite, to the point, and accurate in their advice. When I have a problem I can’t solve, I go to them with full confidence that they’re going to help. Every time.
It’s easy to forget stuff like that when you’re struggling with a series of problems such as the ones I’ve had with the RP360XP in the last few days. So let it be said: Digitech’s tech support gets it right.
Now back to pissing and moaning…
I had to power the device down and up again 6 times, with Nexus running on my computer, before the firmware update worked. The first 5 times, the update started, took a few shaky steps into the RP’s flash memory, then shut down. The sixth time, it went all the way. And to my great relief, the backup I’d saved of the 50 presets in my Huntersounds v17 patch set loaded on the first try.
So I’m up and running again with the RP360XP, ready to test the patch set in the audible world. I still don’t know if the problems I’ve seen with the stability of patches in the RP360′s memory have been solved by the latest firmware update, but I’ll know soon. Stay tuned.
And Digitech, if you’re reading this, would you please fix this s—? I own one of almost every RP you ever made, starting with the RP200. I’ve been programming the RPs for 10 years. And if I didn’t have that history, I would have thrown this thing into the trash on Day One, because so far it’s the buggiest piece of gear I’ve ever bought from anyone. And you must know it, because it’s pretty amazing to see the first firmware rev less than two weeks after a device becomes available for sale. It makes me wonder whether that rev was underway even before the device went public, i.e. whether you knew the thing had some serious issues when it was released. Did you?
Last night I completed installing the first set of 50 Huntersounds patches on my Digitech RP360. I immediately backed up the set to my computer using Digitech’s crippled Nexus software. I’m glad I did, because if I hadn’t all that work would have been lost, maybe forever.
Yup. It’s here. If you’ve been waiting for the Huntersounds patch set for Digitech RP1000, wait no longer. $50 gets you fifty killer original harp-ready sounds. Just go straight to our store and pick it up.
I’ve given up completely on editing the RP360XP via the Nexus software–it’s just impossibly bad crap, and it creates more problems than it solves.
Fortunately, it turns out that editing the RP360XP via its front panel works fine. What a surprise. The front panel in the previous generation of RPs was okay for minor tweaks, but it would start to go flaky if you edited more than a few patches at a time. The RP360XP’s front panel editing is fully functional, stable, and very precise.
So I’m making good headway now on this device, and I’ll probably finish initial setup on the first set of patches this week. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, Digitech, if you’re really serious about software support for your devices, try making software that works. It can’t be that hard. After all, your competitors have been doing it for years.
I spent a few hours converting my RP500 patches to the RP360XP last night, and I discovered another serious design flaw in the Nexus software. This is beginning to look like a trend, huh?