Six String Soul recently had the opportunity to pick the brain of Andrew Barta, President of Tech 21. Andrew discusses the Tech 21 product line, including how the SansAmp products have evolved, the Power Engine series of guitar amps, the versatile Double Drive 3X and the The Boost D.L.A and Boost R.V.B pedals. But enough with the introduction, on to the interview.
Get to Know Tech 21 Pedals
SSS: Tech 21 has some new products out. Discuss the new SansAmp Character series.
Tech21: Each of these pedals focus on individual amp styles: Blonde, British, California, Liverpool and VT Bass. From the names and striking graphics, you can figure out which amp styles are which. We found that some players are devotees of specific brands and don’t necessarily benefit by the wide range of amp styles available in our existing line of SansAmps. With the Character Series, you can time travel through various eras of each brand of amp. The Character and Mid controls and speaker simulation are all specifically voiced for each amp personality. They were extremely well received at NAMM and we’re getting incredible reviews. Guitarist magazine in the UK gave them their “Guitarist Gold” stamp and 5 stars in each category. Guitar Player and Bass Player were equally enthusiastic. So, we’re very excited.
Tech21: I have never heard an attenuator that didn’t change the tone. They tend to be much more fizzy and cause the speaker to respond differently at different sound pressure levels.
SSS: The SansAmp products are well-known in the world of studio recording. Can you share with us any notable recordings that were made using the SansAmp pedals?
Tech21: SansAmp has been used on so many recordings, it’s difficult to remember. In fact, many artists tell us they used a SansAmp, but not necessarily for every track. When we listen to the CD, we can’t tell which tracks it was used on ourselves! The only one that stands out in my mind is Mike Kenneally’s first solo album Beer for Dolphins because it’s a 75-minute long CD and all the guitar tracks were done with a SansAmp. There are also many instances where the SansAmp was used with other instruments, such as vocals, drums, horns, etc. Off the top of my head, SansAmp has been used by artists such as Beck, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Geddy Lee, Yngwie Malmsteen (on bass), Tom Waits, Wu Tang Clan, Jeff Golub, ZZ Top, Pantera, Rob Zombie, Shadows Fall, Lamb of God, Gil Parris, Steve Howe, John Entwistle, Nirvana. You really should check out the Hall of Fame on our website. Then you’ll understand why I can’t remember them all!
SSS: Tech 21’s amps appear to resemble some classic combos. What are some of the unique qualities to Tech21 amps that set them apart from their original inspiration?
Tech21: The wide gamut of sounds attainable in one amp, reliability, light weight, all-analog circuitry, intuitive controls, and of course, the direct recording XLR output. You can also get huge cranked-up tones at any volume, so you can practice or record any time of the day or night. Bandmates and club owners are happy about that, too.
SSS: What are some of the unique features of the Bronzewood Acoustic Guitar amp?
Tech21: Notch filter, compressor, mic input, and direct recording XLR output with mic emulation.
Tech21: When we introduced the Power Engine 60, I had designed it to be used with our own line of SansAmps. People kept asking us what amp they should use with their SansAmp. So we came up with the Power Engine and factored in some people might want to use it as an extension for their Trademark 60 amp.
The Power Engine Series isn’t understood as easily as we anticipated. But that’s par for the course because I like to design things that are not the norm. It’s not an amp in the traditional sense, since it has no preamp of its own. What makes it so great, is that you can use it with any direct recording device or preamp — our own SansAmp line, of course, or our digital competitor’s– to amplify the tones. The key is that you don’t have to readjust all of your settings when you play live, which is what you would normally have to do if you go through a regular amp that has its own preamp, which would color the tone. The Power Engines simply give you the power and volume to amplify your existing tones. We did add on-board, active EQ so you can tailor the tone to the room, since acoustics vary widely in different venues. Plus they’re chain-able. You can hook up as many as you want to achieve the volume you want. We currently have 3 cabinet versions, a 1×12, 2×12 and 4×10. There are also two versions in 300 mono and 400 stereo watts, which also offer the same transparent tone.
SSS: What are some of your more popular pedals, and what makes them so attractive to guitarists/musicians?
Tech21: The SansAmp Bass Driver DI is extremely popular. When it was introduced originally as the SansAmp Bass DI in 1992, there was nothing else like it. A couple of years later, we updated it to essentially what it is today. It makes it really simple to get a great bass sound direct to a mixing console or live with an amp. The SansAmp GT2 is also quite popular with guitar players. It, too, is easy to use and it’s very practical. You don’t have to worry about what kind of gear a club or studio is going to provide. You can just toss a SansAmp in your gig bag and take your sound with you.
SSS: The Double Drive 3X seems to provide guitarists with an all-in-one, cover-all-the-bases type of overdrive pedal that can serve as a lone compliment to a clean amp rig. Realizing the cascading possibilities at hand with this pedal, what kind of tones can guitarists draw out of this pedal?
Tech21: Anything from very smooth with minimal breakup to over-saturated, almost fuzz-like distortion and anything in between. The Double Drive 3X is programmable so you can have 3 settings right at your disposal, but the actual signal path is all analog.
Tech21: When I was playing live, I’d use off-shelf delays and reverbs, but found I needed additional level when using these particular effects. So I modified them myself. When we started getting a lot of requests for these effects, naturally I incorporated this idea into the design.
SSS: The restructured guitar version of the XXL pedal seems like it’s capable of some wide ranging distortion tones. Could you discuss what styles of music this pedal would be used for, and what guitarists can expect when using the pedal?
Tech21: The XXL is aimed at heavier styles of rock. You can expect fuzzier, more aggressive styles of distortions than Tech 21 is typically known. What makes the XXL different is how it interacts with your playing style. The Warp control alters the balance of odd and even harmonics and the sound changes depending on how you play and how hard or light your touch is. So you can get an infinite variety of results. It’s not a plug-in-and-play kind of a pedal. It takes a little getting used to and some time to fully understand its capabilities. It’s a real players pedal.
SSS: Lastly, can you give us any insider info on new developments in your product line?
Tech21: No, sorry. This is a fiercely competitive business and we prefer not showing anything until the last stages of development so we can minimize the advantage to the competition! Despite the cliche, it’s really not particularly flattering to be copied. I concentrate on designing products that are different and always try to offer something unique. If I can’t do that, I have no inspiration or desire to put the Tech 21 name on it.
For more information on Tech 21, please visit www.tech21nyc.com.