Ever since a pencil punctured a speaker, humankind has been trying to figure out how to make our instruments sound WEIRD!!! Typically these sounds are store bought, found at the music store or more likely online in recent times. These sounds were something that you had to buy from a big brand company, and while there was plenty of variety, this situation wasn't the best for customization. Enter Tim Crowe of Crowe.Effects, and all other people who had the drive to make weird sounds by themselves! Join us in learning about all that goes into a boutique guitar pedal company!
A Dive into the Crowe's Nest
Q: What made you want to create your own pedals?
A: It was kind of a long process, really. Around 15 years ago I got a Blues Driver for Christmas, and somewhere along the line, I made the decision to mod it. I bought a mod kit online and spent about a year tinkering with it. Totally didn’t work at first, but eventually I got it going. I really enjoyed doing the mod, but it was about 10 years before I did anything else with pedals. After a band I was in decided to call it quits, I found myself with all this extra time that had previously been dedicated to rehearsals and performances. I’d always been pretty fascinated with and inspired by all the sounds different pedals could make, but I definitely didn’t have the money to buy a bunch of pedals just to mess around with at home. I figured I’d use the extra time I had to take a stab at making some pedals I wanted but couldn’t afford. As time passed, people started requesting that I build things for them, and I ultimately made the decision to turn it into a small business.
Q: What Kind of pedals can you make?
A: It terms of different types of pedals, pretty much anything. I would say most requests I get are for overdrives and fuzz pedals, but I have a bunch of offerings beyond that. I have everything from simple utility pedals like under-board junction boxes and volume controls to pretty complex modulation, reverb, and delay pedals. I recently started adding in some digital multi-effects pedals too, which has been pretty interesting. The only thing I don’t really do at this point is a looper. They’re a lot of fun, and a great utility to have, but they all operate in pretty much the same way, so there isn’t really anything I can offer (at least sonically) that isn’t already available at your local music shop.
Q: What is the process of pedal making for you?
A: It really depends on the reason for making it. If I’m making something I’d like to add to my regular lineup, I generally start with building a circuit, testing it, and making some changes to get the tone where I want it. From there, my wife and I come up with the artwork (she does pretty much all of the art on my pedals at this point), and I put a prototype together.
If it’s a custom order, I start off by seeing what the customer is looking for and follow their lead. Generally, they have some idea in their head for the tone they’re going for. Maybe they want a muff-style fuzz with more mids, or a modern rendition of a vintage pedal that's no longer in production. Whatever the case may be, we work together to get the tone where they want it (often, that involves them coming and testing it out a few times as its being built). They usually have an idea for art, too, so my wife will take their idea and illustrate or paint it, send them a proof to make sure they’re into it, and we put it all together. Occasionally, the customer will have their own art, which is always cool, too. The custom pedals are always the most fun for me; the idea that I’m helping someone to achieve a vision/tone that will inspire them creatively is incredibly rewarding.
Q: What can your pedals offer that bigger brands can't?
A: There are some circuits I do that no one else does, but beyond that, I think the build quality and opportunity to completely customize your pedal are two things that people really appreciate. Everything I do is done by hand using high quality parts - I don’t farm anything out. When you get a pedal, I’m the one that drilled out the enclosure, powder coated it, built the circuit, wired it up, tested it…. Everything. Because of that, quality control is a non issue. Occasionally, something in a pedal will fail after the customer receives it - that can’t be avoided, but I have a lifetime warranty for that reason. As for customizations, like I said before, my wife and I want everything to be exactly how the customer wants it, so we work with people to make each custom pedal as unique as the music it will help to create.
*Check out this awesome custom Evil Bubble Pedal Crowe Effects made us!
Q: Top 5 pedals all time?
A: This is a tough one…. In no particular order, and keeping my pedals off the list…
Electroharmonix POG 2 - This is, to me, the best polyphonic octave generator on the market. It does really well to track everything from single notes to chords, and it gives you 2 octaves up and two octaves down in addition to a bunch of other controls and presets.
Electroharmonix 22500 looper - This looper is perfect for me. It’s super versatile, but my favorite feature is that it has two independent loops. A lot of folks will use multiple Line 6 DL4s to have multiple loops going at once. This takes care of that in a much smaller package.
Analogman King of Tone - Maybe a bit cliche at this point, but the KOT is definitely my favorite dual overdrive, and in addition to the two pedals mentioned above, one of the only pedals I own that I didn’t either build or modify. Technically, I don’t really own it I suppose. I ordered it before my first son was born, and it arrived around his first birthday (it was a year and a half wait time then - not sure where the wait is now) - for that reason, I always considered it to be his. I have one of these on my board, but it's essentially a clone that I built to be in a smaller enclosure.
Boss BC-2 Combo Drive - A lot of folks frown on digital distortion pedals, but this one’s awesome. It’s meant to emulate a Vox AC30 amp, and while I won’t say it does that perfectly, it does have some awesome tones under the hood. And it isn’t all distortion - great clean tones too!
Strymon Mobius - This one is Strymon’s big box modulation pedal. It’s got way more modulation that anyone would ever need, and you can tweak every aspect of every effect. So much fun to play around with, and it sounds amazing, too.
Q: Favorite effect to experiment with?
A: This one is a tie between reverb and delay. With reverb, I love making ambient pads and noodling over top to create some texture and ambiance. With delay, I like to make rhythmic patterns that carry on for a long time, and self oscillation is always fun to experiment with, too.
Q: Why and how did you get into music?
A: When I was kid, my dad owned a music store in Hornell called The Music Loft, so I grew up surrounded by music and gear. I always had a lot of fun there when I was little, messing with all the instruments and looking through the CDs, tapes, and vinyl. I didn’t actually start taking playing seriously until I graduated high school though. I bought my first guitar with money I received as a graduation gift and never looked back.
Q: What are some larger pedal companies that you like?
A: I think they’re all good really. Boss, Line 6, and MXR all have some really great stuff. I feel like some of the companies that used to be small, like Earthquaker Devices (EQD), JHS, Strymon, and Keeley, all produce some great stuff, too. There’s a clear delineation between Boss and a company like EQD, but I guess I’m starting to classify those companies as large, too. I’d have to say that my favorite of those I mentioned is definitely EQD - they have some really unique circuits that no one else is doing. Their delays, reverbs, and modulation offerings are especially awesome.
Q: Are there any other smaller pedal companies that you follow?
A: There are quite a few, and I totally recommend your readers check them out. Instagram is probably the best spot for most of them, unless you’re looking for demo videos and stuff. I’d put Farm Pedals, Native Audio, Mid-fi electronics, Montreal Assembly, Analogman, and Greer on this list.
Q: How do you get the art designs for the boxes?
A: For custom pedals, usually the customer has an idea and my wife will draw or paint her interpretation of what they want. She does some pretty awesome stuff. Other times, like for a pedal I want to put in the standard line up, we will talk about what it does, what it sounds like, etc., and work together to come up with a concept. It’s super fun to have her involved. She’s both talented and creative, plus she’s pretty awesome in general, so being able to have shared projects beyond raising our kids is great.
Q: Advice for how to get into pedal making/modding?
A: The first thing I did was buy a kit and follow the instructions, and I think that’s a great place to start. After modding, I found some websites for people just getting into it - they offer parts lists and step by step guides to building your first pedals. I’m also trying to have a build class at some point when this whole pandemic ends - something where people can come in and I’ll provide everything they need to get their first pedal up and running. I’ve always thought that would be a lot of fun, but I haven’t had the opportunity to do it yet.
Q: Where can your products be purchased?
A: Right now, I have some stock on reverb.com (crowe.effects) and a few things at Lion’s Will Music Shop here in Hornell. Over the years I’ve developed a solid relationship with Lion’s Will, and I totally recommend them to anyone looking for gear. I actually do their pedal/guitar repair work and teach lessons there, too. I used to build right in their basement! I also have some plans in the works for a few shops in Rochester, Buffalo, and Corning/Elmira, so there will be more on that in the future.
*If you need proof of our love for Crowe Effects pedals, you should take a gander at our new Evil Bubble Pedal...
If you wanna be Evil like us... you should order an Evil Bubble custom pedal as well. Really.
Q: Where can you be found online?
A: The general locations - Facebook, Instagram, and Reverb. My name on all of them is crowe.effects. I also own croweeffects.com, but I haven’t found the time to learn how to build a website (probably a mistake at some level), so I haven’t done anything with it in the 4 years I’ve had it!
Q: Do you take custom Orders?
A: Absolutely! They’re the most fun builds I do. I always hope that my pedals inspire people, and when I make something custom, it really adds to that feeling.
Remember a custom pedal is only an email away! (email@example.com)
*One of our members, Oliver Burdo, has been a long time endorser of Crowe Effects. You can hear them used on both St. Vith albums, the new 'Meta' and 'Windfall' to create some of the sweet soundscapes within the music.
Q: Do you offer any services other than making pedals?
A: In addition to building both “standard line” and custom pedals, I do instrument electronics repairs and mods, pedal mods, and complete pedal board setups.
There you have it, evil friends! Let us know about your favorite effects or companies. Give Tim a shout on social media! Order an amazing pedal from him while you're at it! Look forward to some exciting pedal demos from Evil Bubble and Crowe.Effects!
Tim Crowe is the owner and soundscape design master behind Crowe.Effects
Stay Tuned Friends.