Best known for their low‑cost controller keyboards, Fatar have now released a new kind of controller — the MP1 MIDI pedalboard. Paul Ward brings his lower limbs into the sonic fray...
Unlike synth pedalboards of yore such as the Moog Taurus (featured SOS June '95), the Fatar MP1 pedalboard only transmits MIDI note data, and has no tone generating circuits of its own. Aside from the power socket, the only other connection on the rear of the unit is a MIDI Out, which carries the data generated by the pedals and preset buttons.
The MP1 review model did not come with a power supply. Oddly, when I plugged a 9V mains adaptor into the MP1's (supposedly) 9‑12V rear socket, the unit did some very strange things indeed. Everything was fine at 12V, but be warned, those of you hoping to use 9V effects pedal power supplies!
Other than the 13 C‑C pedals, the MP1's control surface sports just four buttons, and a row of four LEDs. The Octave button, situated furthest on the left, allows transposition across a generous nine octaves. Selection is performed by pressing this button and then, within three seconds, pressing any note pedal from low C to G sharp. The octave selected is indicated by the four LEDs to the left of the control panel.
The MIDI transmission channel is selected by pressing the Ch MIDI button, and then an appropriate note pedal from low C to B, representing MIDI channels 1 to 12 (channels 13 to 16 appear to be inaccessible). Again, the four LEDs have the task of indicating the chosen MIDI channel, but unfortunately they do not do this at selection time, only when the Ch MIDI button is subsequently pressed. It might have been better had the display shown the newly‑selected MIDI channel for a second or so before returning to the octave display. The other two controls are a pair of preset up/down buttons, allowing you to step ('scuse the pun!) through 100 programs on a connected sound module. If your favourite pedal patches are outside the MP1's range, you have to select them at the sound source itself. Worse, there is no display of the currently selected preset on the MP1, so you have to examine the sound source to check your selection anyway!
In the MP1's defence, I can say that the triggering is lively and reliable. The polyphony is also helpful, especially when triggering samples or sound effects. There didn't appear to be any polyphony restrictions, although I found it physically impossible to hold down more than 10 pedals at once. The unit generally behaved well, but I did manage to confuse it with some strange combinations of buttons and pedals, which made the top four pedals play in the wrong octave.
The MP1 is not velocity‑ or pressure‑sensitive — the velocity output is preset to 64, and sadly, this value is not adjustable. When the MP1 is switched off, it loses all current data, such as MIDI channel, octave and last transmitted preset. This could prove embarrassing in a live situation where a sudden power blip might leave you playing the wrong synth at the wrong octave.
The real bête noire of the MP1 has to be those four LEDs. These form a binary display for both octave selection (their default display status), and MIDI channel. Each LED represents one of the numbers eight, four, two and one, so, for example, if the middle two LEDs (four and two) are lit, then the total is six, corresponding to octave six. I'm quite at home with the concept and use of binary information, but it hardly makes my job as a musician any easier if I have to go through mental arithmetic for an instrument as seemingly simple as a set of bass pedals! A two‑character alpha‑numeric LED display would have been much friendlier.
This is a device that you either have a need for, or can happily ignore. I certainly could make use of it, but I find myself frustrated by so many niggles in a relatively simple instrument. I hate to end on a cliché here, but do 'try before you buy'.
This unit seems to be the unhappy victim of a little too much cost‑cutting. The plastic panelling bends easily, and the rubber button tops had a nasty habit of flying off when my foot slipped from a control — not much use on a darkened stage! The controls give no feedback as to whether your selection has taken or not, leading to firmer and firmer pressure just to make sure. The thin plastic of the note pedals didn't fill me with confidence either — especially given that they extend three or four inches past the end supports, leaving them exposed in the event of the unit being dropped. Assuming that bass pedals are likely to find more use in a live situation, I would prefer a sturdier product.
- Lightweight and portable.
- 9‑octave transposition range.
- Unfriendly binary display of octave and MIDI channel information.
- External PSU and no battery backup.
- Budget build quality.
- No display of currently selected program number.
The MP1 is a reasonable option for triggering sounds by foot — providing you can live with its idiosyncrasies. If your pedals are likely to be given a hard time by the road crew, you ought to consider a more robust alternative.