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#1 Get Your Sh1t Together, Thissy

2024 is here, and along with it another volley of half baked, though thoroughly well intended new-year resolutions - run more, grumble less (OK, that one is unrealistic) eat more veg etc etc.. the usual.

However, at the top of my list and one I am applying all of my flimsy willpower to is focus more time to my 'side hustle'. Namely, Sharp End Audio.

Wait, wasn't it Sharp End FX? Yes it was. I changed FX to Audio. I like it better, plus it opens up the website to a broader range of products and blog subjects!

New logo - snazzy! Is it? I hope so.

'Focusing more' is the operative term here. My electronics background coupled with what I do in music means I have always dabbled in the electronics side of musical equipment, amps and obviously pedals - and recently have created a few small batch creations that I am proud of. I have sold around 100 pedals during the couple years I have done this which may not sound much, but considering the design/drilling/PCB/assembling is all done my moi in the little time I can grab between babies and other work.. it's not too bad. And I thank each and every one of you who own one (or more!)

OK, to business. Here's a slice of the reality pie: when it comes to effects pedals it really has all been done before. Most out there simply copy, or 'clone' an existing circuit and re-package it, the vast majority of the rest take what's already been done and throw their spin of it. And there is nothing wrong with that - I am no exception. This fact however has always held me back, it is so unbelievably competitive in that game I just wonder why I should bother, I'd just be more noise in the machine. I am fully aware my status (for what it's worth..) as the guitarist in a popular-ish band helps my cause, but I'd never want to lean on that at all, so if I'm going to put effort into it I have to feel it is for something worth contributing.

Band stuff in Newcastle Nov 2023 (Janson Bulpin - Beyond The Noise)

As mentioned, this is a very 'side-hustle' thing for me thus far. Something I do when my ven diagram of inspiration/time cross over. Using the House Of Noise Treble Booster as an example, I used a Dallas Rangemaster (or a rebadged clone of one...) treble boost pedal for my guitars on that album and decided to bring that sound into my live setup. I own a couple of treble booster options but I felt they weren't fitting right with my live amp at the time.

I did the research on the schematic, breadboarded the circuit (a method of testing a circuit, one that easily allows the switching of components for experimentation) then messed about with it until it did what I wanted. Not the same, but very similar. An additional modification to the circuit enabled the range of frequencies boosted to be narrowed or widened, making it easier to dial in to different setups and presto, a new-ish pedal was born unto the world. It's been much the same with all the pedals I've made, and I'd wager it's the same process for 99.99% for others also doing this.

One thing I have been keen to do, is reverse this process. Rather than waiting for inspiration and time, I will make the time and actually think about what I need in a pedal, and set about creating it. With each new album and more touring experience I really feel I can cut to the heart of what I want out of my gear, plus the experience I now have in playing my own pedals in real world working situations I feel far better equipped to understand what works and what doesn't.

Breadboarding! This is a Delay pedal circuit that has been shelved for the time being (geddit, time.. hello?)

So what does this mean.. well I guess it means the research and testing phase on new things will be more thorough, basically. I have a couple of specific ideas that have been clamouring for attention, I think now is the time to give it to them.

While we're on the subject of looks; the 'boutique' (God I hate that word) pedal industry is rammed full with Herberts and their Argos soldering irons selling on Etsy and the like, and a good number of them seem more bothered about how they look than how they sound. The artwork/enclosure is by far the most expensive part about the process, so if you're getting a fancy paint job in a hammered aluminium custom enclosure... you pay for that, make no mistake! While I believe a professional finish is required, one of my primary objectives is to provide a very practical and usable effect, while keeping the cost down. I wouldn't want to add more than necessary costs onto the price purely for aesthetic purposes.

Fair enough this looks amazing, but $400 for an overdrive is a bit steep...

Now I'm not saying I'm going to be breaking any moulds, as mentioned earlier it really has ALL been done before, but I will be more exacting when it comes to what I set about creating and perhaps more discerning in the results. From the sound to the look, I will zoom the microscope a little further... I have just started the first part of this process on a new pedal, starting with a brand new piece of equipment for me when it comes to this... a piece of paper. Just writing some ideas, quick sketches, essential parameters that would need tweaking.. it's brand new and already feels exciting.

Thanks for reading and sticking with me, I'll update this blog much more frequently from here on with progress reports and maybe some other general guitar/gear related things. Can't promise it will be riveting, but it will be real.

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