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Greetings pedal people, and welcome to the second installment of Stomp School. This month we’re going to start off with some good news – today is the greatest time in history to be a guitarist. Think about it; the sheer quantity of gear available to us right now is absolutely staggering! That’s not to mention that the quality of items offered in the boutique market is at an all-time high. Better yet, we now have practically all the gear info we could imagine right at our fingertips. There are a greater number of guitar-related publications than ever before, not to mention the nearly unlimited availability of information on the Internet. As a result, this rapid and unprecedented exchange of ideas and info has succeeded in raising our collective tone-consciousness.
We modern guitarists are very fortunate indeed. We live in an age of abundance with seemingly endless possibilities for defining our sound, evidenced in part by the fact that guitarists are using more effects than ever before. For many, what was once an accessory is now a necessity. The lowly stompbox has finally stepped into the spotlight. What’s more, these days our pedals even have their own accessories. Players now have a variety of options to help facilitate their increased stomping requirements, including pre-made pedalboards, power units, pedal tuners and switch boxes to fit nearly every budget. Most gigging guitarists today are using pedalboard setups that would have seemed extravagant – or impossible – 20 years ago. Speaking of which, check out the photo of a glow-top pedalboard I just got from Trailer Trash. Nice! Once I decide which pedals I want to keep on it, I’ll wire it up.
Much to our benefit, today’s musical marketplace is crowded and competitive, bringing us constant changes and improvements, or maybe just a new twist on an old idea. And just when I think I’ve seen everything, along comes something like a Moog MuRF or an Electro-Harmonix HOG. While no one can be sure of what the future will bring, it looks like some of the pedals of tomorrow may at least be more environmentally friendly. The current buzz in the pedal building community has been RoHS compliance. I’ll leave that explanation to my esteemed colleague, Analog Mike:
“RoHS stands for Reduction of Hazardous Substances. This set of regulations came into effect July 1, 2006 in the European Union and is intended to reduce the amount of hazardous materials used in the production of electronic goods. The six basic materials covered by this legislation are Lead, Mercury, Cadmium, Hexavalent Chromium, Polybrominated Biphenyls (PBB) and Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDE). Lead is used extensively in effects pedals, from the solder to coatings on almost all parts that are to be soldered (resistors, pots, etc.). Others are used in the metal boxes that effects pedals are built in, and in the paint used on them. Effective July 1, 2006 manufacturers are banned from producing products for use in the European Union that contain more than trace amounts of these substances.
“Due to the elimination of Lead, soldering formulations and techniques will need to change. Soldering temperatures will need to increase, which in turn can affect other components such as connectors. The leadfree solder does not work quite as well and leaves solder joints that are not as cleanly made and may not be as reliable in the long run. Use of vintage and NOS parts will not be allowed anymore, that includes nearly all germanium transistors and carbon composition resistors still available (Germanium transistors and diodes may not survive the heat of non-leaded solder anyway). Most other parts are now being switched over by the suppliers to RoHS versions, along with price hikes on just about everything. The blue 3PDT stomp switches are now available in RoHS versions for an additional charge, as are the small boxes used for many pedals. I would guess that prices could rise 10-20% due to the RoHS, even in the USA.
“In all likelihood, similar regulations will eventually be enacted here, starting in California. Japan and California both have existing environmental legislation that they are in the process of expanding to more closely emulate RoHS. One thing to note is that repair parts for equipment that already existed prior to the RoHS legislation are exempt, so we can, for example, still ship old germanium transistors for repairs of Fuzz Faces.”
Thanks Mike! Well, that’s it for now. See you all next month – until then keep on stompin’!
Tom Hughes (a.k.a. Analog Tom) is the owner and proprietor of For Musicians Only (formusiciansonly.com) and author of Analog Man’s Guide To Vintage Effects. For Musicians Only is also the home of the FMO Gear Shop.
Analog Man (analogman.com) is one of the largest boutique effects manufacturers and retailers in the business, established by “Analog” Mike Piera in 1993. Mike can be reached at AnalogMike@aol.com