Actually, I’m using a FCB1010. Nothing special;; factory unit; no uNo EPROM. Yes, it’s like carrying around a 2nd pedalboard. I like that it’s available & cheap enough to replace at a moment’s notice. It’s built like a tank, and has wide switch spacing that’s hard to miss. I don’t remember that “Roland-type” part number, but I like the solid feel of those switch types. More importantly, each switch can transmit 5 program changes, two static CC values, a note number, 2 relays, and 2 variable CC values. 10 switches in 10 banks. It’s a bear to progam manually, but a (free) PC editor makes it easy (after some woodshedding with it).
If I were starting over, the Soleman would be near the top of the list. It seems to build on the well thought out implementation of SA pedals. [ I do have their MWD Pro digital distortion and Reflex expression pedal on my main ‘board. ] I’ve tried several quite capable MIDI controllers. Stuff like the KMI ‘Steps are amazing, but – for me – more at home in a studio / keyboard environment. If you just want to do program changes, almost anything on the market will do. If you’d like to future-proof, and allow room to grow into deeper capabilities, then I’d say you’re on the right track with the Soleman. Full disclaimer: I’ve never tried one, and I’m basing this on the manual and what I know of the Source Audio culture.
What I’m doing with discrete MIDI components is very close to what Source Audio is doing with MIDI scripts, and hardware configurations. I use an Event Processor to ‘translate’ the FCB-1010 messages for different branches of a MIDI Thru box. I also have an 8-channel MIDI router on the small rack, but that’s more for integrating my live rig into a fairly complex home studio setup. I don’t think you’d have to worry about the Soleman handling a large amount of pedals. Probably with a learning curve (to get everything ‘just right’).
I do agree with you that direct expression pedals are a good option. I do that myself. But consider that a MIDI CC from an expression pedal action can exert control over all (or many) pedals at once. And controlling a different parameter type in each pedal. There’s something to be said for synchronized effects spread over all of your effects. For example, I have a few banks of 10 switches that just change Diatonic key & scale. But those same messages also change EQ, ‘verb, short delay, etc., to sound closer to multiple guitar layering.
I’m not out to sell you anything in particular. When I was building up my system, no one MIDI device was capable of doing what I needed it to. So I identified what was really important to me, then researched like crazy to find that one component. You’re going through that same process, but instead of component, swap that out for ‘feature’. Essential; nice to have; cool factor; might use in the future; totally unimportant … and then list the downsides. Go feature-by-feature, compare unit feature sets side-by-side, and your final selection will jump out at you. Or – in my case – a final rig straight out of a B&W Frankenstein movie.