Sunday, 31 July 2011

First Madbean Build

I've done a number of pedal builds now, most of them Vero.
Vero is awesome. Its cheap, its fun to work with, and it feels really old school and DIY to me. Sure its a lot of work sometimes, but its so accessible (you literally only need a tool to cut traces with and thats it).

PCBs are next level stuff. Some folk etch there own 1 sided copper PCBs. Some people buy them from vendors such as Barry at who I have used in the past and will do again the future. Others prefer the totally professional route of 2 sided fabricated PCBs with silk screening etc. There is one notable vendor that offers PCBs and projects of this type at a seeminly unfathomable cheapness and completeness (7 page PDF detailing how to build a simple booster pedal? Yes please! ) This guy is Madbean (Brian) and his site is pure awesomeness:

As you can see if you take a look, he has projects based on all of the most popular current and older boutique or classic FX. I recently purchased from him some that were on sale, or too good to pass up. These were, the Zvex Machine, Fuzz Factory (x2) and 2in1, aswell as his Pork Barrell (Boss CE-2 with mods) and the Yellow Shark, which is the BJFe Honey Bee. All this was like...$40 delivered to the UK. Ridiculous. And the board quality is fantastic. And I will mention again the support materials, which are second to none.

Of course there are other vendors out there, many of whom do complete kits such as Musikding, GGG et al but they are all more expensive than Madbean. Plus, Brian gives so much to the DIY world I wanna support him and his products.

So onto my first Madbean built. Its gotta be said that this was the easiest thing I have ever thrown together, and was done with the minimum of fuss, and fired up first time.

Pictures speak louder than words:

The supplied drilling template was a godsend for this with the onboard pots and LEDs. Of course this is optional, but thats the whole point, right!?

The pots I used werent the classic green Alpha 9mm. Those seem to be at least £2 per peice and was too rich for me once you factor in E$8 shipping from Banzai or Musikding, where I could find them in stock, or waiting weeks from the USA plus import duty....I used a 12mm variety from Rapid (my favourite place for bulk parts, free next day over £30 fact fans). For those interested, these are the ones: Pots from Rapid
Note, the body is deeper, so I needed to bend the pins so the pots fitted without occluding the other components on the board. Everything worked out and fitted perfectly in the case.

For the decals I used the ideas and colours from Zvex but not a direct copy. Im happy with them.

Next up I will start to run through the rest of the Madbean boards, and I have made a massive leap into starting my Lovetone Ring Stinger clone....boards 95% complete !!


Wednesday, 27 July 2011


I managed to successfully put together my Big Cheese layout, and it fired up first time - honest - no messing about here.

I dont think there is any need for the large layout so I wont bother with that one, the 28x18 is pretty accomodatable in a BB size enclosure.

So here it is, my prototype, which I will probably sell, if someone wants it.

Not finished yet, as if I get a buyer I'll let them custom choose the grapics. I was going for a layout with the chicken heads to ape the original Cheese.

Here is the insides, for the most part I used green hookup wire. This stuff is great! I need to order more.

Hope some other people can build this and make use of the layout.
Here is the latest official version (updated 09/09/11):

If anyone builds it please show and tell!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

My First Vero Layout

I thought I would give something back to the community that has afforded me so much education, excitement and enjoyment over the last 6 months. Sure, I've just rejigged the OLC PCB layout for the Big Cheese, but damnit I'm proud of myself and noone else was going to do it (!)

Its very wide, but I reckon it'd fit in a BB sized case. If not someone can rework it - possibly me while I take a breather and learn some more.

For now, feel free to give this one a shot. Ill try to verify this next week. Not gonna have time this week and away all weekend.

And a Smaller version which is probably better...

Edit - Here is the latest proper version. Very happy with this (09/09/2011)

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Big pedals to trip over...

Those few that have read this blog have probably picked up a couple times that I have a fondness for Lovetone effects pedals. These tasty beasts (and beasts they are) were made in England on and off for about 10 years or so in the mid 90s to early 00's. The range of effects was diverse and interesting, even their simple overdrive and fuzz designs had something esoteric going on. Someone is still paying web hosting on their site, which you can review to your leisure, they still have the flash sound files to listen to.

Lovetone was a marriage of the design expertise of a chap called Dan Coggins, and the marketing savvy of a chap called Vlad Naslas. I chatted with Vlad on the phone one time when I was a poor student and was [ ] this close to buying a £349 + £10 shipping Flange with No Name ? from him. I didnt in the end, seeking one out on ebay for a much more reasonable £270 (still a lot, and I regret selling it ever since). He seemed a cool guy if a bit short on time.

Lovetones finest

Anyhow, the line was started with a couple of standalong noise makers called the Brown Source Overdrive and Big Cheese distortion. I think they originally sold for something in the order of £150, reasonable especially when people pay that today for Zvex's offshore derived Vexter series pedals. Everything about Lovetone was made in the UK AFAIK, I know the PCBs were fabbed in the UK, and many parts Ive later come to realise actually can be sourced at Maplin. I doubt Lovetone used Maplin directly, but perhaps they started out, much like me, at a Maplins, buying some bits many years ago. Im going misty eyed as I write just imagining...haha.

These devices have the standard Vol Tone Gain combo, with a natty 4 way switch for different tones, inc a tone bypass option on both. The Cheese had a fourth gated setting reminiscent of things like the wolf computer, and Fuzz Factory, and all things 8-bit sounding. Very cool. Along the way the Lovetone line was followed by many a top band and producer, and were always pitched as at least equally (if not moreso) useful in a studio environment than on a pedal board. Certainly this is the case for the more wacky and involved processors. Ill likely get to those later in another blog...

So, these days, Lovetone is long out of business and the remaining pedals change hands for absurd amounts of money on the free marketplace that is the internet, or more typically eBay. Even the Big Cheese, which at a guess I would say was the largest produced item next to the Meatball, changes hands for over £400 without exception. Over the years this has created opportunity for cloners and the like to make their own versions. OLC came up with a variant called the Chunky Cheese, which is what I am basing my Cheese on. I also had, but also (again regrettably) sold on another clone called a Fromunda Cheese which had a nice hammered gold case, and was drilled so you could adjust the gate trim from the outside. Very cool. Wish I still had it.

Now then, onto my clone. Lovetone saw fit towards the end of their run in business to offer a large version comprising the Big Cheese and Brown Source in one pedal, named fittingly the Cheese Source. At the last time of marketing (via Dan Coggins Dinosaural brand) the CS was sold direct for £350. Of course that seems "cheap" dare I say it in face of £600 and rising on eBay these days.

My clone consists of the OLC Chunky Cheese which I have made on perf board (first attempt, never say never again, but it wasnt as easy as vero to pull off) and a Doug Hammond Tone Source on vero. The Tone Source is Dougs ode to the Brown Source, and changes a couple of things, adds more tonal options etc. You can read about it here. 

Layout is my own for the Cheese

Here is the Doug Hammond Tone Source

Here are some pics of the Cheese Side. If I am honest I think its a decent attempt for a first perf.
Quickly wired up to verify.

Here are the guts of the final pedal. This took some debugging, and I will replace the drive pot on the source side at some point, right now Ive fudged a 100k pot down to about 20k using this handy page: Analog Alchemy. I had to get rid of some popping using pull downs on the footswitches but i think thats all linked to a grounding error that i have now solved. Anyway, no tone suck with this so they can stay.

Its not the neatest thing in the world, and its in a massive box (!) shame on me. But hopefully its robust which is what matters. And the sound. Wonderful. The Big Cheese has gotta be one of the classics. Its really rude and fuzzy and great. The Tone Source, like the Brown Source, seems best at providing boost, and colour. Theres definitely lots of tonal variety thanks to Dougs revisions, and the tone pot really works and has a lot of scope. There is barely any drive here at all though - think more like the low gain ODs that people seem to love, like the (dare I say it) BJFe Honey Bee. It all seems to work like it should, and you can patch in effects with the source in and cheese out, kinda like an FX loop. I tried a flanger in there and it worked a treat.

As for the outside aesthetics, there was only ever one thing in mind. Direct replica of the original. Only real difference is the LED position (Lovetones use large PCBs with onboard LEDs). However I think it looks fantastic, and yes ,I have located the original knobs (Maplin of all places - astounding).

Here are some glamour shots for the beast. FYI the box is an Eddystone P/N 26827PSLA 188x120x57mm from Rapid for around £10. Graphics are on white decal vinyl. I might do the front and sides at some point, as yet undecided.

The original unit for comparison sake

Overall its one of the coolest things I've ever done. If you had told me back in February when I picked up a soldering iron I could make a Loveclone in 6mths Id have laughed it off... There are a lot of firsts in this build too - First Perfboard, first FX send and returns with break jacks, first build with rotary jacks, first build that wasnt 1590b or bb sized enclosure. And first Lovetone clone. Yes, thats right, keep it peeled for a certain pink monster looming on the horizon...

Over and out!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Pedalboard rewire

Today I received my very swanky and cool FAME DCT-200 power supply. Had this on backorder for ages now. You may recall my earlier post on the subject... Its basically a mishmash of the best PSUs out there, but a Chinese knockoff (gotta love 'em!)

It has 8 x 9vDC outlets:

1 - 4: 9v, 100mA
5 - 6: 9v, 250mA
7 - 8: 9v, 100mA - with adjuster to wind down to 4v for battery sag effects - great for fuzzes.

It also has DIP switches. For 7 and 8, it turns on the "sag" potentiometers.
For 1-4, it gives 12.3v, 60mA
For 5-6, it gives 14.5v/12v, 50mA/200mA respectively. Not too shabby!

Total mA is 1600 to boot.

It also has 1 x 12vDC,250mA, and 1 x 12vAC, 250mA so it can power my Line6 DL-4 big green beastie.
Sadly I dont think any of these works with my Digitech XP which is AC only, and I darent risk going over 9v incase I fry it. So I cant do away with the powerstrip and wallwarts completely.

It comes complete with 2 lots of 8 (16) standard cords (black), a couple of 2.5mm cords (blue), a couple jack cords for old EHX effects, a polarity reverser adaptor, and a couple red ones I havent figured out yet, and probably dont need...

Anyway, all that for Euro 59 delivered. I cant think of a better buy.
Oh and one other thing...haha....YES, the outputs are all isolated and protected. Beat that!
Any negatives? Yes - its massive, yellow, and has a tribal image on it. I might refin it in the future. 

So this is what my board looked like earlier this evening:

This is what it looks like now:

Managed to squeeze a couple more effects in, relegated the Digidelay in favour of my EchoBase. Quite liking this set up, covers a lot of bases as they say.

Here is a little GIF I made for a laugh of the process:

Monday, 11 July 2011


Ive built two Crunchbox variants this weekend.

The first is a for a mate, based on the layout by Mark.
Substitutions are 3mm LEDs for clipping, and a 10k normal log pot. In hindsight, I can see why a log pot is called for. Its very muffly in the bass side, and the reverse log would spread out the treble adjustment. If my futurlec order contains the right pot (ill have to check) Ill switch them out.

The second one is for me, based on the Cap'n Munch variant by (Tonman layout).
Built per spec, with socketed tone caps, got 47nF in there for now, will try others when time permits.

Here is a board comparison!

Some of the parts on the vero are hidden by that horrendous greenie ;)

LD-1 Larry David  for my mate, his artwork

Mintberry Crunch, for me (!)

So far I like the Mintberry better, the tone control on the Tonman revamp is much improved (active boost of bass or boost of treble - however, the taper sucks...far too trebly from about 11pm).  I need to check out some different options for the tone caps.

For the Larry D, I think I will try out the proper pot. It sounds good from say 3pm on the dial. Not much working room. Alternatively I could rewire the existing pot for more treble play, and have it set up like a RAT filter. hmmm.

Comments appreciated.
Cheers all.

Dr Boogie

Got this board for a fiver (what the heck, might as well).
Built it up, sounds awesome! Bit of a mess with the onboard pots as I couldnt find 90 degree ones like your meant to use, but it works and fits in the case.

Brilliant high gain pedal! JFETS biased to 4.5v and sounding killer.

Heres the insides:

Next  up a report on a couple of MI Audio Crunchboxes...

Friday, 8 July 2011

Another John Hollis Easy Vibe

These things are great. So great in fact the guys from Dutch Uncles were quite taken with mine when I met them a few weeks back. After the successful first collaboration on the Mr Wooding, guitarist Sped asked me to make him a Vibe pedal, with the graphics an (ahem) loving homage to the lovely Hayley from Paramore

I used an idea I picked up on the Tremulus lune for this build. I used vero for the pots again, and I used the vero in the middle to mount the LED, with leads flying back to the DPDT footswitch board. Looks cool, seems robust, and holds the LED solidly. Winner! I used some cheap LEDs from Rapid which I was a bit concerned about (different to ones Ive used in previous builds of this pedal).

Thankfully the effect works as it should. Im yet to thoroughly playtest but it sounded nice through my little test rig. Encountered a couple dumb issues - wired both pots backwards which was dumb of me, ill need to check the schematic, Im sure I did it right. Anyway, I fixed that. Second was the Tip of the input jack was pushing against the back of the pot. Luckily I used the nice plastic coated ones. I ended up twisting the jack round as it was a pain.

Some pics:

Pot assembly with LED mouting

Gut shot of the completed build

Front pic. I think I sourced the perfect knobs for this!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Temple Tone, for Everything Everything

Another commission! Hot on the heels of Dutch Uncles, another friendly local band asked me to make a tremolo as a suprise birthday present for their guitarist.The band is question is Everything Everyhing who really are out there making some highly interesting and eclectic music and Im proud to say they are from Manchester. There debut album Man Alive is really great, check them out: Everything Everything

Anyway, a tremolo you say.
What better to base it on than the evergreen Tremulus Lune!?

I used one of the vero's floating around on the net and added the modifications (fine rate control and waveshape symmetry). This was one hell of a build.

Here are the guts:

The graphics were the guys choice:

This thing sounds soooo good really I dont say that cos I made it. The options offered by the controls are vast and comprehensive. The symmetry to vary the waveshape from sine like this \/\/\/\/\/ to ramping like either this l\l\l\l\l\l\l or l/l/l/l/l/l/l/ is awesome.

Looking forward to working with more local bands as and when.
For the future ive decided to invest in some PCBs

From MadBean I purchased some zvex boards (MAchine, 2 in 1, Fuxx Factory) a CE-2 called the pork barrel and a BJFe Honey Bee.
From Guitar PCB I have custom ordered Lovetone Ring Stinger workalike called the String Ringer, the EA tremolo (though I reckon itll suck compared to the Lune) the MIA Crunch Box and a couple of MAgnus Modulus. Ill be building forever!

Over and out.

NGD (New Guitar Day)

Hi folks, been away on vacation to Romania and while there I selfishly bought a new guitar (via the wonders of Wifi, who'd have thought it in Rural Transilvania? - on eBay).

Its a stunning (IMHO) Mexican made 72 Telecaster Thinline in natural ash.
My best mate had one of these as a kid when all I could afford was a lowly Squier Tele copy (korean of all places). Now, 15 years later, I have my own, albeit not a MIJ like his was.

Street price on these seems to be £800 - wow, times have changed. I remember my mates MIJ was £500 brand new. I think this mex is made pretty well though and it sounds on the money. Its a bit heavier than the one I remember however, poorer quality ash perhaps? Still, I paid £400 which I think is reasonable.

Here is a little video of me improving when I got the guitar home this evening. Pedals are Creamy Dreamer > Mammoth > Easy Vibe > Echo base.