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ATV, Ace Tone and the aFrame at NAMM

ATV Corporation continues to innovate with revived Ace Tone brand & aFrame updates

Ikuo Kakehashi with the ATV aFrame. Ikuo is son of the late founder of Roland and ATV, Ikutaro Kakehashi.Ikuo Kakehashi with the ATV aFrame. Ikuo is son of the late founder of Roland and ATV, Ikutaro Kakehashi.

ATV Corporation, the manufacturer created by the late Ikutaro Kakehashi following his departure from Roland, had a lot to announce at NAMM. Following an agreement in Japan, ATV have secured the rights to use the Ace Tone trademark originally created by Mr Kakehashi in the 1960s, and launched versatile new guitars, basses, a DI box, fuzz processor, and a multiband compressor on the first day of the show under the reactivated Ace Tone brand.

ATV also announced upgrades to the existing aD5 drum module (adding the ability for users to add their own drum samples) and, more significantly, to the aFrame 'electrorganic' frame drum. The final instrument worked on by Kakehashi senior before his death in 2017 and launched later that year, the aFrame has not had much publicity outside percussionists' circles, but as a moving demo from Ikutaro Kakehashi's son Ikuo revealed, it is a powerful and flexible electroacoustic instrument. A polycarbonate playing surface mounted in a polygonal bamboo frame with a deep, user-adjustable DSP engine mounted just behind the 'skin', it generates its tones not by triggering samples, but by heavily processing the sound of the player striking the surface and applying velocity-sensitive and pitch-shifting effects in real time, mapped across the surface of the drum.

Because the sound of the aFrame is generated from the actual sound of the impact of the player's hand on the surface, as captured by built-in piezo mics, it reacts very organically to the specific nature of the impact. So users can scratch, tap and stroke the surface or the frame, use fingertips or nails, and the result is instantly varied and responsive — like something between a drum, a guitar, and a synthesizer.

The v2 aFrame update announced at NAMM doubles the number of onboard factory tones from 80 to 160, and adds pressure-based control of pitch-shifting, panning and output level settings, as well as new compression options and spatial processing effects. The end results and available sonic versatility are far easier to appreciate face-to-face than to convey in words, as you can see from the first three minutes or so of one of ATV's recent promotional videos:

or this more recent one (below) demonstrating some of the new sounds just before NAMM 2019:

The aFrame costs $1599£1399. Pricing on the new Ace Tone products has yet to be confirmed.

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