[interview] Elite Tone: David Nelson

Here's FXDB's interview with David Nelson of Elite Tone:

How did Elite Tone start?

Well it's a funny story really. I was in the New York city area scouting out potential colleges being a Junior in high school, age 17 at the time. And so anyway I wanted to stop at a Sam Ash guitar store I noticed. I walked into the store tried out a few guitars and amps and such, I then made my way to a few book shelves, probably looking for a tablature book or something. I eventually noticed Craig Anderton's "Electronic Projects for Musicians". I had no idea that it was feasible to make your own effects, so I bought the book. I decided to build the treble booster project, went to the local Radio Shack soldered it up. And to my amazement, it worked the first time I plugged it in.

I didn't know a single person at that time that could even solder, or knew anything about electronics in general. I would read up on vintage effects online, at that time I was crazy about Hendrix so it seemed logical to build a germanium based fuzz face, simply because it was both interesting and cost effective. Fortunately my guitar teacher during that same period of time, in high school, had a great ear, and gave me really straight forward advice. So I'd try to show up early for lessons and ask him to try out a new fuzz pedal or whatever effect it was. Most of the time initially, he'd say something like "Well, I think it's back to the drawling board". And each week, for many months I would try to modify the pedals based on his feedback. And over time, the pedals started evolving.

Where do the name and logo come from?

I wanted a simple name that implied quality.

The original logo included a banner stating our slogan "Custom sounds of the past and the future built today" over chrome lettering. I was inspired by family crest symbols. Seemed fitting for the company name.

What sets Elite Tone apart from other builders?

What sets me apart is that I provide exclusive in house building which allows me to tweak the pedal per the customers request. Our philosophy is also to accept nothing but complete follow thru and ongoing support. I also provide free diagnostic analysis and repair to make sure the customer is provided personal care.

How do you start on a new pedal?

I try to encourage brain storming as much as possible. And whenever I think of a new concept or idea I try to write it down and draw a brief diagram. I think I have about 10 notebooks I've kept over the years. Also speaking with everyday musicians about what they need, and how I can help them. I try to listen to suggestions and incorporate them into the end product.

How do you name your pedals?

I tend to like practical product names. I tried to imply the function of the pedal as much as possible, and as briefly as possible.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

It's all in house. I assemble the pedals myself, sometimes my fiancee helps out too.

All circuit boards are made in house. The enclosures are drilled and prepped in the shop. Painting, lacquered decals, watersides decals on occasion. Presently I'm phasing in screen printing for some projects.

How important is the look of your pedals?

By far the important part is sound quality over looks any-day.

Is parts selection important?

Every time we use a new component for anything, I like to test the entire first batch and see what the true tolerances are and so forth.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

Well, the answer to that is the Fillmore Thunder without a doubt. I didn't think it would be a big deal actually. It was a project that I started in an effort to improve on the Jimi Hendrix sound. I have worked on hundreds of various fuzz pedals and many other octave up ring modulators. But nothing seemed to sound the way I heard it from the recordings of Hendrix that I had listened to.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

I'll let you know when it's finished.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

Where as certain overdrive clones are a dime a dozen. I think that the category of fuzz/octave seemed narrow.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

I know that Eric Gales likes using the Fillmore Thunder. Eric told that the Fillmore Thunder has that 'old Hendrix sound' after playing a gig with his Fillmore, that was an awesome experience. It meant a lot to me, because Eric has played with Jimi Hendrix's band mates. So to hear that from a guy who fills in for Hendrix on special tours and gigs in the past, that was a huge compliment.

I like building pedals that I personally feel passionate about. Effects I would personally use on a regular basis.

What does the future of Elite Tone look like?

I think the most interesting concept, currently in the effects community is the bridging of analog controlled circuits driven by digital technology.

Are you working on any new products?

Before Halloween you should see at least two new pedals.

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