[interview] MegaTone Pedals: Danny Magenta

Here's FXDB's interview with Danny Magenta of MegaTone Pedals.

MegaTone Pedals, Inc. was established by brothers John & Danny Magenta. Danny is the CEO/Lead Engineer who designs and builds all the pedals. John is the President of MegaTone Pedals and handles the business side of the company and the artwork on the pedals, as well as some technical work. They operate out of Staten Island, New York.

MegaTone Pedals J. Espo Hard DriveHow did MegaTone Pedals start?

I got into building pedals by modifying my own Boss and MXR pedals to get different sounds, and the love for working with pedals grew from there. I was getting tired of the sounds that the big name pedal companies were producing and I wanted to try something that sounded different, something that the big pedal companies didn't build. And that is when I acquired my first boutique pedal some years back, The Wampler Pinnacle by Wampler Pedals. I thought the tonal quality of that pedal was so rich and powerful, and I was especially impressed by its great tone versatility. It was exactly what I was looking for. The idea of smaller independent companies manufacturing pedals is what got me interested in learning more about designing audio electronics. So after modifying my own pedals and buying my first boutique pedal, I slowly started studying more and more about pedal building, and then I eventually began building my own pedals and circuits, and I became very skilled at it. I decided that I wanted to start a small pedal company. So in 2009 I asked my brother John if he wanted to go into business with me, and that's when it all came about.

We established MegaTone back in 2009 building pedals for local musicians. And we released our first two production pedals in January of 2011. And ever since then our pedals have been instant hits with our customers.

With the help of our good friend Eric Suky of Sukymedia Inc. we were able to establish our first custom pedal for close friend and "the musician next door" Jon "Jespo" Esposito. The J. Espo Hard Drive was the first custom pedal we ever built.

MegaTone PedalsWhere does the logo come from?

The inspiration behind the "MT" logo was Metallica's band logo. We love the way the "M" in Metallica's logo has the arrows in it and we wanted to do something similar. The logo was designed with the help of John's wife Christina. She is a very talented artist and designed something awesome that neither of us could come up with on our own.

What sets MegaTone Pedals apart from other builders?

Tone and quality, it's that simple... We manufacture pedals that not only produce incredible sounds, but gear that is built to last. We don't mind spending that extra few cents per capacitor or transistor. When we buy the mono/stereo jacks and the power jacks for our pedals, we buy the more expensive and well-built jacks rather than the cheaper "economy" jacks. We use 1/8 Watt metal film resistors with a 1 percent tolerance for a tighter and clearer sound, and they help reduce undesirable noise and feedback. Our resistors are custom made for us by a famous resistor manufacturer in the mainlands of China. We use audio grade polypropylene film capacitors that are especially made for audio applications. And all the other components we use are of the highest quality. No cheap parts just so we can save a few bucks.

The main priority of pretty much all manufacturing companies is to keep production time and costs down... We don't believe in that. We pride ourselves with how well our pedals sound and how durable they are. Like I said, we don't mind spending extra money to buy high quality components. And we certainly do not mind spending the extra time testing and inspecting each pedal thoroughly to make sure that it is performing at its most best. The components we use are most important for getting great quality sounds.

Aside from that, our pedals are wallet friendly. Our main goal is creating high quality boutique pedals at reasonable and affordable prices, without them being cheaply built and crappy sounding, as well as being over priced. All of our pedals come with a 1 year return/repair waranty. If you're unhappy about the tone or quality of our pedals for any reason, you can simply return it to us. And you don't need to purchase any kind of insurance for this.

To date, none of our customers have returned the pedals they bought from us, and we don't think they ever will. And I think that is what sets us apart from other builders. We build pedals for the professional touring musician, as well as the everyday guitarist that you see at your local music shop.

MegaTone Pedals Classic OverdriveCan you tell us something about the production process?

We build all pedals in-house. The only thing we do not do ourselves is the powder coating. We ship the unfinished enclosures to a very professional powder coating shop out in Louisiana where they are painted and silk screened. This is only until we can afford our own powder coating booth. Once we have the money and space to invest in a powder coating machine, we will start doing all the powder coating ourselves. Currently, there are two builders on staff, my brother John and myself.

The production phase of our pedals works like an assembly line. First we aquire the enclosures and all the materials. We measure out the enclosures, drill them, and ship them out to be powder coated and silk screened. Once that is done we populate all the circuit boards. And finally, once the circuit boards are all complete, the pedals are assembled and handwired one at a time. After they're assembled, each pedal is thoroughly tested and inspected. Then they're each given a serial number, boxed and then they're ready to be shipped out to our customers and dealers.

How important is the look of your pedals?

We consider the look of our pedals to be important, but not as important as the way our pedals sound. We want MegaTone Pedals to be known for the great sounds our pedals produce, not so much for the cosmetics of our pedals.

Is parts selection important?

Yes, we pay extra special attention to the parts we use. The components are the most important thing. If you use crappy components, you're gonna get a crappy sound. Our resistors are custom made for us from a big resistor manufacturer in China, all our resistors are 1/8 watt metal film with a 1 percent tolerance. We use high quality polypropylene film capacitors that are specifically made for audio applications. The electrolytic capacitors we use are either Nichicon or Lelon caps, and we only buy capacitors that have a very long load life to ensure a long lasting circuit. When it comes to IC's and transistors, we favor Texas Instruments and Fairchild Semiconductor components. Our potentiometers are made by Alpha. Other brands we favor are Kemet, Panasonic, Vishay, Xicon and a few other brands. We only buy the best components from the best manufacturers when building our pedals, it plays a huge role in how our pedals will sound. Like I said, the parts we use play an extremely important role in how our pedals will sound.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

Our most popular pedal so far is the Classic Overdrive. One of the things that makes this pedal stand out is its tone. The Classic Overdrive is a faithful recreation of the original Ibanez TS-808. A lot of our customers have been telling us that it sounds better than the real thing, and it does! The high quality components we use in the circuit make for superior sound and clarity that the real TS-808 can never come close to producing.

The Classic Overdrive performs exceptionally well at emulating the sounds of an overdriven tube amp. It can make any solid-state amplifier sound like a real tube amp, producing warm overdriven tones and adding that great "color" which most guitarists seek from their amplifiers. The creamy overdrive this pedal produces is just pure bliss. It can go from a rich and creamy tone, to all out raunchy loudness.

Another thing that makes this pedal stand out is its beautiful paint and decal design. The color of the pedal is vintage racing green with a starlight sparkle finish. And the decal design (along with the paint) gives this pedal a real classy look. We even added the old Boss-style knobs to give it a more vintage look and feel. In all I think the cosmetics of this pedal has a beautiful look to it, but what really makes this pedal stand out is the awesome sounds it produces. The way our pedals sound is much more important than how they look.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

Not really. We don't build pedals for any single style or genre of music... Although we've only released two pedals so far, we will be designing and building many more pedals in the near future, and we hope that these new pedals will appeal to a wide variety of genres and musical styles.

We have several notable artists endorsing our pedals...

One artist who endorses us is Micky James. Micky is a song writer, producer/engineer, musician and actor. He is most widely known for the music included in the hit television show "Criss Angel Mindfreak," which was writen and produced by Mick James, Criss Angel and Jonathan Davis (KORN). He also writes and produces tons of music for many different television shows. He owns his own recording studio, which is called "Freedom of Speech Studios."

Todd Mendieta is another artist who endorses our pedals. He is an extremely talented guitarist and song writer. He recently became a member of a group called "The Hard rock Allstars". This group is comprised of members from the bands Ratt (Juan Croucier) and Black 'N Blue (Jamie St. James & Pete Holmes). Todd has been hailed as the next big thing to hit the music scene since Van Halen, Vai, Satriani, and heroes of the likes.

Another endorsee of ours is guitar aficionado Rob Carlton. Rob is a veteran in the indie music scene. He has opened for and toured with such acts as: Cinderella, Zebra and The Blue Oyster Cult. Rob has layed down some of the coolest guitar tracks that are no doubt making Jimi Hendrix roll over in his grave. His solo album "Seven Thunders" is an incredible album which showcases Robs musical talents and song writing abilities.

We have also been in close contact with Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal (Guns 'N Roses), Richie Kotzen (ex-Poison guitarist) and Richie Castallano (Blue Oyster Cult) about endorsing our pedals, and it is extremely likely that they will be endorsing our line of pedals in the very near future.

MegaTone Pedals The TrooperWhat does the future of MegaTone Pedals look like?

The current state of Megatone Pedals is trying to keep up with demand. Our pedals will soon be available in local music stores in and around the New York City area as well as around the country, and soon they will be available on websites such as Pro Guitar Shop, Musician's Friend, as well as several other well known online music equipment retailers.

We plan on releasing a large line of FX pedals in the upcoming months and years. Some of our future pedals include a large variety of overdrive, fuzz and distortion pedals. We will also be releasing many other effects as well, such as: chorus pedals, delays, flangers, phasers, reverbs, compressors, wahs, octavers...Well, you get the idea. We will be designing and building them all. Our main focus and goal is to manufacture high quality boutique pedals for our customers at affordable prices.

In the future we are starting a "custom pedals department" on our website where our customers can have pedals built just for them. You can either choose from one of our existing pedals to have customized with paint, graphics and circuit modifications, or, we can build you the pedal of your dreams. We can combine two-three different circuits into one box with custom paint and graphics if you'd like. Rarely does the everyday musician have the chance to have a unique stompbox built just for them!

Are you working on any new products?

We are currently designing our next pedal which is a heavily modified version of our Classic Overdrive. This new pedal will be equipped with an infamous Baxandall active 3-band tone control circuit. It will also have a separate, silicon-based boost channel. It will also feature a selector switch, with the flip of this switch, you're able to choose between overdrive and distortion. So this pedal will pretty much be an overdrive and distortion pedal built into one unit. Another thing this pedal will feature is an FET based "pre-gain" control knob.

This new pedal will have a total of 8 controls and two switches, all built into a single 1610 size enclosure. We are hoping to put this pedal into production within the next couple of months.

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