Saturday, September 12, 2020

The Screaming Pumpkin (TS808 Clone)

What started off as a Bazz Fuss build turned into a pair of LPB-1 clone builds, which has now turned into a TS808 clone build. I had finished the LPB-1 clones maybe a month prior and had no clue what I was going to build next. I still haven't perfected a Bazz Fuss, maybe never will, but I was looking for something new and maybe a bit more challenging to build.

The idea came to me while I was tearing down an old radio and found an NEC c4558c op-amp. I know the 4558 is mostly associated with the Maxon/Ibanez Tube Screamer, so I decided to google NEC c4558c to see whether it was the same or something completely different. Very few google results showed much connection between the NEC op-amp and the TS808, but the few that did yield something seem to indicate some TS808 units do have an NEC 4558 inside of them, and they seem to be fairly rare.

Now that I knew I could build a clone around this op-amp I set to work harvesting the parts from the radio to go around the op-amp. It's just a simple fact that parts degrade with use and time, so I figured if I wanted a vintage TS808 sound I should use the parts this op-amp was already familiar with. I would say I accomplished that for about 90% of the build overall. The other parts I got from other various boards I have laying around.

Gutshot: She isn't pretty.
The layout I used came from and their TS808 clone. I used slightly different transistors, so I can't say this is exactly like their kit, but it's probably fairly close. As I was far more comfortable with the Bazz Fuss or LBP-1 layouts I agonized over this build and took my time to make sure I got it right. I took a week carefully looking over boards I have to find the parts I needed to build this pedal, and another week doing things one step at a time to check, recheck, triple check and quadruple check everything to make sure I wasn't going to blow the op-amp once I put it into the sockets.

The day had come, I had finished the board and all that needed done was wiring everything up. I tend to enjoy wiring as I find it the simplest part of the build. The board was all together, the components were all installed inside the housing and all I needed to to was tin connections, tin some wire and solder things together. Even though it's usually a more relaxing experience this build almost broke me. I was so nervous about what could go wrong and trying to troubleshoot so many parts. I pressed on and soldered all the wires to where they needed to go.

I finished soldering up a ground wire for the housing and went to plug the pedal in and see whether it burst into flames or made some tubes scream. At first everything was working perfectly fine, until I engaged the pedal and go no sound at all. I was a bit disappointed, until I remembered that particular power supply has a short near the wall part. After fiddling with the adapter I finally got it to work. I twisted the knobs to see whether I had installed them correctly and the only problem I found was the tone was wired in backwards. Oops. A quick trip to the soldering station and swapping two wires remedied that.

Just to see if it made noise I tested it through my Fender Mustang Mini, but soon graduated to my Kalamazoo. The problem with the Kalamazoo is that it lacks any real tone control, so using the tube screamer sounded muddy with humbuckers. I then decided to test it out on big Bertha and while she is 20+ year old modeling technology the screaming pumpkin did pretty well. Using the good old Marshall models and giving them just enough gain to sound good the screaming pumpkin pushed them even further, even at the lowered drive setting on the pedal.

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