Rocktron PatchMate Loop 8
Originally published in Guitar World, December 2009
The PatchMate Loop 8 is an affordable and easy-to-use solution that greatly simplifies complicated rigs.
Amps, pedals and rack gear have an uncanny way of accumulating quickly. You start off with a few stomp boxes, then you pick up a preamp and a rack multi-effect unit. The next thing you know, your live rig consists of a wall of amps, a packed 12-space rack and a small metropolis of pedals. And if your amps have channel-switching capabilities, you’ve got a considerable challenge when it comes to figuring out how to control your entire rig without a tangled mess of cables and a minefield of disparate foot controllers. Maintaining sound quality can also be a hassle, since your guitar’s signal has to go through multiple units, which can degrade tone and create ground loops.
The Rocktron PatchMate Loop 8 lets guitarists control a wide variety of effects, amps and switching functions from a single, centralized source. Its eight separate buffered loops let you maximize the integrity of your guitar signal by introducing effects into your chain only when they’re needed. Paired with a MIDI foot controller like the Rocktron All Access, MIDI Mate or MIDI Xchange, the PatchMate Loop 8 provides a powerful, easy-to-use and streamlined solution for controlling today’s sophisticated live-performance rigs.
The Rocktron Patchmate Loop 8 occupies only a single rack space, so adding it your rig won’t add excess weight or make it overly bulky and unwieldy. A buffered active input and a passive input jack (both mono) are located on the front panel, conveniently placed for plugging your guitar directly into the unit. Other front panel controls include a Store button for saving presets and eight individual Loop buttons that allow you to select loops, MIDI channels and MIDI Program Change locations (each of the unit’s 128 programmable presets can be accessed via MIDI) as well as perform MIDI preset dumps.
The PatchMate Loop 8’s rear panel has eight loop sections, each of which contains a set of four mono jacks—input, send, return and output. Other audio jacks include an active output and a passive output that can function as a second active output, allowing you to split the signal. A MIDI Out/Thru jack lets you connect to PatchMate Loop 8 to other MIDI controllable devices in your signal chain, and a seven-pin MIDI In jack is provided for connecting a MIDI foot controller to the unit; the two additional MIDI pins provide phantom power to Rocktron foot controllers like the All Access and MIDI Mate, but you can also use a standard five-pin MIDI cable to control the PatchMate with other MIDI foot controllers.
The transformer for the PatchMate Loop 8’s nine-volt AC power supply is located in the middle of the power cable, allowing you to eliminate noise interference by placing it away from other power sources. This configuration also eliminates the space-hogging “wall wart” syndrome.
Although the PatchMate Loop 8 features a relatively simple, streamlined design, it’s much more powerful and flexible than its looks suggest. Multi-effect processors can be configured in parallel or series, and an intelligent switch-sensing function automatically selects latching or momentary switching depending on what type of gear is connected to the unit. While latching switching suffices for most effect processing applications, the PatchMate Loop 8’s momentary switching capability allows the unit to switch amps in multiple amp setups.
The examples provided in the PatchMate Loop 8’s manuals give users a pretty good idea how to set up basic rigs, but more sophisticated setups can be rather confusing for novices. Fortunately, Rocktron provides excellent customer support techs who can answer most setup questions. If you plan on using pedals with the unit, note that buffered pedals generally work best with the PatchMate Loop 8, especially if you prefer to use the passive input. If you want to control a few true-bypass pedals, plan on using the active input to avoid weak output levels at the end of the signal chain—the signal path can get quite long if you use several loops at once. Using the shortest cables possible is helpful, especially since a signal path that takes advantage of all eight loops can travel through as many as 27 cables from beginning to end.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The PatchMate Loop 8 is an affordable and easy-to-use solution that greatly simplifies complicated rigs. It’s highly recommended if you want to avoid setup hassles and enjoy room to move on already crowded stages.
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