After our rehearsal on the 18th, I realized that the only way to get what I wanted was to bite the bullet, run the audio through a computer, and use plug-in effects. It still didn’t seem like an ideal situation; I needed the computer and breakout box, but also an audio interface. There was also the issue of copy protection (would I be asked for an authorization disk in the middle of a gig?) and the disconcerting feeling that computers aren’t really built to rock and roll specs.
First question: Mac vs. Windows, and Windows won hands-down due to the ease with which a Windows laptop can be replaced or repaired on the road (ironically, back in the mid-90s I used the original Mac Powerbooks because they were easier to repair than Windows laptops. But over the years, the situation has reversed because of the proliferation of Windows notebooks.)
Second question: Which notebook? I didn’t want to use the Rain Recording computer I take on the road for my solo-oriented DJ performances, writing, doing email and Skype, and the like. I felt I needed to dedicate a computer to EV2 and only EV2. I was reviewing an ADK notebook that was great, but I couldn’t afford the near-$2K price tag. I briefly considered using a compact desktop setup, like a Shuttle PC, Rain Recording Event, or even a Mac Mini, but decided that having to use a separate display/keyboard/mouse was a deal-breaker.
Fortunately, I had an old DAW laptop sitting around with a Pentium 4 that I used when giving seminars – not the spiffiest computer in the world, but a hot machine in its day and likely capable of doing what I needed. I dragged it out and booted it up, and left configuring the system for another day.
There was also the issue of something to house all this gear. As luck would have it, I was reviewing the Furman SPC-8B for the Harmony Central Confidential newsletter (www.harmony-central.com), and it seemed ideal for what I was doing.
The power supply has protection (always a good thing to have on stage), with four protected outlets, and a Velcro base for adding effects. But note this was only for the computer-related elements; the DigiTech GNX3000 that’s also part of the setup is not much smaller than the pedalboard itself, so it sets up to the left of the pedalboard. Originally I had the GNX3000 set up to the right, but then the MAGIC interface Ethernet cable came out of the setup straight in front of me, and I ended up stepping on it or worst case, tripping on it. Having the Ethernet cable come toward the guitar from the right, perpendicular to my body, solved that problem and gave me a lot more freedom on stage. This is also when I realized that as wireless was not an option, eventually, I would need to make a longer cable. (The MAGIC network can handle hundreds of feet, so one of these days I’ll make a 20-30 foot cable.)
Here’s a picture of the final setup, from the soundcheck at the Santa Fe Muzik Fest. Going clockwise starting from the mic stand, there’s the DigiTech GNX3000 on the floor, the DigiTech VL2 for vocals, the pedalboard (with computer, MAGIC breakout box, and computer interface), and to the right, the Bose L1 guitar-amp-that’s-not-supposed-to-be-a-guitar-amp. So why am I holding the guitar neck almost parallel to the L1’s speaker column? We’ll get into that later.
Incidentally it’s worth mentioning that due to the use of a network instead of audio cables to carry the signal, you don’t have to worry about hum and other issues. You can drape the Ethernet cable on top of a transformer, and it makes no difference to the sound of the guitar.
Anyway, I didn’t tie down all the components to the pedalboard’s Velcro yet, as I wanted to live with the setup for as long as possible before committing to a “permanent” setup.