[interview] Deaf Audio: Magnus Nordbye

Here's FXDB's interview with Magnus Nordbye of Deaf Audio:

How did Deaf Audio start?

I've always been interested in what's under the hood when it comes to guitars, amps, pedals, etc. and so trying some DIY kits came natural to me. Being simpler than building guitars (and the heck of a lot safer than tinkering with high voltage amplifiers, tasering your brains from time to time), I figured I might try to earn some cash from building pedals semi-commercially when time allowed me to. It started, as with many others also, by building and selling pedals to friends and their acquaintances, gathering some reputation along the way.

I'm still a one-man show, after starting up this company in 2008. Setting up a website and make a home for myself on the web was straightforward enough. It's only recently that I've had the time, and interest, in trying to make this company roll. If everything goes my way, maybe I will do this full time in the future!

I'm a keen fan of the internet, as it allows people to educate themselves with ease. Sharing information has never been easier, and I must admit that I've learned most of my skills from forums and googling. The community over at DIY Stompboxes is of course worth mentioning. A whole bunch of people whose interest is united at one place is great, and I've picked up so much from those people, and always try to share my knowledge back to those people when time allows me to. I don't think the members there believe in so called "trade secrets", at least I don't have that feeling. Everything you need to know about pedals is there, and there's always help to be had.

If I was to mention a few names, whose knowledge has inspired me all these years, all of them would be found posting at that forum from time to time. John Lyons (Basic Audio) and Aron Nelson might be among those that I reckon as veterans in this game.

Where does the name come from?

The name was born in the midst of a brainstorming session (probably during some partying). Having many friends who endorse the more extreme metal genres, "Death" was the original suggestion. Quite cheesy, don't you think? "Deaf" came up as an ironic alternative, and in the end, I stuck with the, adding "Audio", and thus settling on the name.

As this company has been not much more than a hobby until recently, from which I could earn some extra cash, there never has been a real logo, from which people could recognize the brand. There will be one soon, though!

What sets Deaf Audio apart from other builders?

I believe that original circuits (SOUND), brand name, pedal names, maybe a catchy connection between all the pedals from that brand and looks all add to the originality of the pedals. Price doesn't matter as much I believe, because I think people who buy pedals (other than the standard BOSS and Dunlop brands), want something special, something unique, and want to spend cash for good tone.

How do you start on a new pedal?

This process can take some time, and it all starts with designing the circuit itself on a breadboard. Then I have to make a PCB for it, order parts and enclosures. The final stage is assembling and testing.

It usually takes me weeks to months, depending on the circuit and time at hand, to finish a new design.

How do you name your pedals?

I like using funny word plays. It's easier to remember those pedals too.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

I'm the one and only builder at the moment. No one to pay and no one to yell at! :)

The new Deaf Audio pedals will be partially hand-wired, and partially pre-assembled. I use industry grade components and PCBs, which will be much more durable than having a lot of wires hanging around inside. I'm currently deciding on options regarding enclosures and other cosmetics, but I can tell that I won't use the standard "B" or "BB" size enclosures, at least not for the first pedals. It will be something more special.

How important is the look of your pedals?

This "boutique" pedal world is getting crowded, so to survive, I think one must have that something special which at once makes people know it's a "Deaf Audio" pedal. So yeah, looks actually plays a bigger role than one would imagine. Not bigger than the sound, of course.

Is parts selection important?

Anyone who knows just a tiny bit of electronics knows that using NOS components is mostly mojo, and doesn't make the pedals sound better/different, at least not in ways which regular consumers think. The irregularities or faults in old components can easily be copied with new, reliable parts.

I've used many brands for my parts, and I can tell you that reliability is the reason to use quality parts. As long as the components work, they don't sound different to one another. I think using vintage parts and such adds a little flavor to the pedal/amp though. It's a cool though that something built decades ago still works!

But my point is; you don't instantly turn into Jimi Hendrix reincarnated if you sprinkle some dust from the seventies on your gear! Might grow an afro, though...

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

As the Faceplant Fuzz is my first original design, I'm most proud of that. It's not inspired by any other pedals, and it sounds like nothing else I've heard. It's pleasing to me that I've come up with something original.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

I decided to build a fuzz for myself once, or rather, five fuzzes in one box! It made for a lot of spaghetti inside, but eventually turned out great. Sold it though, wish I hadn't.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

I don't have any products that stand out really, as I've done mostly custom builds up until now. Though I've built and modified quite a few Big Muff clones, which seems to be a popular pedal.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

I try to make pedals which can interest a broad group of musicians. But of course, the choice of circuits that I use is influenced by my own taste, I presume. I always try to add or subtract things from the circuits that I think most people would or would not prefer. One has to think a bit commercially to survive.

What does the future of Deaf Audio look like?

I've just decided this year that I will try to make a living out of building pedals, and I'm in the process of establishing a solid product range, from which I can evolve. I will update the website, record sound samples (videos too, maybe), and contact resellers in the near future. If I work hard enough, perhaps you'll see Deaf Audios pedals on a shelf in the future!

Are you working on any new products?

I have many designs in my mind at the moment. What and when is just a matter of what to priorities. Expect many new designs in 2012!

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