[interview] Viva Analog: Jean-Charles Maillet

Here's FXDB's interview with Jean-Charles Maillet of Viva Analog:

How did Viva Analog start?

I moved to Vancouver in the early 90's, and there wasn't anybody doing custom audio gizmos at the time // word got around after doing a few pieces for fun... such novelties as Univibe clones built into Dunlop Cry-Baby wah shells... I did a few of those

Where do the name and logo come from?

I have an interest in the role that Analogies play, not just in science and engineering... audio electronics started out as a teacher as far as circuit design goes and I guess the name aims to celebrate these realms...

I like things simple, I have been using the Arnold Böcklin font for years now... Erno Vuori drew up a modern logo for me and I used it on the "Octave Amp" pedal.

What sets Viva Analog apart from other builders?

Prior studies in Mathematics may have shaped my perception of Engineering theory. Strangely, my circuit musings sometimes seem to consist of ways of exploressing how closely one can bring pure and applied theories together... that's why you're likely to see "spec matching", "parametric tweaking" and the like in some of my stuff... you also tend to see a tendency towards DC-coupling, use of current mirrors in unusual places, novel uses of LED's for performance visuals, differential pop-less switching indicators, etc...

How do you start on a new pedal?

A lot of it is just making a rounder wheel // and strangely I have to admit it's often a process of linear thinking... it can be about perceiving missed opportunities in other people's designs, typical inventor syndrome... questioning design trends carefully... Sometimes it comes as a specific request or provocation from a third party... it varies, sometimes it's triggered by a series of remarks read somewhere in a chat room, etc...Viva Analog Octave Amp

How long it takes to finish a pedal depends... The longest took 5 months (Octave Amp) only because other folks were involved which was a new thing for me to handle.

How do you name your pedals?

No strange names, but the graphics on top of my Octave Amp are somewhat humorous and suggestive...

Can you tell us something about the production process?

Mostly everything is 100% hand-assembled by me, including proto-PCB making...

Boxes and boards were contracted out on my Octave Amp. I use both pro-made and hand-made PCB's for one-offs and evolving circuitry.

The enclosures are custom-made steel and aluminum boxes, currently laser etched (previously iron-on transfer decal and lacquer).

How important is the look of your pedals?

at this point the main thing for me is functionality and durability... lasered metal is working good for me right now, it's the cheapest and most durable... and somewhat greener than using lacquer and plastics

Viva Analog Mu3Is parts selection important?

Component matching is crucial in some key places, that will happen in some of my designs. Special parts do occur, but only rarely if their performance specs are desired (eg., the fast Silonex NSL32-SR3). I think a winning design involves making good "topological" choices, ones that leads to excellent performance even when embodying with common grade parts... of course, capacitors and iron are the typically the exception in some cases... otherwise, I like to use a less-is-more philosophy, as in the SRV Special re-design where I simply removed a couple of coupling caps in the signal path to get a slightly more penetating response...

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

The "Nyquist Aliaser" is pretty cool example of communication theory rule breaking... its follow-up, the "Bleeding Aliaser", makes use of a nifty idea to null-out clock feed-through... Both are innovative designs... My "MOJO Booster" replicates the dynamic transfer of a common-cathode Triode gain stage... That's a pretty interesting idea also...

And then my upcoming DIY projects:

  • compact Mu3 auto-filter kit with my custom mods
  • Super MOJO feedback inducer kit
  • SV45 high headroom studio quality Stereo-Vibe kit...
And more... challenging DIY stuff on the horizon...

My first Stereo-Vibe made up of two anti-phase LFO networks driven by Bulb circuits was a real challenge to put together, and so was the Mother filter...

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

Probably, my first Opto-Vibe and the Monster Filter with ramp-noise S/H circuit... Though the "Bleeding Aliaser" was a bitch to get right, especially considering equal parasitic artifacts from two different devices needed cancelling...

Which of your pedals is the most popular?Viva Analog Opto-Vibe

My 360+ Pro Bass Preamp is the one I've sold most of... The compact size and slightly upgraded signal path is appealing to players who seek that sort of vintage response...

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

I'll admit I enjoy crafting sound toys for players who are engaged in making good art... what one player does with them versus another is random... my circuits typically aim to produce conservatively enhanced "classics" or new renditions of pure math ideas, that's where I hang...

Are you working on any new products?

I'm protyping v1.0 and v2.0 MOJO Boosters at the moment... and coming out with my modded version of the MutronIII filter as a full DIY kit, lasered box, parts and all... I've got a few beta testers on those right now // if there's any interest I'll keep going... :)~.

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