Hotone Audio really started to make waves in Australia a few years ago with the releases of their Nano heads and Skyline series of mini pedals (and we mean really mini!). Good sounding designs in ultra compact forms showed that Hotone meant business and knew what they were doing. Pushing the boundaries even further, their latest release, the XTOMP, is a modelling pedal equipped to access and store a myriad of pedal, amp and cab sounds. We got to chat with Hotone guru Ari Garcia about this little wonder.
“As early as 2001, the Hotone team was brainstorming on how to model those old classic pedal and amp tones,” says Garcia. “The brainstorming turned into a complex and drawn out research based technological pursuit. Even as other companies were developing tone modelling, Hotone was set on answering the question of how to get tones just like those original products. Later the project evolved even further; not only to achieve high quality models of the original classics, but also to develop new original sonic tools over that incredibly flexible platform.”
While they aren’t the first to release a pedal for modelling sounds, Hotone have taken the time to actually perfect it rather than just get close to the sound, as Garcia explains. “The majority of mainstream modelling methodology is based on certain circuit theory analysis modelling algorithms. These algorithms can successfully model a circuit’s characteristics in static state, creating tones close to the original sound. But the catch here is the ‘static state.’ The characteristics of static circuitry hardly ever reflect a circuit’s dynamic performance, and thus only ever come “close” to the modelled sound; they are never indistinguishable.”
That is where the XTOMP differs. “The XTOMP [is] the fruit of a decade of circuit modelling research and development, which employs our very own Comprehensive Dynamic Circuit Modelling (CDCM) system. CDCM has constructed an extremely complex dynamic variation matrix, able to realistically express every detailed change that occurs during the operational process of actual circuitry.”
Working to capture and reproduce the dynamic nature of pedals and amps means that there is some pretty impressive technology under the hood. “When XTOMP is operating, the models at work within it are constantly changing rather than remaining fixed,” explains Garcia. “This matrix will adjust its own modelling parameters and even framework based on the instrument input signal range, signal frequency, knob position, the instrument’s own impedance, and other variable parameters, all to achieve the closest possible characteristics of actual circuitry – so it has some kind of “life” of its own.”
With over 300 models already available, it’s unlikely that the user will get bored with the range of sounds on offer. However, if they do, it won’t be long before they have a whole new bunch of models to play through, with consistent new releases.
“We have a tight schedule of updates called ‘XTOMP Friday’. [On] the last Friday of the month all users will get a free update with new models to add to XTOMP’s wonderful library. We will keep releasing and developing new functions for XTOMP. The platform is amazing, and this is just starting. This is not about the pedal – it’s about the software that drives it.”
The XTOMP looks and works like any other guitar pedal, but limiting it to a simple stompbox would be tragically underrating all that it is capable of. “XTOMP was meant to be used mainly in these three scenarios; as a regular stompbox pedal in front of your amp; through your FX loop, [when] you may want to use the dirty channel on your amp, but some mod from XTOMP; [and] as a CAB/ AMP Sim straight into your mixer or DAW,” Garcia says. “Having said that, the sky is the limit. I just finished a chat with a guy from Mexico that is using it with a violin so get ready to see some weird things around XTOMP.
“For some people it’s still hard to think out of the box, and we’re fighting to change that,” he continues. “As I said earlier, this is not about the pedal. The pedal itself is 400 grams of useless – yet beautifully designed – metal. The future is in CDCM tech. Like Skynet in Terminator, we’ll keep evolving, no matter the platform, to get always great tones with flexible options. XTOMP is Hotone, and Hotone will be always about tone, portability, ingenuity, design and music. XTOMP is just the first step, [albeit] a big one, in a long journey to sound perfection.”