I’ll run the risk of descending into Hubris-land, and proffer some thoughts about this:
I recall designer Bob Amstadt talking about his idea of building a dedicated hardware looper way back in late ’03/early ’04. If memory serves, he made a comment about intending to “surpass the Echoplex” with such a device. (It’s possible that my memory does not actually serve, but that’s what I recall him saying.)
I don’t believe the Looperlative is going to contain every single function, function parameter, and cross-function application that the Echoplex has, much less be able to improve or expand on those functions. Unless it does both of those things, then talk about “surpassing” the EDP is seriously misguided, as far as I’m concerned.
What it looks to me like Bob is aiming for is the kind of thing a lot of folks (including suitandtieguy) have been wanting for a long time – a multi-track, multi-channel looper based on the long delay paradigm, without a whole lot of fancy functional hoo-hah. My hunch in this regard is based on the front panel layout – it dedicates separate buttons for each individual loop track, yet seemingly relegates most other functions to the dreaded single-rack-unit menu button-scroll syndrome. (When one of only eight function buttons is dedicated to “start and stop,” I have to wonder how deep the functionality goes.)
I’m also curious as to how much, if any, of a core “design philosophy” there is in the Looperlative. When you look at pieces of software (or hardware based on software, like the Echoplex) that people respond to strongly, it’s very often because there’s a deeply-rooted set of concepts and applications than run throughout the different aspects of the instrument/program in question. One of the most common remarks I get from musicians who get into the Echoplex is how intuitive it is, and how much it “feels” like an instrument, and that comes down to the way it was designed and laid out.
Bob seems to be coming from the opposite angle – build a basic hardware platform, solicit people to see what they want, and then try to implement those requests as they materialize. I’m curious to see how that works – on the one hand, people who want certain basic functions based on what they already know can ask for them, and get them, and design their own interfaces based on customizing an external controller via MIDI. On the other hand, it seems to me that a person can only really design an instrument, or an interface, around things they already know about, which in the long run could potentially be a real hinderance to developing new ideas beyond what a person already knows. (The best analogy I can think of is that it’s a bit like have beginning guitarists design a guitar based on what they can play, and what they can conceive of, rather than having them expand their own abilities and ideas by learning the guitar the way it’s already designed.)
But at this point I tend to assume that most of the online looping community sees me as some cryptic, elitist madman, howling self-aggrandizing pseudo-philosophy into a barren wilderness. So all I can really say at this point is: it looks like some people will literally be able to get what they ask for. Time will tell if the adage about being careful of such things ends up being justified in this case. But I wish Bob and his customers luck in their experiment!