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Linux-based pedalboard features 100+ virtual effects

Sep 18, 2014 — by Eric Brown — 3485 views

[Updated 2:30PM] — A Kickstarter project called “MOD Duo” is an open source Linux music pedalboard with Arduino hooks and virtual pedals for 100-plus guitar and voice effects.

The MOD Duo is billed as “the first multipurpose pedal.” The Linux-based device will be supported with an app platform, letting you create virtual pedal effects, and other audio apps, as well as download those created by other musicians in the “MOD community.” You can create digital effects plug-ins using the open source LV2 standard, then replay dozens of pedals during recording or performances. Effects include guitar distortions, vocoders for voice, recording apps, and more.

MOD Duo prototype in acrylic (left) and render of final aluminum enclosure

San Francisco-based Musical Operating Devices (MOD) is already a third the way toward its $65,000 goal, with a funding deadline of Oct. 17. The MOD Duo pedalboard is available in funding packages starting at $299 for a beta version due to ship in April 2015, extending up to $499 or $599 for deluxe versions due in June or July. The standard version will eventually sell for $399.

The original, now sold-out “Quadra” prototype model was released in Brazil in 2013 under the company name Portalmod in partnership with Angoera Sistemas Electronicos, according to this Gizmag story. Portalmod founder and Quadra creator Gianfranco Ceccolini collaborated with Brazilian software organization Hacklab and then regrouped in San Francisco under the MOD name and created the MOD Duo.

Most guitarists who want a lot of effects end up daisy-chaining a variety of costly single-effect pedals. Aside from draining the pockets of impoverished musicians, the array of pedals can be hard to negotiate onstage. (Presumably, it could even pose a safety issue onstage, especially if one’s performance is more active than the usual shoe-gazing.) The MOD Duo instead offers dozens of virtual pedal effects using a single physical pedal, and you don’t need a laptop or mobile device to use it live.

MOD Duo soundboard
(click image to enlarge)

The MOD Duo is very similar to the Quadra and offers the same Linux-based stack and app platform. However, it switches from an Intel Atom to a 1GHz Allwinner A20 system-on-chip with dual ARM Cortex-A7 cores. The soundboard design is simplified (and modularized) through the incorporation of ITEAD’s 63 X 56mm “A10/A20 Core” computer-on-module, pictured below. (A stretch goal of the project would boost that to a module based on the similar, but 1.5GHz Allwinner A23.) The MOD Duo includes two audio inputs, two audio outputs, a stereo headphone output, and MIDI-in and -out connections. In addition to its A20 SoC, the ITEAD COM integrates 1GB of RAM and 4GB of flash storage.

MOD Duo’s A20-based computer-on-module
(click image to enlarge)

The pedalboard controller provides a USB host port for adding Bluetooth, WiFi adapters, and MIDI peripherals. There’s also a USB device port for connecting to a desktop PC, and if a stretch goal is met, it could be adapted for use as an additional 24-bit audio interface with dual stereo inputs.

Optional Arduino Shield with potential peripheral connections
(click image to enlarge)

An Arduino connector on the MOD Duo supports Arduino Shields, says MOD. The device is available with an optional, $20 Shield that lets you use weight sensors, light sensors, accelerometers, heart beat sensors, and other inputs to interface with pedal effects.

Expression Pedal (left) and Footswitch Extensor
(click images to enlarge)

The MOD Duo also includes an optional, $84 “Expression” foot pedal as well as an $86 “Footswitch Extensor” that offers four extra foot switches. These peripherals, as well as the Arduino Shield are connected with the MOD Duo using a homegrown open protocol bus called the “Control Chain.”

Two Control Chain configurations with MOD Duo, pedal, and footswitch

There are fewer details on the MOD Duo’s soundboard’s audio components. The soundboard offers a HiFi codec and passive components,and provides superior sound quality compared to “mass market digital sound processor,” claims MOD. The earlier Quadra had 24-bit, 48KHz analog-to-digital/digital-to-analog converters and “true bypass circuitry,” according to Gizmag.

The physical chassis is available in different styles, starting with a sheet metal enclosure for the first 500 units, followed by a die cast aluminum enclosure. The deluxe version uses a CNC machined and laser engraved aluminum enclosure.


MOD Duo software

The MOD Duo ships with GUI-based, drag-and-drop software that lets you quickly create, load and share virtual pedalboards, says MOD. The Linux software offers a social networking application called MOD Social that lets you share virtual pedals on the platform’s MOD Cloud site, as well as Facebook or Vimeo. It includes a live feed of all the pedalboards other MOD community members are creating. The MOD Social software also lets you create samples that can be shared with non-MOD users.

MOD Duo interface
(click image to enlarge)

The MOD software makes use of the LV2 real-time, extensible plugin standard. The LV2 community has already developed over 100 effects that will be available for the MOD Duo, says the company. MOD is using LV2 to create apps such as sequencers, samplers, co-creation apps, teaching apps, and games. To port LV2 apps from a Linux PC, you can use MOD’s toolchain, which converts the plugins to ARM.

Further information

The MOD Duo is available on Kickstarter through Oct. 17 in funding packages starting at $299, a discount from an eventual, commercial $399 version. Other models with deluxe enclosures, etc. range up to $599. Products ship in April, June, or July of next year, depending on the package. More information may be found at the MOD Duo Kickstarter page and the MOD website.

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One response to “Linux-based pedalboard features 100+ virtual effects”

  1. Paulo says:

    Thanks for the support!
    The MOD Duo was funded in Kickstarter, now we are going to the stretch goals.

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