SSS caught up with Brad Jetter of Jetter Gear to discuss Jetter effects in detail, what’s in Brad’s guitar rig, what’s on the horizon for Jetter Gear. Learn all about the Jetter Gain Stage Red, Jet Drive, Jetter Vibe and other Jetter effects and in this exclusive interview with Six String Soul.
SSS: Of all the Jetter overdrive pedals in and out of production (Gain Stage Red, Gain Stage Blue, Gain Stage Gold, Gain Stage Purple, Gain Stage Green, GS3, Jet Drive, Helium, and Tritium), can you briefly align each pedal with the type of guitar player/tone-seeker it would fit best?
Jetter: For the past year or so I have been designing the next generation of Jetter Gear pedals. The lineup now consists of the Red Shift, Jetdrive, Helium, Tritium, Vibe and GS3. These pedals offer a broad palette of overdrive from the low gain sweetness of the Helium to higher gain overdrive with the GS3.
I design all of my pedals with live performance in mind. I expect the designs to remain sonically consistent whether it is in front of a gently purring 18 watt amp or a raging 100 watt beast.
I spend most of time testing designs at gig level volumes. In other words, I expect my pedals to really shine on stage. I not only want the player to notice the difference but the audience as well.
Nothing satisfies me more than when I get feedback from a player who tells me that people come up to them after a gig and compliment them on their tone.
SSS: Jetter pedals have become well-known for their stacking capabilities? What are some of your suggested combinations, and order of placement?
Jetter: My philosophy is fairly conventional: the signal path should be from low to high. Start with low gain pedals and finish with higher gain ones. This is my personal preference that is based on my own playing over the years. Of course, ultimately there is no right or wrong way to do it. However, I find that this guideline for stacking greatly lessens the chances of developing a mushy or bloated tone or extreme saturation where the definition and character begins to collapse.
SSS: At the time of this interview, there are very few video demos of the Helium overdrive. The Pro Guitar Shop demo titled “Stones Tribute” lends guitarists to think this pedal is designed to get vintage Tweed tones. The pedal does seem to have somewhat of a bite built into its sound. What other sonic possibilities would you say are possible with this pedal?
Jetter: I thought that demo was very good–I wish I had thought of it! Tweed never came to mind when I was designing the Helium. I was after low gain performance that let as much of the guitar’s character remain intact while subtly embellishing the harmonic overtones. I wanted a pedal that could make an amp really shine by simply giving you “more” amp. Within the upper limits of the Helium’s gain envelope, I realized that some very nice crunchy rhythm tones were coming out as well as that “edge of breakup” lead tone that seems to be so elusive at times.
SSS: The Gain Stage Red has a rather chewy quality to it. Without giving away any secrets, how did you achieve this? Are there any settings that you suggest to get the most of this quality?
Jetter: No secrets really. It is all about what you hear in your head and then try to get the pedal to accomplish it. I think it ultimately comes down to a designer’s ear–it has very little to do with math or circuit theory.
There are so many options to consider and then sift through them to reach your design goal. The individual components all have a sonic character–some more noticeable than others. The most basic component, a resistor for example, can have a slightly different sonic characteristic depending on the manufacturer. Granted, we are talking about very slight differences but when you begin adding together all the different component choices, they start having a significant impact on the final performance.
A specific case in point: Let’s say that you want to use a specific model IC chip. You then realize that there can literally be scores of chips with the same fundamental model designation. Although they are the “same” (for the purposes of this discussion we don’t need to go into the chip subsets) there can be some fairly significant sonic differences.
It gets so crazy that I not only found sonic differences from different manufacturers, I actually found that chips by the same manufacturer can sound different depending on the particular factory they were made at!
It really boils down to the ability to translate what you hear in your head into an actual pedal that achieves it.
First and foremost you must define sonically what it is you want and–very importantly–keep that sound locked in place regardless of how long it takes to achieve it.
I have literally made hundreds of tweaks to certain designs before I finally settled on a production circuit.
It is an exhaustive process but I believe that you have to explore every option in order to find what you do want. Leave no stone unturned.
And as to the Red, I am just now starting production on the Red’s replacement, the Red Shift. I have received a lot of feedback over the years on what players want. A common request was to somehow incorporate more features to the Red. I came up with what I feel is a very significant upgrade to the Red. Instead of the Red’s Hard/Soft switch, it is now a Red/Shift switch. In the Red position, it is 100% Red. In the Shift position, the pedal transforms into, essentially, a Gain Stage Purple. So you now have, with the flip of a switch, either sweet and sticky, or hot and nasty. I think it offers a tremendous tonal palette in a single pedal footprint.
SSS: How would you say the Jetter Gear Vibe compares (to your ears) with other popular vibes used by electric guitarists?
Jetter: I took the Vibe project as a personal challenge. I wanted to try and fit a version of the classic Vibe into the smallest pedal possible, have it run on 9V and also be able to run on an internal battery for at least a set.
I also wanted it to interact with other pedals nicely.
There was a lot of tweaking to the final sound but I am very happy with the result.
The Vibe is not an exact clone of the classic Univibe circuit so there are some slight sonic differences.
I will say that during the prototype listening sessions, The Vibe prototype was directly compared with a dozen or so Uni-vibe clones. If my Vibe couldn’t compare favorable, I wouldn’t do it.
Almost every player in those sessions said that the best sound was from an absolutely mint 1969 Univibe that still had the protective plastic on it! These players also agreed that the Vibe mimicked the essential qualities of that particular Uni-vibe. I was very humbled and pleased by that.
SSS: Your product line focuses heavily on overdrive pedals. Why is this, and why haven’t you produced any fuzz pedals?
Jetter: The players I have always admired had gorgeous overdriven tones. This became my paradigm for tone so I naturally gravitate towards that type of sonic envelope. A few of my major influences include: Jeff Beck, Cream-era Clapton, Al DiMiola, Buck Dharma, Andy Powell and Ted Turner (Wishbone Ash), Bill Nelson (Bebop Deluxe), Michael Landau, and Eric Johnson.
Fuzz is an interesting topic. For me, the fuzz master was Jimi Hendrix. Specifically, we are now talking about germanium or silicon Fuzz Faces. Unfortunately, the real magic of a Fuzz Face only reveals itself when driving an already cranked amp…preferably a full (or several) Marshall stacks.
Putting a Fuzz Face into a Deluxe Reverb with the amp volume on 3 is usually a very unsatisfying experience.
The secret of a great Fuzz Face lies with the transistors, particularly the original germanium fuzzes. Trying to source good transistors for use in classic Fuzz Face type circuits is becoming next to impossible.
As an example, about 10 years ago, I was on a mission to build the “perfect” Fuzz Face. I sourced approximately 200 new old stock NKT Newmarket transistors.
Do you know how many pair I wound up with that measured within the “ideal” range of what I was after?
I think I had three pair that were marginally within the “magic” range but they nevertheless sounded mediocre.
I realized that chasing the germanium ideal was only going to be an exercise in futility.
I have recently explored some off-the-wall approaches in achieving a fuzz exhibiting the essential qualities that make it a stand out–and importantly be consistent from pedal to pedal. I prototyped a proof of concept with very encouraging results–very interesting indeed!
This idea can hopefully be brought to fruition soon and I should lead to a fuzz in production later this year.
SSS: What other-branded pedals do you stack, or have heard stack well with Jetter pedals, and why do you think they work well together.
Jetter: I would simply say to try whatever you have and hear if it works for you. Generally, I hear from folks that are successfully stacking mild to moderate gain pedals with a Jetter Gear pedal.
SSS: Which of your pedals has left the most notable impression upon you after completing its design?
Jetter: If I had to choose only one, it would be the Jetdrive. That design process led me to discover ways to increase transparency and enhance a pedals feel or, possibly better expressed, the pedals touch response. The Helium and Tritium are extensions of what I learned with designing the Jetdrive.
SSS: What’s on your pedal board?
Jetter: Today? Right now I am running an Ernie Ball Jr Volume pedal, Helium, Tritium, TC Nova Delay and a Sonic Research tuner. A Voodoo Labs Pedal Power 2+ provides the DC and I am using Lava Cable ELC between pedals and VoVox Sonorus from the guitar to pedal board and from pedal board to amp. My favorite grab-and-go amp right now is the Dr Z Maz Jr NR.
SSS: What’s next for Jetter Gear?
Jetter:The fuzz project I alluded to is going to happen. I also have plans for modulation and a few really strange devices that I have been contemplating for a while now.
For more information on Jetter Gear pedals, visit JetterGear.com.