Peavey RMC 4512
MIDI Foot Controller
With both hands fully occupied on stage it seems a shame to use your feet for nothing but standing on; Rick Davies tries using his for controlling MIDI equipment.
THE RMC 4512 is a foot-operated MIDI controller intended primarily for musicians whose hands are too busy playing to change programs on multiple synths and effects. Of course, this is certainly not an altogether new concept; Yamaha and Roland have similar devices, though each boasts some features not offered by the others. Naturally, the RMC 4512 follows suit.
The primary function of the RMC is to transmit individual Program Change commands over four separate MIDI outs. These program changes can be initiated by selecting one of 512 programs (arranged in 64 banks of eight) - either by pressing one of the RMC's four dedicated footswitches, or by sending a Program Change command to the RMC's MIDI input. In either case, the RMC must be programmed to suit the MIDI system in which it is to operate.
The 4512 is housed in a sturdy metal chassis with a sloping top panel on which are located eight large rubber buttons. They are placed in such a way that any of them can be pressed with a shoe, stiletto, or platform-soled boot without accidentally hitting any surrounding switch. These switches will win no beauty prizes, but they certainly do require more than just a casual tap to activate. The philosophy behind this is based on the "oops" effect; well-known to any musician who's accidentally selected Overkill instead of Anaesthetise on stage - especially embarrassing when there may be four or more MIDI devices hanging off the 4512 to make it absolutely clear that you missed.
The RMC's back panel provides four individual MIDI outputs (A-D), a single MIDI input, a ¼" momentary footswitch input, a recessed Program Enable slider switch, and the input for the detachable wall-mount power transformer, which provides the required 9V supply.
Setting up is simple; if you have four or less MIDI instruments to control, each one can connect directly to one of the RMC's MIDI outputs. If more than four instruments need controlling, you'll need to resort to Thru-chaining. If you have another instrument that you prefer to use as the master program selector (say, a keyboard with limited MIDI capabilities), you can use its MIDI output to drive the RMC's MIDI input.
As with most programmable devices, there are two basic modes of operation: Control mode and Program Entry mode. When the Program Enable switch is set to Control Mode, the RMC is ready to transmit MIDI commands to your instruments. Two of the footswitches - Increment and Decrement - allow you to scroll up and down through the 64 banks of programs without actually changing the current ("active") preset. Four of the footswitches (labelled 1/5, 2/6, 3/7, and 4/8) are what you step on to recall programs, in conjunction with a "Shift" footswitch that toggles between the lower and upper sets of four program numbers.
When a program is selected, the RMC can transmit a corresponding Program Change message (not necessarily the same number) over any one or all four MIDI outputs, on any of the standard 16 MIDI channels. If you need to transmit multiple program changes simultaneously, pressing the Chain footswitch causes all eight programs in the current bank to be transmitted at once. Because guitarists could find the RMC helpful in performance, but might find that having four long MIDI cables running from the RMC cramps their space, Peavey have included an external footswitch input so that the RMC can sit off stage and have chains selected from standard momentary footswitches.
Program mode is entered by switching Program Enable to the Program Entry position. In the upper left of the top panel are a set of four Program Set switches: +, -, Param, and Store, which are used for editing the RMC's programs. To the right of these switches is a row of five LED display windows that show the current parameter settings for the active preset. The Param switch selects one of the five parameters (Bank, Active Preset, MIDI Output, Program Preset, and MIDI Channel) for editing. When a parameter is selected for editing, the value in the display blinks and the + and - switches are used to adjust the value.
What sets the RMC apart from the crowd is its ability to transmit up to any 14 bytes of MIDI data along with the Program Change messages. To enter this Hexadecimal Program Entry mode, the Param switch must be held down while toggling the Program Enable switch. The Bank, Active Preset, and MIDI output are adjusted as usual, but instead of setting a program number in the Program Preset window, the + and - switches step through hex values which correspond to MIDI messages (eg. FAH = MIDI Start). When you adjust the MIDI Channel, you're actually selecting one of 14 possible bytes. This feature makes it possible to turn on a drum machine connected to one MIDI output, select a couple of programs on other outputs, and perhaps centre the pitch wheel on yet another. If you've ever wanted to try your hand at MIDI hacking, the RMC is a simple way to get started.
Overall, the RMC works well. The ability to transmit single or multiple MIDI commands with a single stomp is a nice option, and the hex programming mode is a great plus.
My one reservation about the RMC 4512 is that it doesn't echo incoming MIDI notes to the outputs, which means that any synths that the RMC drives cannot be played over MIDI, unless a MIDI merger is incorporated into the system. Peavey have assured me that an update that endows the RMC with a merge capability is already in the works. I only wish I could have tested this feature as it would add greatly to the RMC's usefulness.
Being directed at musicians with MIDI-equipped effects, drum machines, or mixers, the RMC fulfills the requirements for central control admirably and affordably as well.
Price £249 including VAT
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Review by Rick Davies
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