Happy New Firmware Day (v5.0.3)!

Discussion in 'Atomic News' started by Atomic Amps, Feb 9, 2018.

  1. atomic_power_is_best

    atomic_power_is_best New Member

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    Atomic is a very small company with as far as I see only 2 partners (hardware, software) and 1 employee (service). And my guess is, all 3 have other main/full time jobs and work on Atomic only part time, more as a commercial hobby in their spare time which explains the slow progress. They have a very good product but cannot compete with the big commercial corporations on resources i.e. manpower. This shows in the GUI and feature completeness. The platform is lacking on new amps and pedals and on user interface bells and whistles. Examples: looper, drum patterns, touchscreen, global EQ, multiple effect instances, dual amp routing etc.
    I see Atomic developing in two directions: either opening up the platform for community contributions i.e. open-sourcing it. The question is how many user are qualified to contribute in modeling well-documented classic circuits of amps and pedals and how far the process can get dumbed down to enable such participation. Probably not many and not very far. Another possibility is to open the hardware platform up for other software modellers like S-Gear. These modellers would well complement each other. Other possibilities are to let the company be bought out by a competitor (know how, platform) or shut down all operations via letting the existing legacy products run out without support and without successors.
    The modelling scene has become very competitive with new chinese entrants (Mooer, NUX) and their cut-throat low priced entry level products. So Atomic is stuck in the valley of death of being neither the cheapest or at least much cheaper than premium offerings (Fractal, Kemper) nor significantly better on tone quality than cheap chinese entry level modellers with IR loaders. It shares the middle segment with Helix (Pod Go) and is competitive on tone quality but not features and breadth.
    In summary, Atomic is stuck in a very narrow niche of loyal customers but can neither compete on price nor features. I can see it opening either their hardware platform to other commercial modellers or their software to amateur contributors. Otherwise it risks having their niche squeezed further from both ends until it has to shut down all products and development. As a small private business it offers a very interesting case study on the creative destructive forces of capitalism (aka competition in global markets with low barriers to entry) that is exciting to watch and follow. I certainly wish Atomic all the best!
     
  2. Quadfire

    Quadfire Well-Known Member

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    Interesting analysis. Been thinking along some of these lines, but not sure all your conclusions are valid/likely.

    I'd love nothing more than AA to open up development, but suspect that has some big challenges especially on the DSP. Even if free, qualified talent is available, tools for SHARC development are an impractical investment for most hobbyists. The editor and control plane of the device are lower hanging fruit. I'd jump on contributing to an open AA project, and would be pleasantly surprised if that was workable for AA.

    My guess is only part of the challenges are driven by incremental effort. Suspect many design decisions are baked into features we love like fast preset switches. Short of a complete rewrite there may be limits.

    Hoping there's a firmware update to the AA to address some of the easy, silly bugs. Guessing that any larger improvement will need to wait for a next generation product that differentiates on more than price, tone, and feel.

    Not sure how AA decides what to work on. The Bass Box makes sense in some ways (it leverages technology in an adjacent space), but not sure the market size justified the opportunity cost. Hoping they are selling like hot cakes with no supply chain issues. Not sure a free upgrade to the AA would generate more revenue than that.

    The Atomic and Studio Devil team have built great products that deserve to be improved or incorporated into the next gen devices.

    This is all too easy for me to dream about from the safety of this message board. Much more work and risk to build and ship real products.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2020
  3. ConstantinosM

    ConstantinosM Well-Known Member

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    Everything good about the atomic products imo is down to Marc Gallo's software. If he lost interest or doesnt make sense for him business-wise to continue on that project it will certainly die at some point either quickly or dragged out and with lower quality unless the software developer gets replaced or handed over to someone else/another company with more knowledge and techincal means at its disposal. Now if a major developer/company gets involved the product could be saved but imho it wouldnt be the same. i mean if you compare the end result of let's say helix with the amplifire the amplifire has way better quality overall. helix wins in specs, i/o and continuous development but on the sound itself there is no contest. this means if gallo had the mechanism of a big company line 6 he could do wonders. i certainly hope atomic survives this swamp it has been in for some time but if it closes down i would surely like to see Gallo put his talents and work somewhere else so more great products could come out of it
     
  4. Quadfire

    Quadfire Well-Known Member

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    The Amplifire hardware is a thing of beauty and nothing to take for granted. It sounds great, is very flexible, and very reliable with the right balance of features-quality/price for the time (and arguably still there).

    I assume kudo's to Tom King and others for that. Marc's contributions are invaluable and hoping this is just the beginning of the technology. I also suspect there may be a Jobs and Wozniak thing going with the two of them.

    This is probably one too many meta-comment without substance (or skin in the game).
     
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  5. ConstantinosM

    ConstantinosM Well-Known Member

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    the amplifire hardware is the best possible platform for the software with the right corners cut to achieve that price. nothing more nothing less. it could be a lot better but probably with a higher price attached to it. the software is the thing that makes or breaks the sound in modelers and gallo's modeling is top notch. it's hard to tell why atomic is at this standstill for this long and whether it's a problem with either of the two main people behind it but it's sad seeing what could be one of the top two modeling products in the world as far as quality goes not achieve that place
     
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  6. atomic_power_is_best

    atomic_power_is_best New Member

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    I agree on the Jobs/Woz relationship though it's purely speculative. The harmony between them just seems to be lacking. I think all 3 guys do an excellent job in their respective areas of hardware, software and support resulting in a top quality product. There is just no momentum going on. Atomic created am affordable high performance hardware platform without GUI gimmicks that might be reusable for other top notch software modelers like Scuffham or LePou (assuming the software side portable to SHARC - how difficult is such a port???). The Studiodevil software is great but has seen no significant revisions since probably around 2012 - both guitar and bass amp modelers have been finished software plugins since then.

    The original business plan likely called for creating an alternative to Fractal and Kemper with comparable tone quality but less features in the mid price segment. Then Helix came out and occupied exactly that targeted segment (similar quality, similar price) with more features and Amplifire suddenly had to undercut Helix instead of Fractal in price thus destroying their profit margins and business case with it. I assume they cannot make a living from their Amplifire product range alone (how many units sold, how much profit per unit? let's estimate 1000 units at 100$ profit on average makes 100k before tax split by 3 people). The income generated, even if we assume double the units or double the margins, cannot sustain all 3 or even 2 people full time so I guess they have to work in other jobs and do Amplifire on the side resulting in very slow progress and with the Jobs/Woz thing on top presumably.
    So the question is how can we as users help them sustain and keep developing their products or at least prevent them from shutting down or selling out? I think opening the platform up to other contributors is the best way to go. Since the user base is small and technically not proficient and I know of no DIY hobbyist scene like with pedal building enabling other software modellers both free and commercial to share the platform would help build an ecosystem around it. (How if at all can external modellers technically be integrated into the Amplifire? Is there a standard for extensions like VSTi? Such an architecture requires Marc Gallos consent and cooperation, he would switch from amp modelling to creating a framework for such external model plugins. The hardware probably can largely be left as is, but is Marc Gallo interested and motivated to implement the required changes on the software side? Is it technically and realistically feasible at all? Is it viable as a business?) Of course there also will very likely be intricate issues around contractual agreements on mutual exclusivity as well as profit sharing with new partners but if the alternative is shutting down those can probably be overcome.

    Any other ways going forward? Build an Atomic 2.0 hardware platform with touchscreens and Studio Devil 2.0 software modeller with GUI, looper and more of everything (amps, effects, whatnot)? Employ additional engineers to work on these issues? The question is whether the original partners have enough spare time for development by themselves or sufficient resources to delegate it to new staff or outsource to freelancers (or even lay out capital for prototyping etc.). I doubt it using the above back of envelope calculation. The argument often made is that even if Amplifire is a run off legacy product it still offers enough value for its price with its existing feature set like an analogue pedal or amp. But I guess everybody agrees that it would be even better if it's kept alive with new features rolled out regularly. After all it is our favorite toy and we want to keep it exciting to play around with. Still it is nearly impossible to compete with the big manufacturers on features or with the Chinese manufacturers on price. Tone chasers pay up only for analogue boutique mojo, in digital there is no magic tone apparently. They need to find their niche (highest quality, yet still affordable, compact size, designed in US by small independent micro brewery err manufacturer with loyal user base, extendible open platform/ecosystem for third party modellers to complement the Amplifire core offering etc).

    I am looking forward to follow how atomic Tom King and studio devil Marc Gallo decide to go forward with their venture. Unfortunately, there has been only scarce if any at all communication or transparency with regard to their future release roadmap indicating little activity. It seems expections have now become so low that they can surprise us solely on the upside :) Let's keep rooting for our guys. It really resembles David versus Goliath in the modeller arena, two small guys fighting against the odds in the form of the corporate giants dominating the industry.
     
  7. Quadfire

    Quadfire Well-Known Member

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    This thread is dragging on a bit, but I'll bite once, er, twice more.

    Writing code for DSP's is a tad more difficult go do well than other embedded or application software.

    There were some pretty big updates to the Amplifire since 2012. [Perhaps you are referring to the Studio Devil desktop software?] They dramatically improved the modeling of the dynamic reactive load of the speakers on the amp. A few new amps also came our way.
     
  8. ConstantinosM

    ConstantinosM Well-Known Member

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    i get it's not easy to make things happen when you are understaffed but cmon...the users have been asking for the most trivial changes/fixes in the software for months. there may be only a handful of people in atomic but look at poly effects. it's only one guy there doing everything and he still pumps out weekly updates and that pedal has 10 times more stuff than the amplifire in it. there has to be some conscious decision in atomic to be inactive for so long and even when it comes to very small things such as patching a midi problem in the pitch block or adding a master eq or sth...
     
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  9. atomic_power_is_best

    atomic_power_is_best New Member

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    There is not much left to be said. If Atomicamps doesn't react soon they are toast. AA6 competes with Helix Pod Go and AFB with NUX MG-300. My take is, Chinese companies like Mooer and Hotone will soon challenge even big corporations like Line6 and their entire Helix product range. Zoom G1four has better effects for 60 bucks, NUX MG-300 satisfying sound quality for a mere 130 bucks and Pod Go has more of everything plus a GUI for 470. Hard to compete with these on features and price. They started out as competitors to Fractal, then came Helix, after that Mooer and now they have to fend off nobodies like NUX.

    Tom can offer his hardware to Scuffham, Mercuriall, Overloud, brainworx, BlueCat, TSE, Kuassa and the like. Marc can transfer all new software features to his StudioDevil plugin for home use on PCs. Modelling definitely cannot be crowdsourced to amateurs as was my first idea. This is professional engineering work, measuring voltages and building nonlinear models to approximate them. (Though all the plugins seem to be done by one man shops.)

    My guess is, there won't be any big upgrades in the future. We can continue to nag them for smaller changes in the vein of a global EQ and/or a basic looper. It would be a nice surprise if they managed to come up with a successor though ;-) I still find it amazing that two guys in a (virtual) garage can build a product that hangs with the best and biggest in the world. Like what Jobs/Woz did with the Apple II.
     
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  10. mildew

    mildew Active Member

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    Now that im starting to get a sense of how small the team actually is, its all the more remarkable that the Gallo tech made its way as far as it has!
    Winning blind modeller tests on TGP , failing to have stock available just when the mindshare caught fire, rabid but small userbase, it has allowed me to have top quality sound at a price i can afford. My valve amps and guitar speakers lie abandoned, its all pedalboard into FRFR for me now :)
    I actually only use one model, (Kornf)
     
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  11. ConstantinosM

    ConstantinosM Well-Known Member

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    all the more why it makes me even sadder to see the project neglected when it has the potential to be even more awsome
     
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