[interview] Resonant Electronic Design: Wes Kuhnley

Here's FXDB's interview with Wes Kuhnley of Resonant Electronic Design:

How did Resonant Electronic Design start?

Peter and I worked for a well-known pro-audio company for a few years. Building and testing pre-amps all day gets BORING... to entertain ourselves we'd talk about guitars, amps, tones, mics, recording etc... We're both involved in the studio side of things on occasion too. Peter owned a great studio here in Minneapolis for 3 or 4 years that was one of the best sounding rooms around. We ended up deciding that we didn't really like any of the drive or boost pedal offerings out there, and started designing what became the Manifold Drive and Graviton Boost pedals.

I learned most of what I know about production and design from a fellow named Dan Kennedy at Great River Electronics. Dan is a really no-nonsense, no-bullshit kind of guy. Design it right the first time, so you don't have to deal with warranty issues later on. That's where our lifetime warranty comes from... We feel perfectly fine backing our stuff up forever, because it's designed properly in the first place. My father also played a huge roll in my interest and knowledge of electronics, he's been a EE for 30 years or something... and also puts up with no BS.

I mentioned earlier that the impetus for the Field Effects line being a lack of satisfying options out there... well, once you get into the business, you learn about more and more guys out there doing great work. I'm personally driven to do better, cooler stuff when I see the work of guys like Jack Deville or Philippe Herndon (Caroline Guitar Co). I drool over Jack's delay pedal on nearly a daily basis, and the Caroline Wave Cannon is one of the best distortion pedals I've ever played. Fantastic stuff.

Resonant Electronic DesignWhere do the name and logo come from?

I (Wes) had been building custom amplifiers under that name since '07-'08 with the intention that eventually the company would be expanded into other things. Obviously, we build pedals now too, but the term "Resonance" is a sort of universal idea. It can apply to music, to electronics, to nearly anything you'd like to think about, so it really fit my interests in guitars, music and beyond.

We've got a couple different logos. Our mainstay is a simple stylized text version of "Resonant Electronic Design", which fits the Einstein esthetic of "as simple as it can be, but no simpler". We also have one that we use on our amplifiers, which is a sort of Art Deco stylized design.

What sets Resonant Electronic Design apart from other builders?

I hope that this doesn't sound self-serving, but I think the main thing that sets any builder apart from another is his attention, ethic, or esthetic. What customers are paying for, at the base of it all, is the attention of the person who designed and builds the product. Everything that made him decide to build the product the way it's built, from the case it's in to the component selection, to what the product is named, that is the essence of the craftsman's attention. Buying mass-produced products is fine, but customers aren't buying the attention of Mr. Boss, they're buying a DS-1 or whatever, and that's it. When someone buys one of our products, they're buying my time and attention, both to build it, but also the careful consideration and craftsmanship that went into designing the product in the first place.

How do you start on a new pedal?

We start with a product that we both want for our own personal use. We don't really bother building things that we're not interested in. For instance, I doubt whether we'll ever build a delay pedal, because there are great examples already out there that we're satisfied with, and I don't think we would have anything extra or different to offer customers.

Time from development to market is usually 6-8 months for a pedal. Given that we're not simply tweaking the values of a tubescreamer and calling it our own, we think that's a pretty reasonable amount of time... I'd like to go faster, but there just aren't enough hours in the day...

How do you name your pedals?

The Field Effects line has a physics theme. The Graviton and Acceleron are elementary particles from the standard model... the Manifold Drive is named after a theoretical phenomenon associated with Quantum Entanglement. Yeah, we're giant nerds.

Our amps are named as jokes based on their wattage. The Barely Legal 18, Trophy Wife 30, and Vicious Cougar 45... pretty self-explanatory stuff there.

Can you tell us something about the production process?Resonant Electronic Design Acceleron Fuzz

Everything is built in-house. Besides Peter and I, there are a couple interns who come and help out wherever they can, and learn about building products, and electronics in the process.

Our products, with few exceptions, are built on PCB design platforms. This is in the FAQ section of our website, but honestly, there isn't a good reason NOT to use PCBs. Our enclosures are bought wholesale, then machined in house, powder coated and laser etched by local Minneapolis/St. Paul vendors. We test and assemble everything in house, nothing goes out without myself or Peter testing it on a 'scope, and through a small guitar rig.

How important is the look of your pedals?

Very. We spent at least as much time on the esthetic of the pedals as we did the circuit design. It's important that customers get what they're paying for, inside and out. Anybody can throw a tubescreamer circuit in a plain box and put some knobs on it, but that's not a product anyone wants to buy...

Is parts selection important?

We sort several of the active components that are in critical places in the circuit and we only use the highest quality parts... Wima, Switchcraft, Nichicon, Vishay/Dale, Fairchild Semiconductor etc.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

I'm fantastically satisfied with all our products... if I wasn't I wouldn't be building them.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

The Acceleron Fuzz has the most parts, which is strange because fuzz pedals usually have about 6 parts in total, but nothing we build is really tough. We've been doing this kind of work for a long time...

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

The Manifold Drive probably sells the best of all the pedals, I really can't build them fast enough to meet demand. The reason for its success is its transparency, an almost chameleon like character it takes on to match your amp and guitar.

Resonant Electronic Design Manifold DriveWho uses your pedals and for which genres?

Our whole design ethos is 'transparency'. We don't build pedals to emulate amps, or copies of any existing designs. Our pedals are all original concepts, designed to enhance a player's tone, not cover it up with something else. The main idea being, that people know what they like, and if they're using one of our pedals, they're probably already got the amp tone they want, and they would prefer not to fuck that tone up with a really 'colored' type of pedal.

There are a few well known players out there using our products, they pop up every now and then on messageboards etc, but we prefer to let the products speak for themselves.

What does the future of Resonant Electronic Design look like?

We're continuing to expand the boundaries of our business, doing outside development work for some friends, possibly branching out into other audio-related avenues etc. Of course there are more pedals and guitar amps up our sleeves... you'll just have to stay tuned to see what comes out!

Are you working on any new products?

Yes... and... no, I can't tell you about them. ;)

Subscribe to our newsletter

Also check out Effects Database's social media accounts: