The ACPAD is a wireless MIDI controller designed for acoustic guitar. It sort of wraps itself around the body and sound-hole of the guitar to give your fingers easy access to all the interactive jiggery-pokery. Creator Robin Sukroso has announced that the ACPAD is now available and backs it up with an incredible live, one-take video of him busking in a park somewhere. Although I don’t think the other people in the park are hearing the same performance.
Robin successfully Kickstarted the ACPAD project back in October last year and since then he’s been busy developing the product. The hardware is thin enough (so they say) not to dampen the sound of your guitar. It has a special adhesive which helps it mount and then can be removed without leaving any marks or residue. On the device there are 8 pressure sensitive touch pads, 2 above and 6 below the strings. There are 10 preset buttons for selecting up to 25 presets – which sounds odd but that’s what it says. It can live record into 2 looper channels which can then be triggered, looped or stopped from the device. And finally there are two slider or fader strips which are typically mapped to modulation or filter cut off.
It’s a wireless device that uses Bluetooth, so you’ll need a computer (Mac or PC) that you can pair it with. You can also plug a USB cable in the old fashioned way. It’s important to stress that this is not a MIDI pickup, it’s not using the guitar to play MIDI notes. It’s more like strapping a Launchpad or keyboard MIDI controller to your guitar. If you want to include the guitar sound in your music making then you’ll need to stick a microphone in front of it or use a regular pickup.
How does it work?
This is where it gets a bit confusing. I’m not entirely sure where the sound comes from or how the looping works. All the tutorial videos talk about using Ableton Live and in the looping video he’s using Ableton’s Looper device. But where are the electronic sounds coming from? Are they coming from the ACPAD or are they sounds loaded in Ableton? The FAQ’s on the website talk about some “companion software” and some “free-sound presets” but I have a feeling this is referring to a light version of Ableton that ships with every ACPAD. Although then it says “ACPAD can be used to live record loops using our own software, or with a compatible DAW… such as Ableton Live” so there must be this other software. There’s no mention in any videos or screenshots so it’s all a bit weird.
I think the important thing to understand is that this is simply a MIDI controller that comes with good integration with Ableton Live which provides most of its functionality. As it’s MIDI it can of course be used in any other DAW or MIDI software – you’ll just have to map it to where you want everything to go. Hopefully things will become clearer as the software arrives and we can see how it all gels together.
Robin has certainly produced some impressive videos of the ACPAD in action. How you do all the playing, trigger, looping and effecting while singing and staying upright is beyond me. It certainly does give a lot of performance opportunities to the busking guitarist, although you’re unlikely to look penniless with your laptop, PA system and weird device wrapped around your guitar.
The ACPAD is available now for €449 and they are suggesting delivery in about 8 weeks due to high demand. For more information visit the ACPAD website.
Check this out though, it’s an awesome performance: