Shop Spotlight: TEFI Vintage Lab's Pedals Respect Their Elders

Based in Abruzzo on Italy's Adriatic coast, TEFI Vintage Lab is a forward-thinking pedal company that seeks to move a range of classic pedal types a step further. Coming from a background repairing vintage organs and other gear, self-proclaimed audio nerds Andrea and Emanuele have offered up a line of pedals that capture that same vintage magic—with artwork appropriately inspired by the various grandparents and other elders that populate their hometown.

We recently had a chance to catch up with this brand, which sells directly on Reverb, to get some insight into the philosophy behind their pedals and business.

Tell us a bit about the origins of TEFI vintage Lab? How did you get started making pedals?

Andrea and I met virtually, chatting on a forum dedicated to electronic combo organs, instruments of which we are both really passionate, and discovered that we live just a few miles away from each other. We met physically in 2007 and, once together, we started a mission to restore vintage musical instruments. We also toured Germany to restore dozens of Farfisa organs belonging to a collector.

The idea to start building boutique pedals was born at the end of 2015, when we both felt the need to experience new emotions beyond the restoration of instruments: Andrea is a designer of electronic circuits, and I am a product manager and circuits engineer. We thought that by merging these skills, after a study of the current market, we could have our say by creating a line of boutique pedals with an innovative electronic design.

The first pedal created was the Gegè, a germanium fuzz designed with a modern approach completely different from the canonical standard, which immediately had a great success. Then it was Joe Buffer's turn, then BuBoP! to move toward increasingly challenging and more complex projects until we reach our current masterpiece, the echo/reverb Ms. Delayette.

TEFI Vintage Lab
Buy Now on Reverb

TEFI Vintage Lab
Ms. Delayette
Buy Now on Reverb

Is there a particular style of music or type of guitarist that you think your pedals are best suited for?

When we started creating our projects, the main purpose was to introduce circuits different from those already available on the market—and that had our own personal and recognizable sound. This philosophy of thought has led us to think that the type of musician interested in our products would be the experimenter looking for new sounds to create new music. We then discovered that there is no well-defined target group of musicians who follow our products.

For example, our two overdrives—GainOver and Maccheroni Bros—are particularly appreciated by musicians of different musical tastes, because they can give the tonal characteristics that every type of guitarist seeks, regardless of musical genre played: dynamic control and the ability to actually emulate the response of a tube amplifier, thanks to its own special circuit that we've developed.

Among those who appreciate these two pedals there are in fact those who play blues, fusion, post-rock, and punk. Currently our work is focused on modulation and delay pedals, especially dedicated to those who make indie and psychedelic music, which is our favorite musical genre.

Talk us through the line a bit: Which of your pedals do you think stand out the most? what do they sound like?

In addition to the aforementioned GainOver and Maccheroni Bros overdrive, the pedals where our innovative approach is particularly noticeable are The Smilin' Ghost and Ms. Delayette. The first is a completely analogue tremolo/percussion repeater with a particular function that allows you to control the activation of the effect depending on the dynamics of execution. I repeat, everything was done with a completely analogue approach.

On Ms. Delayette, on the other hand, we worked for two years to reproduce the sound of tape delay units from the 1960s such as the Echoplex EP-3, the Roland Space Echo RE-201, and especially the Echolette NG51 in a truly realistic way. Having a laboratory where you restore vintage instruments teaches you perfectly the sound of these instruments, which are still used often today but suffer from the serious problem of needing continuous maintenance and poor reliability for frequent live-use.

However, when these old machines are fully tuned, their own sound is near hi-fi and not dark as usually believed. With Ms. Delayette we wanted to recreate the characteristic sound of a tape loop machine when it's new or in very good condition, but including the possibility of having mechanical defects such as wow and flutter, which always remain fascinating, to create psychedelic effects.

TEFI Vintage Lab
The Smilin' Ghost
Buy Now on Reverb

TEFI Vintage Lab
Buy Now on Reverb

You also do work on vintage instruments and amps. How has that expertise influenced your pedal designs?

With our laboratory we have had the honor of knowing and recovering vintage instruments of great value: the synthesizers, tube amplifiers, effect,s and electronic organs that have created the history of music. In addition to the fascination of studying the design approach of electronic designers of the time, we've had the opportunity to study the engineering process and, above all, the importance of the reliability of an instrument.

Immediately after the sound, the most important thing for an instrument is reliability. When a musician buys a boutique pedal, they also buy the security of having a pedal that is reliable to play and built with the best components and technology. In this last step, we dedicate a particularly long time of study, because we want our pedals to be safe and long-lasting machines.

What is your design process like?

The electronic designer of all pedals is Andrea Damiani. Andrea had his first approaches to electronics at the age of four, and for him, research in the musical field is not just a simple passion, it is a reason for living. Every single TEFI pedal comes from his mind, without drawing inspiration from any other existing circuit, because the goal is to evolve sound research with our ideas. I, on the other hand, take care of the product engineering and management part.

Our creations are born like this: Andrea and I decide the type of project to give life to, based on market needs and our personal visions. Andrea draws the electrical diagram and creates the first prototype, and together we decide on any changes to be made. When we are both satisfied, we deliver the prototype to trusted guitarist friends who test the product and report their feedback, which we use to apply other changes.

When the prototype satisfies everyone, then I use my engineering skills to transform it into a product, which involves the construction of the printed circuit board (PCB), the choice of the best components, and the positioning inside the housing. Together we choose the name and the graphic and we make four samples to be delivered on trial for a couple of months. If all goes well, then the product can be placed on the market.

Wha's with the weird artworks, all of these enclosures with grandparents on them?

All the graphics on our pedals are dedicated to grandparents, precious masters of life to whom we all owe something of our growth. Andrea and I live in two small towns in Abruzzo where so many grandparents live, each with their own characteristics and with whom we spend a lot of time listening to the stories of their lives. In every TEFI graphic there is an elderly person with his own story.

For example, the artwork on Gegè was inspired by our elderly neighbor who, during the tests of Gegè Fuzz prototype, always came to grumble complaining about the absurd sounds coming from our laboratory. The Leader is called Ignazio and is the head of the motorcyclists in my country. Ms. Delayette is instead an invented character that symbolizes a German lady who is no longer young but still charming, creating an allegory with the Klemt Echolette NG51 S, the German tape echo that inspired our project, created at the end from the '50s but still fascinating and sought-after, with all its flaws.

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