[interview] Satellite Amplifiers: Adam Grimm

Here's FXDB's interview with Adam Grimm of Satellite Amplifiers:

How did Satellite Amplifiers start?

We've been a business for about 7 years now. We started doing one off pedals pretty early on. About a year or so into the company. The first one was actually built for a good friend, Brad Davis (Creepy Fingers Effects). It is a true tube preamp pedal. That was done by me. A lot of the designs have come from customer requests.

Where do the name and logo come from?

When my partner and I built the first amp, we needed a logo for the amp. I used to build hot rods and had a spare Plymouth Satellite logo, and we used it on the front of the amp.

After we used the car logo for the first amp, I realized that it was a great sounding name. One of my best friends is a graphic designer and I had him create a new logo with the old Plymouth version as inspiration.

What sets Satellite Amplifiers apart from other builders?

I feel that there are a few things that set us apart from others. First off is our dedication to tone. We truly are constantly searching for better and better tone. We don't compromise for anyone or anything. We set our standards extremely high for the sonic qualities of our products. When we are talking about a tone, or a style of a product, we use real examples. For instance, if we are using a SuperFuzz as an example, we have multiple real ones to pull out and hear the sonic qualities of, rather than just a clone made by a schematic that someone found online. Our manufacturing process is slow, due to the nature of our perfectionistic ears. Can't rush that. Occasionally we get a customer in a rush, and we have learned to actually pass on those customers. We'd rather have it sound good rather than done in a time frame.

How do you start on a new pedal?

This can be any number of things. Sometimes it is a client coming to us with a specific request. Sometimes it is one of our own ideas. The process tends to have a flow to it. With a customer coming to us, we try to discuss it with them a few times, and get a feel for what it is that they are looking for. Then we try to isolate the parameters of the device, so that they is some bit of variable that can be dialed in. Then we start to build. Once we get a prototype that we feel is close, we usually let the customer test drive on their own for a bit, and then we go back to make any revisions until everyone is happy. For something that is one of our own ideas, the prototype flow can be any number of things. Sometimes it is very specific, sometimes not so much. Some have been built on the fly with no thought in advance, some have been drawn out on paper half a dozen times before a soldering iron is even picked up.

How do you name your pedals?

Everything we build has a story behind its name. The Eradicator pedal was taken from a Kids in the Hall episode, and it seemed fitting for the pedal. The story behind the pedal was a little like this:

A friend of mine (Brad Davis, Creepy Fingers Effects), noticed that a certain brand of amplifier was making some of his fuzz pedals not sound great. He asked me to make him a tube preamp to try in front of the amp to see if the impedance of the first gain stage was what was messing with his pedals (it was). I made the most over the top, screaming tube pedal I possibly could. I handed it to him, knowing that the amount of gain in the tube pedal would completely overshadow any fuzz pedal. (match that up with the Kids in the Hall skit, and it makes a bit more sense).

Can you tell us something about the production process?

Everything we do is in-house. There are currently four of us total in house.

Pedals made by us come in a variety of processes. Everything is hand wired. Our tube pedals are all done point to point. Production pedals usually start off as a point to point, then we burn our own boards for short runs.

Mostly we use Hammond style enclosures, but occcasionally use found object style stuff. Some are spray painted, some crinkled, some stenciled, some hand painted, some are doodled.

How important is the look of your pedals?

Not as important as the sound.

Is parts selection important?

I do. I pay a lot of attention to making sure to use parts that sound good. There is no absolute about parts brands, or vintageness.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

The Eradicator pedal. It's a tube preamp in a stomp box. It's a high voltage device, not just something with a tube stuck in it for looks. It is about as over the top of a pedal as can possibly be. There is nothing like it.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

Toughest recent one was a sludge metal fuzz pedal built for a customer. Getting fuzz to work good at subsonic droning levels was very difficult.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

Depends on who you ask. This is something that changes with the wind.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

We make pedals for people who want to sound good. I know that sounds generic, but we are not specifically genre oriented. We do cater to people that are more interested in how they sound, rather than what other people on the internet tell them they should sound like.

What does the future of Satellite Amplifiers look like?

Short term goals include continuing the path we are on. We are planning on restarting pedal design and are bringing out a few new ones this year.

We constantly focus on creating the best sound products we can.

Are you working on any new products?

Yes I am, and no I won't tell. That would ruin the surprise. I like surprises. I dislike telling people a new product is coming out and then having people constantly ask about when it is coming out. It's not fair to the customer, and it gets a bit frustrating for me.

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