General tech questions

buildin’ pedals

1

hey hey everyone, so the building bug has bit me (inspired by tavo and his amazing work) and I made myself a pretty handy dandy compressor based on the old ross design...

however, I'm just using standard off the shelf components and I'm wondering if different/vintage/specialized resistors, capacitors, diodes, or transistors would make the pedal sound ant different or better.

I built this here compressor

and now that it's over and done with some friends want me to build some things for them, but I'd like if they had a bit of quality flair to them...another compressor, two simple single knob fuzz pedals (similar to the colorsound), and a couple boost pedals have already been requested (I know a lot of guitarists...and they're all cheap.)

any insight would be really awesome.

2

I too have been bitten by the DIY bug, and have built numerous PCB and strip board effects over the past few years (mostly overdrives and distortions). It is an extension of my other hobby, guitar building, but the turn around time is a lot quicker!

I'm wondering if different/vintage/specialized resistors, capacitors, diodes, or transistors would make the pedal sound ant different or better.

You will get many different answers to this question re: "vintage" parts. In my opinion, if you are building a circuit, just get the correct value/type parts first and foremost. Don't be concerned with mojo parts that are supposed to impart a certain undefined something to the sound (there are hundreds of pages of debate on the internet just on capacitors alone!). If you need a 10 nF capacitor, get good quality capacitor that has a 5% tolerance. (I tend to use box-style film capacitors in my projects as they fit neatly on most boards). Likewise for resistors, diodes, transistors, op amps, etc. - quality is the key. Now, having said that, if you want to build a fuzz face, you'll need to source some germanium transistors which in fact may be vintage (and expensive). That's fine as you always want the correct part for the circuit.

DIY electronics projects are definitely a lot of fun, and once you have all the parts and tools you need, the builds go relatively quickly. There are also a number of good DIY forums on the internet which provide lots of inspiration, project ideas, and knowledge on how the devices work. Good luck!

3

I've only made one peddle, more a treble loss conditioning box for peizo acoustic pick-up use.

It is based on the Tillman circuit.

Easy to find parts and breadboard materials...

Building the Solid State amp was easy, too.

That one was based on the LM 3886 chip, from JLM Audio in OzLand!

4

hey hey everyone, so the building bug has bit me (inspired by tavo and his amazing work) and I made myself a pretty handy dandy compressor based on the old ross design...

however, I'm just using standard off the shelf components and I'm wondering if different/vintage/specialized resistors, capacitors, diodes, or transistors would make the pedal sound ant different or better.

I built this here compressor

and now that it's over and done with some friends want me to build some things for them, but I'd like if they had a bit of quality flair to them...another compressor, two simple single knob fuzz pedals (similar to the colorsound), and a couple boost pedals have already been requested (I know a lot of guitarists...and they're all cheap.)

any insight would be really awesome.

– Buddy Mercury

Its a sum of all parts thing regarding "Sounding better" ... and even then what does that mean to the individual and is this for one offs or continued replication for potential business? You can find some really neat NOS parts and that makes is sort of nostalgic, but if its for manufacturing its too often a waste of time because you will spend considerable labor in measuring those parts/components to be sure they are within spec or at least havent drifted outside the tolerances of cheapo asian parts.

I like to use NOS mallory or panasonic caps but I spend too much time measuring them when nichicon might be just fine. I also will have to take a batch of NOS fairchild transistors, measure them for my spec and throw out 40 of 50. I'm looking for a specific sound and response from my pedals, and that takes a lot of time. Plus I use flying leads and have to dress all those wires which is more work.

I think its better to use quiet good low tolerance parts like vishay metal film resistors in a given circuit but in the audio path, it could be worth it to include good carbon comp resistors.. or in the case of capacitors, sometimes using the usual suspect poly film can be too warm in their response at the front of a circuit, or they might help smooth things out at the end of the circuit in the audio path? Its not worth using old ceramic caps say in many fuzz circuits because of the noise, but xicon polystyrene or expensive solen (metalized polystyrene) fast caps give the same brighter response but are quiet.

All this from a booteek/ hi fi standpoint.. there is no way for a large manufacturer to spend time sourcing or measuring parts for such precious eared players. So they use reliable and uber cheap parts for mass production.

I'm going to always go the extra mile to get the sound I need to hear on stage with a band. When I sound good to myself with drums and bass blaring, monitors going, crowd noise,etc..then I feel better and naturally I will play better. I want this same experience for my customers. This makes it worth getting the right sum of all parts as a small builder. YMMV

5

I also will have to take a batch of NOS fairchild transistors, measure them for my spec and throw out 40 of 50.

Can you elaborate on this, Tavo? Are those JFETs you're throwing out? MOSFETs can definitely be sensitive to static charge and may have to be discarded if they are zapped.

7

Tavo, what can you say about parts with the lowest noise?

I've never really read anything that describes the noise from various resistors and where it shows up in the audio spectrum. Metal resistors always sound noisy to me.

I've seen a lot fussing about capacitors, but I can't fully beleive that they make a huge difference. It would mean they don't charge and discharge in the same manner, that they have stray resistances and capacitances. That makes sense for amplifiers where you rows of capacitors interacting.

8

Metal film resistors actually are least noisy and carbon film and comp are noisier. But if you're building an overdrive or fuzz, it probably doesn't matter that much. What matters more for noise (in my opinion) is proper grounding, proper layout of your circuit board and offboard wiring, use of shielded cable if needed, and good soldering skills.

9

Tavo, what can you say about parts with the lowest noise?

I've never really read anything that describes the noise from various resistors and where it shows up in the audio spectrum. Metal resistors always sound noisy to me.

I've seen a lot fussing about capacitors, but I can't fully beleive that they make a huge difference. It would mean they don't charge and discharge in the same manner, that they have stray resistances and capacitances. That makes sense for amplifiers where you rows of capacitors interacting.

– hammerhands

Carbon Film resistors are generally fine but the tolerances can vary too much in particular circuits (I dont want to be contradicting here but I cant agree about fuzz and overdrive not benefiting from use of both metal film and carbon comp, I hear differences and so I seek to use what is needed to get a particular sound and response) so I like vishay or xicon metal film and they have shown themselves for my needs to help quiet things better. Of course star grounding and wire dressing is important too..

10

nice, this is awesome stuff, a bunch of my PCB's came in the mail today and I'm off and running making gifts for friends, mostly fuzz and boosters with their band names on them and stuff.

I think my current plan is to build stuff to the best of my current knowledge and then upgrade the ones I build as I get better at this.

it's funny, because I like building stuff and my wife likes graphic design (but neither of us are in any sense professionals at this) so it's really fun to see what the pedals sound and look like when we get done with them.


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