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Looper In A Laptop?

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by Big Benner, Aug 30, 2005.


  1. Hey everyone,

    I've been thinking about getting a BOSS RC-20XL (http://www.bossus.com/index.asp?pg=1&tmp=137) to start looping with a drummer friend of mine who has the Roland V-Drums.

    I have also been thinking of getting a portable audio interface like the M-Audio Firewire 410 (http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_us/FireWire410-main.html) to record some stuff with my laptop (I already have Cubase running on my desktop.

    I'm just wondering how easy would it to turn my laptop with the audio interface into a looper? What software would I use? What type of pedal would I use to start, stop and loop with my feet? Is this feasible,... and how much would I be looking at?

    Thanks,

    Benner
     
  2. fretlessrock

    fretlessrock Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2002
    Corrupticut
    There really isn't a decent real-time looper in software. There is a EDP clone written for the mac, but I have heard that it is kinda pokey and not really a success at emulating anything other than the functions. The switching is not instantaneous like an EDP.

    Laptops and PCs in general are multipurpose devices, and they hardware/software interaction has a lot of lag built in. It takes time to do the A/D conversion of your signal, and it takes time to process MIDI commands. A lot of that lag is due to the intervention of the OS. The overhead of the OS and the latency of the interface make it hard/impossible to make the loops seamless and handle the start/stop correctly. You would use a MIDI patch controller to handle the commands to the software.

    Devices like the RC-20 or the Gibson EDP, or any of the dedicated hardware loopers are better choices because they have a minimal OS, fast/immediate switching, and are really good at doing that one thing, as opposed to having a computer that has to be able to do word processing or multitrack recording.

    That said, you could use your laptop to sequence parts ahead of time and then loop along with it. The hard part is synchronization. If you aren't exactly on the beat you have only a few cycles before your loop is way out of step with the sequence. AFAIK, only the EDP has MIDI sync.

    Hope that helps
     
  3. Muzique Fann

    Muzique Fann Howzit brah

    Dec 8, 2003
    Kauai, HI
    Ableton's Live is a powerful software program for live looping. A think a few guys on here use it regularly. Go for version 5.
     
  4. D.A.R.K.

    D.A.R.K. Supporting Member

    Aug 20, 2003
    Virginia
    i use ableton live, set up as a looper/fx processor,
    it's amazing. only problem is latency...which i can get low enough to perform with, but is not absolutely real-time.
    i get best results from 24bit96k sample rate, but it is taxing on cpu.
    used in conjunction with a behringer fcb1010 foot controller,
    i can easily get 10 loops running simultaneously.
    ableton has auto-quantize functions, with variable settings, and this is also an asset to the software. plus all parameters are midi controller-assignable.
    it's called live because it was designed exactly for that function.
    sorry fretlessrock, but you're mistaken-check out ableton!
    d
     
  5. D.A.R.K.

    D.A.R.K. Supporting Member

    Aug 20, 2003
    Virginia
    oh, free demo at ableton, btw...
    i have version 5, but it's a bit buggy still.
    update forthcoming!
    ableton is also amazing because they implement the direct input from users in their software development.
    i been using since version3, best software and co. i've ever used.
    cheers
    d
     
  6. fretlessrock

    fretlessrock Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2002
    Corrupticut
    DARK, first you say that your only problem is latency, which I pointed out. You say that it is not exactly real-time, which I pointed out. What exactly am I mistaken about again?
     
  7. I use Mobius (www.zonemobius.com) as my laptop looper. It's a really excellent, FREE EDP emulator for PC. The developer releases frequent new versions (which so far have all been "beta", but high functionality). Mobius works either as a stand-alone looper or as a VST effect which allows it to be integrated into all manner of VST host software. The latest version allows beat synching to external devices or host applications - VERY cool. Seriously, if you run a PC, check this piece of software out. You'll need a foot controller to get the best out of it in performance with a bass. I use the Behringer FCB1010 as described above, but others from Roland/Boss et al exist.

    I use an MAudio FW1814 audio interface which gives as low as 5ms latency when used in ASIO mode with Ableton Live. This is just fine for everyday work and certainly good enough for performance - the FW410 would give very similar performance (for the same CPU speed).

    Steve Lawson has been using SooperLooper for the Mac (anothe EDP emulator) live with some success, although from the sound of it, it's a little resource hungry although this could well be down to reverb FX etc that Steve employs.

    I've toyed with Ableton Live and looping which works very well, again using the FCB1010 as a controller, mapping button presses to MIDI notes and controlling the start and stop of recorded bass loops, beat loops etc. It's much harder to do the "glitch" type looping that's achievable with the EDP in Live, although this is perfectly possible using Mobius (within Live optionally). Live has the benefit of automatic time stretching, correction of loop/warp markers etc. where Mobius works like a standard EDP - you can undo your loops, but not correct the timing within a loop.

    If you go down the laptop looping route with Live or Mobius etc. then you could easily sync up loops to your drummer's beats. Mobius could either broadcast the BPM to your drummer's V-Drum setup which would allow him to get a metronome style pulse from Mobius. No worries at all!

    I used to own an EDP and found that it was a great device, but when I found Mobius I was in hog-heaven and have since sold the EDP.

    Good luck, and let us know how you get on!
    Mike

    <EDIT> PS> Mobius also allows for an offset in audio against the MIDI pulse to allow for latency issues. Very useful if your soundcard doesn't provide very low latency figures and you are playing with someone else, or another piece of kit. </EDIT>
     
  8. Ok, so there are + and - to everything. It's these great forums that help us all inform ourselves and make wise purchasing decisions.

    For more info on Abelton Live, check out http://www.ableton.com/index.php?main=artists&sub=kid-beyond

    DARK, do you use a similar set-up? If you don't mind me asking, what's your audio interface and do you have to use a separate midi program to use a foot controller to "talk" to Abelton Live?

    I think I have to figure out what I need and want to do. I'm currently jamming with a drummer (no midi sync needed) using the 2-sec loop in my BOSS ME-50B. It's really fun and allows me to express different sides of the bass,... so I want to go further hence the looking into the BOSS RC-20XL. I also jammed with a DJ/computer guy who plugged me into his computer and sample & looped me but it was taxing on his system so I wanted to do this myself. The only problem is syncing up my system (whatever that will be) to his system and he usually starts off with a beat that I play to.

    I'll look into it more. Any more constructive comments from anyone?
     
  9. D.A.R.K.

    D.A.R.K. Supporting Member

    Aug 20, 2003
    Virginia
    you're mistaken that there isn't any decent looper software. no software (or hardware, for that matter) is real-time, as anything takes time to be processed, even analog circuits. my point is, this software coupled with the correct interface can be used in real-time, and it is quite amazing,
    more than decent. hard, yes. expensive, to a degree. impossible, no.
    i use it today with excellent, acceptable results. and looking at the leaps and bounds in technology, normal
    analog processing times(fractions of milliseconds) are just around the corner.
    not meant as any kind of attack, btw.
    just shedding some light on some decent looping software.
    d
     
  10. D.A.R.K.

    D.A.R.K. Supporting Member

    Aug 20, 2003
    Virginia
    yup, fcb1010, for ultra-low latency i use an edirol fa-101 at 24/96k,
    easily 2ms in/ 4ms out, 192sample buffer, even lower although i'm a bit nervous about artifacts(none at this setting)...also capable of 192k, 1ms in/ 3ms out at 192 sample buffer, possibly lower, although lots of cpu needed.(i also run vsti's, and trigger samples, so it's usually not192k, although as a dedicated looper it would be fine.
    without using playthrough, the latency is actually not noticeable in creating/ triggering loops.
    this is a firewire unit...with units which are pcmcia-slot(direct buss)
    like the rme stuff, latency is even lower. with my old computer, my echo i/o card(pcmcia) did 3ms in/3ms out at a 256sample buffer.(no midi porton this unit, though).i currently use the midi port on the edirol to connect the foot controller, nothing else needed, ableton recognizes it. you configure your audio interface and midi input in preferences easily. the edirol is not cheap, around $500.00 u.s. i currently use a 1.5gig g4 12"powerbook laptop, 1.25 gig ram. also not cheap, but a solid o.s. for some in-depth analysis, go to ableton.com and do a search on the forums....lots of info! great forum, too...unmoderated, very open.
    cheers
    d