In Norway a group of go-getters and passionate guys have begun crowdfunding what they believe is the next step in the world of guitar pedals and effect equipment. The company is called Aalberg Audio and the new product they are trying to get out to the world is called EKKO and AERO and they are committed to see their dream and idea become a successful reality, which they also hope will bring new innovation and inspiration to the world of guitar effects in general.
It all began in 2010, when co-founder and inventor Rune Aalberg Alstad was out in town with a couple of friends. During a discussion on effect pedals Alstad was suddenly hit by the idea of a wireless remotely controlled effects pedal. The ideas came pouring in and Alstad quickly scribbled it all down on a napkin, laying the early foundations for what would later become the EKKO and AERO, as well as the Aalberg Audio company. Basing his masters thesis in Music Technology at the Norwegian University of Science & Technology on this idea, he afterwards received enough funding to start Aalberg studios and to begin prototyping the products. Now four years later, the one thing that truly lacks is the last bit of funding to ensure that the first batches of EKKO and AEROs can be shipped to early bird supporters and retailers around the world. Two weeks ago they went online with their Indiegogo campaign in hopes that crowdfunding would be the answer to quickly get the product out of production and into the hands of guitarist around the world.
We here at Vintage & Rare think that the idea they are trying to bring into fruition sounds interesting and we were lucky enough to get a interview with one of the co-founders behind Aalberg Audio.
“Vintage & Rare(VR): Where did you get your inspiration from? You mention it shortly on your Indiegogo page, but is there any further information you could give in regards to the story behind the idea?
Aleksander Torstensen of Aalberg Audio(AA): The product is made in Trondheim at Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) together with world leading wireless chip manufacturer Nordic Semiconductor. It was Rune´s master thesis in Music Technology. Rune was inspired by the need for increased flexibility and new creative possibilities a wireless controller could add to the guitarist.
VR: How come you feel this is the time for making the pedal board wireless? Are you yourself musicians who have felt the lack of wireless control limiting or is there another reason?
AA: There are three main reasons for making the pedal board wireless:
– Technology: Recent technology development has made it possible to make small sized, stable and secure products with wireless connection. Also to a reasonable price. Our remote controller for example is palm-sized and very light.
-Trend: We saw a clear trend with more wireless products and also companies making already invented products better. Like Pebble did with a regular watch we have improved the classical stompbox.
– Need: A motto we have is “for guitarists by guitarists”, the contributors of Aalberg Audio are guitarists or have played guitar in the past. We have seen experienced and witnessed the need for increased control. Guitarists are often locked to the pedal board and spending time staring down at the effects rather than out towards the crowd. The effects industry also lacks innovative changes, which limits the creativity possibilities for guitarists.
VR: What made you confident that this is the right time for the pedal board to go wireless? Is there some technological know-how behind the idea?
AA: Again, technically it is the right time to realize this concept. Wireless technology has evolved the recent years and has become both stable and secure. This technology is for example used in gaming consoles (Playstation 3, XBox etc.) with great success. There is of course know-how behind the idea. We have used 4 years of trial and error to build this [with] competence and develop the perfect solution.
VR: Do you think that with time the wireless pedal board will be common practice? And are you looking to work with other companies to include your soft and hardware, or is it a solo operation?
AA: Yes, I think a wireless pedal board is “a natural step in the evolution of effects pedals”. The television got its remote controller decades ago, with increased flexibility and possibilities. It is just a matter of time before all effects pedals are Aalberg Audio compatible. We are building a brand that will deliver high-end wireless music equipment in the future. This does not mean we are not open to suggestions from other companies regarding development and/or marketing.
VR: Do you think that any learning difficulty or force of habit will limit your product?
AA: Guitarists will need some time to get used to the product. That being said, this is a plug & play system. It is very simple and I´ve seen guitarists learn it and play cool bits in minutes. This is a product much like Poker, it takes a moment to learn but a lifetime to master. I´m constantly learning new stuff and possibilities with the product and I think we have only scratched the surface if regards to the possibilities the product offers.
VR: Are you taking steps to ensure that the EKKO & AERO limit signal delay and how much time have you spent on fine tuning such elements of the technology?
AA: The controller only transmits the control signal to the effects pedal, not the audio signal. The control signal is extremely fast and even when changing parameters from the max distance of 30 meters (98 feet) there is negligible latency. It is key and has been our #1 priority for the 4 years of development to ensure a stable, secure and fast transmission of the wireless signal. The wireless technology used is start-of-the-art by world leader Nordic Semiconductor.
VR: Finally, what are your plans for getting your product out there and into the general guitar-world, both in regards to consumers and retailers?
AA: We have already attended NAMM and Musikmesse in 2014 where we have connected with hundreds of retailers, press and guitarists. We also have support of Steen Meldgaard, former Export Manager and CEO at T-Rex, who took the company from a startup to export in 65 countries. Our first step is crowdfunding and next year [to] get EKKO+AERO into retailers. It will also be important with some well known ambassadors and reviews in guitar magazines.