All posts by Sean Chase Mandrake

About Sean Chase Mandrake

Entrepreneur. Musician. Lover of beautiful things.

Tone controls are a lie.

Great tone doesn’t come from EQ.
Treble controls make treble notes louder (or quieter). Bass controls make bass notes louder (or quieter). What they don’t do is make your treble rich or sweet, or your bass full, warm or gnarly. They don’t really change the harmonic balance of your sound. They can’t make weak sounds come alive and, equally, they wont make a good sound into a weak one.
Great tone exists -inside- the circuit.
If you boost the high frequencies, in the circuit, just before each distortion stage, by just the right amount (and then correct that boost after to make your sound balanced) then a smart electronic engineer can design a dirty, harmonic-rich high end and a smooth, full low-end, perfect for rock, for example. Or you could boost the upper mids and cut the highs, then restore the bass after the distortion stage, which would cause a liquid lead with clipped mid-frequency notes that generate lots of harmonic content at the same time as having sweet, clean top and bottom ends.
This complexity is something ‘tone controls’ just can’t achieve.
What are tone controls good for then? Tone controls are for volume. If your high notes are too quiet, then turn up your treble. If your bass notes are too loud, turn down your bass. They’re great for balancing your sound out. For equalizing the volume balance.
Wait…Yes! That is why it’s called EQ!
So now you know: Don’t expect tone controls to open up new sonic territory, or give a lifeless distortion new character. They’re really useful tools, but they just don’t do that.
Great tone comes from the heart; the heart of the circuit, and the heart of musician.

Kickstarter no.2 – Subsonic Wah

I’ve got a bunch of cool ideas I’m working on, but they’re taking time to get right and I really, really wanted to have something happening in the meantime. I don’t like doing just one thing at a time, I’m all about multi-tasking and piling on the work.

Last night it popped into my head that I’ve had a couple of people asking about the Subsonic Wah’s I used to make. Its super expensive to make them because, realistically, the chassis costs about ten times the price of an off-the-shelf aluminium box and they’re just really awkward to put together. But, the design is proven and sounds amazing so it’s an ideal kickstarter to throw out there and see what happens.

So, what is a subsonic wah? Well most wah’s (all, wah’s, as far as I know, actually, bass, guitar, all of them) focus on the high frequencies. That’s partly because it’s what most people expect but also because it’s really, really tricky to get a great low-frequency sweep without it sounding clumpy, saturated or just plain fugly. I got a bit obsessed with seeing how low I could go after I was inspired by an old Snarling Dogs Blues Bawls which I loved and, over the course of a couple of years, perfected this amazing, fat, deep, rich, pure and wonderful wah unit with the most amazing sweep. It really has to be heard to be believed how awesome and unique it is!

So I sold a bunch of them, but I could only get these real plain grey chassis’ and it upset me that such a special sound should hide inside a nondescript box! And so I decided to go crazy and cover it in spikes and deckerplate and hand-splattered blood-paint. Needless to say, I sold a bunch more, but after a while my HotBoxes started selling like crazy, so I focussed on that, sold off the last few wah’s and forgot about them for a while.

Until now!

So I’ve decided it’s time to resurrect them in a bunch of styles, because not everyone is into spikes, but some people are (quite rightly in my opinion!) really into spikes 😀

Every unit will have exactly the same circuitry and exactly the same range of sounds. And before you ask, they’re full-range, that means you can use them with anything, bass, guitar, 7/8/9 string, oboe, timpani, washboard, whatever.

Unfortunately the dang chassis’ are even dearer that they used to be, so no cheapies here! Unless I buy 500. 500 is about the point at which I can get my own cast 😀

Option 1 : Regular. No frills, just a no-frills subsonic wah with stock pot and buffered switching, just like Vox/Cybaby do. All the tone, none of the price. Aiming at £79 I think?

Option 2 : Pro. Still a totally plain chassis but add in true bypass, a custom tapered pot that gives an incredibly smooth sweep and point-to-point in/out jacks. £99 I hope?

Option 3 : Murder Wah. Everything in option 2 plus decker-plate for you foot, blood spatter applied by hand and a truckload of lovingly bolted on spikes. £129 ish.

Option 4 : Cyber Wah. Everything in option 2 plus black rubber decker-plate for your foot, circuit board graphics down the sides and loads of bright LED’s. £129 ish.

Option 4 is still a work-in-progress. It could be a fixed colour, or I could let you choose the colours, or, mayyybe, I could drop in a tiny Arduino and some colour changing LED’s and do cycles. Or change colour as the treadle pivots! I don’t know?! Or some perspex or piping stuff too. Whatever I settle on the aim is, of course, to create something amazing and epic and beautiful and unique so whatever I do it’ll be all that, guaranteed 😀

So tell me… which one do you want?

What’s this all about then?

AudioStorm has sold quite a few pedals and attenuators to a great many of you wonderful folk. And I’ve had an incredible amount of positivity back in return. But, it’s still far from a full-time, bill-paying business. AudioStorm is, ultimately, just one person, one front-room and a whole bunch of shelves, boxes, tools, sweat and love.

What I really want to do is take this to the next level. I’d like it to become a real income so I can work full-time on the designs instead of having to do whatever other part-time work I can get to make ends meet. I want to get a proper workshop, and in a perfect world I want to be able to pay someone to help me solder and drill so I have more time to design. But I’ve got a few big leaps to make yet before we are there.

In the meantime I want to connect with you mysterious buyers and supporters so I can learn what it is you love and hate, so I can show you my ideas and hear what excites and what bores you. I want to innovate new concepts that no-one else has ever done before and really create whole new expressive concepts that anyone, anywhere can buy into.

And so that’s what this is. It’s a way to connect with you all and show off my ideas.

I hope you like them!


You can do a lot in a day. – Will Salas (In Time)