Axis Wah Announcement - Coming Clean

Discussion in 'Builder's & Retailer's Forum' started by Desperado, Sep 7, 2014.

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  1. Desperado

    Desperado Vertex Effects, Inc.

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    Dear internet community, musicians, artists, and dealers,

    I am here to be completely honest and forthcoming about everything that has occurred over the past two months with my company, without the help from any marketer or PR representative and write to you directly from the heart.

    I had a conversation yesterday with a friend of mine, who is also a member on many of the forums which Vertex has been the topic of discussion. He too is a small business owner, and has had first hand experience in dealing with a business that had to address issues of integrity. He told me a story about a former employee who plagiarized years worth of articles in his magazine, got caught, and continued to lie about where the articles were taken from. Even when confronted with the evidence, this person was not capable of telling the truth, and just could not face the reality of his actions. When hearing this, I saw myself, and realized, “I’m that guy!”

    I’ve yet to listen to my own heart. I ignored the voice of my higher power and allowed my ego to dictate my response instead of speaking the truth. I am here to set the record straight about me and my company, no matter the consequences:

    Me (Mason Marangella)

    I did go to the University of California, Berkeley and graduated with a BA in Sociology and a minor in Education. I do not have a degree in electrical engineering and did not clearly represent this to my customers, dealers, and artists. Although I have many skills of my own as an electronic designer, I’m not nearly as skilled as the engineers that have been supporting me in developing the Vertex products.

    Ken Volpe

    Ken has been a long time friend who has great sales experience, and offered his help in finding new dealers for Vertex products and supporting dealer relationships. He has only been working with Vertex since April of this year.

    Ken had no idea what was going on with the Axis Wah, nor did I make him aware of what the product was in any way. Any information that he passed on to dealers was based solely on what I told him. His involvement in the company was strictly to work with dealers and be a representative; however, in light of the Axis Wah controversy he started to defend me, believing me when I said the things that were being written about me and Vertex on the forums were untrue. He is my friend, and wanted to support me, and I let him down by not clearly telling him the truth and allowing him to separate himself from the company before he became implicated in the Axis Wah controversy.

    Michael Landau

    Michael Landau and Vertex are parting ways, and both of his signature products, the Landau Boost and Landau Chorus, will no longer be produced after this final run releases this month.

    Michael Landau has been instrumental in helping me grow my business and develop products over the last several years. He’s been incredibly generous with his time, guidance, and friendship to me, and I am forever grateful.

    He trusted me with his name and allowed me the opportunity to do two signature products with him. I damaged his trust, our business relationship, and our friendship by my choice to market and sell a rebranded product in the Axis Wah, which ultimately damaged the credibility of my company and called into question the validity of his signature products despite being one of a kind, unique products.

    I know that Michael and I both believe in the quality and sound of the products that we created together- they are incredible. However, I understand that being associated with me and Vertex calls into question his integrity, and this is certainly not what Michael signed on for, and in no way does he deserve to have his name disparaged on account of my actions.

    I will always consider Michael to be a friend and wish him nothing but the best. He has inspired me in so many ways since I was a 6 years old: listening to his rich ambient guitar tones on James Taylor’s “New Moon Shine” cassette tape that my parents would play in their old Nissan Sentra with my brother and I in the back seat. As I developed as a guitar player and listener of music, I got into Michael’s solo career and the rest was history. I can’t go a week without listening to something that Michael has played on. It’s truly been a privilege and an honor to work with Michael over the last few year and have been some of the most memorable experiences of my life.

    Donations

    I donate my time and money (from proceeds from Vertex sales) to two Title I public schools in Oakland, CA. At ASCEND Elementary school, I helped run their weekly morning music program with two other teachers at the school. I was there a few hours each week, to help run the only musical enrichment that these elementary students got all week due to lack of funding and budgetary restrictions. I plan to continue for this school year as students settle into the “back-to-school” routine and we resume the program (typically the 2nd or 3rd week of school).

    At the second school, Berkley Maynard Academy, I use proceeds from the sale of Vertex products (except the Landau Chorus where Michael Landau chose his own charity to donate) to pay for school supplies for teachers and students, and fieldtrips for families that cannot afford it. I have attached a copy of a check that I wrote for the 5th grade camping trip an an example, however several other donations were provided of the last few years. This money was used to pay for students whose families could not afford to send them away on an overnight trip and have an experience in the California wilderness. The check is made out to BMA (Berkley Maynard Academy) TAP (Teacher, Administrator, Parents group):

    [​IMG]

    Vertex Axis Wah

    The Axis Wah is a rebranded BBE Ben Wah. The following things were changed: LED, Bottom Plate, Rubber Footpad, control knob, faceplate, and Wah pot on the NOS version only (changed to a different 100K S-taper pot). The silk screening was removed from the enclosures as was the metal emblem riveted into the top of the footpad. We would adjust the pot to give the wah a more full-range sweep, but this could have also been done by the customer themselves. All of the aesthetic changes and parts manufactured for the changes were done in California, except for the Wah pot on the NOS Wah that was sourced in the USA, but likely from Taiwan or China.

    I got a hold of a BBE Wah pedals several years ago and found them to be really great examples of the vintage Vox tone, but looked awful. I was working on a wah of my own at the time, but needed more time and money to develop it, and thought that this would be a good springboard to get a wah product out there to help launch my future wah down the road. I experimented with a few different changes (above) to improve the aesthetics and make it look classy, and it became my best selling product. As much as I wanted to continue to develop my own Wah design, the Axis Wah seemed to pick up more and more traction each month and would push my own design efforts back. My idea was that I would just clear out my existing inventory of Axis Wahs, but this never happened. The product was selling well, customers liked it, and I was too oblivious to admit or acknowledge that I was selling a lie.

    ***ADDITION as of 9/8/14 @ 12:03AM***

    To clarify, I have no NDA agreement with BBE or any involvement with the design or manufacturing of the Ben Wah.

    Vertex Volume Pedals

    This was manufactured as described on the website and in the manual.

    Website: https://www.vertexeffects.com/effects/stereo-volume-pedal

    Manual: https://www.vertexeffects.com/docs/manuals/VolumeStereo.pdf

    I do state that is based on a Boss FV-500 platform and that this product is a modification. There is also the words “modified in the USA” on the front of the volume pedal. The modifications require getting rid of components that aren’t necessary and as a result hurt the tone. However, the result of the modification is significant, and creates an appreciable difference between a stock Boss Volume pedal and the modified version. I am sure I am not the first to figure this modification out, but to my knowledge nobody was offering this to the public and after I did a few modifications for various artists, I got emails from clients requesting it which was the reason for releasing this as a product item.

    Vertex Cables

    We buy our cable from Belden, it is made in the USA. The sleeving of the cables, termination, soldering and all assembly of the cables from there all happens in house. We terminate with high quality Neutrik end (European versions, not the Chinese Rean versions) and place two layers of heat shrink around the ends so that they connectors don’t come loose and also protect the cable as best as possible. They are not directional in shielding as a twisted pair shielded cable is. They are coax cables. I offer a lifetime warranty on them.

    I experimented with many cables and found this one to be the best of even the most expensive boutique brands when put in the context of a pedalboard and multiple types of amplifiers (both clean and high gain) and different pickup outputs (both single coil and humbucking). This was also true of all testing and comparing we did with multiple artists and customers. When I was experimenting with different cables in effort to spec my own (which never happened once I started sourcing from Belden), I noticed the Pete Cornish was also using a Belden mic cable for his instrument cables. I justified to myself that Pete was a respected figure in the industry and his cables sounded great, why couldn’t I do the same for a cable that I found to be superior for my purposes.

    This justification however, did not make statements about my cables any more accurate. The bottom line is that it is my responsibility to represent my products exactly as they are, and I did not, and I should have laid out this information for customers to make a fully informed choice.

    Landau Chorus

    This was marketed as exactly what it was, we do match this product to Michael Landau’s trusty old SCH-1, there are many changes, and requires incredibly invasive re-work, however Michael stipulated that he wanted the product to remain in this enclosure as part of the signature product instead of doing a new PCB and putting into a standard Vertex enclosure. Landau has always spoken highly of this product and agrees that it matches his original Arion Chorus.

    Landau Boost

    This product was marketed exactly as described. It is fully transparent, no color to your sound, and was developed with Michael Landau’s supervision. It is a great product, and has functions that no other other Boost possesses in addition to not adding any change to your tone, just whatever you have, but made louder. To my knowledge this product shares no similarities with other existing Boost pedals, and we used part of the design ideas in the output buffers used on the pedalboard systems that I built to help create the colorless boost function of this product. We also use a similar idea found in our dual buffer pedalboard systems to isolate the impedance of the Volume/EXP function that can be connected to the Boost.

    Landau has commented and would continue to agree that his product sounds great, and does exactly what is advertised.

    Vertex Boost

    This product was marketed exactly as described. It is fully transparent and adds no color to your sound. It was developed off of the Boost that Michael Landau oversaw in the Landau Boost and shares the same overall PCB with a few changes in functionality. The boost circuitry is identical in both boosts, but the Vertex Boost offers a few extra functions, being able to use the Boost as a volume control when the Boost is in bypass. It is a great product, and has functions that no other Boost possesses in addition to not adding any change to your tone, just whatever you have, but made louder. To my knowledge this product shares no similarities with other existing Boost pedals, and we used part of the design ideas in the output buffers used on the pedalboard systems that I built to help create the colorless boost function of this product. We also use a similar idea in our buffers to isolate the impedance of the Volume/EXP function that can be connected to the Boost.

    Summary

    I was dishonest in the marketing of the Axis Wah. As a businessman I have an obligation to fully disclose the nature of my products to my customers and I did not. On top of it, I lied when questions arose about the origin of the product and didn’t identify the Axis Wah as a rebranded pedal. I dishonored my friends, allies, customers, artists, and family by not disclosing this, and moreover by not being culpable immediately once these facts were apparent. My fears and insecurities as a human being and how it would impact me trumped the necessity to be honest and truthful. I have no excuse.

    This has been something that I’ve struggled with my entire life, and I feel that God, The Universe, Karma, or whatever dogma you subscribe to has been trying to tell me to “WAKE UP”,and it has taken something as momentous as this for me to finally “get it”.

    It is truly the most difficult experience that I have had in my life, but has also taught me the most important lesson in my life: there is no gray area in the truth. You are either 100% truthful or you are not, there is nothing in between. There isn’t always immediate gratification in the truth, sometimes it sucks, and sometimes things don’t get better right away, or at all, but standing in the space of honesty and truth is the only place where I can be free.

    Moving Forward

    I will work tirelessly to make customers who purchased the Axis Wah whole again. It is going to be a long and arduous process. I’m working now on securing funding so that I can begin offering refunds to customers that purchased the Axis Wah, as there was no integrity behind the sale of this product. I fully recognize that I need to seek guidance and do some intensive work on myself and really get to the core of my behavior and how I can address this problem I have moving forward. All I ask is for time and your patience in getting money back to Axis Wah owners.

    If you are an owner of the Vertex cable(s), please also feel free to contact me as I did not describe that my supplier was Belden, the cable was a coax, and misrepresented the directional functionality of the cable as a result of not being twisted pair shielded.

    My contact information is below:

    Phone: 510-863-0612
    Email: mason@vertexeffects.com
    Skype: vertexeffects

    Sincerely,

    Mason Marangella
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2014
    Phase45child likes this.
  2. EricPeterson

    EricPeterson Member

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    Well I am no engineer nor am I qualified to make technical determinations, but based on what I have read, this seems like a pretty accurate account of what happened. I got to hand it to you Mason, it may have taken a bit (in internet time, which moves really fast) but this seems like a very transparent post. It takes balls to come back and post something like that, forgiveness is cathartic.
     
    SceroGuitars likes this.
  3. Desperado

    Desperado Vertex Effects, Inc.

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  4. Desperado

    Desperado Vertex Effects, Inc.

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    I'm really working on it Eric...I have a mess to clean up for sure. This was the hardest thing I've ever written in my life. I had tears in my eyes for a lot of it, and seeing the disappointment in my wife's face as she helped me proofread was one the most shaming experiences of my life.
     
    Lex likes this.
  5. steve440

    steve440 Member

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    Do yourself a favour, delete this thread now, go away and come back in 6-12months with a new revised business plan. And do it properly next time. You're capable I'm sure, but this is just painful to watch and not helping you at all.

    Trust me, this is the best advice you will get all week. thank me later;)

    Steve
     
    Bo88y likes this.
  6. Desperado

    Desperado Vertex Effects, Inc.

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    Thanks for the advice Steve. I need to see this through whatever the consequences may be, I really feel that my life depends on it.
     
  7. Stringtech

    Stringtech Member

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    So this question I asked you awhile back was a complete blatant fabricated falsehood?

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Stringtech
    You make the cable itself in house? You have a wire extruder?


    " Part of our facility is paired with a cable manufacturer that does cables for specialty computers and automotive electronics for many companies in Silicon Valley, but they do instrument cables specially for us, which we then sleeve by hand and terminate on our end."



     
  8. Desperado

    Desperado Vertex Effects, Inc.

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    Yes, this was not true.
     
  9. Robbgnarly

    Robbgnarly Member

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    While I think you finally admitted what everyone here has known you needed to do and that is a good thing, what you did is basically corporate suicide.

    I do have a question for you though. Did you actually make any Axis/NOS in the beginning as a prototype?

    Thanks for coming clean, but you have lost a customer here for life.
     
  10. Desperado

    Desperado Vertex Effects, Inc.

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    It may be, but I'd rather go out with a clear conscience. I don't want anyone else to be hurt on account of the Axis Wah.

    Some of the modified pedals that I did for a few guys like Michael Landau and Robben Ford were called the "Axis Mods", but I never had my own prototype PCB until May or June of this year when we began to plan for the wah that would replace the Axis or be the Axis v2. Some of those pictures of the PCB have been floating around the internet pictured next to a vintage Vox V846 and a vintage Clyde McCoy as those are the tones that we're trying to replicate with the new production wah that is 100% Vertex (although still a clone of a vintage wah).
     
  11. Stringtech

    Stringtech Member

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    So not only a fabricated lie but you must have also had to remove the Belden logos to hide the fact?

    Are you planning on refunding all the folks that spent mega dollars on this cable and pedals?

    Have the FTC or authorities been calling?

    We all make mistakes but we also have to pay the piper. Hope you can get your life on the right track but you need to never be in this business again.
     
  12. davetcan

    davetcan Member

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    Well that was a long time coming but it took guts and was hopefully cathartic. I wish for your sake you'd written this a couple of days ago instead of the other one.
     
  13. Stringtech

    Stringtech Member

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    Also as it came out you had a lot of folks building everything, can you even build a pedal or solder? Can you list who was doing what? I don't revel in this. It is sad tale. But it might be good to unveil the complete curtain.
     
  14. scolfax

    scolfax Supporting Member

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    Time to change your sig: "Handcrafted in California"

    Also, what is the truth about your wave solder machine?
     
  15. EricPeterson

    EricPeterson Member

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    At this point I am going to say it is piling on, pretty much guess that whatever you thought was a lie, probably was, he admitted there were lies and deception, pretty extensively. Do you really need to go over every detail? We know what happened more or less, and Mason has admitted it and asked for forgiveness on a public forum, whether or not you ever buy something from him again, I see no reason to keep prodding him or pushing it, either accept his apology and forgive (not saying forget) or not, but the continued grilling seems inappropriate at this juncture.
     
  16. Desperado

    Desperado Vertex Effects, Inc.

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    I've said that I will give refunds to those the purchased the cable in the last paragraph of the letter, I'm happy to do that and certainly owe it to my customers.

    The custom buffers were spec'd out by me and an engineer that I hired to help design and develop the buffer to my specifications. Then our contract manufacturer took over the PCB assembly and we would load each box custom depending on what the needs were. They have gone through an evolution over time and started out with a lot of hand-wiring, but got much more streamlined over time and as we got better at assembling them.
     
  17. Desperado

    Desperado Vertex Effects, Inc.

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    As most growing companies that are manufacturing pedal, we do use contract manufacturers as most of us don't have the overhead to build up an assembly line from scratch (or at least I don't).

    I do have a contract manufacturer, yes. I can build pedals, I can solder.

    Contract manufacturers is:

    Assembly Masters: http://www.assemblymastersltd.com

    My contact person is Greg Barkley if you want to reach out to him.
     
  18. Stringtech

    Stringtech Member

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    Ok. Were you personally gooping and rebadging the wahs? This is actually important as if there are others in the industry part of this deception it needs to be known.

    Thank you for coming clean.
     
  19. kriko71

    kriko71 Member

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    Glad to see that you were finally able to 'get' the whole thing. Best luck to you for your future endavor(s).
     
  20. scolfax

    scolfax Supporting Member

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    Mason, Are you going to continue working on that new wah? Is/was that real?
     
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