DPC-8EZ vs. DPC-5?

Disaster Area Designs has just announced the DPC-8EZ pedalboard controller.  Wait, we hear you say, don’t you guys already make something like this?

Well, yes.

We’ve been making the DPC-5 pedalboard controller for over a year now, and they’ve been very popular.  However, the DPC-5 doesn’t fit the needs of all the players out there – nothing can!  There’s no way to make one product work for everyone, so we decided to offer a controller with a different feature set.

 DPCvsDPC

Both the DPC-5 and the new DPC-8EZ can switch your pedals on and off in preset combinations and one at a time.  Other than that basic similarity, the two controllers are different in a lot of important ways.  The DPC-8EZ was designed for the player who has more non-MIDI pedals than MIDI ones.  The DPC-5 was designed as a standalone controller for a small to medium sized pedalboard with a number of MIDI pedals.

If you are using 6-8 non-MIDI pedals that you’d like to be able to program into presets, or if you want to switch stereo non-MIDI pedals then the DPc-8EZ is a good choice.  It doesn’t have the MIDI controller or looper modes, so it’s always going to be switching pedals or presets.  It also plays well with other MIDI controllers and can be used as a “slave” unit to expand just about anything that sends MIDI program changes.  It has an “insert,” which is an always-on loop that may be used in a number of ways, such as splitting the controller into two sides for stereo use or for connecting some pedals in the preamp of your amp and others in the FX loop.

If you’re using a bunch of MIDI pedals and don’t have as much analog or non-MIDI devices, then the DPC-5 is the clear winner.  You can re-configure it on the fly to be a MIDI controller, preset effects switcher, manual bypass switcher, or even to control the looper on your Strymon Timeline.  Its MIDI mode can “map” programs on up to four devices to a single effects preset, and it has an expression input jack that lets you send MIDI to all four devices at once.  If you don’t have room for a full-sized expression pedal on your board, the DPC-5 is available with an optional side roller that mimics the expression control and is assignable to the same or different destinations – use the roller for looper level on your Timeline and the expression pedal for the Hotknob on your Eventide H9, etc.

And yes, the two devices play well together!  You can use either a DPC-5 or an 8EZ as the “master,” and the other device will follow along as a “slave.”  The DPC-5 is definitely better suited for the master device, since it has more directly accessible presets and a more powerful MIDI implementation.  Either device will also work well with one of our DMC Gen2 controllers as the master device.

Let’s compare the main features of the two controllers:

Number of Loops:

DPC-8EZ = 8

DPC-5 = 5

In addition to this, the DPC-8EZ has an “insert” between loops 4 and 5.  The DPC-5 insert is between the buffered input and the first loop.

Stereo:

DPC-8EZ = may be reconfigured into 4 stereo loops or the standard 8 mono loops.

DPC-5 = no.  All the loops are mono.

In addition, all of the effects loops on the DPC series are fixed in order. Loop 2 always comes after Loop 1, etc. and may not be re-routed.

Buffer:

DPC-8EZ = Z-Mode buffer.  An always-on buffer with selectable output impedance, it plays nice with vibe, wah, and fuzz pedals

DPC-5 = bypassable buffer.  The same basic buffer as the Z-Mode, but with fixed output impedance and a bypass jack.  Plug into the bypass jack for an entirely passive switching system.

MIDI Implementation:

DPC-8EZ = sends program changes (0-48) only, no MIDI mapping, receives continuous controller (CC) and program changes (PC) to control its loops.  No looper controls.  No tap tempo.  Full MIDI thru with merge.

DPC-5 = 4 mappable MIDI channels send any programs on a preset change.  Full looper control.  Sends tap tempo in MIDI mode and using an external footswitch / R2R.  Expression pedal and optional side roller inputs send MIDI CC.  Receives program change messages to recall its presets.  Full MIDI thru with merge.

USB MIDI:

DPC-8EZ = yes!  The DPC-8EZ’s USB port shows up as a class-compliant MIDI interface if you plug it in to your Mac or Windows PC.   You can also connect it to an iPad using the Camera Connection Kit (CCK,) available from most places that sell iPads.  When the DPC-8EZ is connected to the host device (computer / iPad, etc.) the DPC will show up as a MIDI interface on the host.  The MIDI link is two-way, meaning you can use the DPC-8EZ to send messages like program change back to the host, and you can send messages from the host back to the 8EZ.  Possible applications for this are using the DPC-8EZ as a master controller for selecting presets on your live performance DAW like Mainstage or JamUp XT, or for controlling your pedals from a sequencer DAW such as Ableton Live.  The USB MIDI interface also works in concert with the hardware MIDI interface on the DPC-8EZ to let you connect other MIDI devices to your Mac, PC, or iPad through the DPC-8EZ.

DPC-5 = no.  The USB port on the DPC-5 is only used for firmware updates.  You can still control the DPC-5 using MIDI but you’ll need to use another MIDI interface if you want to connect it to your Mac, PC, or iPad.  You CAN use a DPC-8EZ or a Gen2 DMC controller as a USB interface and then connect your DPC-5 to it using a standard MIDI cable.

 

Which controller is right for you?

This really depends on your board, pedal selection, and workflow.  Let’s look at 4 possible setups:

DPC-5 Only – 5 loops, 4 MIDI pedals.  This is great for a small to medium pedalboard with a few MIDI devices (Timeline, BigSky, H9, etc.)  The DPC-5 loops are great for stacking drives, and the DPC-5’s TRS amp control jack can change channels on your amp along with your presets.

DPC-8EZ only – 8 mono loops (or 4 stereo loops,) 1 MIDI device.  The DPC-8EZ will send out a program change message for every preset you recall.  If you connect this to a MIDI pedal you’ll be able to select up to 48 presets on that MIDI pedal along with your loops.  You can also use a MIDI pedal as the master controller, so that every time you select a scene or preset on your pedal the DPC-8EZ will follow along.  If you prefer to switch your loops manually you can leave the DPC-8EZ in manual mode and tap away.  The 8EZ gives you access to loops 1-4 or 5-8 at any time, selectable with the bank button.  You’re never more than two taps away from any loop.

DMC-7D + DPC-8EZ – 8 mono loops (or 4 stereo loops,) 3 MIDI devices.  Timeline, Mobius, BigSky, H9, M9, Timefactor, Space, etc. – pick any THREE devices and that’s what you can control with this setup.  The 8EZ will auto configure and follow along; so every preset you select on the DMC-7D will engage the matching preset on the DPC-8EZ.  You can leave the 8EZ in manual mode to change up your loops on the fly, even if they’re not part of your preset.  If you don’t want your analog pedals as part of your MIDI presets, you can program the DPC-8EZ to ignore any preset.

DPC-5 + DPC-8EZ – 5 mono loops + 8 mono loops (or 4 stereo loops,) 4 MIDI devices.  The DPC-5 has a dedicated MIDI channel for the DPC-8EZ so it doesn’t take away any of its MIDI capabilities.  Since the loops in the DPC controllers are separate, you can route your signal in any order.  You can place the DPC-5 loops in your amp preamp, then use the DPC-8EZ in your amp’s preamp AND FX loop.  That would get you 9 loops in the preamp and 4 in the loop, which is enough for a fairly complex setup.  Need more loops?  Chain together some more DPC-8EZs.  We’ve been able to control 5 of them from a single master with no problems, and you can theoretically add many many more with a MIDI splitter.

 

It’s a lot to take in!  There are some big considerations to make, and a quality switching system is not a trivial purchase.  We do our best to make these systems easy to configure and use but they’re not for everyone.  Remember, there’s no one best way to configure your rig!  What works for one player might be a miserable failure for another, so please feel free to contact us and we can help you decide if a DPC-5 or DPC-8EZ is right for you.

 

Help me! Or “How to Choose a MIDI Controller.”

We offer a lot of different MIDI controllers.  That’s great because we can make pretty much anything to fit your situation, connected devices, playing style. It’s also bad because you end up trying to decide between a ton of options and have no idea what to get.  We’re here to help.

 

Consideration 1:  Size.

The first thing to think about is how much board space you’re willing to devote to a MIDI controller.  We have controllers that range in size from Twinkie (DMC-2) to meat loaf (DMC-7.)  The bigger the controller, the more buttons it can accommodate, and the more control possibilities it allows.

Here’s a size reference.  There’s a 1 inch ruler at the bottom of the pic, so you can get an idea of overall size.

size comparison

Consideration 2:  Functionality

Even our smallest controllers can control your devices, but they’ll be more limited in functionality.  The DMC-2 is super compact and can handle scrolling banks, scrolling presets, or looper control, but the downside is that it can only do one of those things at a time.  Upgrading to one of our larger controllers gets you a mode switch, which lets you change the functions of the controller on the fly.  The DMC-3, 3XL, and 4 can do bank or preset scrolling, bypass, and full looper control of the Timeline.  If you’re using a different MIDI device we can control its functions, too – check the pages on the Shop for available firmware.

What happens if you have a MIDI device that isn’t listed?  Contact us.  We have written custom firmware for lots of different types of devices and device combinations, and we can probably come up with something that will work for your application.

If you want to scroll presets or banks, the DMC-2 will do it.

If you want to scroll presets AND use the looper on the Timeline or the additional functions on the BigSky / Mobius / Timefactor / Space / H9, then the DMC-3 is a god choice.

The DMC-3XL adds an expression wheel that sends MIDI or a 1/4″ jack that can connect to an expression pedal or tap tempo switch.

The DMC-4 can handle all of that stuff, but we take all the “hold” functions off the mode switch and move them over to the fourth button.  We can also make that fourth button a tap tempo switch instead.

DMC-6D Board

When you move up to the DMC-6 and DMC-7, everything changes.  Instead of being primarily for scrolling presets on your devices, the DMC-6 and DMC-7 allow you to save and recall combined presets on three devices.  One tap gets you 01A on your Timeline, 17B on your Mobius, and 68C on your BigSky.  We also send an extra program change that can control an Eventide or Line 6 pedal, plus it can interface with our SMARTLoop to engage a couple of analog pedals at the same time.  They do have a scrolling mode, and they have a full looper mode for the Timeline.

Loop Rig

The DMC-6 and DMC-7 are the same except for the size of the enclosure and the tap tempo switch on the DMC-7.  They’re designed more for quick preset recall than for scrolling around from preset to preset.

We also offer the DMC-6D, which is a DMC-6 with a bright blue LED display.  It’s easier to use than the standard DMC-6, and also includes a second expression pedal input plus a dual switch input for tap tempo and a “favorite” switch.

 

Consideration 3:  Number of controlled devices

The DMC-2 can control one device.  That’s it – if you need to control more stuff, then the larger controllers are the way to go.

The DMC-3, 3XL, and 4 can control two or three devices.  If they are set up for two devices, then the second device gets an extra mode added to the controller.  Tap on over to it and then you can scroll presets and engage / bypass the effect.  If we set them up for three devices, we disable the looper controls to reduce the amount of tap-dancing to switch between the device modes.

The DMC-6D, DMC-6, and DMC-7 have three “mappable” MIDI channels.  This means that you can scroll three devices from the scrolling mode, and save a preset that has different settings for each device.  These controllers also send messages on a fourth channel that isn’t mappable.  Every time you press red 1 (for example,) we send MIDI program change 1.  This channel may be used for our SMARTLoop, or it may be mapped on a device that can “learn” MIDI presets like the Eventide pedals.  These controllers have up to 20 presets, in 4 banks of 5 each.

 

Summary

 

Here’s a chart showing all of the specs in mind-numbing detail.

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 12.26.23 AM

 

What we recommend is the biggest controller you can fit.  If that’s the DMC-2, then great – it will still make your life on stage or in church easier.  If you have more complicated requirements, like two or more devices, or you need an expression input or side roller, then the DMC-3XL is very popular.  The DMC-6 / DMC-7 are a great choice for the multi-device setups that are becoming more common these days.  Finally, the DMC-6D can also integrate with a DAW or Ableton Live for controlling loops in live performance.

We hope this post will help you make a decision about the MIDI controller that’s right for you.  If you’ve got any questions, please contact us!  We’re always happy to help you get the right gear for your situation.