[interview] Cause & Effect Pedals (CE Pedals): Mark Roberts

Here's FXDB's interview with Mark Roberts of Cause & Effect Pedals (CE Pedals):

How did Cause & Effect Pedals (CE Pedals) start?

In our quest for tone, we've bought numerous pedals only to be disappointed with the lack of innovation and mediocre sound that so many delivered. As electrical engineers and hobbyists building tube amps, we finally decided it was time to take matters into our own hands. Taking a no-compromise approach to designing a distortion pedal resulted in our first product, the FET Dream.

The founders of Cause & Effects Pedals are firm believers and active participants in a number of community forums devoted to Guitar electronics and we look to the community for inspiration and guidance.

One of our favorite DIY Guitar Tube Amp forums is The Amp Garage. This site focuses mainly on two of the first and foremost boutique tube amp companies in history... the Trainwreck and Dumble amplifier series. There is an incredible community of experts participating on this forum and volumes of informative posts amassed.

Where does the name come from?

CE Pedals is a play on the words Cause & Effect.

Cause and Effect has its own meaning associated with it in the Buddhist world: karma. Wouldn't it be nice to see some karmic justice play out in the guitar effects market?

As engineers we tend to fall back on the scientific or Aristotlean views of causality... we want to fully understand the root cause of the tone we are after and ensure that we can reliably and consistently deliver that in our products. We reject unsubstantiated claims of component mojo but embrace quality and minutiae that contribute real differences to our tone. We won't limit ourselves by hearsay evidence and suspect 'pseudo-scientific' principles and instead focus on pushing the envelope and testing assumptions with our experimental circuits.

Where does the logo come from?

Enso is a Japanese word meaning circle, but in art it is an important symbol of Buddhism and closely associated with the state of Zen enlightenment. It is loaded with meanings other than enlightenment, such as strength, elegance, the concepts of universe and void and even a particular aesthetic. It also suggests infinite possibilities.

We like these many positive attributes and have adopted the enso as part of our company logo. The enso is also interpreted as expression of the moment. For us, if we can deliver you effortless tone, that may contribute to your 'tonal' enlightenment, freeing your mind 'to simply let the body spirit create'.

In particular, we have chosen to leave our enso open as opposed to closed. An open enso suggests you are part of something greater and reminds you of the importance of asymmetry and irregularities in the aesthetic qualities of a thing... these are both important concepts to us in our guitar effects.

What sets Cause & Effect Pedals (CE Pedals) apart from other builders?

We focus on a fairly niche market and put extra effort into quality and robustness of the finished product.

How do you start on a new pedal?

We have a long, iterative process to conceive and design a pedal. Extensive spice simulations let us try out unusual ideas and multiple PCB iterations help to refine and hone the circuitry.

How do you name your pedals?

FET Dream rhymes with 'wet dream'. Not everybody seemed to get it.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

In-house, hand-built by the owners.

The circuits are hand-assembled PCBs with mixed component style.

The enclosures are standard aluminum die cast enclosures for pedals, fully custom laser-cut and welded seam chassis in 1/8" aluminum for tube amplifiers. The painting is powder-coat and silkscreening.

How important is the look of your pedals?

We like a clean, simple aesthetic. We are very concerned with the footprint (small MXR-size case was paramount). Limiting the number of controls and making sure the quality of the finish was high (especially hard-to-scratch labeling) were also important considerations.

Is parts selection important?

High-quality capacitors in active circuits. Hand-selected FET transistors (>50% reject rate). Heavily filtered and protected power supply. Carefully crafted PCBs with shielding of critical signals.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

We have a very limited product line currently, but we're very proud to produce an innovative pedal (the FET Dream) in the overcrowded overdrive/distortion space. Quite grateful for the early support and enthusiasm of our first artists. Pleased that our customers appreciate and understand the benefit of the 'girth' control in the FET Dream (allowing you to control the bass prior to distortion for extra versatility in the overdriven tone).

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

We tend to lean towards serving blues & jazz players with Dumble-inspired pedals and amplifiers.

What does the future of Cause & Effect Pedals (CE Pedals) look like?

We hand-build each pedal and our volume is limited.

We are currently sharing our 2nd generation tube amplifier prototypes with selected artists for feedback and refinement.

We want to start productizing our hybrid digital/analog pedal platform.

Are you working on any new products?

We have some ideas and prototypes for a line of hybrid analog/digital pedals we are excited about. We don't have a fixed schedule.

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