MGS - Welcome Phil Taylor owner of Effectrode Tube Effects.
PT - Thanks, it's a pleasure to be here.
MGS- Can you start us out with a history of how music came into your life
and how tube driven gear was part of it?
PT - I began playing guitar at age 15. In those days I had no inkling how important tubes were for tone. This was during the early 80's when gear was rapidly evolving, becoming more complex, sophisticated and technical. Digital effects were coming in vogue and all the rage. A setup that looked like Houston mission control were essential accessories for the modern guitarist in those times! I rememeber constantly working my way through countless effects pedals, processors, equalisers and guitars in a quest for a richer, warmer, less clinical sound. Some great music came from that era and it was a revolution for some amazing new synthesiser based sounds from bands like Human League, Gary Newman, etc. However tube gear was considered out of date and past it's time. At the time I was using a Gallien-Krueger 2000CPL preamp, an awsome looking piece of gear, but the elusive tone I was looking for just wasn't to be found anywhere inside. Later, I remember, testing out many amps in the music shops in Denmark street, London and the Soldano SP-77 preamp, jumped right out - the tone on the clean and gain channels was beautiful, extremely musical, responsive and useable. It was literally impossible to get a bad tone out the thing. Once I'd got hold of one of these machines, it wasn't long before I removed the top panel, started poking around it's internals and began drawing a circuit diagram; the secrets of Mike Soldano's 'constant-clipping' design were slowly revealed to me! From my experience I would say that tubes are naturals at delivering great tone whereas transistor based designs struggle and must be coerced into performing well. For example, a tube preamp input can be overloaded without damaging the tube and it can actually sound pretty good. A overloaded transistor input, on the other hand is likely to burn out and sounds terrible. I'm convinced my playing improved, became more natural and fluid once I was back on track with tube based gear. All those great sounds you hear on recordings or imagine just seem to fall out effortlessly because tubes are responsive and work with you.
MGS - Who are some of your musicial influences?
PT - Alex Lifeson has been a huge influence since I began playing. He's an extremely versatile and emotive player and gets an incredible, B-I-G tone from his gear. Also, Todd Rundgren, Andy Powell & Knopfler have been inspirational in their structured and melodic approach to soloing. Finally some of Jimi Hendrix's beautiful and haunting interpretations of Dylan's songs.
MGS - Do you remember your first tube driven amp?
PT - As a teenager I was lucky enough to stumble across a beat-up Laney 60W head. I used it with an even more beat-up Marshall 4 x 12 cabinet and an Arion distortion pedal. For some magical reason this setup produced a huge, raw tone which sounded very close to Lifeson's and Jimmy Page's early tones. The distortion pedal must have been overdriving the tube amp, which is how a lot of the transistor based booster and tube screamer effects work. They're relying on the great all-tube electronics in the amps input stage to produce the crunch and sustain that we guitarists seek.
MGS - How did Effectrode get started? Can you tell us about the company?
PT - By my mid-twenties I'd become fascinated with tube amps and taught myself everything I could about the physics of vacuum tubes. This knowledge came from dusty old 1950s & 60s texts, I uncovered from the darkest recesses of backrooms in small, secondhand bookshops. I began repairing, modifying & 'hot-rodding' tube amps - Fender Twin reverbs were a specialty and a pleasure to work on. Other projects included complete rebuilds and modification the original Watkins 'Copycat' tape echo units and designing audiophile gear such as tube phono preamp stages. I then began work on an ambitious project to build an 8-stage phase shifter in pedal form. It was all point-to-point wired and even had a 'magic-eye' indicator tube (remember those?) for the speed and depth of phasing. There were come pretty exotic tubes in there and built-in custom wound transformers for the high and low voltage power supplies. I remember thinking,'Okay you've proved you can build it, but can you design it for manufacture?', after all who's going to pay 2000 bucks for a phaser, no matter how good it sounds!
Things moved up a gear when I started modelling circuits on computer, designing circuit boards on computer and getting them manufactured professionally. Also, I began dreaming up new effects designs and thought how great it would be to have a company that specialised only in building no-compromise tube based pedal designs. My passion for designing tube gear culminated in the formation of effectrode tube effects company in 1996. The design philosophy is to build outstanding effects pedals in the true spirit of innovation; complete redesigns that fuse traditional pride of craftsmanship with the best modern components available.
MGS - The Tube Vibe is amazing. How did that come to be? First one of its
PT - Thanks for that, it's a pleasure to see someone enjoy something you've created. A substantial R & D effort went into Tube-Vibe to get the sound balance just right. I couldn't simply rely on the warmth and transparency of the tubes to get the tone, a great deal of time was spent tailoring the response of the phase shifter section to integrate it smoothly with range of electric guitar. The aim was to produce a vibe tone that is much deeper and richer than any available. The tube based signal path is the first thing that makes the effectrode vibe stand out as being unique, however the bulb driver is also highly configurable. Current models of the Tube-Vibe come configured for pseudo triangle and square wave; the square wave is very similar to the original Univibe. I'm now looking to develop other wave shapes to drive the bulb. For example sawtooth gives an interesting hypnotic lopsided effect. I'll be putting sound samples of these new wave shapes on the website and free modifications will be available to give Tube-Vibe users the ultimate in custom tone.
MGS - The tubes get warm just like an amp. Am I to understand there are 350
volts running thru the tubes?
PT - Yes, the tubes are operating at real amplifier plate voltages and the heaters are DC powered for low noise. Efficient power conversion without the use of specially wound transformers is always problematic and boosting 12VDC to over 300VDC was a big technical achievment for me. It took many months of development (and electric shocks!) to work through the design until I was completely happy that it was stable and quiet enough for audio. It also runs nice 'n' cool, which is good because the tubes run pretty warm!
MGS - Besides the Tube Vibe what else is in the works?
PT - Well, I'm working on the 'Twin Drive', which is a pure class-A all-tube distortion/overdrive pedal. Dual-tone operation offers two entirely different voicings. Mode 1 faithfully reproduces classic 70's overdriven tube amp tone. Mode 2 utilises three triode tubes to produce a creamy, super-saturated and sustaining tone. I'm also working on a revamp of the original phaseomatic vacuum tube phaser pedal and have ideas about a simple tube clean boost pedal. Over the much longer term, I have a project to develop a tape based tube chorus/flanger, which will sound phenomenal when its completed.
MGS - Is there anything you would like to mention in closing?
PT - Seriously, there is one thing, I'd like to talk about. It goes along the lines about how people think about pedals. Effects have traditionally been regarded as, well, special effects to be used sparingly or conservatively. My philosophy is to build very usable and musical effects pedals that integrate seamlessly into players rigs, amplifier/guitar setup. The effect should complement and enhance tone, there should be shouldn't be issues with 'tone-sucking', transparency, etc and the effect should do it's job without any of these 'artifacts'. Once you get past that hurdle then the effect becomes part of your signiture sound. I mean, I'm using the Tube-vibe practically all the time for chord work. With the blend control set at around 10 o'clock and a slow speed and it works like a subtle chorus pedal adding a little swirl and depth. Sometimes I'm not even aware it's on until I hit the bypass and then it sounds flat.
I hope that we're building pedals that players will value and keep for life, you know, like some of that classic studio tube gear that you hear about but never see being sold second hand - it's so good people just hang on to it . . .
Also, I'd like to thank all our customers for their interest and enthusiasm. We really do appreciate your support.
Phil Taylor owner of Effectrode speaks about the Tube Vibe on his forum
" The Tube-Vibe internals are pure vacuum tube signal path, which means there no transistors or ICs between your guitar and your amp - your guitar is basically seeing a very high quality tube amp input stage. So yes, they are intergral. I know there are quiet a few manufacturers who use the tubes as buffers in effects and run them in starvation mode at 12Volts. Our practice is to use tubes throughout the signal path to do buffering and audio-processing. The tubes operate at true amp plate voltages too at 300 Volts!
The tube signal path loosely follows the original transistor path in the original Univibe, however its quieter and purer sounding. The phase shifter section has been optimised to sound great with guitar - the Univibe was designed for organs.
The bulb driver is completely different from the univibe too, much smoother and more flexible."