Over the last few weeks I have been working on a few pedals. I decided to populate all the boards first. If you don’t know anything about the DIY pedal thing, this is how it goes. Places like Build Your Own Clone or General Guitar Gadgets sell kits with everything that you need (PCB, resistors, capacitors, enclosure, jacks, switches, etc). My first couple of pedals were built from kits. However, you end up spending a little more than you absolutely need to when you buy the kits. I prefer to buy the PCBs and source my own parts from places like Mouser, Pedal Parts Plus, Effects Connection, etc. This way, you don’t have to stick with the ingredients that BYOC or GGG decided to include and you can get cool or weird looking parts like carbon composition resistors or box capacitors.
Anyway, I got PCBs for several different effects: a Fuzz Face, a Marshall Bluesbreaker, a Lovepedal COT50, and I decided to build a Rangemaster treble booster on perfboard. I populated the PCBs first. This went pretty quickly – I’m getting more proficient with the soldering iron. I decided to assemble the Bluesbreaker first. Assembly has always been the slowest part of the process for me. I hate dealing with all the wire spaghetti. I just haven’t gotten very good at having clean guts. Anyway, I got the Bluesbreaker all boxed up and ready to test. I didn’t have any batteries on hand, so I grabbed a power supply. Unfortunately, I wasn’t really paying attention and I grabbed a center positive supply, when I should have used center negative. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I messed something up. The LED burned out at the very least, and probably the protection diode as well. I replaced both of them, but it still didn’t work. I decided to move on for the time being and come back to it later.
UPDATE: The Bluesbreaker is now working. Apparently I had a couple of wires switched on the input jack. Anyway, I like it a lot so far. I was kinda worried that it would be too compressed like a tube screamer, but it’s actually relatively transparent. I did a few of the King of Tone mods to it right off the bat. I don’t know how they affected the circuit, but it sounds good. I’l have to put this one in the lineup when I do some recordings.
Next, I boxed up the COT50. This one went together pretty easily, except that I initially wired the volume control backwards. That was an easy fix. The original design only has a bias control, with no master volume. I had a real Lovepedal COT50 about a year ago, and it didn’t really work for me without a volume control. The problem is that when you turn the bias up, the volume goes up as well. Getting a good overdriven tone also gave me an unwanted volume boost, so I decided to add the volume control to fix this issue. I’m not sure what to think of the COT50 so far. The layout calls for a certain type of clipping diodes (BAT42), and they’re giving me a fuzzy overdrive flavor. I’m probably going to pull those diodes out at some point and put some sockets in so that I can experiment with some different clipping options.
Next, I boxed up the fuzz. This particular fuzz has 4 controls: fuzz, volume, bias, and contour. I’m still kinda figuring out the controls, but contour seems to affect the upper mids and high frequencies. Raising the contour also raises the overall volume, so those controls are pretty interactive. Bias seems to affect how saturated the fuzz gets. The fuzz doesn’t really have much effective range – I have to keep it pretty much maxed out or it just sounds weak. Is this common with fuzz pedals? One cool thing is that it really cleans up well with the guitar volume control. I can go from a huge-sounding nasty fuzz to an almost Hendrix-y overdrive. I currently have a couple of silicon PNP transistors in there (biased at around 4.5v) and it sounds pretty good, but I’ll probably pick up a couple of Germanium transistors to see how they work out. Any suggestions?
My most recent build is a Dallas Rangemaster treble booster clone. I built this one on perfboard from Radio Shack. It was a huge pain, and unfortunately – it doesn’t work. I don’t know what the problem is, and the thought of troubleshooting it does not make me happy. I’ve got a germanium CV7003 transistor (the U.S. Military version of the OC44 transistor used in the original Rangemasters), and I have a PCB in the mail, so I’m going to try again when it shows up. The plan is to have the fuzz and the rangemaster in the same enclosure, kinda like the Analogman Sunlion.
That’s where I am for the time being, and I’ll probably record some demos (maybe even with video) so that you can see/hear what I’ve been up to.