Saturday, March 30, 2024

A Touch of OCD - Version 3 That Is

Way back in 2021 I built a Danelectro Cool Cat Drive clone, which itself is supposedly a clone of the Fulltone OCD. I actually really like the Cool Cat Drive clone that I built, but there was always a nagging inside about what an OCD clone would be like. Well, thanks to the folks at Tagboard Effects I decided to find out. The V3 seemed to be the most popular, so that's what I went with. I gathered all the parts and waiting for another sunny day. That day came, so I got outside and soldered it up.

The day actually started out with me finishing the Mockman. Yeah, yeah, I know. I only put it into the enclosure, but I didn't bother wiring it up when I wrote the entry a little while ago. Sorry if you feel like I fibbed to you, but if you've read any of these entries you'll know I hate wiring. Anyway, I finished up the Mockman, put together the OCD V3 and it was time to test them. As with every pedal I was worried it wouldn't work, but the OCD fired up immediately. I put a little gain into it and it sounded really good. I dimed the gain and it sounded even better! Fiddled with the tone control to make sure it works, and I flipped the switch to make sure it worked, which they both do. What a great circuit! How does it compare to the Danelectro clone? I'll test that later.

Now it was time to test the Mockman. Everything worked as expected with it too, thankfully. It had been so long since I played this circuit I forgot how much I liked this one too. The mods I made to it are well worth the added functionality, so I'm glad I did. It's all housed up and ready to rock. Which makes me feel bad for the two builds from 2022 that still need enclosures, but they'll get them at some point. As far as the future is concerned, I added a small build to the roster just because. I built a buffer before, but there seems to be a mystique about the Klon Buffer, so since it's such a tiny little build I figure I may as well build one, just to see what it's all about.

With the addition of the Klon buffer that brings the total builds left to seven. Oddly enough that's how many I've already built this year. So, that leaves me with a bit of an issue. I've built 86 circuits, I have seven left to build, that leaves me at a total of 93 builds. We can't have that shit! No no, we need a nice, rounded 100 builds total if we're going to stop building. But how am I going to add seven more builds to the list? I have no clue yet. I know I'm really close to 100 already, if I count all the Bazz Fuss circuits and the blend circuits I've built but not bothered to add to the built list. Regardless, I want to reach 100 circuits for myself, and then maybe I'll start building simple fuzz pedals to help fund putting all my circuits into enclosures. Either way, I know I have to hit 100 total, dated builds. That's my goal!

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

The Silly Way My Pedal Builds Got Started

As I was pacing this morning, waiting for my lunch to finish microwaving, I looked over at a tin of coffee and started to wonder what pedal I could stuff inside that tin. This reminded me that it was Christmas 2019 and an empty peanut tin that got this whole ball rolling. You know, me building pedal circuits. I had been wanting to build pedals since the mid-2000s. I know I've mentioned this before, but I came across the BYOC website and wanted to try building pedals, but for some reason the video game hobby won out and that's where my money and time were committed.

After Christmas 2019 I took the peanut tin and imagined building a fuzz circuit to fit inside, as the roundness of the tin, in a way, reminded me of a Fuzz Face. I remember drawing out the control placement on the bottom and puncturing it with my x-acto knife, taking extra care to not break the blade or puncture myself in the process. Although not perfect it did the trick, and to me it looked like a little Fuzz Face. I put potentiometers in the holes and knobs on top of them. I was proud of myself, because it felt like I had really done something. I basically just mutilated the bottom of a peanut tin and put potentiometers in it, that's really all I did.

I looked at that tin for a week or so and finally decided to throw together a fuzz circuit to put in it. I searched for the easiest fuzz to build, which turned out to be the Bazz Fuss, and on January 1st 2020 I slapped my very first circuit together. It was a massive learning experience as I used parts I had laying around, only to find out about pinouts! The transistor I originally used wasn't compatible with the layout, so I changed things around and eventually got sound out of it. That's where I learned about biasing, which I didn't do to my first fuzz circuit because I was too excited that it ended up working at all. It's still really poorly biased, but that's the way I'm keeping it.

As of right now I'm 85 circuits deep into this journey, give or take a few, and I'm still learning, but the peanut tin that started it all is long gone. I could replicate it with any old peanut tin, but I would rather its memory live on unsullied as the inspiration that finally pushed me over that edge to actually commit to building circuits. I've learned a lot, I've had a lot of fun, but I'm still not confident enough to build my own circuits from scratch. I've tried to come up with some ideas, but nothing ever felt right. Who knows, just like the peanut tin finally inspired me to build circuits, maybe something else will come along and inspire me to build my own circuit design. It could happen!

Monday, March 25, 2024

Happy Birthday to Myself!

Since today is my birthday, it will be a double feature today. I decided that today was a nice enough day to get outside and solder, so I did. I recently received a restock on some parts from Tayda, so almost every single one of the planned builds have everything they need to be completed. There is one outlier that needs a few parts, but other than that everything else I planned to build is ready to go.

I spent the morning debating what I wanted to build. Should it be the OCD clone? The Plimsoul clone? The Timmy clone? The Way Huge Overrated Special clone? Ah, that's the one! Initially I wanted to build something small, but I decided to knock the Overrated Special off the list because I've really been wanting this circuit done since I saw the layout months ago, and it's one of the bigger builds I have planned. With the decision made I grabbed my stuff and setup outside.

With 13 links to solder in, it felt like this circuit was going to take all day, and possibly more. Once the resistors started to go on everything came together pretty quickly. I really like my order of operation now, because it makes things feel less daunting as they're being put on the board. Once it was all said and done I soldered it in the little test box and tested it. Fucking - awesome! This circuit sounds so good! I believe it's meant to sound like a Dumble, but either way it's so good! The volume pot had a bit of a hiccup at first, but I think I've managed to work that out. Not sure if it's fixed or just waiting to screw up again next time I try to play it. Hey, I'm happy! It's not easy turning 41, but here we are.

Getting Old: A Gift to Myself

Everyone ages. It's a sad reality that sometimes sets in far too late for most of us to do anything about it. Some tend to go through what is called a Midlife Crisis, and to combat their internal struggle they compensate by making major changes in their lives. Whether it be a change in location, shift in life direction, or making a large purchase they would have otherwise never dared, most tend to go big with their life-altering outburst. As we age, most of us, tend to mature and grow. I've found myself looking back wondering where all those years have gone, sadly only to realize just that - those years are gone.

When I turned forty I realized I've been so wrapped up in being me, that I never took the time to get to know myself. While I understand what foods, music, movies, video games, hobbies, etc. that I enjoy, I never really got to meet myself and explore the depths of who I am as a person. Even though many people say forty is the new twenty, there's simply no telling how true that might be. So while I would love to purchase a genuine 1959 Gibson Les Paul, a Marshall stack and parade myself around doing Blues gigs at everyone's backyard party, I can't. That doesn't mean I can't do something for myself though.

Almost ten years ago I thought I was getting married. Although no date was set, the question was asked, the promise was made and dream was living in my consciousness every single day. As I truly believed this was happening I wanted to be the best possible me for her sake, so I tasked myself with reaching out to my ex-girlfriends and asking them what it was I did right, what I did wrong, and why they cared about me. This might sound like asking for trouble, but the answers I received back were quite comforting, and oddly enough they were mostly the same. I realized why someone could love me, what I did right, but also I now knew what I needed to change to be a better me for the woman who I truly hoped would forever be by my side.

Sadly, that choice wasn't up to me, and eventually that dream faded in her mind. I thought I was crushed then, but the process of aging never ceases. As the hopes and dreams continued to live in my head, I had to remind myself that just isn't happening. I'm getting older. I'm losing time. By now I thought all my dreams would have come true, and it would be nothing but happiness. Every day I am acutely aware that my existence is temporary, and I'm nowhere near where I want to be. So again I tasked myself with asking many of my friends who I was when they knew me.

I asked friends I hadn't spoken to in years. I tried to seek out as many as I possible could and asked them: "Who was I when you knew me?". Again I found many of the answers quite comforting, and many answered almost entirely the same. So as I face life each day, I realize one of two things. Either people are completely full of shit, or maybe, just maybe, there is a chance I am a special person to many people around me. The cynical side of me wants to believe people are merely answering in their best interests, saying what they think I want to hear. The other side of me doesn't believe people I've not spoken two in years would even bother to make up such lies, let alone say nearly identical things and express to me some of their favorite memories of us together.

I never knew what my legacy would be, but now, as I face the unknown, I realize I've made truly deep connections with people. I've fostered events throughout my life that have yielded life-long, positive memories for others. Deep down I feel all anyone truly wants is to be remembered. To know that we've done something good with our lives, and made things a bit more positive in our absence. In more recent times I thought perhaps my guitar pedal circuits would serve as a bit of a legacy, but my connections with the people around me are far more important. Again, I would love to own a 59 Les Paul and play every backyard party and blues festival that requires my services, but I can pretend to do that. I could never pretend to have truly made long lasting connections with the people around me. That had to happen for real, and apparently it has.

So maybe if you're feeling confused by life and all the constant shifts against what you feel is your best interests, or best attempts to right the ship, try this. Reach out to people you've not spoken to in years. Ask them who you were when they knew you. Express your favorite memories together and listen to theirs. Maybe even apologize to someone you've wronged and feel guilty about what you've done. Because just like I was promised we would be married by now, nothing would ever tear us apart; nothing is assured. Life has a funny way of making us feel like a singular speck of dust in a universe of dirt. If you ask, I'm sure you've made an indelible mark on someone's life somewhere. Listen, you do you, but it's worth a try.

"Remember, I'm pulling for you. We're all in this together." - Red Green

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Box'an the Mockman!

I know the title is a bit of a stretch, but work with me here. Anyway, this is just a quick update that the ROG Mockman that I built, and modified finally has its forever enclosure. I really loved this circuit's distortion and I've been so busy working on building more circuits that I've totally neglected the fact there are a ton of builds that need enclosures, and every circuit I build will need an enclosure themselves. Enclosures are going to be the most expensive part of this endeavor, but I knew that going into it. Regardless I still have a few builds to get done this year.

Since this is the distortion section of the Tom Scholz Rockman, I decided to follow the same color scheme with my build. I'm glad this one is finally housed, because this was the last build from 2021 that needed an enclosure. I still have two circuits from 2022, not to mention all the ones I built last year. Out of all the circuits I built last year a few were amps, and a few others were already housed, but the large majority still need enclosures. I do plan to get the Faux Analog Echo housed up, because I like it so much, then I need to focus on getting enclosures for the homeless circuits from 2022.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Nostalgia Is a Hell of a Drug Part 9: Saturday Mornings

Having grown up in the 80's and 90's, there was nothing better than a Saturday morning to my childhood mind. After having to suffer through school for the week, Fridays started off that very special feeling. All I needed to do was come home, play with all my stuff, have dinner, watch some Boy Meets World on TGIF, and go to sleep knowing I could sleep in for a little bit the next day. Of course, that little bit was indeed just a little bit because the cartoons started at 8 or 9am. We never had cable, so all I had were the basic TV channels for Saturday morning cartoons. Regardless, believe me there was no feeling better than waking up on a beautiful sunny Saturday Morning, before anyone else in the house, pouring a bowl of cereal and sitting down in front of the old CRT TV to watch Saturday morning cartoons. Then going back to the kitchen multiple times to add more cereal to my already flavored bowl of milk.

I can still remember waking up in the darkness of my room, and walking from the dimly lit hallway into the brightly lit living room. The windows behind the television were on the east-facing side of the house, so on a sunny day the sun shined directly into those windows. I would adjust the amount of sunlight with the blinds, but usually as long as it didn't interfere with the TV's visibility, I allowed as much in as I could. I remember how soft the couches we had throughout my childhood were, and the TV trays we had sitting in the corner of the living room. Everything added up to an amazing start to many of my Saturdays.

For younger Sam, Saturday mornings weren't just about cartoons, multiple bowls of overly sugary cereal, being off school and not having to worry about it for another day, or the inevitable weekend grocery store run that allowed me to go to game stores. No, Saturday mornings were also about the commercials. Fast-paced advertisements that rotted my brain from the start and left me wanting whatever they were selling by the time it was over. Whether it be the newest video game, or a basketball star selling his sneakers, Saturday morning commercials were all part of the package when it came to the routine of Saturday mornings.

Since I've not been a child for over thirty years, I don't know what today's Saturday mornings are like, but I'm sure there are plenty of nostalgic memories being mentally logged on them, just the same as they were back in my day. Things did shift a bit when I got a bit older. As the cartoons I liked stopped airing, cartoons I didn't quite like took their places. That was when video games became the new Saturday morning ritual. Breakfast stayed the same, and the Saturday outing to video game stores became a bit more important, but they still retained that Saturday morning feeling to me.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

The ABCs: Ambitiously Building Circuits

Not since September 12 2021 have I attempted to build more than one circuit in the same day. Heck, even last year, when I built a total of 45 circuits, I avoided doing more than one per week. Those two circuits were a Flapjack Overdrive (Crowther Hotcake clone) and a Danelectro Cool Cat Drive (reportedly based on a Fulltone OCD). Neither of which are tiny builds, but I was really excited to get both of them built, so I did it in the same day. Both circuits turned out to be some of my favorites. So much so that I've decided to build clones of the pedals they were inspired by. I already built the Crowther Hotcake, and I plan to build an OCD clone soon.

This time the circuits are both a bit smaller, being a Univox Uni-comp clone and Subdecay Stupid Box clone. I don't know what it is about compressor pedals, but since I managed to realize the Really Cheap Compressor circuit works I've been wanting to build them all, almost like Pokemon. Anyway, I planned these as backup February circuits, but since that all went pretty well I was left with these to build at some other point. I figured I should do something special with these, and building them both in the same day was the best idea I could come up with.

First I built the Univox Uni-comp, which went pretty well. However, a comment under the layout said that theirs doesn't work, so I went into this understanding this circuit most likely wouldn't work. Which it doesn't. Without even testing the Uni-comp I set straight to work on building the stupid box. This was a much quicker build, and I did test it immediately afterwards. I'm actually really surprised at how such a simple circuit can create such a nice sounding distortion. My only complaint about the Stupid Box is the tone works backwards to how it normally does, but that's ok. The Subdecay Stupid Box gets two thumbs up from me! The Uni-comp gets a big, steaming pile of crap. I knew it wouldn't work, but I wanted to try anyway. I'll do some troubleshooting later. The main thing is, regardless of whether the circuit works or not, the built date for every circuit is the day it was completed.

Friday, March 8, 2024

Nostalgia Is a Hell of a Drug Part 8: Tyco Psycho!

Being a product of the 80s myself, I'm fully aware that both the 80s and 90s were filled to the brim with less than accurate advertising. That being said, I was completely sucked in by every radio controlled car commercial ever made in those days. As a kid my brother had some really cool top tier Tyco RC cars. My RC cars were mostly RadioShack and the type tethered to the controller that only went forward and one singular direction.

This was until I started having my own bit of expendable income from doing odd jobs in my late teenage years. One thing I wanted so badly was the Tyco Speed Wrench, which seemed to be inspired by the newly formed Nascar Truck series. The Speed Wrench came with - shocker - a wrench and two sets of wheels that allowed the owner to change out the wheels in any combination of their choosing. When it came time to go to the local toy stores and find one, I came up empty. Being a late-teen I decided I wasn't going home empty handed, so I bought what I thought was the next best thing. I present to you the Tyco Psycho

I also purchased the battery and charger as it suggested, which were absolutely required for this thing to even work. The problem was I was never very good at getting it to do any of the tricks I saw in the commercial. It sounded like it was going to break into a million tiny bits every time it was even barely bumped, so I was super cautious to protect my investment. The major downside to that is, you don't get to enjoy the toy! It operates much like a ZTR mower, albeit a little bit worse as the front wheels only roll forward and backward, while each of the rear wheels can be controlled independently to make it turn.

It didn't take long to dirty the thing up, and I began to worry about the longevity of the RC car. This wasn't anything like the RC cars my brother had, which again seemed pretty professional grade. This thing was more of a one and done type, where if you screwed it up, you had to buy a whole new one. Believe me, this thing wasn't cheap, so I decided to just pack it away and keep it for the memories of the cool stuff I did with it, and as a crowning achievement of finally having bought my own RC car as a budding teenager.

Many years later I decided to finally let it go, by which I mean I sold it on ebay, as I did with much of my own childhood. My parents donated most of my childhood to thrift stores, and ebay made it seem like a good idea for me to sell the other stuff. Shame really, as even though this wasn't the RC car I wanted, nor the best RC car in the Tyco line, it was still fun to play with, and that badge of honor for younger me. Sometimes I wonder where my stuff ended up. I hope not in a landfill, but once it left my hand I can't control that. I would like to believe everything that was a part of my youth is now in the hands of collectors, or better yet someone who actually enjoys playing with my childhood toys. Wherever they are now, I thank them all for the memories. And to the Tyco Psycho, thank you for being a quirky little RC car that gave me some good times while they lasted.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

My Rust Driver Clone

At this point it should be quite apparent that I have a problem. I check through pedal layout websites daily and struggle not to add new layouts to my list of builds. Sometimes I simply can't help it. The latest of which is the HAO Rust Driver. I found the layout, I looked up demos of the real thing, it sounded amazing, I added it to my list of circuits to build, I built it. And here we are!

At this point I shouldn't be surprised, but I am, at how such a low component count build produces such an amazing sound. I've built other circuits that replicate a Marshall Plexi, and I like them all, but this little thing surprised me by it's sheer simplicity. You have one potentiometer, unless you use the gain control mod, and a switch to choose between three very usable settings of tone. That's all you need! Plug it in, set it where you want it, and let it roar like a Marshall should. And believe me, this little thing does!

So far this year I've built circuits that weren't originally planned last year. I'm not saying it won't happen again, but I really do have to restrict my builds as I need to focus on finishing the ones I've built, rather than building new ones. That being said, while looking through the numerous scraps of stripboard I have left over from cutting boards, I'm debating creating a simple circuit of my own design and selling a few to finance enclosures for the pedals I've built for myself. I'm not married to the idea, but it is rolling around in my head.

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Hail to the King, Baby!

Some of you might remember that in September last year I built myself a King of Tone clone. Since then I've had trouble dialing in a tone that made me happy. I'm glad I built it, I'm overjoyed to have it, but it sounded extremely brittle and harsh no matter how I adjusted the tone control. While searching for good KOT settings I was reminded there are trimmers inside to adjust that sort of thing. Duh! So, I decided tonight I was going to see what I could dial up. When I popped off the back cover I noticed the trimmers were already maxed out, much to my dismay. After a brief pity party I decided to twist them the other way around to see just how brittle this thing got. To my surprise the treble started to disappear. HUZZAH! I'm an idiot!

On the red channel I've set the trimmer completely the opposite way I had it, which gives me a nice usable sweep on the external tone control. It can go from fairly dark to decently bright, offering a bit of treble bite without being ice picky. I also have both dipswitches engaged so it's a nice distortion. On the yellow channel I set the trimmer as close to the middle as possible, because the yellow channel is really just setup to be a basic "Breaker" style tone. Since I decided to fiddle with the guts I'm actually loving this pedal more than I ever have. There are so many options with this circuit. No wonder it's so highly regarded and desired. Sorry Analog Man, I'm still too cheap to afford a real one, and too impatient to wait on the list.

Addendum: I originally had a 4558 in the red side and an LP353 in the yellow side. I purchased some hallowed 4580s to see if it made much of a difference. Final verdict? They're ok. I can't really tell much of a difference. I should have expected this outcome, but sometimes you have to prove it to yourself. I needed opamps, and my supplier had 4580s, so I tried them. I can hear a tiny bit of a difference, but it could just be wishful thinking if anything at all. If nothing else I can say my clone is as close to the original as I could possibly make it.