CopperSound Pedals founder Alex Guaraldi's debut "State of the Stomp" outing looks at how compounding Covid woes are making life trickier for stompbox manufacturers.
In the winter and spring of 2021, I found myself staring at a computer screen overloaded by tabs in my internet browser. Each of these tabs displayed the same processor (colloquially referred to as a “chip”) and the current stock quantities for each of a dozen suppliers. The lingering scarcity of this particular processor had been foreshadowed in other industries, and when I found myself noticing the depleting stock—with my curated lists of suppliers at the ready—I began ordering whatever I could get my hands on. Diligent or obsessive? You decide. Perhaps a bit of both, but the preparation certainly paid off when packages of the scarce processors started arriving at the workshop.
You do not need to be a manufacturer to have a grasp on supply shortages, as they happen quite frequently in our modern world, even outside of a global pandemic. Often it is simply caused by overwhelming demand. On my hunt for processors, I was reminded of the scene in Jingle All the Way when Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad are going to outlandish lengths to acquire the hottest holiday season toy, Turbo Man. Supply shortages can feel like that. (Remember, nobody wants Booster!)
Global economics is by no means a strength of mine. I am more adept at shipping logistics. This often unappreciated system is made up of processes like FOB, Ex Works, ISF bonds, HTS codes, and customs. Now, before you feel compelled to save yourself from these abbreviations, I would like to happily promise that I am not going to be elaborating on any of that.
The electronics industry has not gone unscathed by the shortages that are currently presenting themselves, most notably in the world of semiconductors, which are typically made with silicon or germanium. A substantial number of the world’s semiconductors are made by the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), who are responsible for these tiny yet powerful components that OEM companies design their products around. Amongst these components lie some heavy hitters. Most notably for our industry are the SHARC and Blackfin processors made by Boston-area company Analog Devices. These, and other DSP chips, are at the core of many of our favorite pedals—pedals that simply could not exist as they do without them.
We work amongst a brilliant, innovative group of artists, and, though our business cards may say “designer” or “engineer,” it can be easy to forget the art form behind the work.
I’ve been wondering where this will lead our industry. We work amongst a brilliant, innovative group of artists, and, though our business cards may say “designer” or “engineer,” it can be easy to forget the art form behind the work. We may be tinkering with breadboards instead of shredding on stage, but in our wonderful little industry, we’re all musicians and/or music lovers. If you say engineer, it’s easy to invoke visions of a person going over blueprints for a building. If you just say artist, it may be equally easy to imagine a financially challenged person painting on a canvas in a studio apartment. Perhaps some of that stigma has dwindled over the years. I hope that is the case.
Back to my wondering!
Like other artists, we pedal manufacturers create new products and bring them to market. Supplier shortages have caused delays in our manufacturing, and I wonder how we will see companies pivot. Whether you have noticed it or not, we have seen it before—and we’ve had to come up with creative solutions. Let us take a certain shortage scenario and play out what could possibly happen. Say a pedal company makes a model with a specific knob, and the knob manufacturer cannot produce it for an extended period for some unforeseen reason. The pedal company might see this potential speed bump and pivot so that they can keep manufacturing that model. Change the finish color, substitute different knobs and, voilà, a limited edition is born.
The semiconductor shortage has me wondering what we might see in the months to come. Maybe a bump in releases that are built around more commonly available components? Perhaps we will see companies institute waiting lists or batch releases that coincide with their ability to get ahold of the components they require? Regardless of outcome, my hat is off to the manufacturers traversing and adapting in this situation. A shortage of supplies is not a shortage of ideas.
Now let’s talk about shipping logistics!
- Killer Pedals Under $100 - Premier Guitar ›
- The Stompbox-Builder's Secret Weapon - Premier Guitar ›
- When Exactly Did "Boutique Pedals" Become a Thing? - Premier ... ›
- 8 Things My Guitar Pedalboard Reveals About Me - Premier Guitar ›
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.