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Vintage Effects

We here at Thermionic Studios categorize anything dated 1989 or earlier as "Vintage". We realize that this date is somewhat arbitrary. We recognize that there are electronic devices going back as early as the 1940s and 1950s that in no way resemble effects from the 1980s. Certainly, aficionados would not categorize anything from the 1950s, especially if it included moving mechanical components, along with anything from the 1980's. For the sake of this site, and for the associated practicalities, we will stick with our 1989/1990 date as the break between these two periods.

We deem this date to be significant because it coincides with two events, one economic and the other technological, that give a reasonably good cause for anything dated 1989 and earlier to be categorized as "Vintage":

  1. This date marks the time when Roland/Boss (at the time, the most influential music effects company) moved its manufacturing operations from Japan to Taiwan.
  2. Also at this time, and probably more importantly, there was a shift in manufacturing practices in the electronics industry. The beginning of the 1990s saw the introduction of SMD, or "surface mounted device" componentry. SMD manufacturing techniques accelerated throughout the electronics industry to the point now where most mass-manufactured electronic devices are manufactured using SMD techniques. Today, only a small minority of manufacturers still use printed circuit boards with discrete hole-through-board components.

Modern Effects

We categorize "Modern" effects as anything dated 1990 and up to the present; and are built using most recent manufacturing methods (printed circuit boards, SMD) that are still currently and effectively used. Occasionally, boutique builders will use older methods, like tag boards and point-to-point wiring, but this has more to do with maintaining authenticity to the original methods as a selling point. It is our expectation that moving forward, that new manufacturing techniques, like 3D-printing will, in time, become the new "line" that separates "Vintage" from "Modern" gear.

Another notable difference in "modern" effects is the advent purely software-based (as opposed to hardware or real logic circuits) nature of digital effects. There are two main applications of these digital effects:

  1. Realtime use in the instrument signal-line, like the Line 6 Pod "effect bean",
  2. Post-recorded use in Digital Audio Workstations, or "DAW"s.

In a DAW, you typically manipulate and mix a performance that has already been recorded and converted into a digital format. Once the digital file has been imported to the DAW into memory or on disk, it is a relatively trivial act to apply an already-built in effect (delay, reverb, etc...) to the file. This would be done so as to evoke different different sounds and therefore different emotions and reactions from the sound. Avid ProTools or Adobe Audition are great examples of Post-recording DAWs and are really used more for editing and production than for performance.

Effects Listings

Effect PCB / Kit Makers

So this is a bit of a different animal. There are people/companies (mostly people self-identifying as companies) that have created printed circuit boards (PCBs) and/or kits for effects that are original, or of effects that at one time were available for purchase and have since been discontinued. Despite the fact that these pedals are no longer generally available, there is still clearly a market of people who want them. So these companies/individuals have made good businesses for themselves providing PCBs and kits for those who want to build their own effects, or for those who want the effects, but find that these effects are no longer available from the original manufacturers.

As part of our mission, Thermionic Studios has searched out as many PCB/kit makers as is reasonably possible. Here's a list of PCB makers and the PCBs/kits we've purchased for assembly into high-quality devices.

There are, of course other PCB and kit makers outside of this list. We have attempted to avoid listing makers and pedals that are just knock-offs of other, better kits. For example, there are kits on eBay that you can find for very ordinary pedals that are still available from the original manufacturers (for example, an Ibanez Tube Screamer). So while there are kits and PCBs for common pedals available, we have sought out and listed only those providers that are actually offering something unique.

Thermionic Effects

These are effects owned by Thermionic Studios available for rent for rehearsals or recording.

Resurrected Effects

These are effects that, for most intents and purposes, are no longer available. These effects were never terribly successful in their day, but as antique models of these discontinued effects are rediscovered and used by new artists to create new sounds, there is resurgent demand for them. These effects are being researched and reconstructed by DIY-and-boutique electronic effects shops, and individual pedal makers. The PCBs for these effects are being sourced by Thermionic Studios. Eventually the effects listed will all be built, tested, and available for rental. As new effects that are actually novel are being discovered and made available, we will endeavor to make them available too.

Standalone Effect Devices

Occasionally there are standalone devices that don't seem to fit into any other category. These could be vintage effects that eventually found their way into a pedal, these could be things that have a such physical size and a such unique sound that they have been kept for future use. In many, if not most cases, these effects don't necessarily exist any more because they've been replaced with smaller, more convenient, easier form factors (again, pedals or rack-mount effects), or it could include different methods of making the sound (like changing an analog effect to a digital one).