Shane Nolan from Aviate Audio

Aviate Audio was formed in Buffalo, New York by a small team of musicians and engineers who, like many other musicians, were on a never ending quest to find new sounds. Their product, Multiverse, seeks to redefine that quest and provide an ever expanding library of audio effects made by developers from around the globe. The founders Ryan Jaquin and Shane Nolan developed the concept for an audio marketplace where any developer or audio brand can publish a digital audio effect on one unifying platform. The duo was joined by Steve Lascos who had spent years perfecting easily programmable hardware that was being used to help people make their own effects in the DIY space.

Tell us about your background and how Aviate Audio was founded.

I've been a huge guitar head and tinkerer since I was a kid, and the same goes for everybody on our team. I had become interested as somebody getting into guitar gear around the early to mid 2010s and seeing new sorts of unusual effects. things like multi effects were starting to come more to the forefront And digital effects had sort of arrived by the time I was really coming up with music gear. As a guitar enthusiast studying electrical engineering, you start to think about these problems and I would think about how to create a way to really take advantage of the digital tools that are now available in the technology landscape.

So we thought where can we go from here and what can really go beyond what’s being done today? one problem that Ryan and I noticed and began to talk about in college was how you would just chain all these different pedals together, and if you wanted to use digital tools, you couldn't really mix and match. They were in their own box and you had to commit to one platform.

So we posed the question, what if digital tools could exist on the same hardware together? What if you could have one box and it could run all these cool plugins? Basically what a computer does, but in a stomp box style format and more suited to live use or being mobile because not everybody uses a laptop.

That gave us the idea for this open marketplace where other effects from a multitude of brands and different names can come together and be on one platform. And we wanted to have it run on one pedal, where you can get the analog experience of using stomp boxes without having to make all the usual concessions.

And so we came up with this concept for a business plan and had some traction with it. After we graduated we founded Aviate and played around with different things and it took a while to develop Multiverse. So we came up with another product in the meantime. Steve also joined the team and he had been working in the space for a long time so he brings years of experience perfecting audio hardware. We were able to merge his knowledge and skills in the hardware that he had developed with our concept for the marketplace. And that's when the Multiverse project started in 2020.

What were some challenges developing the Multiverse pedal and software? And how did you solve them?

At the beginning of the process we knew the Multiverse pedal would require a desktop software tool that you can use to interact with the digital effects inside and ultimately configure the pedal how you want. JUCE had many of the functions that we needed to both program our pedal, and enable the user experience we wanted (build pedal boards, adjust knobs, assign controls). After many iterations, we completed the Multiverse Designer software which features full art views of each pedal and offers a rich user experience to accompany the Multiverse pedal.

A main goal when developing the pedal was to make it as easy as possible for people to create their own Multiverse effects. To do this we built a new Effect Creator tool using JUCE that allows people to easily port in an audio algorithm, add graphics, controls, and test the digital effect on the Multiverse pedal. It takes care of writing the template code for a Multiverse effect and lets the developer focus on fine-tuning their algorithm and developing the digital artwork and user experience for their effect.

Did you evaluate any other development platforms before selecting JUCE?

We were using popular Teensy microcontrollers which used ARM arm chips.

They have these audio libraries that allow you to do Digital Signal Processing (DSP) on the hardware, so it's a pretty nifty little chip that allows for audio programming. And we did a proof of concept hardware, but then it became time to come up with the question of how do you configure this thing? We needed a desktop software that could speak to this microcontroller program, and a great graphical user interface.

Our team members have tried a few platforms to develop a GUI in previous projects. There are other frameworks that let you develop software-based MIDI controllers and build a GUI. We had encountered problems in the past building for the different operating systems we needed to support and continued trying more tools due to being unsatisfied.

Ryan and I hadn't had much experience with that, but that's something that Steve had worked on and after several attempts there were still a few problems. Ultimately, he continued searching for another tool, and since JUCE had been purpose-built for audio, had many capabilities and was widely supported, we were glad for him to try JUCE. And it worked really well.

When we moved on from the hardware configuration and we started making the software framework for Multiverse, it was already in place that JUCE was going to be where we started.

What made you choose JUCE?

JUCE turned out to be a much easier and quicker GUI platform to work with. It’s targeted to MIDI and audio applications, which makes it a great fit for our project. Plus it’s widely used and has excellent developer support which makes it that much easier. I could speak to the virtues of what the product did for our software development, which were really great, and that the Multiverse software turned out amazing. But beyond that, and this is the part that I didn't really expect… We're building a developer community type of pedal and we need people who are going to be interested in potentially publishing effects and it turns out that a lot of the people that write their audio programs in JUCE are just those types of people. So getting tapped into the JUCE community was a major benefit to us. We met a lot of great people at the NAMM show and other trade events, and they ended up purchasing units to play with and potentially develop and publish effects. So having that commonality where you develop your effect in JUCE, where we can easily explain how porting it into the pedal would be done, was very valuable and has been a major ‘aha’ moment for us.

More about the Multiverse products.

Multiverse users can chain together several effects and create a collection of presets that are saved to the pedal. Effect controls can be assigned to any of the four knobs, six buttons and expression input. The device also features MIDI input, an OLED display and a USB-C port for programming.

There are two tools that we built with JUCE, the Multiverse Designer, and the Effect Creator. The Effect Creator tool is where you build the effect. The goal behind that was to make it as easy as possible for people to make their own effects. So you can bring in your graphics, bring in your audio loop function that represents your algorithm and then when you run the Effect Creator, it builds it into an effect that you can then test out on the Multiverse hardware.

Then, the next step in the process is to use the Multiverse Designer, which provides a visually rich audio software experience for setting up pedalboards and interacting with each effect. It combines the flexibility of audio plugins with the practicality of a dedicated hardware pedal.

The Multiverse Designer lets you drag and drop to design your pedaboard. You can build your pedalboards, open up each pedal, tweak your effects, and then you can set it and save it to the Multiverse pedal. And what it does is it takes all of the effects and the order that they were in, and it writes that into a program and then puts it inside of the Multiverse pedal.

And then they can talk in real time too, and communicate with each other. So it really goes beyond just having an audio effect running on your laptop and running all the beautiful graphics and stuff. That is something that we found to be a pretty unique application of JUCE, but it just takes advantage of the serial communication in addition to all of the other things that people know and love about JUCE.

What comes next for Aviate Audio?

The Multiverse pedal came out in 2023 and we have had exciting effects become available in the library. We have talked with numerous developers about publishing new effects, and showed them what the tools are capable of. From that, we've had some amazing people join the platform like ChowDSP who just released the amazing ChowCentaur pedal on the Multiverse library and other companies that have purchased the pedal that are making effects for it.

Looking ahead we want to share more about what the pedal offers to musicians and most
players right out of the box. We look forward to creating more demos and collaborating on content that shows players how useful the pedal is and gets people excited about the fun audio creations that are coming out through Aviate Audio.

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