The Hot Hand took tone tweaking off the floor, allowing players an unprecedented degree of freedom and versatility when controlling an effect parameter.
In 2006, Source Audio took the effects market by storm with their feature-laden digital effect processors and the unique motion-sensitive effect controller, the Hot Hand. While the brand seemed to appear out of nowhere, the team behind it had served time at various M.I. companies and boasted an extensive background with more than 80 years of combined experience in the field.
Perhaps the most appealing aspect of Source Audio is its complete lack of consideration for current trends in the music products industry. While many companies choose a well-worn path, SA’s right-brain approach to product design blazes a trail that’s anything but trendy or traditional.
Arguably their most innovative and radical product is the Hot Hand Wireless Effects Controller. Via a ring-mounted sensor device, the Hot Hand lets you control effect parameters using hand motion.
The Hot Hand took tone tweaking off the floor, allowing players an unprecedented degree of freedom and versatility when controlling an effect parameter. Users could now control wah sweep, volume level, modulation rates or any other effect parameter with the wave of their hand—or other body part, depending where the sensor is attached!
The Hot Hand controller and accompanying effect modules received critical acclaim and soon showed up in the rigs of many touring professionals. Notable among these is guitarist Herman Li of shred-metallers DragonForce, who uses the HH to create and control wah effects with staggering results. The HH has also found a home among DJs and electronica artists, further confirming its broad appeal and potential.
While revolutionary, the Hot Hand did have one shortcoming—it only worked with Source Audio’s own HH and Soundblox series’ of digital effect units. This meant that it could be difficult to incorporate the HH into an existing guitar rig, and it also meant analog purists might dismiss the device entirely.
Always thinking forward, Source Audio recently released the Hot Hand 3 Universal wireless controller. Not only does the HH3 work with all SA effects, it’s compatible with most third-party effect units that feature a 1/4" expression control jack. This means musicians can now incorporate the controller into their existing effect setup, assuming they have pedals that accept expression control. More importantly, the HH3 brings the ability to create new and exciting sounds to a much larger group of musicians and performers.
The HH3 system itself is compact, relatively affordable, and easy to use. Consisting of the motion sensor ring and a receiver base station that measures less than 3" x 2", the HH3 can be integrated into the tightest of pedalboards. The ring itself is slightly more than 1" long, weighs less than half an ounce, and features an adjustable strap to accommodate different finger sizes. It’s comfortable to wear and doesn’t get in the way of your picking or plucking.
Once you charge the ring using the provided AC adaptor, you follow a quick and simple calibration procedure to set the mid-point of the motion sensor’s axis. This allows you to optimize the ring’s performance to your particular hand position and degree of movement.
There’s also an option to select which axis of motion will control the expression output of the unit. There are three directional axes: X (forward/back), Y (side to side), and Z (up and down). The ability to select a particular direction of operation helps when learning to use the HH3 and also prevents triggering the effect at unwanted times. Unfortunately, you can only assign one axis to the expression output at any given time (more on that in a moment).
The base station features knobs that adjust the depth and sensitivity of the input signal from the ring, allowing further fine-tuning of the system’s reaction to your hand motion. There’s also an array of small DIP switches that configure the output to work with different expression pedal input types.
Once you’ve adjusted the sensor and receiver to your particular movements and effect setup, simply engage the pedal you’re controlling and rock out.
Assuming the HH3 would work well with SA’s proprietary effect units, my tests focused on how well it operated with third-party stompers. With the demo unit I received from Source Audio, I was able to control the cycling rate of a Moog MuRF’s filter array, the filter sweep of a TWA Triskelion, and the delay time on a Line 6 DL4—all with the wave of my picking hand.
It does take a bit of practice and experimentation to use the HH3 effectively, and figuring out how to move your hand in a particular direction while retaining a steady rhythmic pulse can be a learning experience. But once you get used to how the hand controller reacts to your movements, it’s simply a matter of implementing it into your performance in a musical manner.
I should mention I found myself pondering what it would be like if all three directional axes could be operated simultaneously to control different effect parameters. Based on Source Audio’s track record for innovation, I can’t help but think that such a function is already being considered for some future product release.
Words sometimes fall short when explaining a product’s operation, so if you’re curious about hand-control technology, check out several videos on Source Audio’s website that illustrate its potential.
Kevin Bolembach is the president and founder of Godlyke, the U.S. distributor for many well-known boutique effect brands, including Maxon, Guyatone, EMMA, and Providence.