Colorless writings, part 2 – The Collector

Second article in this series. I’ll be asking myself questions about collecting these damn things.

Why are you collecting guitar effect pedals?

Well. I guess i’ve been sort of an addict to something for all my life. I decided that ~1250 title record shelf should be enough as a personal library. To some, that’s peanuts. But i was collecting records a few years ago. Until i started to build pedals myself. I built couple of kits that i purchased and most of them worked right off the bat. All of the sudden i noticed that i simply forgot to buy vinyls and cds and spent most of my money on components for pedals. By that time i used to have something like five to ten factory made pedals for my use. And i was building a lot. As i was building pedals for friends, i started to get some factory made stuff in trade.

I’ve been interested in pedals for a long time. For some reason that interested got a bit out of hand later on. Can’t remember my very first own pedal (TS5 or Zoom multieffect monster), but the first i bought with my own money, and really loved was Schaller tremolo. That was somewhere in the year 1999. Had to sell it later on, but many others followed. And got sold. For a very long time i only saw distortion as any distortion, tremolo as any tremolo, delay as any delay and so on. The biggest difference was the controls. I think i was the average pedal user back then. Only through building i became aware of the drastic tonal differences between designs.

I started to request pedals in exchange for pedals that i had built. Of course i had to open every last one of them open to see how these were made. To study them. If the schematic for a design was around the internet – that, in addition to hands on feel to the sound gave me good gut feeling why something on the circuit sounded the way it did. All of it started to make more and more sense. I do not know everything i want to know about electronics, but i now have these gut feelings about many things. Most of my correct assumptions are correct due to experience, not from books or studying.

Back to the question… I do value other boxes more than i value others. Through collecting pedals that i find interesting, i can get a better glimpse of the design and how it sounds. To collect pedals is to learn about them. Sort of like collecting butterflies and learning about biology – if you excuse my super lame figure of speech.

Why you chose to collect the brands you collect? 

The brands are what they are and those are selected by coincidence. I don’t care that much for brands as i do for interesting designs. Some manufacturers just tend to have more interesting stuff on their catalogue than others. Some brands are appealing, and i’ve started on few, but sold all of them quickly if the overall experience has been bad. Like Dunlop made MXRs. I had a few of those (Phase 90, Dist+, 78 Badass dist, Bluebox, Dyna Comp…). But all of them sounded just bad, even those were/are exactly the same as the old, original MXRs – at least topologically and by components. All of those felt and sounded arrogant to me. Only unit i kept is the Dist+, but that’s because i modded the hell out of it.

I’ve had some EHX boxes and still have couple. In my opinion, this is the brand that is nowadays simply overrated. Don’t get me wrong. Mr. Mathews is a genius who has developed many great original circuits. But in addition to those great circuits, he has developed a ton of crud which make up some of the most wanted effect pedals ever. The obvious ones like the Big Muff will always be part of my collection. Octave multiplexer should be mentioned here, as that’s probably the greatest down octave design i’ve had a pleasure to play with. But then.. There’s Memory Boy and Frequency analyzer to mention a few. If you don’t know what i’m talkin about, you should try to get your hands on either of those. I wasn’t the only one who thought my Memory Boy unit was broken…

Where Dunlop made MXRs feel arrogant, most of the EHX boxes feel just wrong.

I’ve always liked Danelectro pedals because of their appearance. First Dano i ever had was the Dan-Echo (unit got sold later on, and i’m looking to score one for cheap at the moment). Which led to finding interest in other Dano boxes as well.

My main collectible brands are Ibanez, Danelectro and DOD. I have mixed feelings about Boss/Roland, and my interest toward Marshall effects has peaked recently. I really don’t have a clue what my collection will be like in a few years. If get fed up with some brand, i might just sell them all.

Aren’t those cheap plastic things just bad?

Oh you mean the Ibanez Soundtanks and Dano minis+Fabs.. Well. Not necesserily. There are some that i wouldn’t call good, but the rest. You’d be surprised. 80’s cheapo will have very different price range today. If the circuit design is good, who cares about the outer shell? This may sound like some hippie “inner beuty” crap, but there is some truth to it. Besides, no matter what the quality of the enclosure may be, almost every repair job i’ve done has involved with something that isn’t caused by the enclosure. Nor the plastic jacks. Nor the “cheap” pots. Actually, most pot replacement jobs i’ve done have been with the ones that are considered to be high quality and endorsed by boutique builders world wide.

You want to get the best for a reasonable price, don’t you? Everyone does. That’s why manufacturers create series that are cheap, but offer the sound you are after – and because you buy them for the price. If no one buys certain design, that design will eventually vanish.

But generally speaking. Bad? Compared to what?

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