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Apples to MPCs

If you've ever spoken to an electronic musician or a guitarist, you know that GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) is a chronic disease. And though it can be treated, the results tend to be temporary.

The issue, aside from the obvious financial ones, is that gear can never actually solve your problems. That's what all the pros say, anyway, but who can trust them? They have really nice gear.

The real issue, at least as I see it, is that so few pieces of electronic music equipment can be compared in an apples-to-apples sort of way. Guitars? Sure. Tone-chasing is a thing, and a neurosis that's even worse than GAS, because it can cause you to hoard dozens of distortion pedals, claiming they all do different things. But are they all objectively distortion pedals? Yes.

Are a Roland SP-404MKII, an Akai MPC, a Novation Circuit Rhythm, a Korg Electribe Sampler, a Polyend Tracker, and an Elektron Octatrack objectively the same thing? Sort of. They are samplers with sequencing. Most are capable of sequencing external machines via MIDI. Most store samples on an SD card. But it stops there. They range from around $350 to about $1500, and that's not just the honorable Swedish pedigree that's giving Octatrack that kind of price tag. They have varying amounts and quality levels of built-in sounds. There are wide ranges in connectivity and numbers of tracks. Some are more sequencers with sampling capability, others are samplers with just enough sequencing to make you think it's an all-in-one device. Some are very good at both. Some have no screens, some are basically computers in a box. You get the idea.

So, in a live set, to replace Circuit Rhythm and Circuit Tracks with an MPC One is more or less an even trade in terms of whether the same stuff I've been doing is possible. But what else is possible? Turns out, a great deal. More on that another time.

Am I going back on what I say in this post by replacing the Circuits as the centerpiece of live work? Not really, because I'm not thinking of it as an "upgrade." I still think that they are the most beautiful, elegant, and fun quick-composition machines out there, especially the Tracks. But that's not to say that another device doesn't have a place in my show or in my life.