Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Making some hotcakes!

Someone very important to me frequently confessed her desire for hotcakes. She also said that she loved when I made her waffles for breakfast. I know there is a difference between hotcakes and waffles, but when I built a Crowther Hot Cake pedal clone called the FlapJack I named it Pao's Waffles, in her honor. I really like that pedal, but when I heard the Bluesberry mode on an actual Hot Cake, I decided it was time to build an actual Hot Cake clone, since I could never afford a real one (Sorry Paul!). The only issue was trying to find a layout that included the Bluesberry mod, which I eventually did. With the board cut, the parts packed and the soldering iron hot, it was time to bake some hotcakes.

The layout in question also included the option for the extra low frequency, which I simply omitted to save a capacitor and switch. All I wanted was a straight forward Hot Cake clone with Bluesberry mode. Initially my build had very low gain and some oscillation, but I knifed the cracks between the traces to make sure there weren't any solder bridges and that seems to have taken care of everything. Once everything was said and done I said what I always say about every pedal I build; I don't know how true this is to the original, but it sounds pretty good. Listening to youtube demos through headphones and comparing it to the circuit I just built by setting them the same isn't completely without faults, but it's gotten me close enough in almost every build so far.

I originally wanted to buy and build a Madbean Fritter/Short Stack because it's tiny enough to fit into a 1590a. This of course would be a joke about height at the expensive of said important person, for whom I would have built the pedal and gifted it to. At some point I'll compare Pao's Waffles with the Hot Cake clone and see which one I like best. Heck, they might actually be far enough apart that I like them both, and they might sound great stacked. More testing must be done, but later of course.

As we find ourselves almost in September I find myself with only a handful of projects left to do. Hopefully September's weather facilitates the ability to finish these builds, and leaves a little bit of time for me to work on a few of the pedals that didn't quite work out as I had hoped. If I accomplish all the projects I have ready to go I will have done thirty-three builds this year alone. That means hopefully I can focus on buying and building enclosures for all these circuits in 2024. We'll just have to see how that all works out.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Buy or Build?

The Behringer pedal line has intrigued me since I saw the NAMM 05 rundown. Back then their pedals looked exactly like Boss pedals, except in plastic enclosures, even down to the same color scheme. For obvious reasons things changed, and the (then) price point of $19.99 was amazing for any pedal, all things considered. So, recently I'm watching an Anderton's video and I saw them using a Behringer TO800, which we all know is a tube screamer derivative. I can not tell you how badly I wanted one of those pedals since I first saw it, but for one reason or another I never got around to actually purchasing one.

As it does, time passed and passed quickly, until we reached the year 2020, when I first started building pedals. My brother had just bought a Mooer Black Truck and wanted me to test it, which had its own version of a tube screamer built in. I really liked the Mooer Black Truck because it had pretty much all I needed in one little package, however it wasn't mine and I knew I couldn't keep it. Now we're in August of 2020, when my Dad gives me an old radio he had in the garage to tear apart. Inside I found an NEC 4558 and searched the internet to make sure that was essentially the same as the JRC4558 to build a tube screamer, which it is.

Now that I had the NEC 4558 the deal was sealed, I would build my own tube screamer clone. So I did, and it was pretty simple. Once it was all said and done I A/B'd it with the Mooer Black Truck and it was fairly close, if not a little bit warmer. For the longest time I was so proud of myself for building my own tube screamer, which was more complicated than a Bazz Fuss, but still not as complicated as the four Centaur clones I built. With my homemade tube screamer I didn't need the Behringer TS800, but I did buy the EQ700 and the digital reverb, which are fine pedals. Nothing to write home about, but they're not useless.

So now I look at wanting a pedal as a challenge to buy or build. Something like an EQ700, or Boss GE-7 might be difficult to build, although not impossible, but I would probably prefer to just go ahead and buy one. But, as my growing collection of built pedal circuits will show, when it comes to just about any other pedal out there that I want, if I can build it I most likely will. My collection is very drive heavy, but there are a few delays and reverbs in there, and up to now they're all pretty good. Even though I don't need a Behringer TS800, it's still such a good pedal.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Ideas, a Plan, Action and Results.

I know I've mentioned that one of the reasons why I started building pedals was to have pedals that help me sound like the guitarists I greatly enjoy. Such as my DOD 250 clone for Yngwie, Distortion Plus clone for Randy Rhoads, my Guv'nor clone for Gary Moore, and also a Bad Monkey clone for -- Gary Moore again. It's been widely known for a long time Gary used a Guv'nor for dirt through a Marshall Bluesbreaker, but that's only one aspect of his catalog of tone. For years I searched for photos of his pedalboard and only found tiny, 3 pixel images of someone's pedalboard, whether it was really his or not could never be verified. But that all changed recently.

Sadly, as most of you already know, Gary Moore passed away in February of 2011, and recently his estate started listing some of his gear for sale. Now, I couldn't even dream of being able to compete in those auctions, so I decided to collect the information and build clones of the pedals he used. One of the main things I noticed was Gary used a Digitech Bad Monkey overdrive. Thanks to the JHS Bad Monkey debacle earlier this year layouts for Bad Monkey circuits popped up everywhere. And so, it was simply a matter of putting the parts together, cutting the stripboard to shape, cutting the strips where needed and soldering everything up. Once all was said and done I now have a Bad Monkey clone, I've dubbed Mono Malo. To me it sounds like your run of the mill tube screamer derivative, but that's not a bad thing. It may not ever become my favorite overdrive, but it has its place in my collection.

With the Mono Malo out of the way I turned to my to do list and realized I'm almost out of projects to build this year, and it's only August! Admittedly I've been pushing back the projects I think will be the most problematic, or ruin my faith in building circuits, but that's the majority of what's left to build. I also noticed that the Bad Monkey clone was build number 59, meaning the next build would be my 60th, and it better be something special. With six project kits left to build, and a handful of ideas I want to put together but still haven't decided which I feel best suits me, I did some deep thinking. What project did I want to put together for the big 60? What project would I benefit most from putting together? Well, the answer to that is a modified Noisy Cricket circuit. I know, pretty bland for the 60th build, but it had to be built.

After building Buddy, my first Noisy Cricket MKII, I hatched a plan to build either a Ruby Tuby or some form of a Ruby amp to combine with an amp simulating preamp. The preamp really wouldn't do me much good if I built it first, although it wouldn't be useless, so I did a lot of research into what would be the best option as the power amp for my project. I've read through so many forums and Reddit posts that I became jaded by the whole idea. Nothing seemed to be what I needed, until my brain took control and decided to modify the Noisy Cricket MKII circuit. I eliminated the grit switch, gain control and chose which capacitor I wanted to add to the circuit, thus eliminating the bass switch. The only control I left was the volume, and that's where the problem seems to be. I fully understand the Noisy Cricket isn't going to be a Marshall Plexi full stack cranked to 11, not even close, but for some reason this new build is lacking volume compared to Buddy. It functions as I wanted, it's pure clean power all the way to 100% on the volume, it's just not putting out as much volume as I wish it would.

All that being said, I'm twenty-six builds in for this year, with five kits still left to built (two of which still need some parts but otherwise ready) and two projects that might end up blending into the same one, I'm not sure yet. I've always wanted a Boss HM-2 clone but I'm having a hard time deciding which layout gets me where I want to be. So, much like the power amp I could never find a satisfactory solution for, I might just have to throw things together and see how it does or doesn't work out. The Bad Monkey is a good overdrive and I'm glad I built it. The modified Noisy Cricket works, it's just not as loud as I wish it was. Now I have no more excuses to put off building the preamp and putting them together to troubleshoot any issues that may arise from there.

Monday, August 7, 2023

More Progress

Progress, progress, progress, that's what's been going on lately, if you asked. The pedal building season has hit a high point in that I've finally built the Melter clone. It's been planned and ready to go, including the enclosure, since before the 2023 season started. I decided to go with a 125B sized enclosure on this one and since it's the only 125B enclosure I have I've been using it to decide what enclosure to buy for a couple of other projects as I built them. I knew if I completed the Melter clone the enclosure wouldn't be available for me to use as a guide anymore, so I put it off until I couldn't put it off any more, and I'm fucking stoked that it's finally built.

I've chosen to refer to mine as the Bleep Bleep Melter, but it is based on the Pussy Melter pedal which was formerly promoted by Satchel from Steel Panther. Then it was changed to the Butthole Burner, which also seemingly dropped off the map, and from there I'm not sure if it went anywhere under a different name or not. In keeping with the original motif of the pedal this is a clone of I chose pink on pink with a bright pink LED. The enclosure was a much lighter pink on the website I ordered it from, but once I had it I couldn't use it for anything else. To be perfectly honest I love it!

It's really a damn good distortion that's smooth and harmonically rich. This circuit actually urges me to play faster because notes sound so good at a higher speed. Admittedly I've lost my dexterity over the years but even so playing at higher speed sounds so good through this distortion. Pinch harmonics and just squeals in general sound really good through this distortion too! It's also another one of my favorite circuits in the fact that it allows you to take all the distortion away and just it as a clean boost. You have control of the Distortion, Volume, Bass, Treble and there is even a switch in the middle that allows for added distortion, which really isn't needed but it's there anyway.

All season I've built circuits, dropped them into test boxes and once they've passed the Kali test I pack them away to await their enclosures at a later date. Since the Bleep Bleep Melter was all ready to go, this meant it was the first pedal this season I had to wire up completely. I had forgotten how frustrating wiring up an entire enclosure was, but I'm glad I suffered through and made it happen. In a way all the frustration was paid off with the confidence boost of having done it right, and the fact I have a really awesome 80's distortion pedal. As the building season still has at least a few months left in it I find myself running out of projects to build. I currently only have five kits that I've put together and four that I've yet to put kits together for. I'm really excited about a single project that puts combines two of those kits together. Hopefully soon I'll be able to reveal whether that was a success or failure.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023


In my previous entry I mentioned starting my July builds late, July 25th to be exact. My plan for the year was to only build a few pedals, but ideas kept coming to me and thus I kept building pedals. That caused the plan to change to one build per week, which was going great until weather stopped permitting me to get outside and solder. Here we are on the first of August and I did manage to shoehorn four builds into the final days of July. I don't like build dates being so close together, especially building one pedal per day back to back, but I made it happen.

On the 25th I built the Landgraff Dynamic overdrive clone, on the 28th I built the Engineer's Thumb compressor, which I'll get more into in just a moment, on the 30th I built a Krank Distortus Maximus clone and on the 31st I built an Ibanez MT10 Mostortion clone. I know, I said a long time ago I didn't need more drive/distortion pedals, and here I am building three within a week. The only circuit I'm disappointed in is the Engineer's Thumb. Ideally my desires were to build a Keeley Compressor Plus analog, because I'll never be able to afford the real pedal, but only after I built the Engineer's Thumb did I realize this circuit wasn't going to even come close.

I've done enough troubleshooting and Googling on the Engineer's Thumb that I can officially say I'll most likely never use this circuit. I searched many of the issues I'm having and found many forum posts from others having the same issues. Most of the replies simply stated "Yep! That's how it works! Like it or don't!", and I am here to tell you I don't. I've had to rebuild pedals from the ground up, I still have pedals from last year that don't even work, but I've never felt like I've been utterly and royally fucked by any circuit I've built aside from the Engineer's Thumb. Again, most of that is due to the fact I could research what any given pedal sounded like before I chose to collect the parts and cut the stripboard for the build.

Now, as far as the successful builds, they're awesome. The Krank Distortus Maximus is a really good distortion with a lot more range than I thought. I assumed it would be balls to the wall distortion all day long, and while it is, it can also be dialed back to a really nice overdriven tone as well. The Landgraff Dynamic overdrive is pretty much the exact same, with less gain on tap. The Ibanez MT10 is also pretty much the same, but with maybe a slight bit less gain on tap than the Krank clone.

So I guess it can be said that three out of four isn't bad. I just hate to feel like I wasted the parts building the Engineer's Thumb, but I really do feel like I wasted the parts building the Engineer's thumb. My Orange Squeezer clone sounds great, the Really Cheap Compressor sounds great, but the Engineer's Thumb has such a limited use on the Ratio and Threshold controls and if they're both in the wrong position it's distortion city, but no matter what I simply don't hear compression at all. Maybe I'll keep the circuit around as a warning to my future self.