But that’s the past, and Switchcraft has a lot more going on than simply making some of the best, most respected audio connectors in the world, as Glenn Clarke of Australian Switchcraft distributors Clarke & Severn Electronics explains. “Switchcraft has been around for a lot of years, since 1946,” he says. “And basically they just make products that don’t wear out. They’re well known for their guitar products – their jacks, their plugs, their switches. In more recent years they’ve come out with some rather clever patch bays – their Studio Patch Range – that you can change with the turn of a screwdriver rather than having to solder and re-solder. They’ve also come out with small-form type technology which they didn’t have before, and they’re driving a lot of that sort of stuff. So we’re going to see more products that are now attuned to the current technology with iPads and virtual studio technology. So yes, they’ve been around for a long time, but they’re not stuck in the past.”
Switchcraft is uniquely placed to be right there at the intersection of creativity and knowledge. It seems like most musicians now are more empowered by knowledge and information than ever before. whereas once the mega rigs of doom were reserved for the likes of Steve Lukather, now pretty much anyone can construct a rig with complex switching and routing applications with high quality gear at a much more affordable price point than ever. “I think people are more empowered,” Clarke says. “And they can basically do so much more now, almost anywhere, any time. Other than from an acoustic point of view you don’t actually need a studio, which is going to change a lot of things.
My perception, my take from going to trade shows and guitar shows and talking to people is that everybody knows Switchcraft from the old stuff. They don’t think of the new stuff, and a lot of the Switchcraft competitors have done all the new stuff that Switchcraft is now starting to catch up to, and they’ve got an awful lot of stuff in the pipeline which we’ll see come into the market in the coming years.” Clarke has his own theories on why so many folks are setting up their own studios or becoming more aware of pro-style signal routing technologies:. “Music, in some ways, is making a comeback,” he says simply. “There’s a guy in my poker group who has a band and he plays keyboards and guitar. Six of them got together and they’re playing gigs in pubs around Sydney, and even he turned up and goes ‘look, we’re playing in the garage and it’s not quite working. Can you make us up a Y-split cable so I can run both my keyboards into my amp?’ I think that’s where now technology has made it easy for everybody to do that.
Before, it wasn’t. Before you had to have all good gear, and you had to have the money to pay for it and support it. Now you don’t need that!’ And then there’s the emotional connection felt between musicians and their gear. “Even at the Melbourne Guitar Show, we were opposite Charles Cilia, and he uses Switchcraft parts that we got in for him, and the quality of what he produced, and the effort and love that went into each one that he made was just amazing. And I couldn’t believe how cheap he was selling them for! I was like ‘Charles, you could be selling these for so much more! They’re all handmade and you put all that effort in.’ But he said ‘No, this is what it is.’ And then people would come to play them and almost cuddle them, and then they’d play for an hour, go away and come back. They had an emotional connection to his guitars.’
Key to Clarke & Severn’s philosophy is to make sure that the gear is available at an affordable price point, and in a timely manner. Especially now that there’s always competition from offshore sites. Part of that is protecting local consumers from the false-economy-shock of exchange rates and fees for freight and customs, not to mention cutting down on wait times. “It’s important that it’s available here in Australia,” Clarke says. “It’s stocked in Australia and the prices are pretty competitive with prices out of the US, especially when you factor in freight. Between myself, my marketing person and my wife, Switchcraft has been a pet project and we’ve trawled almost every website that we can find on the net, checking prices, and we’ve worked out what the pattern is. We try and make it as attractive as possible for people in Australia and New Zealand to get their hands on the product and not get the shock of the huge freight bill when it turns up!”
So which Switchcraft product does Clarke feel is especially exciting? One example is the new DI 314 box, which builds on the concept of Audiostix, tiny little rectangular tubes for signal routing applications. “They’ve now reduced the size of their chunky DI boxes to that size too. The Audiostix line is quite popular, and since we’ve done all this effort on our site and got the pricing right, the 9625 patch bay – the 96-way studio patch – we’re probably moving one of those a week where we were lucky to move one a year. And I think that’s a big thing: having Switchcraft products available means you order it and if it’s in stock then it generally ships within 24 to 48 hours. So you’re getting value for money in product, price and service.”
For more information on Switchcraft products, contact Clarke and Severn Electronics at www.clarke.com.au or phone (02) 9482 1944