As part of Overdrive week we interviewed a couple of pedal makers who are making strides in new designs and new ways of thinking about tone. Today we’re talking to Rick Seidlitz, founder of Airis Effects, an up-and-coming pedal company with some awesome designs.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your company.
I’m Rick Seidlitz of Airis Effects. I build boutique effects pedals in a small Canadian town, with quality and tone in mind while keeping prices low to make it easier for musicians to get into the world that lies outside the mass produced market.
What inspired you to start building pedals?
A couple years ago I was spending WAY too much time looking at overdrives. I was reading articles, watching videos, trying stuff out and driving my wife crazy thinking out loud. Then it hit me. “Why don’t I just build my own?” That opened the floodgates and I haven’t looked back!
Why do pedal makers still make tube screamer clones and variations? Will we ever have a “better mousetrap” overdrive?
The tubescreamer, to me, is like the internal combustion engine. It’s borderline ancient technology now, but everything about it just works. The sound, the feel, the character. It’s all there. And just like different car makers, there’s a ton of variations on the same principle that speak to us in different ways. There’s really something for everyone.
Will there be a better mousetrap? Only time will tell. The Klon Centaur tried to usurp the throne, and while it’s a fantastic pedal, it in no way replaced the tubescreamer. If there is some breakthrough in overdrive technology, I hope to be a part of it, or at the very least still be alive to see it!
Most OD designs are based on existing chips such as the JRC4558D or the MC33178. Are there any new chips being manufactured that could change the OD game? Or is there a kind of chip you wish someone would make that’s different than what’s out there?
Lately the two favorites that I’ve been using are the Texas Instruments RC4558P and the Burr Brown OPA2604. The RC4558 is a favorite of a few other boutique builders and it was no surprise after using a few. The Burr Brown was actually something that I just ordered to try out because of it’s low noise claims and was pleasantly surprised. It has a lot of the same character but with less noise. Who wouldn’t love that?
What is your favorite kind of clipping?
In my overdrives I’ve actually grown to love not having diode clipping. I find that pushing the amp harder gives a clearer and more pleasing compression than clipping the signal. If I had to pick one though, it would be LED. They’re fairly open and leave a lot of your guitars dynamics intact.
Whose guitar tone do you think is the single greatest ever?
That’s an extremely hard one to narrow down to a single tone! I would have to say that Ken Susi/Buz McGrath of Unearth would be my vote for the greatest tone. Live and on their albums it’s just so punchy and pleasing to my ears.
Whose is the worst, and what would you do to fix it?
Nickelback. I would offer Chad kroe-whatever his name is a pedal! Full price though. He can afford it haha.
Where’s a good place to start for someone who wants to start building pedals?
Build Your Own Clone is a great place to start. They offer kits for basically any type of effect and rank them in difficulty. They supply everything but a soldering iron, solder and a steady hand.
What is your design philosophy?
My design philosophy is to add more layers onto the building blocks that were laid by the classics. There is a reason that some pedals have stood the test of time. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for improvement or adding a little more.
How are your pedals different from the other manufacturers out there?
Demonic possession! Hahaha. No, but more seriously, I like to think of most of my pedals as “customer collaborations” in the sense that when I was starting out I would ask every customer what settings they liked best, what they did/didn’t like, etc. I may not be reinventing the wheel, but I’m trying to remind people what customer service and quality is.
What other manufacturer’s designs do you like?
I’m a huge fan of Robert Keeley. There’s a lot of small details in his pedals that go mostly unnoticed, but it shows that he thinks things out right to the last detail. I’ve also been seeing great things from VFE. They are definitely another boutique company that’s giving the people what they want!
There are a couple basic effect types, of which most effects are just variations of, ie: flange, delay, overdrive/distortion, boost, reverb, phaser, wah, etc. Do you think there’s an undiscovered effect type just waiting to be found?
I think anything is possible. When I was 14 and had first picked up the guitar, I would have laughed in your face if you told me that you would be able to buy a pedal that detuned your guitar and actually sounded proper in only a few short years.
What’s next for Airis Effects?
I have a few things that are in development right now actually. The next thing coming out that I’ve been teasing on my website is my Hades High Gain Preamp. It’s a super tight preamp pedal that works beautifully for direct recording with impulse responses. Beyond that, I have plans to release a compressor this year as well as finalize the graphics on my delay.
Check out Rick’s pedals at www.airiseffects.com.