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10 May

Troubador Tech

Gear Acquisition Syndrome

I've been retired from playing music for a living for years, and, with minor exceptions, my setup has been stable for even longer. I thought I was content to explore music for its own sake within the myriad possibilities already at my disposal. Then, in October 1996, two things happened:

More gear pages:
-Solo Setups
-John Pollock's rig
-Chuck Zwicky's gear

Guitar Center advertised the Lexicon Vortex (list $478) for $150... and, thanks to a note in the Digital Guitar Digest, I learned of Kim Flint's Looper's Delight Web site and mailing list. There, I learned that the Vortex is, among many other things, a looping sampler.

You've been there... you know the symptoms: My spine tingled. The hair on my arms stood up. I couldn't sleep. My stomach churned. My nostrils flared.

Gear Acquisition Syndrome.

I'd been in remission for years. Foolish person that I am, I'd thought I was cured. But I knew the symptoms, too, all too well.

"First," I said to myself, "admit you have a problem..." And I fought it. I fought it for weeks, trying not to reread the Vortex page at the Looper's Delight Web site more than, oh, three or four times a day... eating way too much ice cream, in a blatant substitution maneuver that didn't deceive any of my brain cells for an instant... postponing the inevitable phone call, in the less than enthusiastic hope that when I made it, they'd all be gone. (This had actually worked once in the past: I'd missed Sam Ash's last $325 Kawaii K5m by hours. I brooded about it for months, then made a supremely bad deal on the GFX-1-- a deal I hate to remember, and no, I'm not going to tell you about it.)

Where do I find one?
See the FAQ Page.

They were not all gone when I finally made the call, on November 7. There were six left-- at a store less than ten miles from my home.

Unbelievably, I held out that day, and the following day. But there were powerful forces at work here. One was the itch for a sampling delay, first awakened when I'd seen Steve Morse more than ten years earlier-- an itch I'd never scratched. Another was my track record of identifying exactly what I wanted, then waiting patiently for the inevitable closeout sale. I had acquired my first MG-510, my PG-380, my VZ-8Ms, VZ-10M and CZ-101 under exactly these circumstances-- brand new, with full warranty, at below dealer's (and, almost certainly, below manufacturer's) cost. Is it sane to refuse such an offer? The spine tingles... The nostrils flare...

Finally, I invoked the most powerful resistance resource available to me: I asked my wife, whose affinity for music technology is that of oil for water. She looked at the list price, looked at the sale price, and said, "Get it."

So, on November 9, 1996, a Lexicon Vortex became the latest array of educated beach sand to become my owner. At the moment, it's fed directly by my Digitech GFX-1 guitar preamp, and its output goes to the powered mixer. I configured a volume pedal as an expression pedal, by plugging the mono plugs of a stereo Y-cord into its input and output jacks; the stereo plug goes into the Vortex. The dual footswitch supplied with the unit and the expression pedal are my only controls for the unit at the moment. But this mono setup is purely a temporary arrangement.

What's mine worth?
See the FAQ Page.

The delightful stereo capabilities of the Vortex revived another long-dormant urge: My synthesizers and guitar preamp all have stereo outputs, too...

On a whim, I stopped into a pawnshop-- something I did regularly when I was gigging, but hadn't done for over a year. Call it fate. Call it peanut butter. Whatever you call it, there before my very eyes was an Akai MB76 programmable mixing bay, controllable via MIDI, with seven inputs, six outputs, and a $50 price tag on it. How could I refuse?

So my setup is being revised... Pictures at eleven... Looking for a deep six-space rack, cheap...

When I find it, though, the sixth space will likely remain empty. In January 1997, Guitar Center blew out the Lexicon JamMan for $200. I'd wanted one since it was introduced. The spine tingled... the nostrils flared...

I raced over and put my plastic down, upon the assurance of the sales person that, while there were none in the store near me, there were ten left in "the system." Two weeks elapsed, punctuated by phone calls:

"There's one in the Arlington store-- no manual, no power supply, but I think I can get it..."

More gear pages:
-Solo Setups
-John Pollock's rig
-Chuck Zwicky's gear
"There's one left in Chicago-- I'm trying to get her to send it to me. I told her I already have your money..."

"I'm still working on it..."

"Man, I really feel like I let you down, but I just can't get one."

Oh, well... I suppose I've had at least my fair share of the closeout bargains.

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