I'm a new manufacturer of effects pedals for guitar and other instruments.
My home, design lab, and manufacturing facility are located in Sedona, Arizona, USA.
I've been familiar with electronics and circuit design for most of my life, and I've been playing guitar since I was 10 years old. At various times, I have made simple electronic circuits to use with my guitar, such as buffers, preamps and very simple distortion effects.
Around 2008, I decided to start designing my own effects pedals. My goal was to build a rig that would be suitable for studio recording and live performance - anything from a small local gig to world touring. I had ideas for designs that I could not buy anywhere and I wanted to make sure I had top-quality, high-reliability equipment, with no weak links.
While in the early design stages, I realized I was creating circuits that many other people would also like to use, so I started thinking of how to build a business to design, manufacture and sell electronic products to musicians. At that time, I set my design goals at a higher level: Instead of aming to make things that were good enough for me, I decided to make things of even higher quality to sell as products worldwide.
Tubular is my first product ready for sale, and I have many other designs in the pipeline at various stages of completion, including some that are just getting started. If things continue to go well, I'll be introducing them as new products for many years to come.
I'm offering Tubular first because it's the first circuit that I started working on. It resulted from the continued development and evolution of an idea I first implemented around 1992 as these two circuits:
The original idea for them came to me around ten years earlier, when I saw a magazine ad for vacuum tube stereo equipment made by a small company. The ad told a story that I found really interesting. It was about a study done on recording methods used for top-charting hit songs of the 1960s and 1970s. During that period, vacuum tubes were being replaced by solid state transistorized equipment throughout the electronics industry, including audio equipment used in music and recording. Yet the study found that almost all of the hit songs were recorded using older technology vacuum tube mixing consoles and tape recorders, not the new transisitorized designs.
The ad claimed that vacuum tube circuits sounded better because vacuum tubes mainly produce low-order harmonic distortion (almost completely from 2nd through 5th harmonics) that sounds more pleasing than what comes from the bipolar transistors that were used in that period of time. I found the idea really interesting. (Bipolar transistors are also known as bipolar junction transistors, or PNP or NPN transistors. The early ones were made from germanium, and later, the electronics industry moved to silicon.)
For many years afterward, I never heard more about it, and I wondered if it was real, or just marketing hype. Unfortunately, I had insufficient resources, tools, and knowledge of electronics to investigate further. I was working in R&D of digital circuits for integrated circuits ("chips"), that were based on another type of transistor, called a field effect transistor (FET). These were developed later than bipolar transistors and have been used mostly in digital circuits. I hoped that someday I could learn how to use them for analog design, too!
That would have to wait, but I did get a VOX tube amplifier for my Fender Stratocaster, and loved it! That really helped me appreciate the sound of vintage tube electronics when used with electric guitar. I had to sell that amp a few years later when I needed to move and it was too big and heavy to take with me. But the wonderful sound it produced stuck in my mind. I knew I needed that kind of sound again, if only I could get it without the large size, weight, and price!
A couple of years later, I read a book on designing circuits with FETs, and was surprised to learn that when used in a specific manner, FETs behave very much like vacuum tubes! I found that absolutely fascinating, and wondered if FETs could be used in electronic products for musicians and recording engineers, to give people the same wonderful-sounding equipment that the old vacuum tube designs were known for. The result would have many advantages over using vacuum tubes: a much smaller size, far less weight, less power consumption, and far greater reliability.
The circuits I built in 1992 were the result of theoretical design. I built them using just a multimeter as my only test equipment. They worked, but I still was missing very expensive test equipment I needed to test their operation and study their harmonic distortion products to compare to tube circuits, and therefore I was unable to work on the circuits to improve them. I was still working in the computer industry, and that continued to occupy my life.
A few years later, I moved to Arizona and had some free time. In 1997, I built a simple tube preamp based on circuit schematics of vintage vacuum tube guitar amps that I found online.
I used my tube preamp for years with my electric guitar and synthesizer, and I still have it today. It is really good at adding "tube sound" to any instrument, and I loved using it to "warm up" the sound of my digital synthesizer.
In 2008, I had become bored working in the computer industry, and started working on my FET circuits again. At that time, I quickly realized that I could use new computer technology to study the harmonics in my tube and FET amplifier circuits. I downloaded some free software, and there was no need to spend thousands of dollars on a lab spectrum analyzer. Easy! I bought a used Tektronix oscilloscope, and I was off and runnning. (One of the reasons I didn't get started in 1992 was that my oscilloscope, which was introduced as a new product in that year, was priced in the range of $5000-10,000! A spectrum analyzer was even more expensive.)
As I worked on new FET circuits and analyzed them, I was amazed at how closely FETs can match the operation of vacuum tubes. By varying circuit parameters, it was possible to get a FET circuit to match a vacuum tube circuit almost exactly.
Here's an example. The figure on the left shows the harmonics produced by my vacuum tube preamp, and the one on the right shows the harmonics from a test circuit designed to do the same thing using an FET instead of a vacuum tube. The two are adjusted to produce a subtle, yet audible level of harmonic enhancement. (The vacuum tube preamp has an Ei 12AX7/ECC83 triode. Ei was one of the companies that manufactured the famous "diamond" 12AX7/ECC83 tubes that were sold by Telefunken, and are highly regarded and recognized as having the best, most musical sound of any 12AX7/ECC83. Ei continued to produce them under their own label after Telefunken stopped selling them, but their factory closed in the early 2000s. Nowdays, new old stock Telefunken 12AX7/ECC83 tubes typically sell for over $100 each, and Ei 12AX7/ECC83 tubes sell for over $25 each. There are new Telefunken "Black Diamond" tubes being made, but I haven't tried them and cannot comment on whether they are the really same as the original "diamond" tubes made from the late 1940s through 1960s.)
Notice how with both the tube preamp and the FET preamp, the harmonics drop off more as the harmonic number increases. There are very few electronic devices that match this behavior, and it's exactly what is needed to produce the "vintage" or "tube" sound! If this is too technical for you, just remember that for every sound that goes into the circuit, 2nd, 3rd and 4th harmonics are added or strengthened, which makes the sound richer and more interesting. Also, there can be a psychoacousitic effect that increases the perception of bass in the sound. Going further, look at the levels of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th harmonics in each spectrum. They are almost identical! In fact, the performance of the FET preamp is arguably better because it has a stronger 2nd harmonic and weaker 5th harmonic. I hope by now, you can understand why you might prefer Tubular to a vacuum tube preamp. It's better in many ways. I would never tell anyone to avoid real vacuum tube products, but even if you already have one, Tubular can add a lot to your sound.
From doing this kind of analysis, I could see that the information in the old magazine ad wasn't hype at all - I could actually measure the harmonics and hear the effect with my own ears to compare what was shown by my test equipment. I spent years creating and modifying circuits, and using them as guitar preamps and effects. Over time, my ears have become trained to evaluate how changes in circuits produced specific flavors of harmonic enhancements and distortions. Nowadays, I use a combination of electronics theory, analytical test equipment, and my trained ears to create new circuits and develop them to have the best sound possible.
There is more information about the development of Tubular on its product information page.
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Later, I may add online ordering, and that may require cookies for PayPal, or something similar. I will keep it minimal.
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