[interview] Poly Sound: Jason Matthew Berger

Here's FXDB's interview with Jason Matthew Berger of Poly Sound:

How did Poly Sound start?

I've always had a passion for music...I (Jason) started playing guitar when I was 12 years old in the early 90's, had a few bands, recorded and produced a few albums...Then in 1999 I decided that I wanted to study Sound Engineering, so I did...I learned mostly about recording techniques, music theory, and basic electronics, but I've always enjoyed making my own things, so once I learned the basics, there was no stopping me...By the year 2000 I had become some what of a gear freak, and started a very big pedal collection...I started realizing how some pedals sounded better than others etc...So by 2004 I decided to buy more books on electronics and just started reading, experimenting, and learning from there...

In 2005 I made my first successful distortion pedal, called "Cheese Box", though it sounded good, I still wasn't satisfied... I wanted to make the best distortion box I could possibly make, so I made sure to use only the best parts for my pedals, no matter the cost, because good tone is worth every penny...

In 2008, after a few years of experimenting and learning along the way, I came up with the "Dirty Trick" and "Miss Nasty", a couple of overdrive/distortion circuits that I am proud of... Once I came up with these circuits I discontinued the Cheese Box pedal, because it just wasn't up to par anymore... I would buy the best OD pedals available, boutique and mainstream, just to compare with my own circuits, and to this day I haven't found any that actually sound better, I won't mention any names, but trust me, in my collection of almost a 100 pedals, I have about 30 different Overdrive and Distortion pedals to compare with.

The "Dirty Trick" became my favorite pedal for light overdrive and the "Miss Nasty" became by favorite pedal for heavier distortion without sounding muddy... Both circuits sound like amplifier overdrives, especially running them on 18 Volts, the string balance and headroom sounds great... So, I started using both pedals with my band, and since they sounded so good, I ended up selling a few of these to other musicians...

Then I realized, why don't I just build both of these pedals into one box, so I did... That's when the "Nasty Trick" was born (2009), basically the Dirty Trick and Miss Nasty connected in parallel... You can use them separately or together, and since they are wired in parallel rather than in series it became a 3rd distortion adding character and dynamics from both circuits...

Since then I have modified the circuits even more to my liking... In 2011 I decided to make the Nasty Trick even more versatile than it already was, by replacing the "Tone" pot with a "Bass" & "Treble" pot, and replacing a few internal parts... It started as a "Nasty Trick Deluxe", which later in 2011, I decided to change the name of the new Nasty Trick Deluxe to "Bela Jane"... To this day, since I am a one man operation, with a band, a daughter, and a full time job in a family business music store, I make my pedals to order, with a wait time of 4 - 6 weeks at least.

When I was in the learning process I would have a few old friends who studied electronics but only dedicated their time to repairing rather than building their own effects, but they would always help me when I had some kind of electronic theory questions etc...

Where does the name come from?

Their are two reasons for the name Poly Sound... The first being that "Poly" means more than one sound, the second reason is because I (Jason) have my own independent Rock band since 2003 named "Polyphase", so anything I make is usually used in my band, which makes "Poly Sound" an appropriate name as well.

What sets Poly Sound apart from other builders?

What sets Poly Sound apart from many others, is that money isn't an issue to consider in the process of making the best pedal possible... If you want the best it will always cost more to make... I don't live from my pedal building, I let my passion for good tone build the pedals... This is why Poly Sound pedals are mainly made to order and may seem pricey to some, but what many don't consider is the amount of work and time it takes to make a pedal, and using the best components is a must in my book... I want to produce the best pedals possible... I'm not trying to compete with anyone price wise... They either work for you or they don't... It isn't easy to purchase a Poly Sound pedal, since they are made by one person in such a small country like Panama.

How do you name your pedals?

My latest pedal "Bela Jane" was named after my baby daughter.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

All Poly Sound pedals are built by me (Jason Matthew Berger) at my studio in the Republic of Panama. Many of the parts and components used are ordered from the U.S.

All Poly Sound pedals are hand-wired with the best parts, including metal film caps, silver mica caps, metal film resistors, switchcraft jacks, true-bypass switches, die-cast aluminum or stainless steel enclosures with a powder coat finish and screen printing, which is protected by a clear coat of powder...

The end product is very heavy-duty and top notch... So, a lot of TLC goes into each and every pedal, for the best quality and fidelity possible. Also, since most pedals are made to order, custom colors are available.

How important is the look of your pedals?

Since Poly Sound pedals are completely handmade and hand-wired, they should look handmade, with minor imperfections, because like a painting, each pedal is a work of art created by a human being.

Is parts selection important?

I am very selective with the parts and components I use in my pedals... I only use the best for each application.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

The Bela Jane is my pride and joy, not just because it's named after my daughter, but because it has my two best circuits fully modified up to date... 

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

The most popular Poly Sound pedal has been the Nasty Trick, but only because the new modified Nasty Trick (Bela Jane) is still new. They have been the most popular pedals because they sound amazing and are probably among the most versatile amp-like overdrive/distortions available...

Remember, these two pedals are like having three different sounding overdrive/distortions in one box... So, it's a 3 in 1 deal.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

My pedals are for any guitarist still searching for the perfect overdrive pedal, and are especially nice for collectors since they are somewhat rare, being that less than 100 have been made.

Ae you working on any new products?

I do have a few new ideas in the works, but have no idea when they will be finished.

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