A while back I would see mention of Caroline Guitar’s Wave Cannon being quite awesome. Not too long ago, I saw a interesting overdrive shootout, and in that shootout was the Wave Cannon. Now my curiosity is definitely piqued. I sent a email to Caroline Guitar Company and they were kind of enough to send a Wave Cannon for us to review. Initial reaction to the pedal – awesome. Hopefully, in the next week or so, I’ll have that review up and running. In the meantime, I wanted to learn a little more about Caroline Guitar Company, so I sent a email to the main guy – Philippe Herndon – with a few questions, and below are his responses:
How would you describe your flagship pedal, the Wave Cannon?
The Wave Cannon is a gain device for people whose idea of classic sounds may come from people younger than their grandparents. It was inspired by some of my favorite op-amp fuzzes and distortions from the late 1970s and early 1980s.
What drove you to create this pedal? Did it fill an area that you feel is lacking?
During the time I used to tour and play regularly, I had owned and used somewhere between 75 and 100 different overdrive or distortion pedals. While there were some standouts, there was always something lacking. One might have a killer voicing, but no headroom or output. Another would sound invincible in the bedroom and totally anemic once the drums and bass kicked in on stage. Some had a limited range of distortion, and others were rich and thick, but overly compressed and congested sounding. We really wanted something special and versatile that ten different players might dial up ten different ways, but would still have a definite personality. Even if you put James Bond in a tuxedo, he’s still a killer.
Why did you name it the Wave Cannon?
We had all kinds of crazy working titles for the thing. “King-size”. “Donkey Punch”. “Fistful”. We coined a cool but cumbersome phrase that we thought would be the name: “Amber Waves of Gain”. Then one day, I was thinking of a Japanese cartoon that we watched as kids after school in the 1980s called Space Battleship Yamato, or “Star Blazers” as it was called here. The spaceship had this incredibly powerful, awesome weapon on it that translated to “Wave Motion Gun”. I called the pedal “Wave Cannon” to one of our testers, and that name totally stuck. I would run into musicians I had never met before who would ask me how the Wave Cannon was coming.
What got you into pedal design and building?
I’d been “unlocking” Tube Screamers, Rats, DS-1s and Muffs for people. There was some frustrating stuff: completely incorrect pot tapers, solder traces that would lift like the hood of a car, and the inherent limitations of the designs. It was infuriating. I would also get some so-called “boutique” pedals whose guts looked like a birds-nest of electrical tape and clumpy cold solder boogers mixed with a children’s drawing. But it’s not enough to just bitch about this kind of stuff. The world is too full of complainers and haters. No matter what the industry or service \u2013 if you think you can do something better, and that people might enjoy and appreciate it, you owe it to yourself to try and do so.
What made you think you could take that prototype to the next level?
I studied product development at USC, so I wanted to do this right. We built several test pieces and did lead user testing and focus groups with a broad range of guitar players here in Columbia. There were some real eye-opening surprises. I kept track of all the differences between the pedals and would track what they told the interviewers. But the most compelling reason was what they would say to me afterwards: “Thank you for doing this.” It convinced me that we were onto something that they really liked, because they couldn’t be thanking us for the cheap beer we gave them.
I see that the Cannon is the only product available – are there more in the works?
Yes! We have three more products in the pipeline, but I hate to talk about them while they are still vaporware.
Will Caroline be building guitars, or solely focusing on effects?
We were going to be a guitar company first, but the pedal idea came together a lot quicker! There are some concepts we are kicking about, but until I’m holding a physical, working result in my hand, I might as well be telling you that I’m going to become an astronaut.
Any known artists using the Wave Cannon?
Mark Karan (Bob Weir, Ratdog) picked one up from us. He’s a great player and incredibly cool guy and his emails inspired a lot of fist-pumping at Caroline HQ. Henry Kaiser got one, and our exchanges with him were great too. Carter Gravatt (Carbon Leaf) and Brian Fechino (Pat McGee Band) picked up a couple of the first ones we made.
What type of guitarist would be interested in the Wave Cannon?
The Wave Cannon can have a lot of thick gain and sustain, far more than a TS-style overdrive, without that carbonated buzziness or fizz that most people fear from a distortion, and more definition and control than you’ll get from a transistor fuzz. And if you like just making crazy noise, the Havoc switch can completely tear down the barn, upset the livestock, and drop-ship Dorothy to Oz. The Wave Cannon is also awesome for dirty bass guitar!
Tell me a bit about the biz – how long in operation? Small shop? Where are you located?
We are located in Columbia, SC, in a technology incubator building downtown. I consider us as being in operation since October, 2010, when we sold our first pedals. That’s when this became real: somebody handed me their hard earned money, and I handed them something that came from our hard work as well.
I also came across a great video where Philippe talks about the Wave Cannon. Two things I like the video – 1. There is a beer on his Marshall head and 2. His enthusiasm about the pedal.. I love it.