It’s been a busy period for us all at Wampler, and it’s fair to say we have had some unforeseen challenges, so I thought I would treat you to a collection of my unfettered ramblings in one easily digestible blog article. I shall make no reference to the “events” of this year save to say we have now shifted our entire production from our previous factory to an all new, more efficiently laid-out manufacturing facility. It’s situated not too far from our previous factory and production is hitting new highs.

Earlier this year we released a new Artist Signature pedal, the Andy Wood Gearbox Dual Overdrive, so here is a potted history, and also a view on some of the hugely frustrating supply issues we have been facing. Brian started talking with Andy a few years back about a dual pedal that would suit his needs, something that gave him two very important gain stages, and he has had a prototype of this pedal on his board for some time. It’s no secret that a fair chunk of his previous (and totally excellent) album “Junktown” was recorded with this prototype pedal, and it was definitely “the industry’s biggest open secret” for a long time before we released it. The architecture is based around two of our most popular pedals to date – the Pinnacle on the left side and the Tumnus on the right side. Both circuits were tweaked a little to Andy’s tastes giving these a unique flavor. He wanted a pedal that was super simple to get good sounds out of – so we engineered it pretty much so that if you dialed all the knobs up at the 12 o’clock position this pedal would sound great through pretty much any rig.

We had to tweak the circuits a little, for example altering the volume taper of the Tumnus, and we had to add something we hadn’t done before in a production pedal –  a dynamic noise gate on the Pinnacle side. I haven’t always been a fan of noise gates, all the ones I had tried previously on pedals had been of the “create massive chug here” variety, essentially binary switches, and therefore basically killed my tone dead after activation. This is very different and operates in a more progressive fashion. The detection and gating circuits sit at different parts of the signal chain which allows a fantastic level of control. You can go from “please remove 60 cycle hum” to “You sure you shouldn’t be playing an acoustic here, Bub?” with a swift rotation of the controller. If you’ve not tried a dual pedal with a noise gate before I highly recommend you test this feature out. Preferably on a very loud tube amp through a 4×12.

The other feature we have implemented with this pedal is a new improved pedal order switching system. We have 2 inputs and 2 outputs allowing you to connect either both channels independently with 4 cables (to a looper for example, or to two amps), or you can just use a two cable method and go in on the right and out on the left to connect both channels as you would a normal pedal. What’s different here is that if you use the aforementioned two cable method, the order switch allows you to switch the order of both channels without any recabling. With the dual inputs and outputs you can also “insert” a pedal (or a chain of pedals) in the middle of both channels if you wanted. Andy does this often and to great effect; it sounds particularly sweet with a compressor or another light gain pedal inbetween…and yes, another Tumnus sounds superb.

So that’s my sales pitch done, but what about the design process for this pedal? Well I started working on this pedal about 2 years ago with Jason and Alex, and of course Andy Wood, and it has been quite the journey to say the least. Brian and our engineering team had got the design very close to perfection in the prototype that Andy was using, but there were a few extra tweaks we had to make. The name for the pedal was chosen by Andy because he is a massive car nut, and also because it was literally the “box of gear” he needed to get to his sound. We could hear the wry smile in his voice when he thought it up. Jason and I loved it straight away – it just seemed to work so well with Andy’s personality and his dry sense of humour – and thus for once we had come up with a name without weeks of agonising over hidden meanings and potential copyright infringements. Andy also wanted the pedal to reflect his home sports team colours, grey and orange, and to use a high end automotive style of paint finish. Originally we went for a grey finish with orange paint, but Andy wanted it flipped, so we found a suitable metallic orange flake, something like you would find on prestigious supercars, and we were set to make test prints.

Now a few people on the internet have commented on how the background graphic is not accurate as it is not a “gearbox” – it is in fact an engine block blueprint. We know. Trust me, we tried all forms of gearboxes, cases, gears, axles – none looked as good to us as the engine block in blueprint form. We have also expanded on how we do our labelling to try and make it as easy as possible to hook up our pedals – with a dual channel pedal it’s now easier to find the single cable input and output now as we use the solid triangle icons to denote the primary path and the outlined triangles for the second set of ins / outs. We also dimmed those LEDS a little as per Andy’s request, and of course we went for high quality knurled metal knobs for the controls. Feedback to these subtle improvements and the product as a whole have been universally positive so expect to see these standards continue and grow with our pedal range. 

The launch was successful, actually almost too successful, and we sold out our initial production run within a matter of days. Now that may seem like a nice problem to have, but we then got hit terribly by pandemic related parts shortages. If you listen to the Chasing Tone Podcast, or indeed follow the news, it should come as no surprise that there have been industry wide shortages, nay global shortages, of certain components. Processors, op-Amps, digital controllers, knobs, switches, magic unicorn diodes, goatfeed etc. have all been subject to a shortage in supply, which has left us fighting against global giants of industry and indeed aerospace for key components. The net result is we have not been able to build any more Gearboxes for some time, but I believe that is about to ease up as one of the key components is now coming back into stock, but it has been one heck of a struggle to keep the supply lines moving this year. You may be lucky and find one in a retail store of course, but they have proved incredibly popular so we cannot get them back in stock fast enough – I assure you we are trying.

It was also a massive pleasure of course to welcome Andy Wood onboard as a signature artist for Wampler Pedals. Junktown is one of my favourite albums for some time as I hinted above, and Andy is a fantastic artist and utter monster player who I can only see going from strength to strength. I was lucky to have a one-to-one lesson with him and his attitude and approach to playing is as natural and musically brilliant as you would expect, all delivered with his trademark humor and easy going nature. I urge you to go check out his patreon and if you get a chance to go and see him play live, definitely do not hesitate!

Which brings me neatly onto what else we’ve been up to…well, sort of. I’m not going to give away what we’ve got up our sleeve just yet, there are a lot of moving components (literally not just metaphorically) but I have been playing with no less than five prototype pedals for a while and I love each and every one of them. I love them so much. In fact when our top engineer Jake asked for one of the units back to adjust it a little I flat refused as I can no longer live without it in my signal chain. I expect releases will be imminent but as with everything else this year, we are at the whim of parts supply, and we are not alone, but I am definitely confident that some very exciting products will be dropping soon. Yes there will be more gain pedals, but there will also be so much more. We’ve completed a huge amount of product development in the last 18 months and I think it is safe to say that the next 18 months will be a rather special period for tone chasing.