We love the team at Kuassa. They’re cool cats and they build some of the best guitar-centric plugins out there (the Amplifikation Creme is a particular favourite).
So we decided to track them down (to Indonesia) to find out more.
Chairman and CTO Arie Ardiansyah and CEO Grahadea Kusuf were kind enough to answer our questions and give us the inside skinny on just what it take to make it in the wild world of plugin development, discuss how difficult it is to actually scratch out a living selling audio plugins, and to finally answer the question: just who has the best guitar tone of all time? (It’s probably not what you expect).
Laptop Guitarist: Kuassa grew from the Aradaz Amp – a free guitar amp simulator project in 2008, which was developed by Arie. How did that project come about?
Arie: I just bought a sound card with monitor speakers for home recording back then and was curious as to why there were somany free VSTs, so I learned to make one and released it to the public. I was also inspired by my cousin Edwin Yudayana who made guitar effects software as his bachelor degree paper; that was before he knew about the existence of VST or ASIO etc.
What did you learn from the Aradaz experience?
A: Manly programming and DSP related stuff.
G: I learned that there’s a demand for more guitar amp sims made by independent developers, despite there already being big players in the market.
Two years later Kuassa Inc was launched, along with its very first product, Amplifikation One. What was the goal with Amplifikation One?
A: While making Aradaz VSTs my computer HDD crashed but I was lucky that the codes are saved in different partition. Not long from that, my monitor speaker power amp died while I was making an impulse response – I forgot to turn the volume down. Then, I realised, I had no money 😀
At about the same time, Dea was going to make a master thesis for his MBA degree, and he made Kuassa the subject. So… Amplifikation One is made to make our living.
G: Yeah, so basically, the goal is to make the “pro” version of Aradaz Amp. We thought we can get easy money from there (while apparently it’s a long and hard way).
How was Amplifikation One received by the market?
G: A lukewarm response really. But when other products are released, somehow it helped to lift-up Amplifikation One’s sales bit by bit. Until now.
A: Oh no… we couldn’t make a living only from this. We need more products!
What is it like being a plugin developer?
A: Fun 🙂
G: Lol. Yeah, I think this is like a dream come true. I always wanted to work for a music software company since Junior high.
Is it easy to make a living?
A: No 😦
G: Not easy, competition is tough but we will make it somehow.
What is the secret to success in this industry?
G: Innovate and never settle for less.
You’re based in Indonesia. Does that have any particular advantages?
G: Aside than a (somewhat) lower living cost than Europe or the US, it’s pretty far away from our primary market. So it’s a disadvantage, I think.
One side of plugin development that’s never talked about is the marketing. How do you handle marketing for Kuassa? Do you have a big marketing budget? When you’re releasing a new product, who do you work with to get the word out?
G: Nothing special really. Only publish the news through forums, social media stuff. As you guys can see, we don’t have any big endorsers, only people that enjoy to work with our products and they even didn’t asked to be paid. In a niche market like this, most of the times the news kind of just spreads itself when people like what you’re doing.
Do you guys have any heroes in the audio industry? Who?
A: Indra Qadarsih, he’s a well known mastering engineer from Indonesia. He’s the one who shared a lot about audio principles in MusikTek Indonesia forum (RIP) when I was younger and aspiring to be a mastering engineer.
G: Same with me. Really humble guy and great synth player too!
What advice do you have for young developers wanting to follow in your footsteps?
G: Brace yourself. The path won’t be easy but it’s definitely worth your time and effort.
What’s next for Kuassa? Any big releases coming? Do you have a big goal that you’re working towards?
G: It’s a virtual pedalboard which I’m sure owners of two or more of our products will love. It’s our first bigger scale product actually.
Anything else you want to talk about? Any news you’d like to share with Laptop Guitarist readers?
G: Be sure to visit our blog and/or subscribe to our mailing list. We put a lot of effort in making articles or tutorials which are really helpful for Kuassa users or laptop guitarists.
Finally: Who has the best guitar tone of all time?
A: Honestly, I don’t have “the best guitar tone of all time” as a reference. But, the first guitar sound that I like and aware would be Tom Delonge guitar sound on Blink 182’s Enema of The State album. I never cared about guitar sound before that. And also the guitar sound of The Almost on Say This Sooner song. This is the time when I developed my first guitar amp VST (Aradaz Amp Crunch).
G: That lead on Daft Punk’s Digital Love. I’m not too sure if it’s a synth or guitar but it gets to me everytime.