[interview] Jet City Amplification: Douglas White

Here's FXDB's interview with Douglas White of Jet City Amplification:

How did Jet City Amplification start?

I've been building guitar amplifiers with various other companies for the past 10 years or so before launching Jet City, but had never done effects pedals at any of those places. It just seemed like a natural extension to our offerings, and I knew a couple people with interesting designs we wanted to make more available to guitarists. We have some other more unique pedal ideas we are working on, too.

It's both. Part of our strategy is to work with great designers and bring their products to the guitarist. Mike Soldano is the only designer who actually works at the company - everyone else we work with is through collaboration. That reminds me, Soldano did make a great pedal back in the day...

Jet City AmplificationWhere do the name and logo come from?

Jet City is a nickname for Seattle. Because Seattle is the birthplace of the Boeing company, sometime many years ago the name Jet City was given. Plus we just thought it sounded cool.

There are a lot of historical examples of circular logos in both electronics and in the Seattle area, but the most notable inspirations are the old RCA logo, the Starbucks logo, and the Rat City Roller Girls was also inspirational to us.

What sets Jet City Amplification apart from other builders?

We're trying to offer something a cut-above the 'bargain priced' pedals. We aren't the cheapest on the market. But we do feel we offer a very high value - great sounding designs, built from high-quality materials at very reasonable prices.

How do you start on a new pedal?

We look to work with designers who have great ideas, and very good-sounding designs, but who don't build those products in large quantities. Right now you probably see we have an abundance of overdrive and a lack of chorus and flange, etc. So, we need to expand a little.

How long does it usually take? Most people would say we are pretty fast, but I always feel we take too long.

How do you name your pedals?Jet City Amplification The Flood - Analog Delay

The Flood - I named it after the zombie/monsters in the HALO series of Xbox games. Some of those divide into smaller multiples, like the repeats of a delay (kinda), plus it's this yucky green color, not dissimilar to those monsters.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

Everything we do is through contracted assembly.

Just about everything we do is PCB-based, though we do have an upcoming hardwired amp - the Earhart. PCBs are the way we do our high volume stuff. Nearly every product utilizes a hand-stuffing process for populating the PCB, and then wave-soldering and further hand assembly. There are a couple notable exceptions to this, however. Some of our pedals use the auto-insertion process to quickly populate a large number of small parts into a small PCB. And we have one circuit we call 'MicSim' which shows up in a handful of products and utilizes surface mount parts. This has been an important advancement for us in preparation for our upcoming RetroValves product range which are totally SMT, high-precision, high-technology assembled.

Most of our pedal enclosures are extruded aluminum tops with steel chassis, and spray-painted.

How important is the look of your pedals?

Really important. The concept is to make them all uniform with the black tops where the knobs and switches are, and then a big white stripe like our marketing materials, and then differentiated by unique colors on the front sections. There are always people who say they're ugly, but I think 'most' people like them, and I am very pleased with how they look.

Jet City Amplification Afterburner - Dual-Stage OverdriveIs parts selection important?

Not really. We just make sure we use thick PCBs and quality components so they don't break.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

Our Afterburner Overdrive and The Flood delay. They're just both pedals which achieve our goal to deliver something very simple, very robust, great-sounding, and fairly priced. Those two pedals really work on all those points.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

At the risk of admitting our pedals are built in a very consistent way to each other, I'll have to say none of them were tougher than the others.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

First it was the Shockwave Distortion. Probably because it's $49. Guitar World named it one of the 5 Best Pedals under $50 last year (or something similar to that) and I think it might be true. Nowadays I think The Flood might become our most popular. That's based upon the sound / price ratio.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?Jet City Amplification Shockwave Distortion

No, we don't tend to direct our products specifically to genres, we try to make products with appeal to a wide range of guitarists.

We don't have a list of famous users yet. It's a good idea, though!

What does the future of Jet City Amplification look like?

We're looking to expand into more markets. Though we are currently available in USA, Germany, Japan, Australia, Spain and a handful of other countries, the biggest thing holding us back has been availability.

In product development, our focus is to deliver high value at reasonable costs. We're mainly a tube amp company, and that's at the core of our business. But we also like to develop products which are useful tools for guitarists, such as our JetStream Isolation cabinet or our upcoming Full Range stuff - so long as the products are simple, usable, and reasonable, we're interested to grow into new places.

Are you working on any new products?

Yes, we want to expand into chorus, flange, and compressors. Plus we are working with someone who has a GREAT idea for a volume pedal. We are also exploring switching and pedal-looping devices.

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