Here's FXDB's interview with Nick Williams of Williams Audio:
How did Williams Audio start?
I have been collecting pedals since around 1984, and many I bought were broken and I had no engineer locally who would fix them, so I slowly taught myself the skills. I also studied electrical engineering and worked many years for a BBC engineer who taught me all the skills from the past. I am a semi-pro musician too and play live many times so I started first building pedals for me and local musicians. As I have many originals, I could see that many expensive clones were built wrong so I knew I could do much better.
I am just inspired by the builders from the past who discovered all these sounds and circuits. Electro-Harmonix are a big influence, and also Sola Sound and all those guys from many years ago. The only modern builder to inspire me is Dave Fox (Foxrox). Amazing builder and designer, no-one else comes close.
Not very exciting story, but the name is from my own name and I used the word 'Audio' instead of 'Pedals' so I can diversify into new audio areas.
The logo / banner on the website shows electrical sparks, soldering iron and an anvil. I liked the feel of the powerful elements coming together. Also the anvil reminds me of Judas Priest, my favorite band :D
What sets Williams Audio apart from other builders?
Every order is special. I do not mass build in advance but treat every one individually. I talk to customers and will make little tweaks they might want. Also, I price as low as I can, although the vintage parts are now very expensive, I still want everyone to afford nice gear. When I was young, I had no money and everything was so expensive. I like to try and help other guitarists where I can.
I hunt for all vintage parts so when I build vintage pedals they are as close as I can do. I love all the big, 50 year old caps and weird old parts. They add magic to a circuit.
How do you start on a new pedal?
Sometimes I am asked many times for a certain model, like recently the Colorsound Boost. I trust no schematics online, so I strip my originals down and draw my own plans. I then try to source parts as close to the originals as I can. After that I sit for many hours wondering how it will all fit in a box!
I had a couple very funny names early on but a couple religious guys said that they weren't very happy with them haha! The Beck-Ola is a tribute to Jeff Beck of course.
Can you tell us something about the production process?
All built in-house. I am the staff :D
- Circuits: Hand-wired and etched PCB for certain types
- Enclosures: Bought
- Painting: Hand painted, decals and soon screen printed
How important is the look of your pedals?
I am not a fan of pretty pictures of pedals, it seems a bit silly! I like simple and smart and easy to use. My pedals go on tours, so need to be tough and reliable.
Is parts selection important?
Part selection is VERY important. Many hours spent searching for NOS parts and these parts are getting really expensive now. I will not use cheap parts, that's a bad thing to do. I hope that the parts I use will still be traveling the world in 500 years!
I am proud of my MkII Tonebenders, especially the model with OC81d Mullards. I have heard so many bad ones that cost so much, people copy a schematic without ever playing an original. Nearly all parts in my MkII's are from the '60's and I take so much time matching and testing everything. The feedback from customers is just amazing. Having Ben King from The Yardbirds as a user is just also really great.
Which of your pedals was your toughest build?
Man, it is so hard to make the simple FZ-1 sound accurate. So many people get it wrong, too much fuzz, wrong tones.
Which of your pedals is the most popular?
My MkII Tonebenders. I think it stands out due to the amount of time I spend sourcing parts, matching parts and testing, testing, testing!
Who uses your pedals and for which genres?
I make for anyone, any style, who has a sound they wish to achieve.
I have built for several top session guys is the US and a few studios over there. Aside from The Yardbirds' Ben King, yes there a few more of my MkII's and Rangers in the hands of some notable artists :)
What does the future of Williams Audio look like?
Several new ideas I'm hoping to bring shortly. Also looking into building small, 1 Watt Tube amps.
Are you working on any new products?
Well the Beck-Ola is taking forever but will be there soon. Also my version of the Dharma Sound Phaser is slowly developing, such a magical phaser.