David Lamkins picked up his first guitar a long time ago. As best he can recall the year was 1967: the year of the Summer of Love. Four decades later David has conjured up an amalgam of folk, rock and jazz solo guitar music for the occasional intimate Portland audience.
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location: Portland, OR USA

Facets: construction, digital, technology, @musings info

Longevity of digital gear

One question that I've pondered since my switch to a digital rig is this: "What happens five or ten years from now?" I see tube amps from the sixties and seventies that are still going strong with minor service. I wonder what's going to happen to these digital wonders over the long term...

The problem as I see it is that digital gear after about five or ten years may not be serviceable. There's a lot of purpose-made pieces in these things. Manufacturers tend to cut off support for products past a certain age. If you get a good tech who can diagnose a problem down to the component level and find a supplier who still stocks a needed part, you're in luck. But the chance of finding such a tech - in this age of servicing electronics by swapping out entire boards - is slim to none.

It's not all bad news, though. There are a lot of these units out there, and their value is constantly declining because "newer, better" gear is being produced at a comparable or lower price point. If five years or ten years down the road your modeler craps out and is not serviceable yet you still want to use that instead of something that's newer, "better" and possibly less expensive, you'll still be able to pick one up used and working for a reasonable price. That, IMO, is the best bet for long-term use of today's modeler.

On the up-side, there's not a lot to go wrong with this kind of gear. Any obvious defects in design or manufacturing are likely to become apparent early on in the product's life cycle rather than surprising you ten or twenty years from now. There are two things that tend to kill properly-designed digital gear: electro-static discharge and mechanical failure. Both of these are avoidable through robust design. Boss seems to have a really good track record for building gear that stands the test of time. I'm not so sure about Line6 and Vox - I've seen some predictable and consistent failures in their products. I'd tend to avoid the all-plastic units just on general principles, even though they might be good enough to last for years under light to moderate use.

Realistically, though, what are the chances that you're going to want to stick with the same gear as little as five years from now? Most guitarists are constantly reinventing their music and sound. Five years from now there's almost certain to be something better, or at least different. And if not, you can always go back to the tried-and-true technology of the past...

March 25 2007 19:26:08 GMT