ACEffects cranks out Milwaukee-made stomp boxes
Though Milwaukee is a long way from being dubbed a hotspot of rock and roll gear innovation, there are a few businesses here creating great equipment for musicians near and far.
One of them is Oak Creek-based Rat Rod Drums. Another is the considerably more veteran ACEffects, a one-man show that's been cranking out stomp boxes locally since 1986.
"What started out a childhood hobby developed into an adult obsession ... and my wife will confirm that," says founder Alex Kremnitzer, who started making pedals in his parents' basement when he was 16.
Six months into it, he was pleased to have a pedal on sale at a local music shop.
"Now practically all my time is now spent working on boutique / custom pedals, pedal repairs and modifications," he says, "plus helping other find parts and get their own designs working."
Obviously in love with what he does, Kremnitzer – who is currently based in West Milwaukee – is eager to share the joy, by, as he says, helping others get their own designs working.
"I started a few months ago on a book about effects pedal design that will walk the reader through the complete design and fabrication of a pedals from start to finish," he adds.
These days, Kremnitzer sells his pedals online and at a few local music stores. He's currently offering about a dozen stomp boxes – which process the signal, typically from a guitar or bass, before it goes to the amplifier, creating different sounds or effects – from a $129 Tube Fuzz distortion box to a $189 Ace Wah."
In between are effects like the Sound Trip delay and effects with great names like Illegal Buzz and Time Warp.
But. he says, while Kremnitzer has considered boosting his production, he's resisted the urge.
"I've decided to keep it small all these years, partially as I am a quality control freak, and it is in ways more of a very expensive hardcore family hobby that has a life of its own," says Kremnitzer.
"My wife and uncle occasionally help. My design background, past employment experiences and the quality and attention I put into making each customer's pedals is what sets ACEffects apart from the rest of the pedals and effects you typically find in your local music store.
"I've contemplated offering off-the-shelf guitar effects pedals sometime in the future, but when I do not know. For now my workload and projects have me fully booked, and it can easily become a 24-7 job."
In the meantime, Kremnitzer balances building effects pedals with doing repair work for individuals and music stores, designing and building prototypes and working to get others building their own pedals.
Anyway, the stomp box business is going pretty well without much prompting, he says.
"ACEffects does not advertise and we still get people contacting us world wide from work of mouth and the internet. Customers are mostly looking to get a guitar sound unique to them, which they can only get through a custom or modified pedal. They want the edge. I also get a regular stream of do-it-yourself customers looking for older and hard to find effects pedal parts and free design advice."
And Kremnitzer seems pretty happy to share his knowledge and his skills. So, everyone's in a happy place. Local musicians get to take advantage of locally built Tripple Deats and Sonic Tone pedals and Kremnitzer is right where he wants to be.
"I like my current situation, which lets me be involved completely with the customers and their designs," he says. "As everything is done in-house from the circuit designs and analysis to mechanical such as enclosures, circuit boards and packaging there are no limits. The real challenge is finding the the time needed to be involved in doing everything in-house and equating that into a profit somehow.
"When I'm not working on pedals my free time is spent with my family, but given the chance I'm probably in my shop working on someone's pedal."
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