The most exciting thing about working for a company that makes pickups and pedals is the opportunity to participate in new product development. There are many different elements to this process: the brainstorming, the prototyping, the look, the written materials, the media clips to let folks know what it sounds like. The Catalina Dynamic Chorus (see it here) was unveiled on January 17 (coinciding with the closest approach to earth by Comet Catalina, as a matter of fact) but it was a process that began more than a year ago.
My first encounter with the Catalina was the week after NAMM in January 2015. But at that time the Catalina didn’t yet have a name. It didn’t even have its own case: it was built into a Vapor Trail chassis with several external components as well. This allows the engineers to easily implement changes, before the circuit board is given its final layout for manufacture. But before that can happen, the pedal’s voicing needs to be nailed down. Seymour Duncan has a network of trusted, experienced beta testers who evaluate future products and give feedback based on extensive play testing. During January 2015 we had a number of our blog writers in town, and they all had the opportunity to plug in to the then-unnamed chorus pedal to see what they thought. They all filled out feedback sheets that were gathered up and considered alongside the other testers.
I’ll always remember the first time I played the Catalina: I explored the possibilities of the Dynamic Expression feature by playing Hendrix’s “Little Wing,” with the chorus effect set for a Leslie-like warbly shimmer when I played softly, and a clear, un-effected sound when I picked hard. And I find that even now, when I plug into the finished Catalina, that’s the first thing I feel like playing because it shows off the pedal’s capabilities so well.
But I’m getting ahead of myself: We considered a number of different names and looks for the Catalina before settling on the finished product. The search for a name involved a lot of discussion about terms that references water: chorus evokes a certain liquid, underwater texture for a lot of players, and the idea was to chose a name that honored that. Much like the 805 Overdrive, which drew its name from the area code of our home base of Santa Barbara, the Catalina’s name came from the island off the coast of Los Angeles as a tribute to our Californian routes. In May 2015 we were asked to choose our favorite out of three potential looks. Ultimately the look ended up being very similar to one of the three but with white knobs.
With the circuit, name and look decided, it was time to write the manual (including suggested settings) and press release, have our talented photographer Mark Weikel take some beautiful shots for the website, and for an official video to be filmed by Danny Young.
With all the materials in place we made our announcement on social media, and then a few days later we unveiled the Catalina to dealers, players and the media: we had several pedal stations at our NAMM booth for anyone to plug in and check the pedal out alongside the Palladium Gain Stage and our other pedals.
And there you have it! We’re always working on new products so we have all sorts of pickups and pedals at various stages of development. Even at this very moment we’re working very hard to finalize the… oh we can’t tell you that yet…