Sitting on my desk are two pedals – Heptode‘s (located in France) Deep Crunch and Heavy Tone. These pedals are in the queue for EffectsBay demo videos and sound really good. In the meantime, I thought it would be cool to send a few questions about Heptode to Jean-Luc, owner/operator.
When I received the interview answers to my questions, one answer really spoke to me. I asked what got him into pedal development, and he mentioned how he turned 40 in 2005 and wanted to come back to his roots. I took that to heart. I tend to see friends/acquaintances “cash out” when they get older. Which I guess is fine. Settle down. Lock into the job. Put the guitar in the closet. Take care of the kids. Worry about retirement. They’re all good and we need to deal with all that, but I think it’s important to not loose the passion. Whatever that might be. Play guitar while you worry about retirement. Pursue art and still take care of the kids. I admire that Jean-Luc decided to make a change that affects his piece of mind and followed a dream. Good for you Jean-Luc! Good for you!
– Where is Heptode located?
Heptode is located in Orsay near Paris, France.
– Does the name ‘Heptode’ have a particular meaning?
A heptode is a vacuum tube that was used as a mixer in old radios. I chose this name in reference to the tube sound that Heptode first pedals aimed to reproduce. I’m also thinking about designing a heptode-based effect pedal someday!
– How long has Heptode been in business?
The company officially started in March 2010, and the first pedals were built and sold in July 2010.
– What got you into pedal development?
I’ve always been passionate about electronics and music. I built my first amps and effects when I was a teenager in the early 80’s. Then I’ve been working for telecom and Internet companies in hardware and software development and management. In 2005, I was 40 and I wanted to ‘come back to the roots’. I restarted playing the guitar – that I unfortunately stopped – as well as I began to design amps and effects for my own needs. Some professional guitarists and people from guitar shops tried my effects and liked them very much. It convinced me to go in the effects pedal business and set up my company.
– When you started Heptode, what did you set out to achieve?
My first goal was to propose my personal vision of guitar sound and hoped there would be musicians that would share this vision. Creativity is the most important thing, just like it is in artistic domains. Also, as I had been working for years in the electronic industry, I had a good vision of what is needed to build high quality reliable products. I invested quite a lot of money in high-end tools and machines I’m using for the assembly.
– What do you see other pedal builders doing wrong.. that you try to avoid?
It’s a difficult question. I won’t say that other pedal builders are doing something wrong! Well, let’s say that I don’t want to make clones of already existing pedals. I always try to bring something new. Heptode pedals are and will always be original designs. I also don’t like noisy pedals. I try to reduce the noise as much as possible. It might be costly but worth it. And I have no taboo about technology. I may use tubes, transistors, digital processing or anything in my effects, as soon as the result is solid and reliable. Then, let your ears be the judge!
– What is your flagship or stand out pedal at Heptode?
There are two pedals available from Heptode: Deep Crunch and Heavy Tone. Both are analog pedals and inspired by the Soldano SLO-100 amp. I’m fond of the tone and the dynamic response of this amp. The pedals are not simulations of the Soldano amp. It was a starting point and the final result is my own creation. Both pedals have about the same sale success. I obviously love both of them! I’m currently working on new designs (overdrive/distortion and modulation pedals), and prototypes are being tested. New products will be launched within the next months.
– Can you explain what VST plugins
I’ve made digital simulations of the Heptode pedals and I offer them for free download on Heptode website. They are available in VST plugins format for Windows and Mac. They are intended to be used with Cubase or other similar audio software (Sonar, Audacity…). I surprised myself with the quality of the simulations. When used with a good performance audio interface, the sound is quite closed to the real analog pedals especially when the audio interface output is connected to a real guitar amp. It’s a free and easy way to feel the spirit of the Heptode pedals.
– Is it hard to get a pedal if I’m in the United States. Any US dealers?
No problem to get Heptode pedals in the US: check out the Mad Ape store at www.themadape.com. Thanks Matt! In Europe, Heptode have 34 dealers in France, U.K. and Belgium.
– Are there any noteable musicians playing Heptode pedals?
Several locally known French guitarists play with Heptode pedals. Unfortunately, no world famous musicians so far. It’s quite difficult to get in touch with them from France, but I’m working on it!
– What can I expect from a Heptode pedal?
You can expect high quality unique sounding pedals ‘fabriquees a la main en France’*!
(*hand made in France)