A few words on Robert:
Robert was always interested in music and guitars from an early age, having a mother and a grand-uncle who were both musically inclined. He got his love of the guitar from watching the showbands touring the Irish circuit of the time, then discovered Rory Gallagher, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. The die was cast, and Robert played guitar in many bands as a teenager.
After he left school he served an apprenticeship as a mechanical engineer (at the behest of his parents who insisted he learn a trade rather than stick with the then-dodgy prospects of becoming a musician). This apprenticeship was to serve him well in later life, but at the time he saw it as imprisonment and as soon as he’d qualified he went back to playing guitar full-time.
A job as a bassist soon became available with a band that was going to do a tour in Canada, and, being adventurous, off he set with the band, carrying everything he owned in the backpack and guitar case he took with him.
Robert toured Canada coast-to-coast from 1975 to 1979, then took several years out to raise his family in Vancouver. Several jobs (“prisons” he calls them) later he’d settled on a life as an illustrative photographer in North Vancouver, gigging on a part-time basis, but by 1990 the career of a full-time musician was calling again, and he re-joined the band he’d gone to Canada with in 1975, though by this time they’d settled down in Vancouver and had a house-gig, which meant going on the road was now the exception rather than the rule.
During this period Robert experimented with guitar, bass and amplifier design, bringing his skills in electronics and mechanical systems to instrument design and repair. He was instrumental in designing compensated baffling for bass cabinets, something that had been (and to some degree still is) ignored by others. Whilst playing bass in the Vancouver/British Columbia area, he was often asked “how do you get such a big bass sound?” Not loud, mind you, but “big”. To this day, playing with The Real Deal, he still gets asked that same question.
Start with your instrument
“It’s all a matter of control and application”, he says. “Start with your instrument. If it’s not going to get the sound you want – get one that will have the correct sound. Same applies to your amplifier. Headroom is the secret here, not raw power. 300W minimum (at any ohm load), 400-500W is better. These days such amps are fairly light, though of course not the cheapest. The typical 500W 2×10 combo is probably only putting out 300W into the 2×10 speakers at 8 ohms. To get the full 500W from your amp you need to let your amp see a 4 ohm load. This is easily done by connecting an extra 8 ohm cab (we should point out here that some amps deliver their maximum power at 2 ohms. Do not go below the manufacturers recommended ohmage load – this can damage your amp). If you like the sound of 15” speakers, don’t buy an amp/cab with 10’s. The opposite also applies. I like the Solid State sound for bass, valves/tubes are good too, just a matter of taste.
Add a compressor (a good one) first and compress from the stage. Make sure you can control your tone (a graphic EQ will be good here) and at the end of the chain add something like a BBE Sonic Maximizer for proper phase alignment (doesn’t really matter which one, even a Behringer Enhancer will improve your tone here). Rack-mounted effects generally offer more control than floor-mounted ones and have the added bonus of being able to be seen and adjusted far more easily. The secret is not to overdo the effects, and not to pump up the bottom end – this costs you headroom and causes problems for the sound engineer”.
OK, now we know how he gets “that” sound!
Robert repaired and modified instruments for many players, offering advice based on years of experience as to which pickups would suit a particular style, which guitar or bass, which amp, and designing custom rigs.
He returned to Ireland in 2002 and has settled near his home town of Killarney. Still working in the music industry, he noticed a lack of reasonably-priced instruments that were of a good enough quality to be gigged, and set about rectifying this.
Anne Buckley came on board as his business partner and Robert and Anne launched Freya Guitars in 2009. “Rather than concentrate on original guitars, we decided to take already-established designs and apply our own set of specifications to them”, explains Robert. “Sure, you could buy big-name guitars costing a lot of money, or you could buy a beginner’s model cheaply enough, but what about the guitar you would feel comfortable taking to a gig night after night, that would do a good job, offer easy interchangeability of parts (if you wanted to experiment), be made from decent tonewoods (as opposed to plywood) and have USA-made strings and a proper setup when you receive it? A guitar that would do the job if you didn’t want to take your €2000 guitar to a boisterous gig?”
This is what they set out to do, and seem to have met all their requirements. “We offer decent tonewoods and good-quality hardware on all our guitars” says Robert. “We have the best-value electric guitars, semi-acoustic and acoustic guitars on the market.
As Robert & Anne own and distribute their own brand, “Freya”, this means they do not incur wholesaler’s or retail markups and can pass the savings onto their valued customers. “We also offer phone (+353-87-6805214) and email support (email@example.com) in the unlikely event you have a problem, and offer a free no-time-limit setup service on all our guitars to the original owner” (though if you drop by with buns & tea they might still do it for you, even if you’ve bought it second-hand).
Robert & Anne