The idea for the Acpad belongs to German musician Robin Sukroso, who has been experimenting with the concept since 2009, when he constructed his first prototype. The whole project took off after he worked with a group of Indian engineers, leading to a new prototype device in 2013.
During the past two years the Acpad team has invested in hours of research, development and testing before arriving at the final pre-production model. In order to make the next step, a crowdfunding campaign was launched on Kickstarter on October 22, managing to achieve its primary €40,000 (US$44,500) target in less than an hour.
The Acpad consists of a thin polymer pad that sticks to the guitar's surface without the need for any adhesive medium. Its thickness varies from 3.5 mm (0.14 in) to 9 mm (0.35 in) – the thickest part is next to the bridge area where the battery and electronics are housed. It can be removed and reattached at any time, without leaving any trace or residue.
The device contains eight touch pads with gold-plated contacts in order to offer accurate pressure sensitivity, 10 preset buttons, two looper channels and two slider faders. All these actuators are programmable, so that the player can have a multitude of different instruments or effects at any time. Judging from the demo video at the bottom of the page, latency has been kept to a minimum, as this was a primary development target.
To use the Acpad, one has to connect it to a PC, laptop or mobile device. This can be done wirelessly via a USB dongle or it can plug straight into a USB port from a mini USB socket that is housed in the part of the pad below the guitar's bridge. The pad itself does not pick up the strings, so the guitar should also connect to a speaker setup, either by directly plugging the instrument or with the help of an external microphone – and this way it can also be used on a classic guitar.
The Acpad is powered by a USB-rechargeable battery that offers four to five hours of continuous play. It is supported by its own standalone software that enables the user to edit their own MIDI data and assign sounds. It also includes the basic presets shown in the demo video, so that it can be used straight out of the box.
Although the pad itself does not contain any data storage, the user can create or record the sound they desire with any MIDI software and then use it to program any Acpad button. Alternatively, it can be used in tandem with any digital audio workstation that can handle MIDI input – like Ableton, Garageband, Pro Tools, etc. There are even more options at hand; using a MIDI pickup opens up new possibilities for modulating the guitar's sound.
Future development will steer towards mobile applications, which could elevate the Acpad-equipped guitar to a truly portable electronic orchestra. Imagine plugging it to a mobile device and coupling it with software like Garageband and a Bluetooth speaker.
Watching Robin Sukroso perform with the Acpad may seem a bit intimidating to the hobbyist, but expertise in percussive-style guitar playing reportedly isn't necessary in order to enjoy it. Simply recording loops and playing to them is one simple task that anyone can do, without having to shift focus from strumming the cords – starting from there, practice will help anyone evolve.
Initially the Acpad will be produced in black and the shape shown in the photos, which should fit most acoustic guitars. In the future we should expect more colors and a left-handed version. Its estimated retail price is €349 ($389) and the first items are marked for delivery to the campaign's backers in late May 2016 – assuming all goes according to plans.
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