By Scott Auld
Wes Kuhnley at Resonant Electronic Design loaned me a couple of his new pedals to try out last month, and I was very impressed with what he’s come up with. Wes is a really nice guy that I’ve enjoyed getting to know online, and the fact that he makes some really neat noisemakers only adds to his cool factor.
Wes sent me two effects: the Graviton Boost and the Manifold Drive. The fit and finish on these pedals is OUTSTANDING. I haven’t ever seen such professional-looking paint jobs on small-builder work. Powder-coat dark paint and meticulous graphics in a clean, neat design made me want them before I had even plugged them in. It turns out that Wes and his partner, Peter Bregman, have worked together for years at Great River Electronics, a Pro-Audio company. Wes credits his boss & mentor, Dan Kennedy, with passing on the design philosophy of no-nonsense, quality-first engineering that Wes and Peter share.
I added the Graviton Boost to my board and plugged in the included power adapter. Although these pedals are center-pin-positive, instead of the usual center-pin-negative jack, the benefits are huge: the DC jack that Resonant uses is much more durable than most plastic ones you find on pedals, and it also makes the pedal compatible with the majority higher-fidelity wall-wart transformers that you might have laying around(for example, a keyboard power adapter). Another thoughtful touch was their addition of circuitry that makes sure that you never can fry your gear if you accidentally use a center-pin-negative adapter… it just won’t turn on. No blown up pedals, no blown up power supplies. This showed me that these aren’t kids in a garage cloning BYOC boards; these guys really do know their electronics.
The units that Wes sent me had power jacks that seemed to fit a little loose, and when I contacted him about it Wes told me that they had already detected and resolved this issue. Apparently the supplier had sent them a slightly oversized jack, but again, Wes assured me that this issue has been completely cleared up. For my testing, I simply ran on battery power.
I started fooling around with the one-knob pedal. I suspected that I was dealing with just another clean-boost pedal, like a Rangemaster, but the Graviton Boost is a bit more complex than that. Using a discrete class-A circuit topology, the pedal actually contained a bit more warmth and comfort than I usually get out of those sterile pedals. Wes employed state-of-the-art circuit board layout techniques and only the best possible components, keeping the noise floor on the Graviton very low even when I had it cranked up a bit. The other thing I really liked about it is that the knob is not overly sensitive, so you get a lot of really good use out of the range of motion from the knob. I’ve played some pedals that were tuned so hot that I couldn’t go higher than 2 without breaking windows; but the Graviton Boost is usable all the way around. I ran it into my Tweed Deluxe and my AC30 and both of them were very happy to get a kick in the pants from the Graviton.
You know how some pedals sound the same no matter which amp you play through? The Graviton Boost appears to affect the amount of aggressiveness and gain that the amp spits out, without coloring the tone of the guitar and letting the amp’s distinctive personality shine through, so the differences between the Deluxe and AC30 are not masked.
Plugging in the Manifold Drive, I wasn’t sure what to expect. There are so many ‘overdrives’ out there, and I figured this would be like most of them. But again Wes head-faked me and went in an unexpected direction. After all, you can find TS clones by the truckload, but not many of them with the subtle flexibility of the Manifold.
The "Gain" control starts out with a nice soft wooly sound, and gets almost into fuzztone territory when pushed around to the upper limit. Wes didn’t tell me how they did it, but the pedal’s knobs really behave more like my Tweed Deluxe’s interactive volume controls. Turn up the Gain, turn down the volume, get a nice Deguello-style sound; bring the Gain back down and bring up the Volume and you’ve got the Motown sound right at your fingertips.
Wes did us all a favor by adding a mini-toggle switch labled “Dark-Bright-Flat” that does a great job of compensating for an amp’s tendency towards one side of the spectrum. I used the “Dark” setting to tame the Tele-into-AC30’s overly-chiminess under pedals; and I used the “Bright” setting to liven up the sound of a Les Paul into a Tweed Deluxe. The pedal really knows a lot of tricks.
Built with high-end components and displaying not only aesthetic class but also feeling very strongly made, these two Resonant Electronic Design pedals (“Field Effects”, as Wes calls them) really had me playing a new tune.