[interview] SmrckaEffects: Jaroslav Smrčka

Here's FXDB's interview with Jaroslav Smrčka of SmrckaEffects:

How did SmrckaEffects start?

My original profession is sales and service of medical electronics. But for about 30 years I play guitar in different bands. In the late eighties I built guitar valve amplifiers and boxes. With my friend we did about 30 mini stacks and successfully sold them. With the money we earned with that we acquired a recording studio. That was the big school of sound for me. At that time I played humbucker type guitars without any effects, the guitar was plugged straight into the amplifier. Later I started playing Stratocasters and Telecasters with single coil pickups too. It was impossible to play these types of guitar to the same type of set-up like humbucker guitars so I started experimenting with various guitar effects.

I remember my first overdrive pedal Boss OD-1 had a "creamy" sound, while the Ibanez Tube Screamer had a more tight sound... But I was not satisfied with the sound of the bypass with electronic switching components. This time it was necessary to improve something and I built my first clone of Tube Screamer with mechanical switching (True Bypass). It was the beginning of a long way of searching particular improvements of different guitar effects. After a while my friends guitarists asked me to do similar things for them like I did for myself.

The next step was the development of my own effects...

I have to thank my friends for helping me with my production. Mechanical parts, boxes and metal labels, logo etc aren't done by me but in different places by different persons. At the same time I would like to thank all effects and amplifiers builders in our region. We often have discussions about technical solutions of many different problems and help each other.

Because I like vintage analog components in up-to-date connections/schematics, I like all manufacturers of analog guitar effects with the same philosophy. I try to learn from every good effect to get some new ideas to improve my own production...

Where do the name and logo come from?

SmrckaEffects made of 2 words: my last name "Smrčka" and "effects".

Smrcka is Czech for spruce tree. I like to walk in woods and across hills very much. So my friend Lukáš Rufer designed the logo with a spruce tree in the center of a circle with the slogan "Inspired by trees..." underneath.

What sets SmrckaEffects apart from other builders?

  1. I guarantee the quality of every one product myself.
  2. My own unique design.

How long does it take to develop a new pedal?

It depends on the complexity of the circuit. In some case a month or two in the other a year or two. But on an average 3-4 month.

How do you name your pedals?

The Driver T613 TB was named after the Tatra T613 car. It has 8 valves and a 3,5 liter engine and my father worked in development section of Tatra in the 60´s and worked on the development of steering and chassis of this car. I named the pedal Driver T613 as a tribute to Tatra and my father's work...

Can you tell us something about the production process?

For now I do the production of the electronics on my own, but I'm looking to work with contractors in the future.

All SmrckaEffects products are analog with classic components. No SMD! I use many of NOS components like Panasonic film+foil capacitors, old metal can BC type transistors, Toshiba NOS diodes in overdive circuits, Toshiba original transistors, etc.

All effects are hand soldered, hand built and designed inside only by me. I use one side PCBs with wide tracks and true bypass switching. Jacks and switches are connected by solid core 0,8mm Cu wire.

The majority of my effects enclosures (except TB switching boxes - Hammond) are custom made from brushed stainless steel (inox) cut by laser with powder painted metal labels on top.

How important is the look of your pedals?

I think a lot. That's why I use custom and expensive enclosures...

Is parts selection important?

Yes, I tried so many types of capacitors, so many types of IC´s and transistors, diodes, mechanical parts,...

My favorite capacitors are Panasonic NOS film+foil, carbon composite AB NOS resistors in special positions, Toshiba 1s1588 NOS diodes in overdrive positions, WIMA MKS-4 capacitors for bigger values and in some equalization positions, original Toshiba transistors, NOS BC transistors in chorus, HQ IC? in "clean'" positions in compressor and chorus, etc.

I put big emphasis on choice of components!

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

I don´t know... :-)

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

My overdrives pedals are in my opinion best for use with one channel valve amplifiers and single coil pickups. But certainly work good in different setups too. The other types of effects like compressor, chorus etc are designed to work good in all situations. I try to make my effects different. Effects often use exceptional/rare components, but the main requirement for me is quality of sound.

There are some notable artists using my effects, but only here in the Czech republic. In the future I would like to make some pedals for foreign notable artists too...

What does the future of SmrckaEffects look like?

I would like to complete the development of my "Intelligent Memory True Bypass Strip/Switcher" this year and make a few of them... :-)

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