[interview] [sfx] / sfx sound: Max Greco

Here's FXDB's interview with Max Greco of [sfx] / sfx sound:

How did [sfx] / sfx sound start?

I studied electronics and I play a musical instrument so starting a company dealing with electronics and music is not entirely surprising. :)

I started [sfx] in February 2009 as a one man company, it's just me working at [sfx]. I don’t have any short term plans to change the company structure.

I don’t think I can point to a single person as inspiration or help, but I received a lot of help and inspiration from technical forums, musician forums and my customers - I still do every day.

One source of inspiration has been Roger Sadowsky. He probably doesn’t remember but we met in Milan in Italy probably around 15 years ago. [sfx] wasn’t even in my wildest dream. We were in a music shop and the local distributor asked him if he could build more basses as they were in great demand. He answered “I don’t want to build more basses; I want to build better basses”. This simple answer was a summary of everything I think is important in any business: quality, work ethic, respect for the customers, search of perfection and personal satisfaction. I will never forget what Roger said but if he read this… thanks Roger!

Where do the name and logo come from?

It comes from a name that I use in various forums: "Silent Fly". Silent Fly Effects, Silent Fly FX, SF FX, [sfx].

The [sfx] logo started with the idea of representing creativity and engineering. The rough characters of sfx represent the creativity and the square brackets the engineering.

What sets [sfx] / sfx sound apart from other builders?

I like to think that everything at [sfx] is a little bit different from any other company.

Customers deal directly with the owner/designer. I don't cut corners just for the sake of saving a few $. I don't have shareholders that complain if they don't see an annual growth. The customer service is the best I can offer.

I have an exceptionally low return rate. Since I started [sfx] I think I had just one return of a customer that preferred not to keep what he ordered. I also had almost no repair requests, probably just 2. Considering that sometimes the products are used in extreme conditions, I am happy with it.

How do you start on a new pedal?

It depends if it is a Custom Shop project or a product.

If it is a Custom Shop project, it starts with a customer’s request and it develops with a series of emails where we fine-tune the requirements. After that, I start the design of the circuit and the enclosure. Once I completed the design, I order the parts I don’t have and when I receive them I build the unit.

For a product the inspiration can come from customers, my personal observations as a musician or from a sound I hear in a song. When I decided what I want to build, I start with a prototype. If it works, I ask for the opinion of a few customers that I know are interested in testing. I often receive constructive feedback to improve the unit and I modify the prototype accordingly.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

With a few exceptions, everything is built in-house. PCB and 19" rack enclosures are produced by external companies.

There isn't anything particularly original in the [sfx] production.

PCB are designed at [sfx] and produced by an external company. They are all double side with ground plane. Apart from some very rare cases, I don’t use perfboards or similar.

I use the best parts I can find. They can be SMD or standard depending what works best.

In the majority of cases, the enclosures are Hammond drilled at [sfx]. For rack units I have them drilled and painted by an external company that works on [sfx] specifications.

In the majority of cases, the PCBs are attached to the enclosure with stainless steel screws.

How important is the look of your pedals?

I think it has its importance but I don't think it is as important as the sound and the usability.

Is parts selection important?

Yes, I think so. I use sound, stability and reliability as the main criteria to select parts.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

In general, Custom Shop projects. They are very challenging and they involve a reasonable amount of risk.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

A Custom Shop project: two channel bass preamp with microprocessor controlled switching.

It was a 2U rack unit with 2 channels, microphone preamplifiers, internal mixer, 3 DI outputs and remote control. The channel switching, mute and mixing is managed by 7 relays controlled by an on-board processor that runs custom software developed by [sfx]. The remote controller also uses a microprocessor that sends messages to the main unit.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

The most successful [sfx] product is the micro-Thumpinator.

I think it stands out for a few reasons. It is original, it is useful, it doesn’t compromise the sound, it is easy to use and it is small.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

No specific genres. My customers play from folk to death metal, from jazz to punk.

No notable artists that I am aware of but, if I did, I'd have to ask their permission before saying it.

I consider artist privacy very important and unless they explicitly authorize me I don't mention them even if it would help the name and reputation of [sfx].

What does the future of [sfx] / sfx sound look like?

In an ideal world, I would like to keep a reasonable balance between products and Custom Shop.

At the moment I am working more on Custom Shop projects the majority of which are for the professional market.

In the short term, I will probably consolidate the current production in fewer products/models removing some products. I would also like to add some clarity to the web site with a more accurate description of the Custom Shop.

Are you working on any new products?

I always work on new ideas but I am afraid I cannot tell you anything about it.

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