[Harp-L] Multi-Effects for (Electric) Harmonica

Dear Friends,

Those of you who know me will find this hard to believe. Because for the
past ten (10) years, I have been proposing to introduce an electric
harmonica; although only earnestly for the past 5 of those 10. Nevertheless,
I must seem to some as  the boy crying "wolf." But wait... THIS time it
really IS a wo... woo... woooolf!  Honest!  

About a year ago, we had built five prototypes of our "ELX" which we have
been using for flight testing, and ultimatley has lead to a set of design
improvements that we believe (hope) will make the "production" model viable.
The most significant improvements have been to add a "rapid change" feature
that lets you swap harp bodies in/out in a few seconds. We also added
trimmer pots so that each read can be balanced independently. And we added a
stereo option, such that the blow and draw notes may be separated. Which
leads me to my question about effects units.

The ELX needs power. Up until now, I've been proposing to deal with this by
combining it with a multi-effects box, and thereby provide phantom power.
One ulterior motive is that the ELX also needs a noise gate - otherwise
there is too much "idling noise" when it is not being played.  I've spent a
good deal of effort shopping around for effects units, and have tried models
by Yamaha, Line-6 (pocket pod), Zero G, Alesis, Behringer, Korg (Pandora's
box), a couple of Chinese knock-offs, and ultimately decided upon the
Digitech RP70.  I liked this unit the best because:

- it was highly versatile
- the sound quality was reasonably good
- it was more intuitive to program than many of the others (although still
- it provides stereo output (although not stereo input)
- it allows you to chain several (five?) effects togethr
- it provides two very good noise gates
- and last but not least, costs under $100

But that was several years ago... before harmonica players were really
earnestly using effects units. Now that they have become more popular, and
the technology has evolved.  So I'm facing a dilemma.

On the one hand, if I offer the ELX *without* an effects box, this would
allow the musician the freedom to choose his/her favorite unit - which may
change over time.  I could accomplish this by providing a powered patch
cord.  The downside is that the ELX is kindof *booring* without electronic
effects -- it produces a sinusoidal output, not as pleasant as a mic'd
acoustic harp.  So I'm afraid that people might plug it directly into their
amp, and be dissapointed.

If I *do* include an effects box, it would increase the price (from about
$225 to $225+effects unit) which will most definitley turn people away.  If
I include an "inexpensive" box, like the RP70, the price would be less
exhorbitant, but the quality might be there -- and would perhaps do more
harm than good.

Another problem is that the RP70 will not be able to process the stereo
output of the ELX, and would combine it into a monaural output. Not a big
deal, but dissapointing (for me.)  An alternative is the Lexicon MS200,
which is stereo, but rack mounted, and a bit more pricey.

So I would be very grateful for your feedback, so to speak, on these
decisions I am facing:

1) Do we offer the ELX "as is" without effects box (rtl appx $225) or do we
include an effects box in the ELX package; or do we offer both?

2) If we do offer an effects box, would the Digitech RP70 suffice, or should
we offer different options?

3) If we offered "different options" would people be interested in the
stereo option: whereby the blow and draw reeds could be separated?  This
produces a more complex sound, that may sound like two people playing at
once. (See, e.g. "stereo guitar.")

4) If we offered a "different option" could you recommend one?

Sincere thanks, in advance, for your input. This project has been a labor of
love for many many years, and although it is unlikely to become lucrative,
it would be such a relief to bring it to completion... and it would also be
nice to recover our significant investment to-date.

Most obliged,  

Jim "Turbodog" Antaki

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