[interview] Henretta Engineering: Kevin Henretta

Here's FXDB's interview with Kevin Henretta of Henretta Engineering:

How did Henretta Engineering start?

Henretta Engineering was started in October of 2009 with the launch of the Choad Blaster pedal. I have always tinkered with electronics and decided to build my own distortion pedal after many failed attempts at using existing pedals in my rig. My biggest problem with most distortion pedals was the compression on pick attack, which can make them great for solos but lack-luster for rhythm playing. After about of year of research and development, I had the final circuit prototype on my gigging pedal board. I was so happy with the result, I started offering the pedal to friends. The feedback was so positive, I decided to start a pedal company using the many years of experience I have as a gigging musician and a key member in a handful of small start-up businesses.

Designing a circuit, building a pedal, plugging it in, and rocking out with it is a pure joy. It's an addiction.

What sets Henretta Engineering apart from other builders?

Having many years of experience working in a small business, I understand the value of responsiveness and personal dedication to my customers. I do everything I can to maintain a clear line of communication with customers, meet delivery estimates, and fully support all of my pedals that are out in the field.

I focus all of my designs on usability in a gigging environment. All new prototypes get placed on my personal pedal board, and I must smile when I step on them. If I don't, I work on the circuit until I do.

How do you start on a new pedal?

It's typically a want or need in my own rig that drives the decision to create a new pedal in the Henretta Engineering line-up. I start by getting some of the popular examples of the effect onto my board and creating a list of things I like and dislike about them. Then I start designing my own circuit that highlights the things I like and minimizes the things I don't like. The time between getting the initial idea to having a product ready to sell is usually 3-4 months.

How do you name your pedals?

The Choad Blaster name came from my good friend and former drummer, Steve, who once referred to a group of guys as "choad blasters" for making negative comments about the sound quality of our demo recordings. I thought the phrase was hilarious. I had to use it!

The Orange Whip compressor was named after the Orange Squeezer circuit that inspired the design, as well as the famous "orange whip" scene in the Blues Brothers movie.

The Bluebird fuzz was named after the Buffalo Springfield song, "Bluebird".

The Green Zapper auto filter was named after Johnny Greenwood (Radiohead) and Frank Zappa, two inspirational users of the auto filter effect.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

At this time, I build all of the pedals myself.

Henretta Engineering circuit boards are designed by Kevin Henretta and manufactured in the United States. All boards are populated and soldered by hand using high quality components.

Enclosures are purchased from a third party, pre-painted and pre-drilled. Printing is either screened on or attached using clear water-slide labels. Henretta Engineering aims to provide high quality, great sounding pedals at an affordable price. The goal with the enclosures is to keep the labor cost down so as not to drive the price up with fancy hand-painting or custom boxes.

How important is the look of your pedals?

I like to keep the look simple and recognizable. Fancy graphics are not used because I want the pedals to be affordable.

Is parts selection important?

I do not seek out rare or NOS parts because I don't want to run into a shortage of any particular component.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

I am most proud of the Choad Blaster circuit because it includes some innovative and novel approaches to an effect that has been done and redone thousands of times - distortion. The two separately voiced gain controls allow a wide array of sounds, and customer feedback has been extremely positive in regards to the functionality of those controls.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

The first in the line of tiny, no-knob pedals, the Orange Whip compressor, was the most difficult. Cramming a high quality circuit into a 2" square box was very difficult, particularly the positioning of the jacks. Once I figured it out, the rest of the pedals in this line have been relatively easy to design.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

The Choad Blaster has sold the most, but that's likely because it's been out the longest.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

The pedals are not targeted to any specific genre, and they are all designed to work with bass guitar as well as guitar.

There is a professional bass player who uses the Choad Blaster on high-profile tours.

What does the future of Henretta Engineering look like?

Henretta Engineering is currently working on completing the line of tiny, no-knob pedals. There are three available as of November 2011 with two more due by the spring. It is expected that the full line will have 7 or 8 pedals.

Are you working on any new products?

The Mr White tweak boost - clean boost with an optional buffered bypass and an option EQ section. This will be the 4th in the tiny, no-knob line. It should be out by January or February.

The Pinkman dirty boost - overdrive/distortion. This will be the 5th in the tiny, no-knob line. It should be out by spring 2012.

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