What we’re changing about Kilobyte, and why.

April 19, 2014    

IMG_2920I recently saw this excellent TED Talk by Pamela Myer called “How to spot a liar”. While it was entertaining and interesting, I was much more moved by what Myer said near the end about choosing to live in an honest world where truth is strengthened. I’m proud of the experiences we have with our customers, retailers, and suppliers, and I believe a big part of that experience comes from our candor. I think there’s been a LOT of misleading or untruthful behavior in this industry, and part of the reason I showed people how we make Wave Cannons in a video. We have nothing to hide or apologize for.

Our Kilobyte® delay has been our most successful product of the last year, and that success has been a blessing with complications. For us to continue making this pedal for our customers at the price we’ve chosen to charge, with the quality the want to provide, and made in the USA to the performance standard we expect, there were three changes we decided to make.

1. Surface mount components. Our original Kilobyte delays were all thru-hole full size parts, hand populated and either hand soldered or wave soldered by us and firms we worked with. This process became too time and cost inefficient for us, and also created major backlogs for people and retailers waiting for our handmade drive and fuzz pedals.

When I received the parts to put together a surface mount Kilobyte prototype, I held my breath. Thru-hole has been such an “article of tone faith” in the boutique effects business, even though makers like Strymon, Cusack, Empress, Dr. Scientist and others have used SMD to great effect. I then proceeded to build the prototype, put it on my board, and have one of the best sounding and most enjoyable live music performances I’ve had in my twenty years of playing live.  That evening of great live music went a long way towards addressing my concerns – after all, isn’t that what this is all supposed to be about?

2. Soft touch switching. Jon Cusack at Cusack Music is someone whom I’ve always deeply respected for his work in our field, and the chance to collaborate with him on a SMD version made the most sense. While the main PCB was reworked for SMD, we decided to incorporate his silent relay-based switching system used on his effects and others. This is still a true bypass system, using electronic switching rather than mechanical.

Part of the beauty of running a small business, making small batch releases, is that these are things we can just *try*. We don’t have to get the board of directors permission – we are the board! For our handcrafted drive pedals I’m more intuitively comfortable with a mechanical 3PDT switch bypass for the ease of repair and troubleshooting; if something goes wrong, we can always just replace the switch! But when Jon reported back the number of repairs or replacements he’s had to do on his switching system (let’s just say it very closely approaches a number that rhymes with ‘hero’) I figured let’s give this a shot. So while we were inside the guts, we made one last change:

3. ‘Tacos’ (modulation) is now on the outside. A popular mod to Kilobytes from last year was to convert an internal trimpot for the modulation effect that Jack DeVille at Mr. Black Pedals crafted for us after our successful Kickstarter campaign to an external control. During SMD redesign, we were faced with a choice: make such a mod difficult or impossible for anyone, or make it for everyone. If you know us at all, you already know which option we chose.

The final assembly and testing is still done by hand here in our Columbia shop, and we still sign every pedal as proof of that commitment. Our Kilobytes still get more hands-on human involvement than many “handmade” simple drive pedals I’ve seen out there. They’re still put together, tested, and signed off on by my mates and I who care about quality, right here in our tiny shop in Columbia, SC.

So now you might be wondering something along the lines of wait, did I buy the wrong one? Or should I have waited until now? Or did I wait too long and miss out? I’m not trying to spin this. Either way you go, you win.

If you bought one of the original Kilobytes (four knobs, Jack DeVille board design): Congrats! Thank you. You have one of our first four hundred and seventy something handmade delay pedals. You made our efforts worthwhile. If you need the tacos on the outside, either we or our good friends at Resonant Amplifiers can do that for you for a very reasonable charge. Your 3PDT bypass switch will be warranty serviced for the life of the product. We hope you’ve enjoyed making awesome sounds with it so far, and know that we’ll stand behind our product.

If you get one of the newer Kilobytes (four knobs + small trimpot in the center, Jon Cusack SMD board design & switching): Congrats! Thank you. Know that for all the reasons we wrote above, that we have committed to putting our best product forward and standing behind it. I hope you’re looking forward to making some awesome sounds and appreciating what a great sounding delay the Kilobyte will be in your setup.

As for you guys who keep asking us for tap tempo, why don’t you leave the tapping to Gregory Hines and stick with playing your instrument? Just kidding. That’s a discussion about another pedal design one day. 😉

Thanks again,