[interview] RonSound: Ron Neely II

Here's FXDB's interview with Ron Neely II of RonSound:

How did RonSound start?

I started building pedals around 1995. I was renting out my EH collection to a local studio and the mint triangle-knob Big Muff was very popular. I decided to build my own copy of it to rent out instead and that became the Hairpie. I made an exact copy of the circuit board and put it together and it worked! The next one was a Foxx Tone Machine that belonged to a friend. He wouldn't part with it so I borrowed it and copied it. The parts limitations I worked with back then gave the clone (Stone Machine) it's own unique character.

At the time I started I didn't really know of anyone else doing this. My biggest inspiration was Mike Matthews of Electro-Harmonix. I had done an interview with him for a college class and it was really something to hear about how he went from nothing to a multi-million dollar company.

Where do the name and logo come from?

RonSound comes from my name. The logo was designed by Jaimie Muehlhausen, who also runs the Locobox site. He did several designs and I showed them to my family and people I work with to see which was better received. We ultimately settled on combining the best features of 2 designs.

What sets RonSound apart from other builders?

I do all my work myself and I do no advertising. All my business comes from word of mouth or internet searches. I cater to the ears, not the eyes.

How do you start on a new pedal?

Either I get an idea popped into my head from something someone says to me or something I read. It may be a circuit design that I realize can be adapted in a cool way or it might be a weird vintage pedal that might hold some interest for enough people to make it feasible.

I'll start by having a schematic if I can find one or buying a unit and tracing it out. After that, I check that the critical parts are still obtainable and start laying out the PCB. Once I have the PCBs in hand, it's (usually) a matter of a few weeks before I offer it on the site.

How do you name your pedals?

I try to find something similar to the original or just go with whatever catches my ear. I love adding "Matic" to names as it sounds so cool and vintage.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

I do everything myself.

All RonSound pedals are built on PCBs I have made professionally. I don't do anything special parts-wise except for transistors, ICs, and diodes which I try to match to the originals the best I can.

The enclosures are plain diecast aluminum boxes with clear labels. No painting involved. If you're more concerned with looks than tone, look elsewhere.

How important is the look of your pedals?

The look is the least important part but at the same time it's what makes RonSound distinctive. I don't paint or put crazy stickers on my pedals. My philosophy is "Once it's on your pedalboard no one cares what it looks like". It's made to sound good and provide a clear idea of what it is and what it does. I'm not into the pedalboard fashion show scene.

How important is parts selection?

I use original parts when I can find them and when they are critical to the performance of the unit. I've skipped possible clones just because I didn't feel comfortable substituting for parts that weren't available anymore. 

I try to use high quality hardware and components where it's going to be interacted with most (switches, jacks, pots). I've learned the hard way that cheaper parts do not make a good pedal.

Of which of your pedals are you most proud?

The Trem-O-Matic which is very popular and was a bit of challenge since the Vox schematic was wrong. I ended up buying an original unit and tracing it out, only to find that the unijunction transistor used in it is very picky about the circuit. I think at least half of the transistors won't work in the stock circuit. I found that out the hard way after pulling my hair trying to get the first TOM to work. I finally pulled the transistor from the original unit and that was it. I love that pedal and always have since I first heard the Repeat Percussion.

The Hairpie (Classic version), which is my first pedal, is still my most popular pedal. I've sold over 150 of them and now offer them in 3 flavors: Hairpie Classic(triangle), Hairpie '75, and Hairpie '81. It's simply a great sounding Big Muff clone. All versions are taken directly from original vintage Big Muffs that I own.

Who uses your pedals?

Andy Aledort has a RonSound Stone Machine he purchased from me years ago. I understand he used it on the Hendrix "Axis: Bold As Love" Complete Guitar DVD Lessons for the octave parts. I get emails once in a while from customers who tell me how much they love their RonSound pedals. I just smile and thank them for their comments and it makes my day a bit brighter.

I started out (and still do) building clones of vintage pedals that the average musician wanted, but couldn't find/afford, or maybe make a vintage effect more user-friendly, like the Trem-O-Matic clone of the Vox Repeat Percussion.

What does the future of RonSound look like?

At this time I'm pretty happy with RonSound. It hasn't become my life but I think I prefer it that way. I don't want RonSound pedals all over ebay and the forum classifieds. I sell a few pedals a month and the people who buy them are getting them for that sound, not because their the newest "flavor of the month". I do have some ideas for new effects I'm hoping to have available soon.

At some point in the future (2-5 years) I'd like to cease production. To be honest, I'm really disenchanted with the pedal business and the fact that anyone who can pick up a soldering iron now considers themselves a builder. 

I'm looking forward to just having nothing to do except the multitude of bass, amp, and effect projects I have waiting in my garage.

Are you working on any new products?

I have a few designs in my head that I'm hoping to work on this year. I'm still hoping to do the 1979 Tube Driver clone soon.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Also check out Effects Database's social media accounts: