Friday, February 26, 2016

Configuring and Creating Patches on the Disaster Area DPC-8EZ and DMC-8D MIDI Controllers

This post begins with a story. I've owned the Strymon "Trinity" (the nickname given to the collection of Mobius, TimeLine and BigSky pedals). While I had some limited control with the DMC-3XL, I was clearly in need of a solution to the problem I had with having so many pedals to switch, in addition to the patches I wanted to control on the Strymon devices. I had my heart set on getting the DPC-8EZ and DMC-8D, their two largest controllers that were designed to perfectly complement one another.

So enter the good people at The G.A.S. Station, a local company I chanced upon while searching on ways to bring in Disaster Area gear. I got in touch with Bertram, the proprietor, and we began the creative process of figuring out my rig needs. I placed an order for three things: the two controllers, and 3 packs of Disaster Plugs, the patch cables needed to wire the DPC-8EZ up. The excitement in me was palpable; I haven't had GAS in a very long time! This was in late November.

Bertram was very kind to keep me up to date with messages regarding payment and shipping. He sent me the shipment tracking number and this transpired:

I had hoped the shipment would arrive in December so I would have had time to put together the rig for Christmas services. But look at the date of the picture above. I took the screen shot in late January. The shipment was in transit from Germany for two whole months. There was no use getting angry over the situation; international shipments go awry all the time, and I was simply the one guy in a thousand cases to lose something.

My heart did sink at the prospect of having wasted a chunk of my paycheck--Disaster Area gear doesn't come cheap! So I talked to Bertram, and every effort was made on his part to contact Disaster Area, USPS, SingPost and even Singapore Customs. By early February, we had established that the shipment was indeed lost, but Disaster Area was very kind to build a replacement set for me. Yes, a replacement! Bertram, of course, never disappointed in his timely messages and open communication.

This time, the shipment came really quick. I got my hands on the pedals that I had been waiting three months for:

I would have thought that I'd need a lot of time to get the complete system up and running, but to my pleasant surprise, Disaster Area gear is so intuitive and easy to set up that I was programming patches in no time!

Of course, not all setups with new gear is without problems and learning curves. Here are some things I wish I could have done better:
  1. I don't have proper wire cutters, so I used a large pair of scissors to cut the Disaster Plug cable. I think this may have contributed to the reason I wasn't getting signal in some of the patch cables I made, and I had to recut some patch cables several times to get proper signal.
  2. I don't have a proper cable tester. My cable testing method was plugging the patch cable from guitar to amp. If the signal was strong and noise-free, I had a good cable. If there was no signal, I had to either tighten the ground plug or recut the cable. I would have saved a lot of time if I had a cable tester.
  3. I don't have right-angled, low profile MIDI cables, so there was some pedal real estate wastage, as you'll see in my final setup below. Anyone know where to get right-angled MIDI cables locally?

Here's a quick video I did to show how to configure and program patches on the controllers, for those of us intending to expand our pedalboard with Disaster Area gear:

Once again, a great shout-out to Bertram from The G.A.S. Station! Give them a follow on Facebook and get some cure for that G.A.S.!


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