Tuesday, May 24, 2022

There's Something About Centaur Two: Redux

This post may look familiar, that's because it's an edited version of the previous iteration. Please feel free to read it again with the edits or skip it all together. I'm not your parents, you can make your own choice, but I do appreciate you reading at least this part. Thank you!

Since I built the Centaur clone kit I felt the next logical step would have to be building my own from scratch. Deciding which layout would sound the closest/best was my main concern. I guess they would all have to at least kind of sound like a Centaur, right? So I chose a layout from my favorite website and got to collecting the parts. After that was done I cut the stripboard, made all the necessary trace cuts and got down to making the pedal. To say I was nervous would be a grand understatement. So many components, so many chances to make a mistake.

To be completely honest I've had the parts for this build since early this year, but I've been putting it off due to my lack of self-confidence. The day had finally come, but I still decided to make it a three day event. The first day I soldered on all the lower level components and made sure I had them all in the right place. After going over the board a handful of times my eyes started to get hazy, so even now I'm just assuming all those components are in the right place. Day two was soldering on all the capacitors, which was made easier by the previous day's work as I could use those components as landmarks to make sure the capacitors went in correctly. Or, as correctly as they possibly could be. The third day started off with me building a completely new pedal because I was so put off by the complexity of the wiring the Centaur clone required that I decided to give myself an extra day.

Day four started out wiring up the other pedal I had built as a distraction from having to wire up the Centaur clone. I told myself that if this pedal worked fine after I wired it all up and tested it that I would finish the Centaur clone as well, but only if the first pedal worked right. Upon testing the distraction pedal I noticed the drive control didn't work properly, but it mysteriously fixed itself. Not kidding, it just fixed itself. I guess someone on the other side really wants to see me finally finish this Centaur clone, so I did. I was so beaten by the wiring process I almost wanted to extend this event into a day five, but I decided against that. I'm kind of glad I did, because the pedal worked right away, which was a surprise, as well as a massive confidence boost.

It sounded good and the controls functioned as they should, but when I compared it to the Centaur clone kit I built earlier this year I noticed there's just something odd going on when the clipping diodes are mixed in. For some reason it gets dark, even more dark than the treble control seems to be able to compensate for. With the gain turned off completely I would say this pedal sounds the same as the Centaur kit, but with the drive turned up it starts to darken up in a way that I don't like, compared to the kit. On it's own the newest build isn't bad, it's just different. It has the Centaur thing going on and sounds pretty good, but my only complaint is comparing it to the kit I built. Maybe I shouldn't be relying on a clone kit to be the benchmark I'm shooting for when it comes to what I hear out of this pedal.

After doing extensive research I found there is some debate on which value resistor goes where on the treble control of the Klon Centaur and its clones. I looked at everything from my kit build, the Centura layout, Aion FX boards, BYOC boards and everything in between. It seems the general consensus is that the layout I used has them swapped backwards, thus making the pedal sound darker when more gain is added. I decided to swap the resistors around and could tell right away that this was far more on track with what I was expecting than what I was previously getting. It still may not be 100%, but I'm gaining ground toward what I expect to hear from a Centaur clone. In the future I might do a more gain mod, but I'm not convinced this one needs it. I guess we'll see what happens.

So for clarity: anyone having an issue with a Klon Centaur clone being dark and muddy, the 1.8k resistor goes on Treble 3, and the 4.7k resistor goes on Treble 1. That's what fixed it for me.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

The Texas Rattler Treble Booster.

One effect I never fully understood was the treble booster. I knew Brian May and Stevie Ray Vaughan used them but I didn't know a myriad of other guitarists such as Tony Iommi and Warren Haynes use them as well. After watching Warren Haynes' rig rundown (again) I took notice of the Cesar Diaz built Texas Ranger he had hidden away in his effects rack. After a few days of pondering I figured I may as well throw one more project on the to do list. Luckily for me treble boosters are fairly simple to build, and it seemed as though I already had everything I needed to build one. I originally wanted to build a Diaz Texas Ranger clone, but I didn't have a rotary switch for the selectable input cap feature so I decided to start looking for something else.

The most popular option seemed to be Catalinbread's Naga Viper, so I found the layout on tagboard effects (where I get almost all of the layouts for my builds) and started my journey. The Naga Viper has an additional gain and tone control (called heat and range respectively) along with the boost control, which sounded like features I would never actually use, but I built the pedal with these features just to rule them in or out. I didn't want to build a straight clone of the Naga Viper so I took a few liberties such as socketing the transistor to see which of the ones I had sounded the best, finally settling on a BC548. I also put in a toggle switch to switch between a 5nf and a 100nf input capacitor, mimicking the highest and lowest options of the Diaz Texas Ranger, which I later removed because I felt it really just muddied everything up, leaving the 5nf in as the main input cap.

After a week or so of testing I decided to remove the tone control, but without it or the input capacitor switch I felt the build was now missing a way to thicken it up. Even though I didn't like the tone control there was none of the mud that the input cap switch seemed to introduce, but it did give it a thicker, somewhat fuzzy edge that I kind of liked. In place of the potentiometer I used a toggle switch to close or open the place where the potentiometer once was, which gave me both extremes of the tone control's range. This suited me perfectly. Once all was said and done I decided to keep the gain control as it turned out to be quite useful in taming some of the girth when the tone switch is in the thickest position.

I normally question how closely all my other builds sound to the originals they were inspired by, but since this build was inspired by both the Diaz Texas Ranger and the Naga Viper, plus I did some slight mods, I'm not sure how it would compare. Since it only has a few components it could either sound very similar or not at all, but either way I'm fairly happy with how it turned out. I've named this build the Texas Rattler, borrowing from the Texas Ranger and the viper part of Naga Viper. The controls are Hiss (boost), Heat (gain) and Humidity (Low/High tone switch). This build has not only inspired confidence to explore ways to adjust a build to my needs, but also I like to think I've learned more about what a treble booster does and why some of the greats have used them throughout their careers. I swear I didn't want to build this many guitar pedals in 2022, but I'm glad I chose to build this one.