[interview] Franklin Pro Pedals: Rick Franklin

Here's FXDB's interview with Rick Franklin of Franklin Pro Pedals:

How did Franklin Pro Pedals start?

Originally, I modded my own pedals for better tone. I've been playing guitar since I was 12..so I suppose you'd be better at modding or building if you ARE a guitar player :)

Then I started Franklin Modz and was modding new pedals from Boss, Ibanez, MXR and a few others. I did well with that, and it was one of the
top Mods for the DS-1 and SD-1.

Starting date was around 2004. I was not touring and had some more time to work on pedal design. I do have a great tester, Dave Mock who tests for me. He's been a great asset to attain my goals of tone. We combine thoughts and tonal ideas to achieve the best tone.
It's surely not a case of too many chiefs and not enough indians... That's a sure way to lose tone.

I read a few books on DIY and yes, they surely help develop ideas, but I didn't use them as a builders' Bible.

There's a lot of options out there. And we all need to remember that all the circuits are based on very similar design and placement of parts... It's the quality of the parts and some other particulars that make the difference. It's like using a cheap set of brake pads on your car, or a premium set; one set will work better.

Where do the name and logo come from?

Actually my son, Ryan came up with several of the names... Franklin... ProDrive... He seems to have a gift for that :)

But actually my middle name is Franklin, so that was the basis of it.

To be truthful, I had grown quite tired of the OD pedals that the big manufacturers were putting out with cookie cutter machines. They always seemed to disappoint within a short time frame. So I actually prayed about building a unique Overdrive for myself to play... and asked for a bit of this tone from Heaven. Yes, I'm being serious here guys :)

Anyway, after 3 years of R&D, the ProDrive emerged. Once a few Memphis & Nashville musicians, producers,... got ahold of ProDrives, They coined it as "The Glory Tone". I did not coin it as that.

So... the Logo is representative of the hand of God with either fire or lightning; showing His power to do anything, And, giving Him His due Glory.

What sets Franklin Pro Pedals apart from other builders?

My Philosophy is to provide a pedal that will deliver great tone, EVERY time you play it. I've been playing my ProDrive for 5 years now and still use it every time I play. It's not because "I" built it (Look mom syndrome) but because it just plain sounds great (tooting my own horn :))

The process takes a long time per pedal from beginning to end. I get most of my products from U.S. vendors..Mouser, Digikey, PPP. The artwork is mostly my own, but a friend who owns a printing company was very helpful with my logo design and does awesome work... That helps!

Pedal Geek, Motor City guitar and more sell the ProDrive. They sell mostly to musicians who are playing every weekend or 2 times a week. Those are the cats who know what tonal 'value' is...

How do you start on a new pedal?

I start designing a new pedal by playing the other guys' pedals and see what is good about them and focus on that. The bad is the obvious stuff.

It took 3 to 4 years to develop the first ProDrive, the actual 'working' circuit :)

How do you name your pedals?

My son, Ryan was about 10 years old when I finished the ProDrive and I was talking out loud: "Now, It needs a good name". Ryan said "Dad, isn't it a professional Overdrive?" ... "Yes..." And he said "Call it the ProDrive"... Perfect :)

Can you tell us something about the production process?

All the pedals are built in-house and I build and test them all.

I hand wire and solder each board and box. I do not use SMT parts.

The enclosures are a very tough aluminum box w/laser etched label, no paint, for a retro look. It would be cheaper to paint them, as the etching is 15 per box, but it looks way better.

How important is the look of your pedals?

The look is important of any product, but not nearly as important as the tone.

Is parts selection important?

I use high end parts. Burr Brown, Texas Instruments, Panasonic, etc. It does make a difference especially if you follow your whole circuit path with good parts.

That is why I've refused the manufacturers on the ProDrive... They will cheapen it up and make it 'less' than it is now. I just can't do that.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

I'm most proud of the ProDrive because it continues to deliver fantastic Overdrive tones...and it has a versatility that is 2nd to none...
and it's the most popular of my pedals.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

The F-Plex Delay has been the toughest build... takes a very long time to solder those boards.

It's based on the Maxon AD80 circuit, but is like 2 of them on one circuit with 3 knobs. Very simple and sounds amazing. It is named the "F-Plex" since it sounds very much like an Echoplex. Has close to 600ms delay

It is surely worth the payoff in the delay department, but not sure if they will bring the amount they should for the time invested, so those will probably be by request/special order only.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

The ProDrive is the most popular of my products. It stands out because it delivers.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

Many, or should I say, most, of the ProDrive Overdrives have sold to Players who play in worship bands that rock (and I think that's a good thing). But this was not a personal goal of mine, it just worked out that way.

Phil Keaggy loves his ProDrive. He has sent me emails with him playing with Glass Harp: videos etc. and he loves the transparency and versatility of it.

Other users are Stuart Swanland (Marshall Tucker), Jeremy Horn (Memphis), Scott Greer (Memphis), Sammy Weaver (Todd Agnew), Chris Isaac
& many more.

What does the future of Franklin Pro Pedals look like?

I'm working on several designs at the moment:

  • a Dual ProDrive Prototype built and tested. It's a booster circuit that will edge into overdrive in a box with a ProDrive. Working on output levels and it's ready to go.

  • a Centaur'ish circuit that is in the building stages... No, it's not that little board that's floating around.

  • a distortion that is based on the old Ross Distortion but has much more range and cleans up better if needed. That project is in the final stages.

Not sure how much time I have to do any other circuits at this time. I've looked at making a chorus, but there's so many good chorus pedals out there, and they are not as widely used as they were 15 years ago. Plus most of the delays have modulation in them already..so that may be a 'retirement' project...just for fun.

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