Bardic Audio Devices

I first found a love for music my first year of middle school. I started playing the trombone and switch to alto saxophone the following year. I still didn’t have a musical identity outside of band class. It was mostly “Weird” Al Yankovic and Sunday morning polka. My junior year of high school is when I switched back to trombone and discovered a band called Streetlight Manifesto. Before them, I’ve never heard of horns in rock music. They really opened up my musical world. I started listening and learning the trombone parts, but the basslines were so groovy and fun. That inspired me to head on down to the Music Go Round in Toledo and picked up my first bass, a red Rogue 5-string PJ bass. I had no idea what I was getting into, but I instantly fell in love. From there, I started exploring ska and punk rock. These remain my favorite genres of music.

My first bass amp was a Fender Rumble 40, but I soon upgraded to an Ampeg BA210 and added an EHX Bass Big Muff so I could sound like Fat Mike from NOFX. These gear acquisitions taught me gear is expensive; especially for a high schooler making $9.00 an hour washing dishes. This is the common struggle that inspires many to build their own pedals. I started buying a few parts and built my first effect, the Bazz Fuss, in a cardboard box with a breadboard and potentiometers poking out the sides. The process of experimentation and listening to the results helped me learn what I wanted to study in college. In a little less than 2 years, I enrolled at Western Michigan University to study Electrical engineering.

At this point, I had zero intention on starting a business. I was just fooling around with circuits and PCB design until the beginning of my sophomore year. This is when I came up with the idea for the Thunderclap Bass Preamp. I really believed in the idea, and I hate wasting PCBs, so I prepped to make the first ten Bardic Audio Devices pedals. I decided on Bardic because I am a big Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) nerd. A Bard is a sort of musical minstrel from the days of castles and knights. Seems fitting for a D&D themed pedal company. “Audio Devices” was a way for me to make the acronym B.A.D. Still haven’t found a good way to use that. I sold the first Thunderclaps on Reverb for $60. Huge thanks to those people for giving me a chance.  

From there, I designed the Advantage Dirty Boost (ADB) and Goblin. These three were going to be my main offerings, but I get bored easily. It didn’t take long for me to start accepting custom orders and ordering new PCBs weekly. I am a terrible businessman. I am an engineer. Experimentation and curiosity are what drives my building. That’s why I always have something new coming out. I still have no idea how I was able to build over 50 ADBs and HM Demons. 

One of the pedals I’m most proud of designing is the Goblin. I designed to go through a massive stock of potentiometers, resistors, capacitors, and transistors I had. It was made from necessity, but it couldn’t sound more fine-tuned. The wide range of possibilities is frankly a miracle. It goes from a roaring distortion-like fuzz to a lo-fi, sputtery fuzz and everything in between with only two knobs. There’s also no volume control… Nothing more punk than that!

The ADB is another one close to my heart and is looking better than ever in the M45. The advantage was born from experimenting with JFETs to replicate tube preamps. I started with a schematic for a Fender Bassman and made some mods. I started by increasing the size of the coupling capacitors to amplify more bass. Then, I modified some resistor values to increase the gain and use up my 10K resistors. The gain wasn’t where I wanted it yet, so I increased the feedback capacitors to taste. Finally, I added a buffer after the volume control and the ADB was born! Now, there are several more variants of the ADB with their own musical flavors. I love the simplicity of the pedal. With one volume knob, it is so easy to play with. If the gain is too high, it can be cleaned up by rolling the guitar volume down. The ADB is truly a simple standout pedal from my tendency to add more and more to every circuit.

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