[interview] Bob Burt Cabinets & Pedals: Bob Burt

Here's FXDB's interview with Bob Burt of Bob Burt Cabinets & Pedals:

How did Bob Burt Cabinets & Pedals start?

I have been playing guitar recreationally and professionally for 40 years. Over the years I have spent thousands of dollars on guitars, amps and pedals trying to find the pieces that gave me what I was looking for night after night. After building cabinets for years I began to think about an overdrive pedal that had all the characteristics I wanted. I had favorites but they all had little things about them that I did not care for. I began researching and educating myself and in 2007 I developed you first prototype of my Overdrive. After dialing it in and letting a few players test it for several months, I began getting requests for them from players who had heard or played the units I had shared. I began the process of producing them for sale and that is what started the pedal part of my business. Since that time I have produced a Clean Boost, Compressor, Reverb, GR8T Multi Distortion with plans for a couple more units.

I had the good fortune of living in the Pensacola, Florida area and am fortunate to know John Landgraff who is a well known pedal and amp builder. He was the person who was instrumental in getting me in the cabinet building business. I started out building cabinets for his amplifiers which eventually led to my cabinet business getting off the ground. I was also inspired by Clay Jones who was another master builder. Out of these two relationships came the desire to learn about electronics and try to develop pedals that would be go to tools for the working musicians.

I visited various forums as well and researched sites dealing with guitar effects and learned a lot of valuable information. I never really meant to get into mass production. It all started with me wanting to build a few pedals for my own use. Having built an excellent reputation as a cabinet designer & builder, many player knew of me and when they heard I was building pedals they wanted to check them out. I partnered with Blue Angel Music in 2007 with them being my US distributor. This relationship led to a distributor in Japan. I am currently looking for other distributors to help promote my products

Where do the name and logo come from?

It is my given name.

My logo began as "Bob Burt Custom Cabinets". I began in the year 2000 building custom guitar speaker cabinets which I still do to this day. Now my logo is "Bob Burt Cabinets & Pedals" to include my pedals.

What sets Bob Burt Cabinets & Pedals apart from other builders?

I think what sets my pedals apart is the focus on usability and simplicity. Not a lot of bells and whistles, just a very dependable unit that you can put on your pedal board and get the same exact sound and effect as you did the night before. As a live player I never liked having to search for the sweet spot night after night.

Another thing I believe to be very attractive is the fact I build all units myself using high quality parts. If there is any issue with a unit the customer can deal directly with me and be assured I will do whatever it takes to make them happy.

How do you start on a new pedal?

All my builds so far have been based on need. As the old saying goes "necessity is the mother of invention". I start with a bread board and a pile of components.

The length of time it takes to design and get a working unit to the prototype stage varies based on the complexity of the circuit. Generally speaking it takes 3 months or so to get a unit to that point. Then, I have 3-4 working players who take the units and test them under live conditions for 1-2 months and then report back to me with their thoughts. I can then fine tune the design and get it to the final cut. This is the most important part of the process to me.

How do you name your pedals?

Again, in keeping with my Spartan mentality I simply name my pedals what they are. As they said in the ToneQuest review "it is like naming your dog - dog and your cat - cat". I have always believed in name association with a builder. The GR8T name is the only exception. My son thought I needed something to left folks know there were eight positions on the rotary dial and offered this name so I used it.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

I build all pedals myself.

I buy enclosures and all my painting is done by Arlon Prince. He has been painting for many builders for nearly 10 years and specializes in beautiful high quality swirl paint jobs.

How important is the look of your pedals?

I think look is very important. That is why I use Arlon Prince. He does great work. I offered various paint schemes but customers continually migrated to the swirl paint jobs so I stick with that.

Is parts selection important?

I use the highest quality parts I can find period. There are some components that are not negotiable in the circuits so I do not budge. I prefer audiophile quality parts if at all possible.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

I am most proud of the Clean Boost. In a world of boost upon boost, it is nearly impossible to come up with something new and unique. ToneQuest tested and reviewed my boost and said this about it, "That is one of the best-sounding and useful tools we have ever heard". To me that is the highest compliment that can be paid.

The Clean Boost was designed to boost the guitar signal without adding overtones and overdrive to the tone. The most notable characteristics of the BBCB are transparency - clarity - 20+ db boost without distortion. The BBCB utilizes audiophile quality parts and a unique design to accomplish this task. It works well with single coil and humbucker pickups. The BBCB increases the volume of your amp without causing it to overdrive or get dirty. It maintains the pure tone of your guitar, amp and any effects you are using. The BBCB is a great tool for the guitar player who likes to bump up his volume and keep it clean and tight.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

The GR8T Multi Distortion is my latest design and is my most challenging to date. One subject kept coming up pretty often when customers would contact me and that was making a true distortion pedal. Not everyone knows what a big difference there is between overdrive as we know it, and actual distortion pedals. In an overdrive the chip is used to amplify, but in the distortion, amplification comes from lots of gain or devices after the chip, not connected to the input and output of the chip itself. The response to the guitar volume control and the feel of the pedal is quite different.

I began researching the various approaches taken by other designers and wanted to create something that was different and user friendly. The Bob Burt GR8T Distortion manifests many voices. It is a single gain stage design, which keeps it quiet and allows it to maintain a lot of detail and pure guitar tone. Besides the circuits simplicity, what really makes this design exciting to me is that it is the first pedal I've seen with this many tonal variations available in one pedal. Besides gain, tone and output volume, the pedal features an eight way rotary switch that starts with no compression and gives a series of gradual steps of compression. No multiple mini toggle switches to flip and try to remember how they were switched when you had that killer tone you liked so much. Simply turn the rotary switch to the position you like and go for it.

As you turn the switch clockwise, the pedal compresses more and more, changing the shape of the distortion waveform in each mode. When used in conjunction with the gain and level controls, you can go from raw rock and metal tones, down to compressed and warm D-style overdriven tones easily. Think of it as eight great distortion voices in one pedal. I chose a precision Texas Instruments Op Amp, which is the nearest modern equal to the LM308 used in other similarly configured pedals. Like all my pedals, I have chosen parts for low noise, consistency, and tone. It is true bypass like all of my pedals. I build each and every pedal by hand personally, and play each when complete to insure it meets my standards.

It took nearly a year from conception to production on this pedal as it was very challenging to get so many usable tones from one unit. This pedal was a departure from my "one trick pony" thought process but I had many customers who work in the recording industry who wanted a unit that could get more usable tones, thus more bang for the buck so to speak.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

The Bob Burt Overdrive is my most popular pedal. The overdrive was designed by a guitar player for guitar players. The most notable characteristics of the BBOD are transparency - increased lows - reduced mids - high output and full tone sweep taking you from the brown sound to the twin sound. Transparency allows the pure sound of your guitar to be heard without added tones. Increased lows solves the problem so many overdrives have which is a thin bright sound when you engage them. The BBOD maintains the low end and eliminates loss of depth and tone. Reduced mids decreases the nasal tones and compression generally found in other overdrives. High output allows the player to get the desired volume at a much lower setting, thus reducing noise and making the pedal very quiet. The tone control on the BBOD goes from a darker brown sound to a bright twin sound with the turn of a knob. You will not find clipping switches on the BBOD for one reason. These features are unusable “on the fly”. Great care has been taken to voice this pedal for optimum tone and clarity.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

I build pedals targeted at the working musician market. Coming from a working musician's back ground, I find it pointless to have lots of mini toggle switches that cannot be used on the fly. I would much rather have a pedal that does a specific thing and does it exactly as I desire night in and night out.

I have pedals in the hands of some noeable artists but have never asked them if I could use their names. I am mostly have artist associations with my cabinets at this point in time.

What does the future of Bob Burt Cabinets & Pedals look like?

My focus for 2012 is to complete the design of a delay and possibly a rotary effect. This will complete my line of pedals. In both cases I have very distinct things I want them to do so it is very time consuming. I expect to have the delay within the year and the rotary sometime after that.

Currently I am going strong and hope to be at a point I can do this work I love full time.

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