Norway's Aalberg Audio has developed what's billed as the world’s first remote-controlled effects pedal for electric guitars. The first part of the equation is a delay pedal named Ekko that's cabled up somewhere between the guitar and amp pretty much like any other floor stomp. Things get interesting when its Aero companion enters the picture, which can be mounted onto a guitar or attached to a strap or belt and wirelessly controls the Ekko effects on the fly.
The Aalberg inspiration muse hit during a heated debate with friends in 2010. While arguing about which stomps were the Kings of Creativity and which were the Dukes of Dork, company co-founder Rune Aalberg Alstad was hit by the realization that all of the pedals being discussed suffered from the same fatal flaw – they all required the player to return to the same spot on the stage to tweak the tone or activate/deactivate a stomp.
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He grabbed an envelope and started scribbling (see above), and the Aalberg Ekko and Aero system was birthed. He went on to use the idea as the basis for his Masters degree, then further developed the system after a cash injection from the government-backed Innovation Norway. Four years, and a number of music show demos, later and the system is being primed for mass production.
"Guitarists have used stationary wired effects pedals for so long that they've learned to live with having to run over to the stompbox in the middle of a song to change effects," said Aalberg's Aleksander Torstensen. "But it is restrictive as the guitarist never feels comfortable venturing too far away from their pedals. Our solution is highly liberating because it means guitarists can access all our effects no matter where they are on the stage – which is great for creativity and is why I think this product is the next big evolution in effects pedals."
The Ekko EK-1 is described as a semi-analog delay pedal with high quality 24-bit/48kHz sample rate audio. It sports stereo in/out, true bypass circuit (which removes its influence on the output when not active), and manual controls up top for up to 10 seconds of delay time, level and feedback. There's no battery hatch in this 55.4 x 141 x 89.3 mm (2.2 x 5.6 x 3.5 in), 533 g (19 oz) unit, so it will need wiring up to a 9V DC power supply, but all parameters can be controlled wirelessly using the Aero controller.
The 30 x 73 x 43 mm (1.2 x 2.9 x 1.7 in), 37 g (1.3 oz) Aero AE-1 wireless companion controller features a proprietary 2.4 GHz wireless chip from Nordic Semiconductor to communicate with the effects pedal from up to 30 m (100 ft) away and a rechargeable battery. It can be used to dial in up to three saved presets, and puts stomp parameter tweaks at the fingertips (including tap-tempo). The setup allows a player freedom to move around the stage and still activate and control the stationary stomp effects pedal wired up to the pedalboard or rack.
For the moment though, this effects pedal revolution is banking on gathering momentum in the crowdfunding space before breaking into production. Aalberg has today launched a fixed funding campaign on Indiegogo, with early birds able to put their names down for the first systems off the production line for US$249. If all goes according to plan, the first deliveries are estimated to start in March 2015.
The EK-1 is the company's first effects offering. Aalberg says that musicians can expect a fill suite of AE-1-compatible stomps in the future.
Check out the pitch video below.