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Review #2 of Akai Headrush E1

By James Keepnews 8/9/99

So, I gots me the Headrush, kinda likes me the Headrush. Kinda.

Certainly, as someone whose sole dedicated looping hardware has been a slowly-disintegrating Digitech EchoPlus pedal (the PDS something-or-other) from 1989, the Headrush beats the Bush era with a stick the size of an oar straight out of the rowing scenes in Ben Hur -- an era surely asking for it, to boot. I'll second my Svengali lover and fashion consultant, one Kenneth Douglas Baldwin, that that's alot of stick for $175, with 2-3 days shipping time, even.

But, I'm troubled. Why Akai went to so much trouble to create four separate outs to create that not-exactly-cried-out-for four-head tapped tape delay is surely beyond me. It is a convincing emulation of such a vintage effect, but how many intend to ping that pong across four outputs more than, say, three times, ever? My extremely negligable knowledge of signal-processing hardware manufacturing practice leads me to suspect that, had they not striven to achieve this and left room for other types of effects processing (filtration of delay line, reverse, etc.), this whole boomerang v. Headrush imbroglio would go the way of, I don't know, Fred Travelena and/or other vintage emulators. The switching also strikes me as counter-intuitive, but that's simply a matter of familiarity.

Here's the nut of it (and it could lead to an interesting thread, if anyone else on the list feels similarly) -- the ontology of delay vs. that of sampling. Loopers created before the JamMan/EDP era were souped-up delay pedals -- think of the EH 16-second or my own beloved, disintegrating EchoPlus. Post-JM/EDP, this has been replaced with the sensibility of sampling, a chunk of data that reflects the sensibility of the snapshot, not the fed-back repeat. As we read in the specs, the 'rush allows for the aforementioned, disturbingly extensive four-head delay, 11.3 second "sampling" looping and 23-second straight-up (or so one might be led to believe) "delay."

Thus, the first question I asked when I busted out the 'rush was, "Where's the infinite repeat for the delay?" Ha ha, foolish, presumptuous boy; there isn't one. "Infinite repeat" is clearly a dead dog in the new looping era; that's a function only a "sampler" can utilize. So...one can get 23 seconds of delay that can only be added to, not set into place and soloed upon or messed with to any degree, less the decaying of the line. Great for "a capella" Frippertronics (as distinguished from "soundscaping," you understand...) and/or pieces like one Kenneth Douglas Baldwin's "The Long Dance," but basically a delay that is additional or subtractional but by no means loopable.

Indeed, how much is it really "delay"? Like the "looping" mode, one is required to set in/out points for the extent of the delay line, something one shouldn't expect of a delay process; that should be well-determined in advance, unless you _want_ to tap a tempo. This approach is demonstrated on the 'rush when one tries to increase or decrease the "coarse" time dial. In the EH/EchoPlus worldview, this would speed up or slow down the pitch of the delayed signal according to whether or not the delay time, once set, was decreased or increased, respectively. Lovely chattering aluminum locust or pre-cambrian swampscape effects, respectively, could obtain from such actions in the old-skool looper. The Headrush? Fuggedaboudit. The "delay" becomes either clipped or extended but with the only effect from my experiments being the basic interruption of such a delay line, nothing else. I never thought to investigate this difference pre-purchase and more fool me.

Kim recently discussed this pitch-shifting knob-twist as being cool but off the page as far as next-gen EDPs go. [That's not correct, I said *current* generation Echoplex hardware can't do this. -kf] Which is fine -- a nicely tricked out "sample" oriented looper does things these old "delay"-oriented loopers will never do. But I'm still puzzled by the choices made by Akai for this pedal and mournful of the loss of functions I've come to expect from The Way of the Delay Pedal. I don't know if the Line 6 box will bring back the era of the true delay looper but you just might see a Headrush for sale on this list, shortly...

James Keepnews <keepnews@node.net>

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