The Amperage Pedal
The Amperage Pedal
A midi controller pedal designed for guitarists & keyboardists who want to take their laptop, iPhone or iPad on stage and use knobs.
A midi controller pedal designed for guitarists & keyboardists who want to take their laptop, iPhone or iPad on stage and use knobs. Read more
About this project
(Note that the video above shows an early prototype of the pedal! - The pedal is now OUT of the prototyping phase and the final design is shown below. The production pedals will have artwork on them as well and premium backers can work with our artist to design a look that suits their stage persona. Oh, please forgive our video skills - we're audio folks - not video folks! - we're learning rapidly however!
The Amperage Pedal allows you to bring your laptop, tablet, or phone onstage and use its sonic power without ever having to touch the mouse or a touchscreen during a performance. It is a Midi Controller pedal in a rugged and industry standard stomp box format. It has 7 banks of 7 knobs and two foot switches that can be assigned to the controls in your software amplifier, instrument or recording software. With it you can quickly make the tiny (or large) changes required to get the perfect tone during a performance. The ability to quickly adjust your presets to compensate for the room, while playing is the name of the game. Musicians need knobs - It's that simple.
The modeling amplifier software available on laptops, iPhones and iPads is incredibly good sounding. Our designer has been using all-tube amps all his life - he's old school in that way and has been playing the guitar for 42 years. He knows what good tone sounds like. Been there, still doing that. But...his laptop is now replacing his analog pedal board (and all its pedals, wires and wall-warts) as well as the preamp section of his guitar amps. His rig is a modern hybrid using the computer for the front end and either one or two tube amps and speaker cabinets for the power section. The hangup was using a mouse or touchscreen on stage. So he solved that problem with the Amperage Pedal. We're not going to argue about which rig (old or new) sounds better. They both sound great. But the computer rig is far more flexible and provides more sonic variety.
The Amperage pedal was designed from the ground up by a guitarist, for guitarists, to take control of modeling amplifiers. But it's also a power tool for keyboard and synthesizer players (we play keys and guitar both here). Rugged enough for a touring band, yet sits nicely on the home studio desk, or on the bed while jamming at home. The Amperage Pedal isn't a 'device' - it's creativity unleashed. It will allow you to quickly find the perfect tone.
It's a subtle yet powerful difference that sets the Amperage Pedal apart.
What sets the Amperage Pedal apart from other midi controllers is that it has enough knobs to grab all the primary controls of your modeling guitar amplifier in one convenient location (gain, volume, reverb/fx, bass, mid, treble, presence).
Its just-right size doesn't consume all the space on your pedal board unlike some of the 'mothership' midi controller pedals which offer lots of footswitches but not enough knobs.
The pedal features 7 different color coded banks so you can also control all the effects you might use in any given performance. Maybe a little more tremolo is needed, or extra gain on the delay unit, or less reverb. It all depends on where you're playing.
As an example you could put your primary amp controls on the red bank, your secondary amp on the green bank, then use the other 5 banks to control your effects.
The brightness of the led's on the pedal is easily adjustable so that you can see the indicators in full overhead sunlight or turn it down to preserve the mood at night. In the photo below the image in the bottom right corner is dimmed but all the others are at full intensity. When fully bright it is *very* bright, but then so is the sun...
Kurt Olsen, our designer, is an expert guitarist, software developer, and electronics guy - and even with all those skill he was unable to comfortably bring a computer on stage to replace his existing analog pedal board and the preamp sections of his guitar amps. Because real amps have real knobs - for a reason. Other techniques have been tried on real/analog guitar amps and rack effects - but knobs won the war because they're the *only* user interface control that can be grabbed and tweaked with confidence in-between strums or notes. And those knobs really do have to be adjusted during sound check, and again during performances, often during the first set of a night in order to get the tone just right. Presets only sound perfect in the environment they were created in. If you play in the same venue night after night this might not be a problem but when you play in various clubs the use of presets that are difficult or slow to change in real-time becomes quite a problem. It usually means you sound great in one club but not great in the others.
The Amperage Pedal was designed for musicians who want to sound great everywhere they play.
Other places the Amperage Pedal really helps is in the rehearsal hall and your home studio. At rehearsal you're trying to find the perfect settings and effects to go with a particular song and thus you're making a lot of real-time changes. And if you have to ask the rest of the band to be wait for a couple of minutes while you use your computer or tablet rig you'll find that your band members quickly run out of patience with you. The Amperage Pedal reduces the amount of time you need to find that perfect setting. Rehearsal time often costs money after all.
When you're jamming at home, or composing with your home studio the Amperage Pedal will help you find the perfect settings and effects for a particular song. Your sound massively influences what you play in any given part. If you've decided to use a fancy effect with a lot of different settings on it then taking a moment to map the pedals knobs onto the effect will let you try out a myriad of different settings without having to stop playing to use the mouse or touchscreen. It's much faster to just tweak a knob and keep playing until you find the perfect sound. It really helps the creative flow.
Easy to use and install
The Amperage pedal will work out-of-the-box with any software or hardware device that understands MIDI - In other words, all the big names in music software. There is no need to install device drivers. We do provide a free utility application (For Macintosh and Windows) for those of you who need even more flexibility. The utility software will allow you to change the default midi controller mappings and midi channels for each bank. Most people will never need to do this but if your midi system is complex then you'll appreciate the additional flexibility provided by the software.
Assigning the knobs on the pedal to the virtual knobs or switches in your modeling amps or instruments is very easy.
The technique varies among the different midi compatible applications but generally speaking it's as easy as selecting the 'learn' function in your software, clicking on the virtual knob in the software and then rotating the knob on the Amperage Pedal that you want to assign to the virtual knob. It's really easy to do because midi controllers have been around for over 30 years now.
The full owners manual is available for download here, on our website:
Briefly however, the pedal has 8 knobs, all of which can be used as standard midi controllers (they send midi continuous controller messages) but by default (easily changeable) the top-right knob is used as a bank selector and thus doesn't send midi messages. There are 7 banks, each of which is indicated by the multicolor led in the center of the pedal. It's easy to "lock-in" a particular bank allowing you to have 8 knobs available to control your modeling amp if you desire. Please see the owners manual for all the details.
The two footswitches on the pedal can be used to send midi program change messages (for selecting presets in your host software), or you can easily change them on-stage to be either latching or momentary switches in order to turn effects on and off.
By pressing and holding the two footswitches down at the same time you can enter 'edit' mode whereby you can adjust the led brightness, control the function of the footswitches (presets or fx on/off), latching or momentary, and the polarity of the switches such that the leds next to the footswitches can be taught to match your software.
Additionally, the included utility software allows you to change the default midi channels for each bank as well as the midi continuous controller numbers assigned to each knob or footswitch.
The annotated photograph below, which was taken from the owners manual illustrates the special functions assigned to the knobs when the pedal is in 'edit' mode. Note that any changes you make are 'sticky' and will still be in effect the next time you use the pedal.
And, if you hold both footswitches down for 3 seconds you can use the bank select knob to 'lock-in' any of the 7 banks thus making all 8 knobs available as midi controllers.
Again, please note that the labels above are *not* actually on the pedal - this diagram was taken from the owners manual to illustrate the special features - however....
The artwork for the Amperage Pedal was designed by Andrew Towl who also presented the pedal in our video at the top. The 'stock' graphics on the pedal will look like this:
Platinum backers can work with Andrew to create graphics, images and colors on the pedal that are unique to their stage persona. The printing process allows as many colors as you'd like at no extra charge. Anything from custom graphics to photographs or anything in between. Think about that....The reason the graphics aren't on the pedal shown in the photographs is we'd prefer to order the 'stock' pedals in quantities large enough to hit the price breaks - which a successful campaign will allow us to do. The custom artwork can be ordered one at a time and those costs are built into the Platinum pledge.
In addition - all the pledge levels that include the Amperage Pedal as a reward will also receive our custom audio hosting software called StageManager (Macintosh and Windows compatible).
StageManager has been in development for three years and has already been proven on stage. With it you'll be able to easily wire up all your Audio Unit and VST plug-ins in ways that are impossible or too difficult to do with other audio hosts. Designed for maximum simplicity and sonic power so that you can focus on playing and *not* on complicated software. StageManager will allow you to easily use multiple copies of your software amplifiers or instruments and chain then together in ways not possible before.
Since all the plugins you'll be using onstage are loaded only once, when you open your 'stage' file - the song (or song section) switching is extremely fast. Almost instantaneous with most plugins. The plugins you're not using at any given moment are bypassed and don't use any CPU cycles.
You can set each plugin such that it will automatically display its editor when you select a 'song' - if you minimize the main window then what you see when you change presets (with midi program change messages) is your gear - and not the wiring. Select a song using your modeling amp and the modeling amp is what you'll see. Select a song using a synthesizer and you'll see it. And the locations of the windows are remembered as well.
You also won't be nagged with 'save changes?' messages. Every time you change 'songs' the settings you've made to your modeling amp or instrument are saved silently. Unless you 'lock' the stage with the padlock in the upper right corner that is. If the stage is locked you'll still be able to change sonic settings of course but the changes won't be saved when you change songs. This allows you to compensate for the room you're performing in but doesn't alter the settings permanently.
The combination of the Amperage Pedal and StageManager software, along with the utility software means you're backing a complete system that's already been tested on stage during live performances. It's truly a pleasure to use all the sonic power that the computer/tablet brings to the stage in a unified way.
Design and Construction
The Amperage Pedal was designed with high volume manufacturing in mind, and our in-house capability is state of the art. A Makerbot Replicator 2 (3D printer) and a customized Shapeoko CNC milling machine will be used for low volume production runs and prototyping. All our designs are begun with 3D models and schematic entry software that can then generate design files suitable for either our desktop manufacturing machines or high volume production milling, drilling, printed circuit board manufacturing etc. If our campaign is wildly successful and the number of units we need to build exceeds our in-house capabilities we'll be able to quickly send the design files off for quotations and outsourcing (made in America). In other words there won't be any long delays while we go from small batches to larger batches.
The construction quality of our pedals is far in excess of what you might expect from a hobbyist. Our CNC milling machine ensures precise drilling of the enclosures and the 3D printer is used to make precise and elegant mountings and finishing components. If you open up one of the pedals it will look like it was built by professionals...because it was. Each unit is tested extensively to ensure that it will work perfectly and provide a lifetime of trouble free operation. We used top-shelf components throughout.
Fulfilling the backers rewards
If you decide to back our campaign and it's successful then the North Shore Guitar team will have a lot of work to do. But we've prepared for that. To start with we've already built a couple of the pedals and have lined up multiple suppliers for all the components. What hasn't been done is to order a batch of the enclosures with the artwork (stock or custom) on them yet. We've kept our enclosure supplier in the loop and we're not anticipating any real difficulties when we place our order. The artwork is applied by computer printing directly on the enclosures and is UV cured. It's a very powerful and easy to use process.
We'll also have to order the electronic components. We'll do that immediately after we've received your backing funds which should occur within a 14 day window of a successfully funded campaign. We'll place the enclosure order, re-order the custom printed circuit boards and also re-order the electronic components within a few days of receiving the funds.
As soon as that's done we'll contact the T-shirt and Sticker suppliers we've already chosen. Honolulu has an abundance of places we can have that done and we've already got the artwork done.
We're also going to be signing the thank you cards and updating the website to credit our backers as mentioned. Hopefully we'll have a *lot* of cards to sign.
If our campaign is *wildly* successful - and the number of pedals that needs to be built exceeds our ability to build them by ourselves then we're getting on the phone to RBB Systems in Wooster Ohio in order to have them assist us with the builds. We have first hand experience with the quality and attention to detail they offer. They are *very* good at what they do and the Amperage Pedal is right up their alley.
When the components have arrived, we'll build and test the pedals in batches and ship them. The T-shirts and stickers should will be finished by that time and we'll have to buy and use the packaging materials and co-ordinate with the shipping folks. We'll ship each batch as soon as they're tested and packed.
Funding from your pledges should be released to us in mid April at which point we'll immediately order all the parts/t-shirts/stickers (see above).
We plan on beginning the pedal builds no later than the beginning of May 2014. This gives our parts suppliers 2 weeks to send the parts. They usually do it within one week. We'll build the Early Bird specials first and get those shipped in May and then for the rest of May and June we'll be building out the remaining pledges in batches of 10 and shipping each batch as soon as they are done, along with any T-shirts and stickers. The plan is to have all the pledges fulfilled by the beginning of July 2014. Our anticipated worst case is to have all the pledges fulfilled by the end of July 2014.
We've prepared for this, we're ready for this - We'll deliver in a timely fashion. We'll also keep you fully updated along they way.
This is just the beginning
We need your help to continue. It's not everyday that a new product is introduced that we are convinced will become standard equipment on stages all over the world. Wait till you see what we have coming next...
With Aloha, The North Shore Guitar team says THANK YOU!
Risks and challenges
There are none as far as we can foresee. We have a finished product that is fully functional. Several pedals have already been built and should this campaign be successful we are ready to initiate manufacturing in larger quantities. We have sourced all the components via multiple suppliers and the 3D printed parts used can be built with our 3d printers or outsourced from a number of suppliers. We only need the funds to order parts in large enough quantities to fulfill the batch requirements for the pedals artwork, and to hit the price breaks on a few of the more expensive components. All of the software for the pedal is complete and has been extensively tested. We're ready to order parts, assemble more pedals and ship them. In the event a component is back-ordered for some reason then any delays should be minimal (multiple suppliers) - and with the exception of our small custom circuit board all the components are top-notch off-the-shelf components that have already been supplied by the millions and are proven reliable. Since we've already had a batch of our custom circuit boards made and have proven its supply chain we're not anticipating any problems there either. And if something unforeseen does occur they are not strictly required. They help us reduce the assembly time and cost but the pedals will work just fine without them. Each unit will just take a bit longer to assemble. We acknowledge that stuff could happen to slow the process down as we gain experience building batches of pedals but nothing that's a show stopper is visible on the horizon...Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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