If you crave dense sonic stews then this updated version of the EHX 2880 has many advantages – and some drawbacks. Review by Richard Purvis
Specs: Four-track digital looper pedal.9v power supply included. Made in the USA
Price: £350; add £85 for the optional foot controller
Contact: Electro-Harmonix - www.ehx.com
A new bit of Electro-Harmonix kit is guaranteed to lighten the winter gloom as sure as setting fire to your shed, and this great American institution has really been pumping them out in recent years. While classics like the Big Muff Pi and Deluxe Memory Man are still holding their analogue end up, there’s now a daunting array of digital EHX gadgets to dabble with too. Here’s one of the latest: a device that looks more like a mixing desk than a stompbox, and can’t decide whether it’s a looper or a multi-track recorder
Well, it’s both: it’s a looper that allows you to record onto four separate tracks, mess about with relative levels and panning, then mix down onto one stereo track… and then add another four tracks on top of that if you want to.
It has stereo inputs and outputs, as well as the option to transfer files to and from your PC or Mac via USB, and the name is a reference to the seconds of uncompressed 16-bit audio it can store on the supplied 4GB SD card (the previous 2880 model came with a 1GB card). That works out as 750 minutes, in a maximum of 100 loops, and slots 1 to 34 on the card complete with pre-recorded drum patterns.
The sheer number of knobs, sliders and buttons might make the 45000 look scary – and Muff-loving stoner rock casualties beware, this thing comes with a 21-page manual – but it doesn’t take long to battle through the bemusement and start enjoying yourself. That’s especially true if you’ve also managed to beg an extra £85-ish to purchase the optional foot controller, which we would advise, as it allows you to record, play back and hop from one stored loop to another without bending over and knocking over someone’s drink with your headstock. The floor controller is highly, highly recommended.
And so is engaging the Quantize button, at least to begin with. This gives you a four-click count-in and tidies up the end of your loop to the nearest bar; no more fretting about hitting the switch at the millisecond-perfect moment. Getting the first track down is easy, and then it’s just a question of selecting the next one to pour some more of your magic over the top… and then the next two after that. Pan to taste, mix at your leisure.
The white buttons on the right offer extra functions such as punching in and out, syncing with an external MIDI clock and, for the sonically reckless, the joys of reverse mode and an octave drop. Then there’s the tempo slider which, tape-style, changes pitch as well as speed. Its glissando action cleverly locks onto fixed semitones, allowing you to glide up and down without struggling to get back in tune with yourself. It is cool.
What other features might you expect to find on a high-priced looper? Familiar functions like undo and delete, perhaps? They’re not here – and that’s the 45000’s most surprising weakness. To make a loop disappear, you have to save a new one over it; to make a single take disappear, you have to record over it with the fader set low, which will cause the original recording to gradually fade away. On the plus side, creative use of this feature can blur the line between looper and long delay, meaning you might even be able to pull off some creepingly organic post-rock key changes.
Tags: Effects, Electro Harmonix, Home, Pedals, Reviews
We’ve tested this out as a guitar device and had a spiffing time all round, but perhaps we should also have handed it to a mob of sideways-baseball-capped street urchins and let them get ‘urban’ on its ass. It is a powerful and fun-stuffed tool for guitarists, but inventive musicians with gritty old drum machines and analogue synths might find more lasting value in its stereo capabilities. Either way, loopers have come a long way and it’s nice to see that the pioneers of Electro-Harmonix have not been left behind.