|Well, I sure did wait a long time for this baby, and it's finally in my grubby little paws. I purchased the Repeater because I found the mono loops and the 32 sec memory limit of my trusty JamMan to "cramp" my style. The first thing I need to say is that the Repeater IS NOT a stereo JamMan with a lot of memory, although they do share traits. The Repeater IS NOT a stereo Echoplex either. Having gotten used to it, I love this wacky box, and it's well worth the cash.
First thing I noticed was that the front panel interface was very easy to work with. If you've used a mutlitrack cassette, you'll feel right at home. Learning curve was very small. One of my beefs was that some functions need multiple button presses to initiate, which can be a bit clumsy. Electrix has included a comprehensive MIDI control scheme, but more on that later. The point here is that I was up and looping quickly before reading a word of the manual.
This thing SOUNDS GREAT! With dual stereo or four mono outs, you can imagine the possibilities. After looping with a Lexicon JamMan for the last 10 years, it's like someone came into the room and turned on a 800 watt halogen light! I can see now! Time stretch and pitch change also work well, with expected, but interesting artifacts when taken to the extreme. The effects loop seems to be line level only, so if you've got instrument level stomp boxes or in my case a Lexicon Vortex, it won't really work. I couldn't set the input low enough on the Vortex to get a good level, but putting it in front of the Repeater worked well enough for me. Remember: This baby is line level all the way. I would NOT recommend plugging the output directly into your Marshall stack set on "11" (though they go up to 20...which is 9 louder, innit?) The place for this baby is in your mixer's or amp's effect loop. With version 1.1 of the Repeater software, you can now mute the input to the output so that it can be placed in mixer's effect loop. Not sure why it was overlooked in version 1.0, but they realized the oversight and fixed it.
The manual: Written in "I'm your pal" style, I found it to be a bit skimpy and not all functions are that well explained or a little vague. Over all, not a bad manual, as manuals go. Written by Canadians in the dude dialect of English.
Version 1.0 also had some MIDI synch issues that made it hard to use in a lot of situations. Electrix has also fixed those synch issues in the 1.1 version of their software. If you already have a Repeater, go to their website ASAP and download the new OS. If you don't have a CFC reader, you're out of luck (I'm not sure if Electrix is offering another way of obtaining software updates) but I recommend getting one anyway. I thought I wouldn't want to save loops, but it has come in handy. If you're thinking about a Repeater, factor in an extra $150 for a 128 meg CFC card and a CFC reader, you'll be glad you did.
Speaking of Compact Flash Cards, get a BIG one! The 16 meg one that it ships with is a tease. I bought an unformattable Simple Tech 128 CFC and Electrix had them send it back to them, and they sent me a new one pretty quickly. Very nice on the customer service. Not all Simple Tech cards are bad, but Electrix never said if there was a way to find out which ones were good. It's a crap shoot, I guess. The Repeater also has 8 meg of internal memory, which is even less than a tease! I wonder why they went so small? I just put a gigabyte of memory in my Macintosh G4 for US$150. Retail for a 128 SDRAM DIMM is around $30 US. I sure would have paid $30-50 dollars more for this bad boy if it had 128 meg of internal memory, but that's a little nitpicky. The 128 Simple Tech CFC seems to be working great for me.
I was a little disappointed that I could not cue up a new loop, and go into it recording. Again, Electrix saw this oversight, and added the feature to the version 1.1 software. Sweet. This box is now ready for the "road" in my opinion. It would also be sweet if you could initiate an instant overdub. The only way to get a nice even drone into the Repeater at this point is to record a blank loop, then open it back up and go into record. I'm used to doing that, as the JamMan behaves that way. Echoplex does have this powerful feature. The nice thing for me is that because the Repeater has non volatile memory using Compact Flash Cards, you can pre record your blank loops before a performance. I find it's not that big of a deal, and when I'm playing live with other musicians, I just lay back and capture a loop while they get going.
I was also initially disappointed by the Repeater's MIDI control implementation. As a guitarist, if I need to step on more than one pedal to access a function, it's not really available. Version 1.1 has much improved MIDI functionality. I can now select a loop with a single pedal press. NICE. Electrix recommended using the Rolls Midiwizard as a midi controller, which I purchased before I actually got the unit, and I find it to be way lacking in what it takes to control the Repeater with your feet. I also wish it allowed you to alter the default settings. Even if you had to load them in from the CFC every time you used it, it would be fine.
Let me tell you, this thing is GREAT. Spent a few hours with it recording guitar and synth parts over sequenced beats from a Roland MC-307. The time slip functions are really fun. It gives you the ability to "slip" a loop in time, meaning you can redefine the begin points in relation to your other tracks. Sweet. Wacky rhythms ensue. The time stretch and pitch change both work really well and sound great. (Make sure if you're planning on using a MIDI controller that you get multiple CC pedals, or one that can be programmed to change states. There's a lot you'll want to control.)
Another function I've been playing with is the ability to CONTROL THE PITCH OF THE LOOP WITH A MIDI NOTE MESSAGE. Boy is this fun! I haven't even begun to milk this feature. Set up a loop and alter it's pitch in real time via a keyboard. The sound quality of the pitch shift is pretty damn good, and when you get far away from the original, it's still pretty musical, though you can hear artifacts. Yay for artifacts, I say. I'm planning on working on perfection in my next life, so for now I'm exploiting imperfections such as this. So, while I wouldn't really call the Repeater a "sampler" in the accepted definition of the term, you can record something and play it back via a midi trigger. Seems sample-like to me. Double plus good, eh?
I have it hooked into my rig so that I use stereo out and a stereo effect loop going to and Electrix MO-FX multiple midi synchable effect processor. I loose the four channel out, but in return I get the ability to put the MO-FX on the Repeater's inputs (gets recorded by the Repeater) or after the loop. If I get the effects the way I want them, I can then Resample the loop, and the effects of the MO-FX (or any effect processor) become part of the loop. This type of processing is REALLY powerful. I can mangle a loop infinitely, and then bring it back to it's non mangled state in a heartbeat. One issue is that the effect loop is LINE level, so if your processor is set up for guitar use, like my Lexicon Vortex, you won't be able to get a good level into it. My Vortex would peak out like crazy, even with it's input control very low. I ended up putting it in front of the Repeater. Not too much of a big deal.
So the verdict? The Repeater is a new animal, but it's evolved from earlier life forms. If you're an electronic musician, this should be in your rack for sure. Now that Electrix has fixed the synch issues, and enhanced the feature set and MIDI implementation, this baby is hard to beat. Especially at it's fairly low price. I hope it spurs Gibson to upgrade the hardware of the Echoplex, so that it can do stereo without having to buy two units (that will set you back $1200 US) Maybe Lexicon will release the JamMan II? Who knows? What ever happens, we sure do live in the Golden Age of looping.