Magnetic Effects: A '70s Riff Revivalist's Fuzz and "Fixed Wah" Pedals Found on Reverb

As a guitarist in New Zealand rockers The Datsuns—the high-octane, '70s-inspired garage group that transplanted to London and found wide acclaim in the early 2000s—Christian Livingstone understands the need for guitar pedals that not only deliver unique sounds but are built for rigorous on-stage use. Still based in London, Christian, in between recording and performing with The Datsuns, is also the builder behind Magnetic Effects.

Christian Livingstone

Since 2012, he's been crafting fuzzes, boosters, and more high-quality circuits and loading them into colourful, eye-catching chassis. The line includes the popular germanium- and silicon-blending White Atom Fuzz, the "fixed wah" Midphoria booster, the high-headroom Zola clean boost, and more.

We spoke to Christian about his favourite pedals and what makes Magnetic stand out in a crowded pedal market.

How did you get in to making pedals? And when did Magnetic Effects turn from a hobby to a business?

A pretty typical story, I guess. I starting out modding pedals for fun and then moved into building pedals for a hobby. Over time it gradually morphed into a business. In the beginning I was driven by the need to build a few pedals for myself that were not readily available on the market at that time. I had gotten into fuzz and really wanted to use a fuzz pedal live but all the fuzz pedals I owned had various issues that made them tricky to incorporate into my live setup: They did not like buffers or had temperature issues, no DC socket, low volume, etc. I started designing with the goal of building pedals I could use myself. That led to the White Atom.

ProGuitarShop's demo of the Magnetic Effects White Atom.

What’s the ethos behind Magnetic Effects, and what’s your process for creating new designs?

The ethos of my brand is great-sounding, easy-to-use, and visually memorable pedals that incorporate well into a pedalboard. A focus on vintage-style sounds with modern features, but not just clones of old pedals—I am more interested in doing my own designs. I think the combination of the visual style plus building pedals that I know will work live—a benefit of a lot of years playing live myself—helps set me apart. I find that 90 percent of the design comes fairly quickly but the last 10 percent always takes a while. The fine-tuning of the idea, or the nitty gritty, takes time.

White Atom
Solar Bender

The White Atom Fuzz gets a lot of attention. Can you tell me why you think it’s so popular?

I am fan of the White Atom because, not only is it the pedal of mine that I use the most, but it was my first real design—so I have a bit of a soft spot for it. It is my best-selling pedal and the pedal that started it all for me. The origins of the White Atom came from my desire to have a fuzz pedal that I could use on my own pedalboard. At the time I found that most fuzz pedals had one or more issues that were frustrating for live use: not compatible with buffers, no DC socket, lack temperature stability, etc. I designed the White Atom to avoid those issues so I could use one on my pedalboard after my buffer and not worry about the various other issues. Sonically, it is a versatile fuzz that can cover low gain to velcro ripping.

One of your more recent pedals is the Midphoria. What was the origin of that?

The Midphoria Fixed Wah Booster

I love a fixed wah. Many classic, mix-cutting guitar tones were recorded with a wah left in one position instead of rocking it back and forwards. Jimmy Page’s slicing tone on the “Whole Lotta Love” solo springs to mind. Many great Mick Ronson lead tones during his Bowie tenure were a wah left in one position. The list of fixed-wah-loving guitarists is long: Hendrix, Schenker, Bolan... A fixed wah offers a great, unique tone that has no trouble being heard in the mix. Often it is more about frequency than volume, when it comes to being heard.

I used to use an old Crybaby wah to achieve fixed wah tones until the treadle wore out and would keep falling forward. Frustrated by this, I built myself a wah in a standard sized pedal box so I could find the frequency position I liked and leave it there. A few of my midrange-loving friends dug it and wanted one too. It is quite an addictive sound! After a few years of building various fixed wah circuits in different incarnations I arrived at the Midphoria.

The goal with the Midphoria was to be able to have classic fixed wah tones but with more flexibility. First on the agenda was adding a clean blend. As much as I love the straight up, no-holds-barred fixed wah sound, sometimes it is nice to dial it back a bit. Adding a clean blend gave the pedal the ability to balance the sonic mix between straight guitar signal and fixed wah—nice for adding just a hint of mid all the way to over-the-top quack. Second was adding more output level, because who doesn’t want more? I know I do! Finally, in addition to the standard Frequency control, I added a range switch to extend the overall frequency range.

What does the future hold for Magnetic Effects?

In the immediate future I hope to get a several new pedals released. I have a few ideas in the pipeline but it has taken longer than I hoped to get them to fruition. I have a tremolo and a drive pedal coming out next. I am really looking forward to expanding my lineup so that one day my pedalboard can be all Magnetic Effects! Beyond that, I would like to explore other sonic options—rack devices interest me and maybe even an amp. For that I need a few more hours in the day though. I hear the length of a day is slightly longer on Mars. Maybe I will set up base on Mars then so I can have more time to work on new ideas!

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