Tag Archives | pedals

Boutique vs Premium

WTF?

I have to say, I hate the “boutique” name used for music gear.  In today’s market, if you’re not mass-produced, then you must be boutique.  Boutique has come to include everyone from the most fantastic, start up designers putting out quality gear at competitive prices to the overpriced, under-constructed klones that flood the market.  It’s so unfortunate that most of the latter are so poorly constructed, they simply aren’t worth the the asking price.  They’re not built to last, they’re not built and marketed with integrity and that’s a shame.

Be wary.  Hand-wired does not not always mean Cornish quality.  More often than you would like, hand-wired means fragile.  This is not to say these “boutique” pedals don’t sound great.  Some of them certainly do, but is it really worth your money if its so fragile?

How it should be done.

Now I’m not going to name any names here.  I’ll leave that to the independent bloggers and reviewers to shed light on, and I think they should.  Musician’s should know what their hard-earned money is going towards, especially if its not worth what they are paying.

Alternately, I suggest we carve a new class of pedals out of all this.  One worthy of buyer’s confidence, built to last with integrity and uniquely designed, not just uniquely marketed.  For lack of a better term, I propose we make the distinction between the Boutique and the Premium, because here’s the thing.  If you building products with integrity, you aren’t afraid to show the insides to back up your claims about wiring, and construction.  You’ll take the time to explain and demonstrate how bulletproof your manufacturing process is, and you’ll back that shit up with a worthy warranty.

Of the current manufacturers, I see at least the following as the Premium class of effects , and worthy of your hard earned money.  I’ll to update this list as I discover others.

  • Caroline Guitar Company
  • VFE Pedals
  • Mr. Black Pedals
  • Dr. Scientist
  • Subdecay Studios
  • Catalinbread
  • Earthquaker Devices
  • Strymon
  • Neunaber Technology
  • MI Effects
  • Blackout Effectors
  • Spaceman
  • Eventide
  • Empress

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New Pedal Previews

A quick preview of what’s dropping in late June.  These 5 new Coldcraft Flavors will be available in limited quantities direct from our online store, as well as our newest dealer, Tone Factor.  A few details left to finalize (including a few names), but the important stuff is the following,

EchoVerb Compression Preamp Distortion

EchoVerb

  • Parallel Reverb & Echo Machine
  • Warm, Organic sound
  • Repeats, Time, Reverb Mix, Master Mix & Level

Studio Preamp/Compressor (Unnamed)

  • Discrete, Studio Channel Strip-in-a-Box
  • Compressor with Input Level, Limiter Threshold and Ratio
  • Dual Response & Frequency Control
  • Downward Expanding Gate

Distortion (Unnamed)

  • Classic Amp-style Distortion
  • Gain, Tone & Volume
  • Compression, Presence & Voice Trimmers

IC Fuzz (Unnamed)

  • Thick, Saturated Gain with Gate
  • Sustain, Tone, Volume
  • Tone Boost & Mid EQ Trimmers
  • Shape Trimmer controls low end “Tightness”

Fiesta Fuzz MkII Mini

  • Simplified version of the Flagship Fiesta MkII
  • Thick, hybrid-vintage style Fuzz
  • Fuzz, Bias, Volume Controls
  • 2-way OD/Fuzz Switch

IC Fuzz Fiesta Fuzz Mini

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Anatomy of a Coldcraft Product

As I was building up the first batch of Cascade MkII Overdrives, I took some quick pictures along the way to demonstrate what goes into the construction of each of our products.  Every Coldcraft product sold after January 2013 features the new soft-touch relay bypass.  The Bypass system was designed by Peter of VFE Pedals, and Jack of Jack Deville Electronics aka Mr Black Pedals.  Hows that for some heavy hitters?

DSC_0020Now here’s the skinny.  All our our 2013 products are built using 2 independent circuit boards.  The main effect board is unique to each product and features board-mounted Pots (knobs), trimmers and switches.   This board (dark purple) holds all the circuitry needed for the effect, save for some power filtering and bias voltages.

The 2nd board is the Bypass/IO/Power board (light purple).  This holds the board mount jacks, relay, micro-controller and power filtering and is common to all of our products.  Certain aspects of the board can be customized to provide for different power requirements of some effects.

DSC_0021Here’s a batch of Cascade MkII enclosures about to be assembled.  Starting from the pre-populated PCBs above, the main effect board is first mounted into the enclosure.  The LED is added (and mounted into the Lens), and ribbon cables are soldered to the main effect board.

Lens?  What’s a lens for?

If you look closely at our products, you can see that we aren’t using those big, chrome bezels for our LEDs.  I’ve used them in the past and I just find them to be bulky, expensive and a bit primative.  What I’ve opted for instead is called a LED lens.  This nearly flat plastic piece is inserted in the LED hole, secured with a little hot glue and the LED is firmly locked into it before being soldered to its board.  This lens actually spreads out the light from the LED whereas the bezels tend to reflect and focus it upwards.  I like them.  It also lets us use white LEDs and color lenses if we wanted to.

No back to that ribbon cable.  What’s that about?

DSC_0022As you can see in this next picture the main effect PCB has been installed.  The board is held in by the three 16mm board mount pots, and the alignment is fixed with the LED, and additional 3 trimmers/switches.  There’s also those little ribbon cables sticking up.  Those ribbon connections carry the input/output, LED, 9v, Bias and ground connections between the two boards.  By mounting them first to the main effect board, subsequent assembly is made so much easier.

DSC_0023From here, the Bypass board is attached, upside down, to the ribbon cables.  This allows the 2nd board to simply be “folded over” into place, and secured using the audio jack nut things.  Yes, I said nut things.  Not really sure what to call them.

You may notice the 2 orange wires already soldered to the Bypass board.  These are the only two wires that must be stripped and soldered in this entire pedal.  Stripping and soldering wires is a huge time killer when assembly compact guitar pedals.  It is also the number one area where mistakes are made during production.

DSC_0024Previously, Coldcraft products were made using 3PDT mechanical switches and wiring boards.  The boards minimized wiring mistakes, but they are just as time consuming as wiring without them.  With the dual board system, final assembly is a breeze.  Tonight, I took 8 pedals from empty to fully assembled in less than 90 mins, including break time.  The finished products are ready for testing, numbering (inside back cover) and knobs!

So there you have it.  This batch of Cascade MkII Dual Stage Overdrives will be exclusively available at Chicago Music Exchange in, you guess it, Chicago, IL.  Check them out!

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