I have been researching tuning software for several weeks, and have finally made the plunge: EFILive tuning and diagnostic software.
I had earlier eliminated the various microtuner products (Predator, Superchips, Crane), because they really only work properly on an otherwise bone stock SSR, as they have no provisions for handling modded engines, at least as you buy them.
It is technically true that the Crane microtuner is pre-programmed to handle certain selected Crane cams and other physical mod parts, but the reality is that you are VERY unlikely to ONLY change those specific parts, and go to those specific choices of Crane parts. It is just way too limiting for me. I want to have a lot more choices than that, AND you really only get worthwhile power results when you change a NUMBER of things in UNISON.
Yes, I know that Predator (and maybe some of the other microtuner companies also) will do a custom map for you if you specify what you have or will be doing to the vehicle, or send them the results of a dyno run with exhaust gas analysis, but that is pretty cumbersome and slow, and really not a good alternative to real fullblown tuning and diagnostic software.
The fullblown tuning and diagnostic software, like LS Edit, HP Tuner, or EFILive, all offer the maximum amount of control that it is techncally possible to have. I say "technically possible" because all these products are NOT blessed by GM, but are rather developed by private companies using reverse software engineering techniques on the locked and deliberately obscure GM PCM programming. The reason that the control is not 100% is simply because GM uses some very deliberately confusing techniques in an effort to prevent or at least make it very diffficult to alter their factory settings. They are particularly obscure on items that are of particular interest to performance enthusiasts: "abuse management", "torque management", "traction control", and throttle control.
I really wasn't ready to make this pruchase until i really had to, but MTI Racing and I sort of hit the point where someone has to learn all the obsucure details of the factory PCM programming, to get where we want my SSR to go, and Reese simply doesn't have enough time. He got his hard earned Corvette C5 and C6 expertise via lots of hours of poring over computer screens, and actually doing a LOT of Corvettes, and he's simply not there yet on the SSR.
So, I got my own EFILive license and blackbox cable, and now I have over 350 individual calibrations to learn about!
This is SERIOUS software guys. Some of those 350 calibration items are simply one-field entries, but others are fullblown 3-dimensional tables (with matching 3-D graphs!) with HUNDREDS of entries in each such table.
The degree of control, IF you take the time to learn what you are doing, is breathtaking. For a really simple example, you can fine tune the points at which your transmissio shifts, based on throttle opening, to a virtually infinite degree. You can do that by changing points in a table, or by manipulating a graph with your mouse.
If you have significantly modded your engine, you can actually manipulate things like spark advance and air/fuel ratio in either a 3-D table or directly manipulating a 3-D graph. You have very powerful smoothing and blending tools to help you get more professional results.
You can control torque management at individual throttle and rpm settings.
You can compare any 2 tunes either visually, or have the software do the comparison for you and list for you EVERY single difference between the two, including all the individual differnet entries in 3-D tables and graphs. This feature is for exmaple allowing me to compare what MTI did to what the previous tuner did (he used different software even) to the factory tune.
My biggest problem is that even though I chose the most user-friendly software, and even though it has "Help" for each individual field right on the screen right near the field, I don't know NEARLY enough (even after 37 years of working on both cars and motorcycles) to safely change more than a very small percentage of the settings!
I am in fact looking hard for books that will educate me better on how engine management systems in general work. I already have 2 such books, and neither one has the required level of individual field detail, so I'm continuing to look.
What makes me go through all this effort is that
1. I intend to keep this vehicle a long time as I really like it - a lot more even than the 3 Corvettes I have owned in the past, and a lot more than the 30 or so other 4-wheeled vehicles I have owned)
2. I want to make this vehicle incremently better bit by bit over time
3. I want to be abe to change things physically and reset the electronic controls to optimize things each time I do so, and be able to try a lot of different alternatives.
I figure that once I find either the right book or the right experienced tutor, I will probably be able to have more fun electronically altering and perfecting this vehicle than I have ever had before doing just mechanical mods.
I really think that all the good memories about the 60s muscle cars are great, but in reality we are NOW in a much more golden age for car enthusiasts. The possibilities are much greater.