Recently, I took a trip out to Death By Audio effects in NYC. I’ve long been a fan of their pedals. They’re always made effects that are left of center. As a company, I feel they’ve never wanted to make traditional pedals. Which is welcomed considering how many companies make their own version of a tube screamer or tape echo. Yawn.
Death by Audio is a company for those that want to disrupt the time continuum of guitar tone. It’s not about what has been done, but what can be done. A constant evolution of the devolution of guitar tone. They’re an extremely creative company.
This became even more apparent when I visited their manufacturing, shipping and creative home base.
When I walked in and was greeted by Trevor Johnson (DBA know it all) , it was pretty clear they have a family vibe. They’re a small business built on people that enjoy the field they’re working in.
Being there definitely makes you understand the work that goes into making a pedal. This is something I think a lot of people lose perspective of.
At Death By Audio, every stage of production is performed by a human. And there are actually quite a few stages to making a pedal.
As you can see in this picture, here is Chris wiring up some new ….. pedals…
Pedals are not being spun off an assembly line from start to finish in 15 minutes. It takes real human labor.
Money, Money, Money, Money
I do hear a lot of musicians complain about the price of pedals (and all gear). Who doesn’t like to save money? Everyone! But, not all price is hype. Yes, there are definitely pedals that are pretty easy to make and there is a huge markup.
But, there are a lot pedals without inflated prices. In fact, some companies may choose to stop manufacturing a pedal because of the intense labor. By the time they would charge the amount in labor, the street price would be too high.
There tends to be a little irony in this. I’ve seen companies charge over $500 for a simple Tonebender circuit. Where Death By Audio charges around $300-$350 for pedals that are much more labor intensive.
When you deal with small builders, there is much more of a personal connection. They tend to be deeply invested into their products. If you need a repair or have questions, you won’t be shuffled around and get inconclusive answers. They know about every pedal they’ve ever made.
Death By Audio is the brainchild of Oliver Ackerman from the band A Place To Bury Strangers.
It makes sense that a musician is the brainchild of this company. He’s clearly taking chances while exploring what we know of as guitar tone. And I should also mention DBA pedals also sound great on other sources, like keyboards, bass and even drums/drum machines.
I was first drawn to Death By Audio when I wanted to make my guitar sound NOT like a regular electric guitar. With pedals like the Robot to eh Evil Filter, you can do that. These pedals weren’t made for your conservative aunts summer BBQ gig.
Oliver appears to be constantly thinking up new ideas. I spotted this is the rehearsal room.
It appears to be a one of a kind something or another…. Rumor was it was some kind of Marshall JCM combined with other custom made effects.
DBA make pedals that are meant to be tweaked. This accounts for the size of some of them. A lot of their pedals have larger knobs and aren’t the most pedalboard friendly boxes.
Death By Audio pedals are really like instruments though. Fo instance, even though I can use an expression pedal to tweak the filter range on the Evil Filter, I often like to tweak other options with my fingers.
You can often find me on the studio with the pedal on my desk twiddling with the knobs at will. This simply wouldn’t be as fun with a small pedal. Their pedals encourage engagement.
Let’s Take a Tour
Here is an Absolute Destruction Pedal being built. This is a brand new pedal from Death By Audio.
Here is Chris putting the Absolute Destruction pedals together.
Here you can see some boards that are prepped and ready for installation.
This is a screen printing desk which also houses pedals once some of the pots and switches have been installed.
This is a rare Crush Modulator Death By Audio pedal that was sent in for repair.
The inventory room supervisor observing operations.
It was a really cool experience visiting DBA. It just highlights the fact that people that make pedals are into pedals and sounds. They’re into it just as much as you are.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go scare the @#%& out of my neighbors with some Death By Audio tones.
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