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more... GearBuilder ProfileAugust 2008Lehle

Switch Hitter: An Interview with Burkhard G. Lehle


From a technical point of view, the first version of my D-Loop, with its programmable and MIDI functions was the first product in the new direction of my switchers. Besides some new helpful features, like the tuner-out of the Dual SGoS or the controllable buffer stage of the new D-Loop, the main difference between the first and second generation is the network ability.

A lot of customers asked me for bigger solutions for more than two amps or two loops. Building bigger switchers with more loops would be one way to go, but I think it’s much better to connect the loopers to build a complex switching matrix.

For example, you start with two effects chains connected to two loops with the D-Loop SGoS. You can change the loops or bypass all the loops with only one step. When you need additional loops because of more effects or changing effects combinations, you can keep your old one and use an additional D-Loop SGoS connected to the first one with a standard stereo patch cable to build a network. Now, when you step on one switcher, the other one will follow, while all the possible combinations are freely programmable – you can even connect a third switcher. The main idea behind this new concept is switching everything with a single step. The complete communication is realized using the MIDI program change standard, so you can also connect the switchers to any other MIDI device.

Lehle has an impressive roster of users – guitarists like Peter Stroud and Carl Verheyen. Have any artists helped develop Lehle products? What is the design process for a new pedal?
All Lehle products are based on customer requests. Most of the requests are coming from less popular musicians, but I treat them the same as if they were famous rockstars. When several musicians are longing for the same product, and it fits my product line, I will release it. There are also well known artists like Carl Verheyen who helped to develop a product with their input and ideas. The tuner-out of the Dual SGoS, as well as the fourth mode (aka “Carl Verheyen-mode”) of this box are good examples of this. Carl was one of the better-known guitarists who used the Dual on an everyday basis. He wanted an additional tuner-out and a preset mode from standard A/B boxes – one switch is for A or B, another one for A and B and the third is for the tuner. I built this as a custom version for Carl, then started receiving a lot of requests for this setup. I did a redesign of the old Dual to implement those features and the Dual SGoS has been one of our best sellers ever since.

Not long ago, I met Joe Bonamassa in Bochum, Germany. He has been using my 1@3 switchers on his pedalboard since 2001 and stated that this is the only switcher that is 100 percent transparent, without any tone coloration. I brought him a new 1@3 SGoS switcher that he tested right before his gig. I think that Joe is a real sound purist, recognizing even the smallest differences in tone – I’m happy that I had the chance to talk about tone and switchers with him.

Switch Hitter
Putting the finishing touches on a Dual SGoS

Where did the “mushroom” footswitches come from?
I soldered my first switchers by hand and I connected the three switches to the PCB with cables. This method was not very production friendly and also notorious for malfunctioning. Standard footswitches have a very limited lifetime, and to be honest, I really don’t like the design. Based on my experiences repairing amps and stompboxes I knew that I also didn’t want a solution where the switches are soldered directly to the circuit board because of the risk of a broken or damaged PCB. Production costs and the risk of malfunctions are low with this design, but what can you do with a switcher that’s unreliable?

While looking for a suitable solution, I visited an electronics tradeshow in Munich, and found aluminium knobs with a plastic bearing, engaging a micro tactile switch inside the case! Naturally, this is not my invention; the method of “indirect engaging of a switch” has been well known for industrial applications for many years, but the design is especially developed for the needs of musicians. All of the components – the aluminium mushroom knob, the bearing bushing, the retaining spring, the microswitch on the PCB and the relays – are designed for at least two million switching actions. With a little luck, a standard footswitch will survive 20,000 switching actions. I think the best proof that our switchers are very reliable is the 1@3 that Joe Bonamassa uses – it has spent seven years on the road without any problems. With the Little Lehle, I released a second system that works with the same knob, but inside there is no microswitch. Instead, a specially shaped flexible sheet of metal is engaging a high quality slide switch with gold contacts. I use this system in the Little Lehle, the Little Dual and soon in the Lehle Parallel-L.

Tell us more about the Little Lehle – what was the idea behind the design?
The Little Lehle is our beginner’s model, offering the same quality in sound and construction as our big switchers. The Little Lehle switches a stereo stompbox or as a symmetrical signal into the signal path. You can also use it as a stereo A/B box for two amps or two instruments. The Little Lehle is loaded with two slide switches in parallel with gold contacts, which delivers eight individual switching stages. Because of this, you can switch a signal in stereo or symmetrical while also switching the grounds. Of course, it can still function as a mono switcher. When you are using the Little Lehle as an A/B box for one guitar and two amps, it’s impossible to get any ground loops. The lifetime of the gold-contacted slide switches is drastically expanded compared to standard footswitches. Also, they will not produce the typical popping noises that often occur with standard switches. Since it was released, the Little Lehle is my top seller and my goal is to equip every guitarist with one.

This summer I will release the Little Lehle II, offering the same new design as my big switchers.

What else is on the horizon for Lehle?
The Sunday Driver is coming next. It’s a clean boost with two boost options; the “driver mode” where the box is working as a linear line driver and the “Sunday mode” where it works like a buffer, very similar to the D-Loop buffer function. Next, I plan to release the little line-mixers Parallel M and Parallel L, which will convert a serial effects loop to parallel. Another big project is the design of several channel-switchers for amps that can be connected to my SGoSseries products, working as a network.

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