Amelia’s Compass was started by Liz Grove and Steve Christensen. We both have backgrounds in music and audio-related fields, and are performing musicians. With a love of technology, we make abundant use of it in our bands. We tend to be early adopters of new technology – always looking for that next increase in power and flexibility, preferably combined with that next decrease in size and weight. With each new upgrade, however, the initial techno-buzz can sometimes be diluted somewhat by disappointments. There may be features of the old system – on which we had come to depend – that we discover are not included in the new. There may be ways of doing things that were easy in the old system that have been made maddeningly complex in the new. The phrase, “do they actually use the equipment they design?” can sometimes come to mind! So pushing the envelope of audio technology can be difficult, and we daydream of things being easier. Our goal is to simplify the technology of live performance, wherever we can.
THE STRAW & THE CAMEL
We were playing in a progressive rock band using a 25-year-old product called the Lake Butler CFC4 – a great piece of gear from an innovative company that really seemed to “get” the possibilities of MIDI. It had four expression pedals mounted on a common base, wall wart input, and MIDI Out. In response to pedal movements, it sent MIDI message streams to control synth modules. Well, one day it finally died. We searched for a replacement… the company had long ago gone out of business; but of course the entire market segment that once produced a variety of midi control accessories is now a memory. In our search on-line we found many people looking for the same type of product. We realized that there was an unmet need. “Let’s build our own!”
The real-world challenge for musicians and audio personnel is to build aggregate multi-vendor, multi-user audio environments using many individual products that must somehow be convinced to work together. There are exceptions, but products still tend to be designed with a stand-alone viewpoint, which can keep them from being “good citizens” in a larger connected system. So musicians continue to have great difficulty building such systems. Amelia’s Compass’ vision is to develop products with a system viewpoint, in which products are deliberately designed as modular building blocks used to create larger systems. This allows users to put them together in various combinations; to combine their complementary strengths in the creation of ever larger and more powerful comprehensive systems.
It is particularly difficult to grow systems incrementally from small to large. For example, let’s say a company makes a 4-channel widget, an 8-channel widget, and a 16-channel widget. That’s great, but you can’t put two of their 4-channel widgets together to make an 8, or a pair of 8’s to make a 16. No, when you’ve outgrown the 8-channel widget, you must sell it (usually at a substantial loss) and then step up to the 16.
Our solution is modularity: we simply make a 1-channel widget and provide the means to combine any number of them to build systems from small to very large. You can grow in small 1-channel increments as needed. Or if we do make a 4-channel widget, you can combine any number of them with any number of our 1-channel widgets. Every product we make can be combined with every other in the creation of ever larger complex systems.
ControllerHub 8 and ButtonPusher are the first of many upcoming modular control products from Amelia’s Compass.
ControllerHub 8 is the central hub for your modular control setup. Connect as many as eight of your favorite 3rd-party expression pedals and footswitches. ControllerHub 8 converts pedal movements and button presses into MIDI message streams over USB and standard MIDI cables. Within your audio software, simply click the “learn” button to assign these control movements to your desired target parameters. If you need more than 8 controllers, you can combine multiple ControllerHub 8’s.
ButtonPusher is our own custom-designed footswitch for use with ControllerHub 8. Although ControllerHub 8 works great with your favorite 3rd-party footswitches, you should consider giving ours a try. We think you’ll agree that it’s simply the best footswitch available, whether you use it with ControllerHub 8 or not.
Upcoming products will add to the collection of available building blocks in our modular approach to audio control.
The long-term goal of Amelia’s Compass will be to extend the modulator approach from the control of audio to the production and processing of audio. We have developed a highly-evolved digital audio network topology named SpudNet which will be made available free of charge to the audio development community. This will spark the proliferation of an entirely new class of powerful but low-cost modular audio and control components by multiple companies and individuals.