The 2880’s instantly recognizable layout provides you a degree of familiarity, and even if you have never used a multi-track recorder before, the reason it’s layout is used so widely is because it’s so simple. It’s got an impressive resume too, it gives you CD-quality sound, in stereo or mono, lets you connect up to your computer to store loops, and will even help you keep your loops in time if you want it to.
Each of the four channels has a dedicated level-fader and a pan-pot to control it’s volume and allow you to arrange your own DIY stereo mix. There are two extra faders, one labelled “Dry Out,” which adjusts the pedals output level, and another, “Mix Down” which is used to gain your desired sense of order (or lack thereof) in the mix when combining multiple loops. There is also another fader used to set or alter the tempo of the recordings.
The 2880’s remaining features are accessible through buttons which surround the faders, and they are easy to operate, so you can get the most out of the 2880 without any secret button combinations or in-depth manual reading.
Getting going is pretty simple, just hit the “New Loop” button, which sets the 2880 in Record-Ready mode, then you simply tap the record button, and let her rip. Once you’ve finished your killer riff or simple chord-based backing, just tap the “Play” button and it will start the 2880 looping and over-dubbing.
You can choose between recording in mono or stereo, the difference being that entering stereo mode will halve the amount of separate tracks you can record. If you tap the “Stereo Mode” button, you will record onto two tracks at a time. The plus side with this is that you can split your recording and adjust the individual levels and fades to personalise the stereo sound.
The 2880 uses a Compact Flash Card for memory, and it comes with a 1GB card, which is good for 31 minutes of recording time. The unit can take up to a 2GB card, which will give you 62 minutes. That’s over an hour of recording time in itself, but the unit can also connect to a computer via USB, which means that in reality, memory capacity just isn’t an issue with the 2880.
Timing and Quantization
It’s time to get recording. First off, you have to decide if you want to use the “Quantize” feature. This is a feature which first off, gives you a 4-beat count in, then when it comes to the end of recording, stops you in correct time. If you press “Play” in the last two beats of a bar, it will end after the bar is up, and if you press in the first two beats, your loop will be cut back to the end of the previous bar. But if you’re trying to capture your own special brand of madness, or if you just have immaculate timing, you can keep it switched off.
The “Tempo” slider is the 2880’s time-keeper, unless you’ve got a MIDI clock set up for it to defer to. It can be used to set the tempo of the recording, as well as the unit’s metronome. So if you record something with it set at normal tempo, you can amp it up to super fast by pushing the slider up, and slow it way down by going the other way. This also changes the pitch in semitone increments up to one octave. This means you can use “Tempo” slider to record your bass part with your guitar. If you record a guitar part at normal speed, jack it up an octave and then play the bass part along with the playback, when you bring the slider back down, the octave and pace will drop, and you’ll have your bass-line. Also, you can mess around with it during recording to produce some wild effects, or gradually slow down or speed up the loop.
You can also do this with the “Octave” button, but it can only lower the pitch and tempo, and doesn’t work during recording. It seems a little redundant, but I guess if you’re after a quick drop in octave it would be slightly easier than using the slider.
If you’re looking to mess around with your creations to an even greater extent, you can also reverse them, and there are no prizes for guessing which button you press. That is something of a reiteration of the fact that the pedal is so easy to use, in that I don’t even need to explain how the feature is operated. The only time you can’t use the button is when you’ve recording a brand new loop.
Mixing Your Loops
The other major feature is “Mix-Down.” This allows you to create a mix of your four loops, working the pedal like a multi-track recorder. This comes in two separate forms, “Normal” and “Constant Tempo.” The difference is that “Constant Tempo” gives you the option of editing the mix using the functionality of the “Tempo” slider. The “Mix Down” functions of the 2880 obviously suit it’s layout to a tee. Even if you’ve never used a multi-track before, you’ll have no trouble picking it up. Soon you’ll be adding sporadic bursts of high octane metal into ambient soundscapes for your own amusement or spending hours trying to perfect the masterpiece of the day.
In use, the pedal works well, with no hiss on the signal and no effect on your sound that you don’t tell it to do. The 2880 simply gives you a lot of tools to experiment with to create whatever type of music you want. It’ll be beneficial to your playing, as all loopers are, and it gives you lots of options to tweak your sound. You can sync up to a MIDI clock, so it is suitable for use in the studio, and it’s perfect for use at home, as it allows you to create a library of your own music on your computer.
The 2880 falls down when it comes to live use. You would literally have to sit it in front of you on a chair so you could operate everything correctly, without buying the 2880’s Foot Controller, that is. The controller has six pedals, to start a new loop, record, play, reverse, use the “Octave” function and select a track. Without the pedal, the 2880 could be disastrous live. So if that’s what you’re after, be prepared to shell out another hundred dollars for the pedal.
There are just a few gripes with the 2880. The memory system, as I mentioned earlier, is great, but for some reason, you are only allowed to store one loop on it, even if it’s a single second in length. This seems simply irrational, because it is a limitation on the memory of the card for no good reason. It prevents you from storing your loops as groups, meaning you have to mix your saved version into the “Mix Down” track.
There also could be more independence for the channels, “Reverse” and “Octave” should be applicable to an individual loop, as opposed to being a blanket rule for all loops. It could also do with a mute function for each loop, allowing you to bring in a new part more efficiently.
The 2880 is also missing the vital “Undo/Redo” facility. This means that any mistakes you make can’t be simply taken off without “Punching In” to edit or starting a “New Loop.” It is sorely missed, but it isn’t too much harm to wait to Punch In and correct your mistake, unless you’re performing and should be moving on, that is.
Overall though, the 2880 does a great job. It’s faults are very minor, and have very little weight when compared to the unit’s features. The main area it could fall down is with live use, but I think looping is like an iceberg, in that the majority of it is unseen. And if you happen to be one of those who pokes their head out of the water, you just have to buy the additional foot controller. It’ll run you an extra hundred dollars, but if that’s what you want to do, it just might be worth it.
- Pros: Loads of great functions, familiar controls, and a great sound. All of your files can also be easily transported to your computer as a .WAV file.
- Cons: A tad expensive, and if you’re wanting to use it live it’ll cost you extra for the Foot Controller. The tracks don’t have a lot of independence, so features can only be applied across the board.
- Overall: A great looper. Plenty of memory, loads of opportunity to play around with your recordings, and also a great song-writing companion.
Electro-Harmonix 2880 Demo