Q1) Are your pedals clones of other pedals? If so, what pedals do they clone?
A1) None of the AXiom line of pedals are direct clones. They were all designed from the ground up to address the weaknesses and shortcomings common to many effects of their types. They do tend to be "inspired" by classic pedals, however, and they do contain critical sections of circuitry that are the same or similar to iconic, industry standard defining effects. This is so they can authentically capture the tone and response of the classic effect types they represent while eliminating the weak points of the old designs and expanding on their capabilities.
All musicians have pedals that they absolutely love and couldn't live without - some of these effects have become industry standards and have defined the sound of entire genres of music. But all musicians also, at times, have wished for a little more - that their chorus had just a bit more depth or a better stereo spread; or that their distortion had more bottom end without getting loose and buzzy; or that their favorite compressor didn't hiss so much; or that their overdrive could sound more like a real cranked tube amp when they wanted it to. These are the sorts of things that the AXiom line address - built on the shoulders of industry standards but to a higher standard at the same time.
Q2) What is the difference between the Overdrive Preamp OP-1 and the Distortion Preamp DP-1?
A2) The Overdrive Preamp OP-1 is very much in the traditional overdrive pedal family. It goes well beyond the traditional overdrive pedals' level of gain and frequency control but, tonally, it's in the same camp. The PREAMP section of the pedal is designed to take the place of a tube preamp, so you can use it either as a tube preamp emulator (by turning the OVERDRIVE control down) or you can use it as a traditional overdrive pedal (by turning the PREAMP control down). Used together, the OVERDRIVE stage is cascaded into the PREAMP stage like an overdrive pedal pushing a tube amp.
The Distortion Preamp DP-1 is firmly in the distortion pedal family, but also has a character that allows it to take on amp-like tones rather than the buzziness and fizziness distortion pedals are often prone to. At light gains it can cover overdrive-like sounds, at high gains it's brutal. The MORE section of the DP-1 both tames and extends the range of the DISTORTION control. With the MORE control turned down and using only the DISTORTION control for gain, the pedal acts like a very versatile traditional distortion pedal - with the ability to get as fat or thin in the bottom as you'd ever need without getting buzzy or "loose". MORE takes that basic tone and adds heaps of gain to it while preserving the picking clarity these types of pedals are known for, yet also gently tames the harsh high harmonics.
In comparison, the Overdrive Preamp is a bit smoother and more like a classic tube preamp with the PREAMP control dialed in. The Distortion Preamp is "harder" and "rawer" like a high-gain preamp. With their respective PREAMP and MORE controls dialed back they both function like classic overdrive and distortion pedals. Both are capable of doing clean through light break-up to very highly saturated tones. Broadly speaking, one could consider the OP-1 as more ideally suited to blues, hard rock and tube preamp emulation, and the DP-1 better for high-gain metal and shredding - though both are very versatile in how they can be dialed in and each can cover a broad variety of applications.
Q3) Does the Fuzz Preamp FP-1 use germanium or silicon transistors? How did you choose the transistor type?
A3) Like many things in the music industry, there is a huge amount of hype and misunderstanding surrounding fuzz pedals. In the mid-1960s the original fuzz pedals used germanium transistors and some of them sounded great... many of them didn't. Germanium transistors are very inconsistent. That's why people would go through batches of old germanium fuzzes trying to find a good one. By the early '70s most fuzz pedals were switching to silicon transistors because they were more consistent and reliable, but they quickly got a bad reputation for sounding harsh. In reality, it wasn't the transistors alone that made the difference but rather the gains of the individual transistors and how they biased in the original circuits. Silicon transistors generally have much higher gains than germanium and when they were substituted into circuits designed for germanium transistors they didn't always work well. The same can be said when germanium transistors are substituted into fuzzes designed for silicon. Don't forget that Hendrix recorded what many consider to be his greatest guitar performances on Electric Ladyland and Band of Gypsys with silicon transistor Fuzz Faces (Voodoo Child, Machine Gun, etc).
If the circuit is designed for it, silicon transistors sound every bit as good as germanium transistors but with better consistency, temperature stability, reliability and the ability to use standard 9V dc power supplies instead of requiring an adapter. That is why the Fuzz Preamp was designed to work and sound great with silicon. It's a case of adapting more modern technology, with its technical advantages, to capture the characteristics of older technology, but without the disadvantages. If germanium transistors sounded better in the FP-1 we simply would have used them. The FP-1 can capture the warm, rich sound of germanium fuzz with the clarity and aggression of silicon too - that was part of the whole point in designing the FP-1 in the first place.
Beyond the FUZZ section, the FP-1 PREAMP section is similar to that used in the Overdrive Preamp OP-1. The PREAMP control is designed to mimic the gain of a tube preamp, so, using the FUZZ and PREAMP stages cascaded together is like a fuzz pedal pushing a crunchy tube amp. Furthermore, the BASS CUT control was designed purposefully to work with the PREAMP circuit to produce an authentic, traditionally voiced overdrive. That's right, dial the FUZZ control back and trim the bass to taste with the BASS CUT control and the FP-1 becomes a legitimate moderate gain overdrive pedal.
Q4) What do the BASS and TREBLE controls on the AXiom Stereo Chorus SCH-1 do? Are they just tone controls?
A4) Producing an excellent sounding chorus effect isn't simply a matter of applying modulation to all frequencies. Choruses must be properly "tuned" by selectively applying the effect to a specific frequency band and then mixing that effect with the uneffected signal. All well-designed chorus effects do this and the frequency range over which chorus is applied goes a long way to making a chorus sound the way it does. The not-so-well loved choruses often just don't get it right (and usually get forgotten in time).
Applying too much chorus effect to treble frequencies tends to make choruses sound shrill and thin. Applying too much chorus effect to bass frequencies puts too much "warble" on the fundamental notes and sounds "sea-sickening" before long. The key to great chorus is applying the effect to the right frequencies - the right blend of chorus on the fundamentals and higher harmonics (but not too high).
The BASS and TREBLE controls on the AXiom Stereo Chorus SCH-1 allow the user to adjust how much chorus is applied to the low and high frequencies. This lets the SCH-1 be used very effectively with rhythm, lead, bass or acoustic guitar. You can adjust it for solid, unwavering fundamental notes while still applying chorus to the higher harmonics or trim the high frequency chorus to avoid shrillness without affecting your overall tone.
Q5) Is the Omega-Vibe OV-1 a Uni-Vibe clone with more controls?
A5) It has more controls but, no, it isn't a direct Uni-Vibe clone. The Omega-Vibe uses a phasing section based on the original Uni-Vibe, with identical frequency notches and peaks, as that's part of creating the classic sound, but the OV-1 has different input, output and oscillator sections, and it implements the frequency sweep by different means. Therefore, it can very accurately reproduce the sound of a pulsating lamp-based Uni-Vibe but it can also do much more.
The Uni-Vibe and clones use an incandescent lamp to create a low-end throb and asymmetrical double pulse that is a defining characteristic of "real" univibes. Until now, the only way to reproduce that double throb is either by cloning the Uni-Vibe directly or making a digital model. None of the phaser-based vibes on the market can do it.
The OV-1 uses a sophisticated oscillator section that allows the user to create just about any practical frequency sweep characteristic one would want - including that authentic asymmetrical double pulse throb that only "real" Uni-Vibes can do. The difference is the OV-1 produces this same effect while consuming only a fraction of the current (so you can run it off a 9V battery) and with a vastly expanded control section. You can set the OV-1 to accurately reproduce the response of a 1960's or 1970's Uni-Vibe or even mimic the characteristics of a new or aging lamp and how the lamp is biased internally.
Q6) If the Omega-Vibe runs on 9 Vdc how can it have as much clean headroom as Uni-Vibe clones that run on 18 Volts?
A6) The original Uni-Vibe circuit needs a higher voltage to properly run its incandescent bulb. The signal into the phasing section, however, isn't centrally biased at the transistors and it suffers from headroom issues. This generally wasn't an issue in the late 1960s with vintage output pickups but it doesn't hold up too well today with even slightly hotter signals (the same could be said of many phasers and choruses of the 1970s). The Omega-Vibe has its gain structure configured differently so it has more headroom than a traditional vibe, produces the same pulsing modulation, yet runs on a much more convenient 9 Vdc.