Stevexc's Misadventures In Pedal Building

Discussion in 'Gear & Equipment' started by stevexc, Jun 19, 2018.

  1. stevexc

    stevexc SS.org Regular

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    I figure rather than clogging up the "What's your next purchase" thread I'd start my own thread (with hookers and blackjack!) to clog up.

    So recently I've gotten hooked on the idea of building my own pedals. Not to save money (although it is quite a bit cheaper to build rather than buy some of the more boutiquey ones) but as a hobby. Currently I've been doing PCB builds (that is, buying an unpopulated printed circuit board, all the components, and all the hardware) which is, realistically, EZ Mode, but I plan on (eventually) moving to veroboard and stripboard builds, and even more eventually building my own circuits.

    Anyways, I digress. Here's what I've built so far!

    First build is the GuitarPCB.com Mastodon, based off the ZVex Woolly Mammoth but with some tweaks. Controls are the same as the Woolly Mammoth, Volume/Wool (fuzz)/EQ/Pinch (gate). Sounds fantastic for bass and guitar, but I think it'll ultimately end up on my bass board. Had some serious issues getting it to work that wound up being a misunderstanding of the PCB - what I thought was a second output trace was actually a ground, so I wound up creating a nice little short that killed all output. Easy fix, once I figured it out.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    My next and most recent build is a PedalPCB.com Thermionic Distortion, based off of the Friedman BE-OD. It also gave me some trouble... first time I powered it up, one of the resistors exploded on me. Some asking around and fine analysis revealed a bridge between Vcc and ground that caused it to overload the first resistor, a measly little 10R. Fixed that, installed a new resistor, and crossed my fingers... and it worked!

    This pedal is fucking mean sounding. I'm having a LOT of fun playing with it.

    Controls are a pretty basic Bass/Treble/Presence/Volume/Gain with a fancy dancy "Tight" control that, well, makes it tighter.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    My wiring is getting a bit cleaner and my soldering is getting better, I think. Still not quite there yet but serviceable!

    This one is staying on my guitar board, and sounds awesome with my OD9 running into it.

    Next time I can afford to build a pedal I'm looking at either doing a chorus or a compressor - something a little more complex. Either way I'll be documenting it in this thread, even if I have to bump it myself!
     
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  2. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Looks neat. I built a half doctor boogie a few years ago, but I've since taken it apart to try to build my own lunchbox amp, which I eventually shelved after running into a lot of little problems.

    A 10 ohm resistor bridging Vcc to GND?!
     
  3. stevexc

    stevexc SS.org Regular

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    Biggest thing I learned was to build an audio probe, that'll help diagnose where exactly a lot of issues are. I followed this spec for mine:

    [​IMG]

    And the 10R wasn't directly between Vcc and ground, there were two 10k resistors there that got bypassed due to the wires being too long and contacting each other. The 10R was right at the beginning of the circuit. I don't quite know exactly WHY it blew, just that that was the cause. Big props to the guys at PedalPCB for responding within minutes with that solution!
     
  4. mnemonic

    mnemonic Custom User Title

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    Looking good so far, nice to hear you figured out your problem with the BEOD.
     
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  5. TheRileyOBrien

    TheRileyOBrien SS.org Regular

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    Nice job! I've built countless pedals with stripboards and layouts from Tagboardeffects.
     
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  6. axxessdenied

    axxessdenied Arium Addict

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    Awesome ! :D
     
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  7. stevexc

    stevexc SS.org Regular

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    Necrobumping my own post!

    Just officially finished up (sans enclosure) my GuitarPCB Sunn-T preamp pedal. I am waiting to hear back from Musikding about a replacement switch as they sent me an on-off-on instead of an on-on-on like I needed for this kit but the two channels work great individually.

    This was one hell of a build - it went real smooth at first but when I went to plug it in for the first time, no signal bypassed or engaged. Bypass signal was easy, turned out the build docs had the output jack wires switched. But I couldn't figure out the engaged signal. Thought I had blown R1 so I tried replacing it with an equivalent pair of resistors in parallel which did not go smoothly. After a lot of headscratching I realized I was dumb - the JFETs were in backwards. Flipped 'em, re-biased, and bam it all worked.

    All said and done, this thing sounds great. Gives my tone a lot more body and warmth, and plays super nice with my gain pedals - my OD-9, and the previous two builds, the Mastodon and Thermionic Distortion AKA Woolly Mammoth clone and BE-OD clone.


    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Current state of the pedal"board":

    [​IMG]

    This link might work. It's a demo of the pedal through my shitty amp situation (Mustang II).
    In order, Bypass, Sunn-T, Sunn+OD9, Sunn+BE-OD, Sunn+Mastodon, Sunn+BE-OD+OD9, Sunn+Mastodon+OD9.
     
  8. Xaios

    Xaios Foolish Mortal Contributor

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    I should really buy one of these kits and build it just to keep my soldering hand from getting rusty. I actually have a diploma in EE technology, but I haven't really used it.

    My capstone project was actually designing a digital delay pedal. Thankfully the report, journaling and process information was worth far more than the actual final product for my final grade (managed 82% in the project course), considering my final PCB design was quite fundamentally flawed. It had several problems with how I connected the CODEC IC to the microcontroller, which ended up being a lot more complicated than I initially thought it would be. Turned out knowing the fundamentals of how an ADC and DAC work doesn't really prepare you for the reality of trying to use them, or give a particularly in-depth indicator of what design considerations they require to function. Oh well, lessons learned. I'll try again someday now that I actually know what I'm doing. :lol:
     
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  9. stevexc

    stevexc SS.org Regular

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    They're fun! The kits themselves tend to be pretty handy as you don't have to order from 2-3 separate places - I generally have to get the PCB from one shop, the hardware from another (usually Mammoth or Smallbear), and the components from Digikey. Shipping adds up. I found that musikding is actually pretty damn cheap to Canada despite coming from Germany, too.

    So far only the one (the Sunn) has been from a kit and that was because the JFETs are apparently a bitch to find, but the peace of mind was worth it.
     
  10. Xaios

    Xaios Foolish Mortal Contributor

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    Having to buy hardware and components from multiple sources is a pain in the ass. I generally try and stick to Digikey for anything that they might possibly sell. Obviously the pre-made PCBs would have to come from the designer, but Digikey and Mouser are generally pretty good at keeping most of that stuff in stock. If one of them doesn't have everything, the other probably will. The only thing I noticed was that some of the footswitches from Digikey were HELLA expensive, so I sourced those separately for my project. Thankfully Digikey also ships for free if you buy enough (which isn't hard, they're not exactly the cheapest source of components :lol:). At least they have good service.

    I remember when I placed my orders for parts for my final project. Digikey was by far the most pleasant, stress free experience. I had my order from them in one day. Adafruit was a pain in the ass. My initial order got lost in the mail because they managed to amalgamate my shipping and billing addresses on the shipping label. They shipped a replacement package, but it got slapped with a huge duty that was about 50% of the value of the package.
     
  11. stevexc

    stevexc SS.org Regular

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    Jumping the gun a little bit on this guy as the enclosure isn't 100% complete, but here we go. Schalltechnik_04 Pumpernickel compressor. VCA comp based off a THAT chip. Sounds -fucking phenomenal-. Only had one minor issue electronically - couldn't get signal when engaged. Turned out I had missed soldering one of the socket legs - easy fix!

    What DID give me issues was the enclosure, though. I think it was a combination of impatience and poor weather - too many too thick layers of paint too soon together. Progression pics of the enclosure first:

    [​IMG]

    Attempt number one. Looked -okay- but I didn't wait long enough for the waterslide to dry and when I tried to screw on the knobs everything twisted. This was over gold spraypaint.

    [​IMG]

    Attempt number two. I sanded down the gold then resprayed it with white as I ran out of gold. Unfortunately I sprayed too thick, too often and it wouldn't dry properly so when I went to handle it it just gummed up and sloughed off. On top of that I let the waterslide soak for way too long and it just shredded around the edges. I scraped this clean almost immediately after this picture.

    [​IMG]

    Finally, attempt number 3. I decided fuck spray paint, and just sanded the bare aluminum real nice and was real careful with the waterslide. It's still drying before I clear coat it but IMO it looks a hundred times better.

    Here's the guts of the pedal:

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    All in all, this was a very interesting build, with the SMD components (one of which I just about lost in my carpet) and the onboard daughter-board for the LED array. Went by pretty smoothly though.

    Once the enclosure is completely done I'll try and get a sound sample up of this guy, it sounds GREAT.
     
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  12. Soya

    Soya Poor person

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    Very clean soldering, nicely done.
     
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  13. Shask

    Shask SS.org Regular

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    Doing the Waterslides and Painting sucks. I did it a year or 2 ago, and it ended up being a 6 month process, doing it over and over again. It still doesn't look awesome, but finally got into "its good enough" mode.
     
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  14. Merrekof

    Merrekof SS.org Regular

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    I really love this. Sometimes I wish I still used pedals, just to make 'm myself.

    Years ago I got this brilliant/stupid idea to make a 2 or 3 channel footswitchable rack preamp based on a Fender Bassman for clean and a Boss MT2 for the crunch/lead channel. Maybe even throw in a tubescreamer because, why not..? :D
    Never got around to design and build it but it still is tempting to do.

    Edit: for parts I usually used http://www.banzaimusic.com/
     
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  15. stevexc

    stevexc SS.org Regular

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    Appreciate the bump and the interest!

    I'm actually ramping up to work on something a little more ambitious, should be putting in a couple orders this weekend...
     
  16. stevexc

    stevexc SS.org Regular

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    upload_2019-10-8_14-11-6.png

    Got parts in for this next build! Just waiting on PCBs, which shipped out today.
     
  17. Mourguitars

    Mourguitars SS.org Regular

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    Thermionic Distortion is the best distortion ive built so far. Try the Isosceles Boost, Wonder Drive and Dwarven Hammer from PedalPCB....very good boosts and i think are a must have.

    I have 16 PCB's I have on my desk ( well can't decide ) on what to do next , but most likely the Tyrian Distortion. I bought all three PCB's the clones of the Blue, Red and Green of these pedals..also looking forward to the Vahalla Distortion

    Great Job on your pedals! it infectious and a great hobby !

    Mike
     
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  18. stevexc

    stevexc SS.org Regular

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    I love my Thermionic, it's absolutely fantastic. Takes my shitty little practice amp and actually makes it viable. The Tyrian is definitely high on my list as well, but I'm excited to get this big ol' project done first!

    Spoilers: It's a Rat with a bunch of mods into (or vice versa) a clean boost, with a position-switchable octave effect and a clean blend with tone control.
     
  19. stevexc

    stevexc SS.org Regular

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    So first attempt didn't work out so good, turned into a veritable rat's next of wires which, while appropriate for the name, wasn't very functional. The big problem was I had 9 PCBs crammed into the enclosure, which caused some confusion and incorrect connections. In fixing those connections I made a mess of the PCB throughholes which just lead to sloppier and sloppier work. This coupled with a few minor errors (broken DC jack, broken switch, incorrect LEDs, lack of wire requiring me to use scraps) definitely led to some discouragement.

    In progress shot at that point to show you what I mean (and this is from before it got REALLY bad):

    upload_2019-10-30_12-7-39.png

    I tried to salvage it but it just got worse, so I decided to make the smart decision and start over completely. Each of the individual boards work, but not the whole arrangement. So I tore everything apart, desoldered and drilled out all the ground, signal, and 9v connections, and am starting over, much more patiently. Haven't got a LOT of progress done but it's looking much neater.

    upload_2019-10-30_12-10-2.png

    Hopefully have a fully functioning prototype by end of tomorrow, then I can get on designing a master PCB to save on effort and money!
     
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  20. stevexc

    stevexc SS.org Regular

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    Well, build didn't entirely go to plan. Could not get the pedal to work with the order switches, and a whole host of soldering, desoldering, and resoldering made things EXTREMELY messy.
    BUT THAT'S WHAT THESE TESTS ARE FOR!

    It now officially functions, which is good!

    So essentially, this is a Green Ringer into a Rat (with a bunch of clipping options) then into a clean boost with a bass switch, each individually toggleable. On top of all that there's a clean blend.

    There was supposed to be order switches to swap the boost and Rat, and to put the octave at the beginning or end but that fell through. Plus I tried to make a tone knob for the clean blend but gave up on that.

    All in all, though, it looks as nasty as it sounds.

    upload_2019-11-5_14-28-28.png

    upload_2019-11-5_14-28-56.png

    And more importantly, audio demo!

     
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