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I've basically been building all sorts of gizmos since childhood: a D.C. motor (from scratch) for extra credit in the fourth grade, and a reverse engineered walkie talkie that could receive different frequencies. I tore all of the "modules" out of a "150 in 1" electronics project kit, ultimately becoming part of some other gear that I'd "augmented" in some way: a photocell in one thing, an oscillator in another, and a relay in yet another. At one point the relay was activating a pair of LED's that I'd mounted in the guns of a tie fighter model!
I grew up with rock music in the house - my father has been a gigging guitarist since before I was born, back in '68. Zeppelin, Stones, Hendrix, Cream, Floyd - it was all either being played or being played along with! I got my first guitar when I was 6 - a cherry burst ES335 copy. My brother Eric was playing the drums. And my brother Neil was playing just about everything when he was old enough. Do you notice a theme with our names?
I've been maintaining many precious pedals for a long time, and have found a lot of ways to improve all of them, but building from scratch was primarily a dream for the longest time, other than the occasional one-off design. This was mainly due to the fact that I spent the better part of the 80's and half of the 90's building (and rebuilding) guitars. And from the mid 90's to just a few years ago I was primarily focused on scratch building and completely rebuilding tube amps. But in April of '08, the recession hammer fell on my previous place of employment.
I needed something to fuel my mind while trying to look for another job (that wasn't there). It was actually the perfect opportunity to finally bring to completion all of the fragmented ideas rolling around in my brain for over a decade, but had taken a back seat to guitar and amp building. So finally by late fall of '08, the Nitrous Boost was squared away. And by January of '09, the 72 Degree OD was ready for production.
I'm lucky in that I own a house with a big basement and fairly decent garage. And for years I've maintained all of the family cars, so the garage was already well equipped. Still nothing state of the art (within reason), but nothing overly modest, either.
I find it fairly easy to physically build something like a pedal. What's hard is the myriad of compromises that are made to satisfy a laundry list of criteria. Since I'm obsessed with improving every conceivable facet, as soon as the first one was done I needed to build a revised one immediately. And then a third, and so on.
I'm not talking about what gets ironed out with breadboarding. I mean where the rubber hits the road, and the guts are in the box, and the pedal is now intended to be used for more than just for bedroom playing (not that there's anything wrong with that!), and we're talking about building at least a few hundred of the same thing - or potentially thousands!
My very first pedal did some things well, especially those I set out to address: build something that would cover from boost all the way up to fuzz, using currently produced parts only. It did boost well, the fuzz thing was "interesting," and there was a sweet spot for OD purposes, but very far from refined.
I've got a background in graphic arts, so I built the MHP website myself. It started out as just a few basic pages, and I constantly refine it in small increments. I also tried to get the pedals in the hands of folks who can differentiate between a "yet another ___________" and something that's either a blatantly clear improvement, a clear variation, or left of center in a way that would be greatly appreciated. I wasn't going for big names, but they had to be either pro players, or serious players.
I got into parenthood late, so I rarely play out, which meant that the MHP stomps needed another source of exposure. That bridge was built thanks to Atomic Music in Beltsville, Maryland carrying the 72 OD pedal. Musicians can go to the store, and try the pedals for themselves. They basically sell themselves when put up against similar designs.
As for big artist names playing MHP pedals, there are two big potential irons in the fire. The operative word here is potential. The average person may not realize how much gear the big names have to sift through, and how little time they have to devote to it. One big name needed a year before my pedals were even auditioned.
While the verdict was very favorable, it will probably take another year before anything gets finalized. And big fish number two just received their pedal last week, so once again some time will need to pass. Patience is definitely a virtue in my experiences.
Currently I build a few hundred pedals a year - for production. But this doesn't include prototypes, custom requests, revisions, or projects. If those are included, it would be quite a few hundred more. When it's all done by hand, it's an important consideration.
I'm applying the brakes with any new designs, as we currently offer four in MHP's first year of existence! I said I wasn't going to have the Lead Stone Fuzz ready for another year or two, but my arm got twisted so hard that I just gave in - a day didn't seem to go by that I didn't get questions regarding when a MHP fuzz would be available. I gave the people what they wanted!
Regarding the shop, I've got more tools than you can shake a stick at, and I add to them all the time. Everything is done in house, and I mean EVERYTHING. Drilling, powdercoating, pcb etching, box graphics, and so on are all done on the premises. I take pride in that, as it's something that's almost extinct in the 21st century.
While musical gear are just tools, I see them a little differently than other tools like a flashlight or hammer. Musical gear exist for creative and emotive purposes - I think you'd get a lot of extra mileage and vibe out of something that wasn't built either by a robot, or assembled by someone who doesn't even know what it does.
Finally, the no B.S. approach is a cornerstone to the way that MHP is operated. It doesn't have the most sex appeal, but it provides a much more accurate assessment of why a guitarist should choose our pedals. All steak, and no sizzle.
See some well done videos and check out the full line of pedals at Machineheadpedals.com
MHP 72 Overdrive
The MHP 72 is an OD pedal that's a little left of center, but in ways that a seasoned guitar player is guaranteed to appreciate. At minimum drive settings, it has all of the clarity and presence that you'd expect from a great OD. But it couples a glassy attack with a soft compression as the note decays. And at max gain the MHP 72 doesn't go to mush like some light drive pedals can. It is a balanced combination of articulation, presence, compression, soft clipping, and harmonics that make the MHP 72 stand out from the crowd. Gold powdercoat finish.
MHP Nitrous boost
MHP Nitrous boost
The MHP Nitrous boost Version 2 is now shipping! It now features a discrete dual gain stage circuit. The first stage is linear in nature, so that you get a true volume boost without any added saturation or treble spikes. And the second stage blends in just the right amount of harmonics and presence, for a bit of the sweet stuff. The dual gain stage setup has advantages over a single stage boost. Two stages that aren't run as hard as a single will produce less noise. The tones are linear until you back off your volume control, and then the presence increases, in effect giving you the best of both worlds. And since the gain stages function so differently, the end result is a mixture of boosted tones that are simply impossible to achieve with a single stage. The MHP Nitrous boost circuit is literally complex in comparison to most other boost designs. Red textured powder coat finish.
MHP Lead Stone Fuzz
MHP Lead Stone Fuzz
The MHP Lead Stone Fuzz has been an ongoing project for what seems like an eternity. Many criteria had to be met: no straight up Fuzz Face, Tonebender, or Muff clones. It had to have the immediacy of silicon, but it had to be as smooth as placid waters. And per numerous requests, it had to counquer bass fuzz terrain as well (we're not too far outside of the D.C. Metro area, where there are a ton of killer bass players). Zero RF intereference, a very low noise floor, no nasty treble spike transients, and no inconsistent transistor gain issues, thanks to modern technology, and a circuit that isn't chained down to fuzz designs of days long ago. The MHP Lead Stone Fuzz has a mid scoop that's not unlike a Muff, but with a touch more low end on tap, and more harmonic complexity in the lower mids as a result. Unlike a Muff, The MHP Lead Stone Fuzz cleans up much better, but not as extreme as a silicon Fuzz Face - much smoother and rounder - not unlike a clean tube amp tone. The gain range is right smack in between an old Fuzz Face and a Muff. If you love the older Russian Muffs with their reduced gain ranges and rounder tones, this should be right down your alley. Absolutely fantastic for alt rock, bass fuzz, and some heavier modern music, as well as guitar work not typically associated with fuzz pedals (fusion, anyone?). This is about as smooth of a fuzz as we could possible wring from a circuit! Textured flint powdercoat finish.
MHP Evelyn Dual Drive
MHP Evelyn Dual Drive
The MHP Evelyn is a bit of a departure from your typical overdrive (and beyond!). It is a design that is free of clipping diodes, and thus makes for quite an interesting twist away from such pedals - there's no shortage of attitude and character that many drives of late seem to steer clear of. At the core of the MHP EVELYN circuit structure are fragments of Craig Anderton's Tube Sound Fuzz, which you might know of better in it's cloned incarnations as the Red Llama or Mule. But the MHP EVELYN is dramatically different in that it covers an entire range of tones and textures that are impossible to achieve with those TSF clones, because they are nothing more than clones! The MHP EVELYN is a complete overhaul of the TSF circuit to eliminate the TSF's inflexibility, and deliver everything from treble boost at light drive settings, serve up an ample amount of punch and grit at higher drive settings, even bordering on some vibey old school hints of fuzz. And that doesn't even cover all of the possibilies in between! We did this by rebuilding the circuit of the MHP EVELYN with DUAL DRIVE controls. They allow for the utmost flexibility in EQ, timbre, and gain combinations that are possibly endless. Drive 1 is very bright and crisp, with plenty of gain. And yes, it has some teeth to it, as well! Drive 2 is soft and subtle, with ample bass, and just enough gain to keep the bass from getting flubby or mushy. The two Drive controls are independently configured to tailor the EQ, dynamics, texture, and gain levels for your specific tastes, as well as your guitar and amplifier. And unlike many OD pedals, the MHP EVELYN sounds fantastic into a dirty amp - it simply adds to the vibe to take it to another level. As if this weren't enough, try pushing it with the overdrive or boost of your preference - you'll get a whole other range of tones and grind that you probably never thought existed. There are a really cool bunch of old school tones in the MHP EVELYN as well, and if punk is your thing, you will most ell! Just two drive knobs (well, and a level control) right at your fingertips are all you need. Metallic blue powdercoat finish.
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