Mike Matthews started Electro-Harmonix in 1968, building a series of guitar effect pedals for the expanding market of rock guitarists. The use of distortion had become popular, so the company’s first pedal, the Axis, was soon followed by the Big Muff which became a best seller. The Big Muff, and its various later versions, have been used by such legendary guitarists as Carlos Santana, David Gilmour, Alex Lifeson and Bill Corgan. According to legend, Jimi Hendrix bought one at Manny’s Music in New York City to use at his Electric Lady recording studio. Since it’s release in 1969 there have been many versions of the Big Muff and it is still in production today.
Soon Electro-Harmonix began to expand their output, offering guitarists access to not only sounds they heard on hit records, but the ability to create new sounds of their own. The Small Stone phase shifter and Small Clone chorus pedal were seen on stages all across the country. Electro-Harmonix continued to break new ground with delay and looper pedals, such as the Deluxe Memory Man (a favorite of U2 guitarist The Edge) and reverb and compressor pedals.
The company also built a number of guitar synthesizer pedals, allowing guitar players to emulate sounds that had been the domain of keyboardists. In 1995, Matthews asked Mike Beigel to design a new pedal based around his invention - the Mu-tron III. This new pedal, called the Q-tron, delivered all the features of the Mu-tron while adding new capabilities and opening new worlds of sound for guitar and bass players.
Along the way, the company also released the Mike Matthews Freedom amp, one of the first portable battery-powered guitar amplifiers. Then in the mid 1980s, the company shifted its focus, suspending the production of effect pedals and began to concentrate its effort of vacuum tubes for guitar amps. However, the demand for Electro-Harmonix pedals remained strong and with used versions commanding high prices, they began to release new versions of their classics.
Today there are dozens of effect pedals being produced by Electro-Harmonix, including new compact versions of the original Big Muff and Memory Man pedals. Mike Matthews continues to honor the company’s past while continuing his quest to put new and innovative sounds in the hands of guitarists the world over.