Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Pedal Redemption and Progressing Forward

As I said before sometimes you can't win them all, but that doesn't mean you should cease persevering. The initial results of my Runoff Groove Umble clone (I've dubbed the Humble) were nowhere near what I had hoped for. Since biasing JFETs was new to me I wasn't shocked, I was just disappointed. Things looked bleak at first, I was lost and confused about how I was ever going to make it work. I knew I had come this far and I wasn't about to let it go under any circumstance. Sure, I'm an idiot and I made mistakes but I decided to sit down and try to fix it the best I could. I think I've learned a lot along the way and the end results are far better than where I was before. I've learned to never give up on something you're passionate about, and keep trying to do the right thing and make it better. Eventually you'll get there.

Truly Humbled by this build, but the results are worth it.

This redemption spurred on my desire to fix up a few of my older builds that had some minor issues. Both my LPB-1 and Boss OD-1 clones had wandering transistors that needed to be addressed. Initially I used sockets to test which transistor(s) sounded best in those pedal builds, but once the pedals were enclosed in their aluminum homes I noticed they didn't always want to work. While investigating the situation I found the transistors had wandered loose and needed pushed back into their socket to make the pedal work again. Instead of removing the sockets I decided just tacking one leg of the transistor onto the socket would keep it from wandering out of place. Voila! Job done.

Technically all the pedals I've built are functional, but some do have issues that require more involved troubleshooting than even the Humble pedal did. My initial feelings when I test a new build are a mixture of hope and the understanding that there might be an issue, so I need to try and troubleshoot with a clear mind if it doesn't work the first try. Sometimes I've had to rebuild the board all over again, sometimes I've wanted to throw the whole project into a woodchipper, promptly followed by myself, but that doesn't solve the problem. I just take a breath or two, sit back down and make sure it's wired correctly, then go over some basics that I know I can solve right away.

As for progress forward, well that's a bit of a dicey situation. I originally planned 2022 as a relaxed year where I would only build half a dozen pedals that I really need to build and spend the summer actually using them to create some music. That, however, is not exactly how things are shaping up. My original to build list consisted of the LandTone Centaur clone, my Blues Master (Bluesbreaker clone), my Rata Blanca (Rat clone), an EQD Disaster Transport Jr. delay clone, a Rub-a-dub Reverb Deluxe clone and another pedal I'm not going to discuss yet, as it will get its own post once it's done. Since four of the six pedals I planned to build came together so quickly I figure I could add more pedals to my list. So far I've added two pedals to the list, one of which I'm planning to mix two pedals together to make one.

One of the newly added pedals has already been built. I wasn't sure at first whether I wanted to build it, but because it really didn't need that many parts I figured I may as well. Thus, the Shoe Pedals Pixel clone was born. I'm not a big fan of fuzz, but I am a big fan of vintage video games and this pedal brings them both together. It took me a little while to get that 8-bit sound dialed in, but when I did I was very impressed. Not only that but it actually has a very useful fuzz hidden in there, which is kind of changing the way I feel about fuzz as an affect.

Part of the Class of 2022: Blues Master, Rata Blanca and Disaster Delay.

I still have a few projects to start and I'll get to them when the time is right. I have some ideas where I'm going to try modifying and mixing together a few pedals to build a kind of unique design of my own making, and a few other pedals I want to take the time and get them done right. Trust me, regardless of how those plans work out I'll be posting the results here as either tales of success or yet another cautionary tale of my failure. I guess we'll just have to wait and see how it all goes. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Creature Comforts

There are many things in this world beyond our control, but somehow most people tend to be able to cope.
Everyone has their own thing(s) that put them at ease, whether it be a thought, or maybe a physical item.

At a younger age I used video games to calm myself, when the world at large just felt too overwhelming.
My world, at least back then, wasn't too stressful. After all I was a kid and really didn't have much reason.
Over the past few years, as I grow older, things have started to become more and more uncomfortable to me.

Perhaps it's just what happens as one starts to age and the veil of adolescence finally starts to wear off.
All I know is that I'm feeling increasingly stressed the older I get. Time really does fly when you're a certain age.
Optimism has never been my strong suit, but I feel the older I get the more I need to try and harness or use it.
Lately I've been thinking more about my future, but even more so about the past, when I was much happier.
At my age I guess that's just the natural trajectory of the mental gearing. Thinking back to brighter days.

In my mid-20s I used movies, specifically Me, Myself & Irene as well as Clerks 2 to calm myself through stressful days. There is one scene in Me, Myself & Irene where Jim Carrey and Renee Zellweger are walking down a country road, which reminds me very much of the country road I grew up on. I guess something about that road unlocks something in my mind and transports me back to being a kid. Back then all I had to do was wake up, hop on my bike and be back home before dark, but even so my childhood years aren't the best years of my life.

When it comes to Clerks 2, I feel it has a bit more to do with the fear of growing up. The fear of what changes growing up not only offers but sometimes even mandates. No matter how young we are in our own minds, we're slowly but surely leaving behind the comforts of our younger selves. In many ways that's good, but there always seems to be that nagging feeling that you're going down the wrong path and you long to stop being a grownup and return to the simpler times. Clerks 2 came about in my life at the perfect time, where I felt I could connect with the characters and feel their strife. This is about when my life started to actually mean something.

These days I'm finding it harder and harder to find anything that helps me settle down. I had it, I had someone who could calm me down quicker than anything else ever could, but she was lost along life's separation path a few years ago. I've tried the old movies, I've tried new movies, I've tried music, I've tried building guitar pedals, I've tried video games, but something is still missing. A large part of me, who I feel I should be, who I should be with and where I feel I should be are now just missing pieces, leaving even more doubt and anxiety. These were the definitive years of my life, these were the best years of my life. I love that time in my life, it's a massive part of me. I deeply miss that part of me. I just hope, wherever she is now, she knows that and will always remember that.

"You're here with me, it's going to be ok." - My Missing Piece

Friday, April 8, 2022

There's Something About Centaur

After I refurbished Kali, my Kalamazoo Model 1, I started feeling the need to expand my effects pedal collection, which at that point was merely two pedals and a Zoom 506. Eventually the DIYer in me decided it would be more fun to just build clones of the pedals I've always wanted on my own. Once one pedal was done I would often research for hours on end, trying to find out which pedal I wanted to build next. It has to be said that no other pedal has taken up more of my research time than the legendary Klon Centaur.

Admittedly I was completely unaware of this pedal's existence until after I started building pedals. The more I researched the Centaur the more intrigued I became with it. One man's quest to replicate the way guitar amps sound when they have reached harmonic perfection, while doing so at any volume, at any venue. After years of testing and help from engineers the Centaur was born, all according to legend. Although I'm nowhere near that level of pedal builder, still I connected deeply with the one-person operation aspect.

I will most likely never even see a real Klon Centaur pedal, let alone own one, so my DIY pedal builder instincts kicked in. I started researching what would be the most accurate Centaur clone that I could build for myself. One option that kept coming up was the LandTone clone, often purchased from preassembled and ready to go. I watched as many comparisons as I could find of this pedal beside either a real Centaur or highly accurate clones. Even through youtube I could tell the inexpensive little pedal wasn't a 100% accurate recreation, but it did sound fairly close to what the comparison pedal was doing. So close that I decided to purchase the pedal kit from Amazon and build one for myself.

I've gone over my building of the clone kit before, so I won't bother with that here, but I have to say I've become enamored with what the little pedal does. From clean boost, treble boost to an overdrive that is super dynamic depending on your pick attack. This pedal really seems to offer a lot in one pedal, and that's just the clone pedal I've built. I can only imagine what a real Centaur would offer, which I feel would have to be better to some degree.

For the longest time I felt the tube screamer was the cream of the crop, and while I still love the TS808 clone I built, I think this Centaur clone kit just opened a completely new door. There is just something about the Centaur that I really connect with tonally. The blend feature, I think, is really where the magic is, allowing this pedal to go from clean boost to all out overdrive, with the aforementioned other features allowed to dwell within that spectrum. Of course I'll still use my TS808, Boss OD-1, DOD 250 and whatever other drive clones I've built when they're needed, but I have to keep saying there is just something about the Centaur that sets it apart in a great way.