Electro-Harmonix


Electro-Harmonix

Electro-Harmonix is a New York-based company that makes electronic sound processors. The company was founded by Mike Matthews in 1968. They are most famous for a series of popular guitar effects pedals introduced in the 1970s and 1990s.

Company history

First products

The first Electro-Harmonix product was the Axis fuzz pedal, which was also sold under the name "Foxey Lady" for the Guild guitar company. While working with Bill Berko on the early Big Muff design, Mike Matthews used a booster circuit Bill had incorporated into the design and marketed it as the LPB-1 or Linear Power Booster in 1969. This massively boosted a guitar signal to provide gain by clipping the signal, dramatically changing the sound. The new device provided a raw distorted sound, full of sustain and harmonics. Several similar devices followed such as the Treble Booster and Bass Booster. The new devices were extremely popular with guitarists.

Big Muff

In 1971 Matthews designed the pedal that would make the company famous - The Big Muff Pi. This was a fuzzbox that added a rich, creamy, bass-heavy sustain to any guitar sound. It is referred to (by the company) as "the finest harmonic distortion - sustain device developed to date". Legend has it that Matthews was trying to design a distortion free sustainer but thought that his mistake would be popular. It also made small amps sound much better and allowed distortion at any volume, even at home. The pedal was extremely popular and was used most notably by Carlos Santana, Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, and, later, Metallica's Cliff Burton. Although it was officially released the year after his death, Jimi Hendrix did try out prototypes of the Big Muff and the pedal was supposedly modeled after his late Band of Gypsies-era tone.Fact|date=July 2007 Several variations of the Big Muff Pi followed throughout the 70s. Today Electro-Harmonix produces a reissue made in New York City and a version made by Sovtek in Russia which provides a slightly different tone.

Phasers

Other products followed, notably the hugely popular Small Stone phase shifter whose sound fit well with the Progressive rock and Reggae bands who were popular in the 1970s. Phasing was one of the musical sounds of the 1970s and there were stories that the company could not make enough Small Stones to meet demand.Fact|date=July 2007 The phased sounds of French composer Jean-Michel Jarre depended heavily on the Small Stone unit.

Q-Tron

In 1995, Electro-Harmonix owner Mike Matthews commissioned Mike Beigel, former owner of Musitronics Corp. and inventor of the Mutron III envelope filter, to design a new envelope filter using the same analog circuitry as the original Mutron III thus keeping the sound as close to the original as possible yet still adding new features to bring the effect into the new millennium. The pedal featured the same controls as the Mutron III and incorporated a "Boost" feature which activates an internal pre-amp and changes the function of the gain knob giving the Q-Tron a sound almost identical to the Mutron III. Another feature added to Q-tron was an effects loop switch and attack response switch. Units with these features are called the Q-tron Plus. A smaller more-compact version, the Mini Q-Tron, is also available, as well as an even smaller version, the Micro Q-Tron.

POG

POG (Polyphonic Octave Generator pedal) Can be used to add one or 2 octaves up, and one octave down and blend all of them together with straight-through signal. Fader controls for input, dry output, sub octave, one octave, one octave detune, 2 octaves, 2 octaves detune, and low-pass filter.A simpler, smaller and cheaper version of the POG, the Micro POG is now available. It includes features of the POG excluding the second octave up and the detune. The sound is also said to be better. [http://www.dolphinmusic.co.uk/news/news-story/news_id/1913]

Other pedals

Other notable pedals were the Electric Mistress Flanger in 1975, Memory Man Delay in 1976, a two-second analog delay in 1979; a 16-second digitaldelay 1982, and the Instant Replay sampler 1980. Another pedal of note was the Black Finger Compressor which added distortion free sustain to the sound and which appeared in the mid 1970s. The Small Clone analog Chorus unit was heavily used by Kurt Cobain.

Technology

Nearly all the pedals are analog rather than digital. In the case of the early pedals, this was not a matter of choice, as the integrated circuits that made digital audio possible were simply not yet available. Later, this meant that they added some noise to the signal, but also that they were cheaper. Many analog pedals were changed to digital in the mid 1980s but by the 1990s many guitarists started going back to analog. Many guitarists have come to prefer the warmer analog sound to the often cold and precise digital equivalent and this made old 70s pedals extremely sought after.

Change of direction

Electro-Harmonix stopped making pedals in the mid-1980s, and in the early 1990s started selling vacuum tubes re-branded with their name for guitar amplifiers, which they had also been making since the 1970s. However due to demand, and the high prices guitarists were paying for old 1970s pedals on the vintage market they reissued the more popular old pedals in the mid-1990s, the Big Muff Pi and Small Clone included. In 2002 they started designing new pedals to add to their range. Company policy is that all reissued effects remain as close as possible to the original, vintage designs. This means however that casings, knobs and especially the old-fashioned mini-jack power plug are not up to modern day standards. This all changed in 2006 with their smaller and more standardized "micro" and "nano" effect lines.

Electro-Harmonix remains a popular guitar effect and tube company. They have also produced a synthesizer in the 1980s but they remain better known for their effect pedals.

External links

* [http://www.ehx.com Electro-Harmonix] home page.


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