Posts in 'News'

Aion FX Update: What’s ahead in 2019

As 2019 begins, I wanted to look back on last year and then talk about what’s coming.

First, a caveat: I wrote a similar post last year, and about one week afterward I had the initial idea for the kits. Because of this, my projection looking ahead to 2018 was missing some very key information to say the least. But that’s how it goes: all the best things to happen, whether in life or business, are things that you aren’t able to predict!

So with that said, here are the highlights of 2018.

New PCB format

As part of the transition to the kits, I needed to unify my platform. The kits had to be designed in a very specific way to make them as user-friendly as possible, and I didn’t want to have separate layouts for kits and PCB-only projects, so I had to develop a new format for PCBs that would work either as full kits or standalone projects.

This involved moving to the 125B enclosure format and using top-mounted I/O and power connectors. Now, not only are the pedals easier to build with more space inside, they actually take up less space on a pedalboard than a 1590B with side-mounted jacks.

The major advantage to this is that any PCB from now on can easily be converted into a kit without additional design work. I don’t intend to do kits for all of my projects, but it’s good to have the ability to keep an eye out for the most popular ones (which I often am not able to predict) and to be able to put my kit-development effort into the ones that will have the most impact.

Project releases

My big goal this past year was to release 25 projects in 2018. If you count the re-releases and the kits, I ended up at exactly 25. It didn’t look like I envisioned when I wrote that—there were only seven brand-new circuits in the lot—but I’m still beyond thrilled with where things ended up.

In 2018 I re-released a total of 12 old projects in this new 125B format. It was a lot of fun revisiting the classics. Many of them were among the first projects I ever designed back in 2013, and coming back to them with five more years of design experience, I was able to make them better than ever. I approached them as though they were all-new projects, doing new research and re-writing the documentation from scratch to bring them up to the standards of the other new ones.

Many of them have new features, like the Halo (Big Muff) with its mid scoop/flat/hump switch, or the Refractor with the buffer/true bypass switch. And many of them have had features removed in favor of making a more streamlined build without having to go through a complex decision tree to decide which options you want.

I also began doing Mouser parts lists for all of the new 125B circuits, linked from within the documentation. Ordering parts is a breeze, and again, it reduces the number of decisions someone will have to make when starting on a project.

Kits

So, this is the big one of the year. I had the spark of an idea at the beginning of January, and then spent the rest of the month writing notes, brainstorming, and creating a plan that would take the remainder of 2018 to execute.

I didn’t want to do kits if it was only going to be a convenience service where I buy all your parts for you. This is, in my view, what most DIY kits are these days. But even if people wanted to pay me good money for it, that’s not how I want to spend my time.

Instead, my goal was to use it as an opportunity to innovate and do something exciting. For the average DIYer, it isn’t feasible to order parts direct from manufacturers in quantities of 1000+, so they’re stuck using only the parts that are currently available from suppliers like Small Bear. And this becomes a chicken-and-egg scenario here where the suppliers only order parts that the average DIYer would want because it’s less risky. As a result, there’s not much large-scale innovation. With a few exceptions, DIY guitar pedals today are still being built the same way they were 20 years ago.

Aion FX wire assembliesSo with the kits, I wanted to re-imagine how pedals should be built if we weren’t constrained to a narrow list of parts & supplies. For instance, most people share my view that wiring is the most tedious and frustrating part of pedalbuilding. But if I can source a custom-made, pre-tinned wire assembly for around the same cost as a capacitor, it becomes just another component and I can eliminate the wiring step altogether. No more stripping wires and cutting them to length—it’s over. Now you solder the wire assembly to one board like any other component and just snap it into the header on the other board when you’re ready.

Aion FX metal film resistorsOr how about expecting people to learn to read resistor color codes? Again, it’s frustrating, time-consuming and error-prone. But if I’m sourcing all my own resistors, I can find a manufacturer who can print the alphanumeric value on each resistor rather than the color code. And while they’re at it, they can make them 0.5% tolerance and audiophile grade, so they’re not just unique in appearance, they’re actually better quality than any resistors you can buy in DIY quantities from component suppliers.

Those are just two examples out of half a dozen to illustrate how I wanted my kits to be different. The broad vision for Aion FX kits is that they should be fun to build, reliable, and professional-looking. The feedback for the kits has been overwhelmingly positive, and has mainly revolved around those three aspects—which means people have caught my vision. It’s been a huge success, and I’m excited to continue innovating in this field.

What’s coming in 2019

Maybe there will be something I didn’t see coming, like this past year. We’ll see. But right now, here are my three major initiatives:

More projects

PCBs are the lifeblood of Aion FX, and as of right now this is my top priority for the year. I currently have around ten new brand projects that are fully designed, with boards in-hand just awaiting their turn in the prototyping queue, so keep an eye out for lots of activity on this front in the next two months. Later this year I’m going to shift my focus away from drive circuits and dive deeper into modulation and other interesting effects.

Also, as I mentioned earlier, I re-released a dozen older projects in 2018. Expect to see more of that too. Eventually my top 70-80% of projects will be updated for the new format. There are a few projects toward the bottom of the list that only sell maybe ten or twenty PCBs a year, and those likely will not see a redesign, but the majority of them will. (Don’t worry—as projects are redesigned, the legacy 1590B versions will continue to be available for as long as people are interested.)

More kits

So far, I’ve released six kits. I expect to release a minimum of ten more this coming year. (Hopefully even more than that, but better to under-promise and over-deliver.)

New website

I intended to do a website redesign last year, but that project got bumped by the kits. This year it’ll happen though. I’ve already mapped out most of it and have a ton of exciting ideas, but it’s just been a matter of priorities.

And a word of thanks

In late 2017, I was able to cut my hours at my day job to focus on Aion as more than just a hobby or side project. 2018 was my first full year devoting 20 hrs per week to Aion, and it was both enjoyable and tremendously successful. Your support has been greatly appreciated and I hope to spend 2019 contributing to the DIY community more than ever before!

Filed under News

International orders are being delayed by 1-2 weeks; new shipping options available

On January 21, the USPS discontinued the shipping method I had been using to send PCBs internationally for the past five years. My shipping service made a special arrangement with USPS allowing people like me to continue using this method at a higher cost by first sending the piece to a centralized shipping facility, where they would then re-label it and send it internationally.

But even aside from the increased cost, the service has been less than impressive so far. On average the shipping facility has been taking a handling time of 1-2 weeks before it sends the package to its final destination. I can handle two days, but two weeks is just inexcusable.

The word from my shipping service is that these relay facilities were unprepared for the volume of mail that started arriving, and the handling time will improve as they adjust. They have made some good changes in the past 3 weeks in reaction to customer feedback (i.e. strong complaints from many others like me) so I am optimistic that this eventually will get better.

Unfortunately, though, for the time being, I have to set the expectation that international orders using the Flats method may take between 30 and 45 days to arrive, depending on the destination.

What to do about existing orders

This increased shipping time applies to any order shipped after January 21. So if you’ve placed an order under the new system, thank you for your patience and I wish I could do something to speed it up! Please let me know if you haven’t received the order within 45 days and I will send out a replacement.

New international shipping options

Starting today, I am going to begin offering a First Class International shipping option. It’s a fair amount more expensive than the flats method, but should arrive much quicker. Here are the rates:

  • Canada: $9.70
  • Mexico: $12.00
  • Everywhere else: $13.50

You can choose your shipping option at checkout. I’ve also dropped the cost of existing Flat option to $6.00 (from $6.50) – I’m going to eat a little bit of the added cost of shipping to make up for the increased delivery time.

I am still working on some other alternatives for international orders, so I hope to have some better options to offer in the next month or two. But in the mean time, thank you for your patience!

Filed under News

2017 in review, and looking ahead to 2018

As 2017 comes to a close, I wanted to take some time to look back at how things have been going the past year at Aion Electronics, as well as give you a look behind the scenes at what you can expect in the coming year and beyond.

2017 Milestones

Blueshift - Boss DC-2 Dimension C cloneBlueshift release

Perhaps the most exciting thing that happened this year was the July release of the Blueshift, my clone of the Boss DC-2 Dimension C. This was by far the fastest-selling new project I’ve released, which is saying something considering that it is one of the most complex DIY builds available. But many of you rose to the challenge, and I’ve seen dozens of build reports from people who said it went together beautifully and sounds great.

And best of all, the success of the Blueshift (and the L5 Preamp before it) has made it much more encouraging for me to continue the Pro Collection and I plan to develop other advanced circuits to accompany those two.

Donating 10% of PCB sales to Beza Threads

Beza Threads logoStarting in July, I began donating 10% of my PCB sales to an organization called Beza Threads that helps rescue children from forced prostitution and textile slavery in Ethiopia. It’s based on the sale price, so if a PCB costs $10, Beza gets $1.

Change in employment

In September, I dropped to half-time at my day job so I could devote more time to Aion Electronics. I’m now able to spend 20-25 hours per week doing this, where for the past 5 years it’s just been something I fit into my spare time. This is all because of the continued support of the DIY pedal community! I’ve spent a lot of time the past few weeks planning out big ideas for 2018 and beyond with the knowledge that I will have the time to execute on them.

What’s ahead in 2018

Kits!

musikding_logoI’ll make more of a formal announcement early next year, but Musikding has already started carrying my kits in Europe. They currently have 9 of them available, but will be adding many more over the coming months.

In addition, Milk Lizard in Australia is carrying a few of my most popular PCBs, so if you’re a downunder DIYer, you can get much faster shipping by ordering from them— and grab a few parts while you’re at it.

I’m still evaluating my options for kits in the United States, but that is something I do hope to arrange at some point if I can find the right partner.

Project developments

At the end of last year, I sent out a poll asking people to vote on the circuits they wanted to see most. Here are the top results from that poll as well as my current status on each of them:

  • Boss HM-2: Layout completed; currently prototyping
  • Superfuzz: Completed & released
  • Noise Gate: Circuit design finished, currently designing PCB layout
  • Guyatone PS-021: Traced original pedal; currently designing PCB layout
  • Deluxe Big Muff: Layout completed; currently prototyping
  • Boss CE-2: Circuit design finished; currently designing PCB layout
  • EHX Small Stone: Researching. I’ve drawn out the basic schematic but haven’t decided on which mods/features to include.
  • Boss DM-2 Delay: Researching. Schematic is completed like the Small Stone but still some more decisions to be made.

I’ve also finished the design on about ten more projects that are currently on my desk waiting to be prototyped. As I mentioned in the Black Friday announcement, my goal is to release 25 new projects in 2018. I hope to do releases every month on average, so you’ll be hearing a lot more from me this year.

…and a new website

My big initiative for the first half of 2018 is to build a brand new website that fits better with the vision I have for the next few years. There are a couple of specific things that need improvement more than others, such as the projects page (which was originally designed for a max of around 15 projects)—but since I’m a web developer by trade, it’s a lot more fun to just start from scratch than just keep patching things up in perpetuity!

Thank you so much for your support over the last five years. I am very excited to see what 2018 has in store!

Filed under News

Which new projects do you want to see in 2017?

2017 is here, and as I mentioned a few months ago, I’m cutting back my hours at my day job so that I can dedicate more time to Aion Electronics. Last year was my best year yet, but with a new house and a new baby over the summer and fall, other than the Lab Series Preamp, I didn’t have as much time as I wanted to devote to new project development.

This year will be different. Now, my first order of business is to get the Dimension C Chorus finished up – and it will be soon. But after that, I’m all ears. It’s up to you!

So, here are the circuits I’m currently exploring. If you could do me a favor and read through them, then check the boxes next to the ones you’re interested in, that will help me prioritize.

New projects for 2017

Filed under News

Black Friday / Cyber Monday 2015: 20% off PCBs!

This weekend only, all PCBs (excluding bypass boards) are 20% off! The discount is automatic, so no need for a coupon code. Sale ends Monday, Nov. 30 at midnight (6:00 GMT December 1).

I have a large restock order expected to arrive on Wednesday, so your order may not ship until December 3 if it contains one of the following projects:

  • Refractor
  • Titan
  • Procyon
  • Azimuth
  • Lumin
  • Aurora
  • Halo

 

Filed under General, News