FX Pedals

Earthquaker Devices Crimson Drive Bad Ass Overdrive

crimson-driveA while back I posted an article about a couple of overdrives I built and one of them was based on the Earthquaker Devices Crimson Drive which was one of my favorites.

Joyo Ultimate Drive Just Got Better

My craigslist $30 Joyo Ultimate Drive just got even better! It was a great sounding overdrive right out of the box for sure. It’s been compared to a Freakish Blues Alpha Drive, or more precisely they are the same drive with a few different component values. I found a mod that is supposed to make the Joyo sound more like the Alpha so I figured what the hell let’s give it a go. If you know the Alpha Drive then you know it cost right at $160 and the Joyo Ultimate runs approx. $40. The key difference is that the Joyo has more volume on tap with a fatter bottom end and the Alpha has a tighter bottom end and more chimey highs. They use the same PCB so the Alpha Drives appear to be re-branded Joyo’s. With $1.50 worth of components I went in. This is about as simple a mod you’re likely to find so it’s a good first mod for a beginner. You have to pull the board out of the housing to get at the top to remove one component while the other 3 can be done from the back side. Here’s the mod.

1. Remove the 1uf electrolytic capacitor located at C9.
2. Flip the board over (see image below)
3. Insert a 0.1uf polyester cap in C9. I prefer box caps.
4. Solder a 330k resistor across Drive pot lugs 1 & 3.
5. Solder a 1k7 resistor across Tone pot lugs 1 & 3.
6. Solder a 470k resistor across Volume pot lugs 1 & 3.

Button it all back up and test drive it.
The difference is startling. It tightens up the bottom end and makes the tone knob much more responsive and adds a bit more in the high end. Before the change the Joyo was border line muddy but was controllable with the tone knob and backing off on  the volume knob. With the mod it gives the tone and volume ability to go full on without losing any clarity. And it loses none of the pre-mod volume boost. So what I considered to be a great overdrive right out of the box is now a truly awesome dirt box. Now here comes the disclaimer: all results were achieved using humbuckers. I have no idea how single coils would perform so as always YMMV.

joyo ultimate drive diy mods

click for larger image

What’s the easiest mod you’ve ever done? Leave an answer in the comments below

One Overdrive Pedal Ain’t Enough

VHT V-Drive, Joyo Ultimate Drive, Way Huge Saucy Box

Sometimes it’s hard to find a deal on an item you may be looking for, and sometimes the deals hit one after the other. Such is the case here. I was looking for a good overdrive since I hadn’t tried anything new for awhile and was eyeballing a Way Huge Saucy Box. But I was hoping for a deal when I cam up on a VHT V-Drive at a killer price. Waiting on a response from the seller I found a Joyo Ultimate Drive for uber cheap and bought it. A few hours later I heard from the VHT guy and bought it too. Then I realized I had a gift card from Guitar Center that I hadn’t used so I said “screw it” and got the Saucy Box too. It turned out to be a good thing because these three overdrives are each pretty unique. Of the three I couldn’t pick one over the others.

The V-Drive is pretty versatile as it has volume, tone, drive, depth, texture, and the diode select knob with multiple clipping diode types in 10 different configurations and one bypass/clean boost setting. The depth knob brings in the lows and the texture knob works with the tone knob for a dizzying number of tone shaping options. It can go from clean to saturated and chimey to heavy grind and everything in between with a fair amount of volume boost too. Another unique feature is the voltage control. It goes from approx 5v up to approx 15v. Lower gets you kind of a loose sagging tone and the higher voltages tighten everything up and add headroom. Very useable

Next we have the Saucy Box. This one has just 3 knobs but it uses them in a different way. It reminds of a Voodoo Lab Sparkle Drive in the way it mixes the clean signal with the drive signal, but the two signals are hard set in a very pleasing way, so the tone knob does th mixing. Full counter clockwise it acts as a clean boost, and full clockwise your getting all the drive it can deliver (which is a lot). The magic happens between 10 and 2 where it’s giving you some of both circuits. And it’s a smooth overdrive even at the highest settings. It’s not as full sounding as the V-Drive but it’s a lot tighter in the bottom end and it puts out a slightly syrupy kind of tone which sounds great.

The Joyo Ultimate Drive was the biggest surprise out of all of them. This little dirt box sounds like a higher priced boutique overdrive. It has a lot of volume and drive on tap which can take you into distortion territory easily, and the tone knob has a huge affect through the entire sweep. Overall it’s a heavier tone than the other two pedals, but still smooth like the others. Highs are easily controlled too which is good but it will also pile them on if you want it to. All the controls seem to be interactive with each other but that may just be a perception on my part.

Keep in mind I was using my Hamer Studio with a 57 Classic + in the bridge position and a Burstbucker Pro in the neck position and these boxes seemed to play really nice with them. All in all it’s hard to pick a favorite because they’re all so different and useable for different things. So I’m going to pick….ALL OF THEM. Yep, I’d hate to have to decide to keep one and sell the others so to avoid anxiety and mental stress and confusion I’m gonna keep all 3. Much healthier that way.  As always YMMV.

Give Your DIY Stompboxes a Stunning Anodized Finish

Since I got into the whole DIY stompbox thing I find myself looking for those things that will make a build unique. I’m sure you all do it too. So the other day I was driving past an Autozone and decided to pop in and take a look at the available paint colors. Brother did I hit the DIY jackpot! “Dupli-Color / Metalcast Anodized Coating“. It comes in blue, and red and possibly green and it’s freakin’ awesome! I went with red since my Crimson Drive clone

DIY stompboxes

Between my crappy worn out camera and bad lighting these pics do not do these pedals justice, Not even close.


Check the red and blue caps. They’re accurate.

was one of the ones needing paint (I’m going back for some of the blue too). It’s made to paint on chrome and makes it look like it’s been anodized. They have an undercoat specifically for this stuff if you’re not putting it on chrome but trying to save a few bucks (and having that DIY mentality) I figured I could find a way to make it work. What I found was that a solid silver paint works great and gives it the appearance of candy paint. I also took a new enclosure and polished the shit out of it to get it as shiny as possible. It looks really cool as well but a bit darker which I like. I believe this stuff bears some experimentation with different base coats.  There’s no telling what we may conjure up. Overall it was a spectacular find (for me at least).

Name: Dupli-Color / Metalcast Anodized Coating
Uses: Made for use on chrome
Primer: None. It’s made to use directly on chrome but they have a special undercoat for use on non-chrome. Any good “silver” color works.
Ease of use: On a 10 scale it gets the full 10. it sprays on really smooth and even. And it dries mega-fast! Like 20 minutes and it can be handled (a DIY dream!).
Coverage: 2 light coats then a third wet coat  It’s very translucent by design so you won’t be covering anything up with this even if you tried.
Clear coat: The directions never specify the need for a clearcoat but I used Krylon MAXX Hi-Gloss Clear to be safe. Like I said, it looks like candy paint when done.

Final thoughts: At $8.99 it’s a little more than what I normally spend for paint, and I almost passed on it but it was just so incredible looking I said to hell with it and bought some. Damn glad I did too!

Killer DIY Overdrive Pedal Using A Turret Board

6 degrees fx sally-drive

6 Degrees FX SallyDrive

I’ve successfully built 10 pedals so far and I’m getting better with each build. All done using vero-board (strip board). Feeling more and more confident I got curious about a turret board design. I was impressed by 6 Defrees FX SallyDrive pedal and how cool the guts look. These things are a work of art for sure. So I got hold of a couple of turret strips and reworked them into a double row layout and cut them to work for this new pedal. Using the turret board makes the build easy and it looks good, but it does have a down side: to fit it into a smaller enclosure you’re limited to a design with few components. I looked and found one that was not only easy to build, but easy to mod as well. (this is nowhere near on the level of 6 Degrees work, but you gotta start somewhere).

The design is based on a LovePedal Woodrow which itself is based on the venerable Electra Distortion circuit which is a great base to work from. It requires minimal components. Here’s a link to the layout which is actually a tagboard layout but it was easy enough to transpose for the turrets. (No solder bridges on this build woo whooo!).

diy overdrive turretboard layout

Turretboard layout

woodrow turretboard build gut shot

Turret-build overdrive

The only change I made was to socket the connections for the diodes to take them off-board. This way I could build a diode switching option for silicon / germanium clipping. I’m a big fan of germanium circuits and asymetrical clipping and I recently came into possession of a couple of vintage 1N541 Germanium diodes that I pulled from an antique radio. Once I had them I couldn’t wait to try them out. And holy crap they sound awesome! I used the two 1N541s in series and a single 1N914 for asym germanium clipping then I used three 1n914s for the silicon option (also asym). I couldn’t be happier with the results. I’ve been using a Speaker Cranker clone for awhile now and this newest build is going to replace it because I like the single knob of the SC and this new pedal can do what the SC can do and so much more. The obvious clipping options are great and this thing can also deliver a massive volume boost which I really like (the speaker cranker has a single gain knob where this new one has a single volume knob).

off-board diode switching diagram

Diode switching option

If you prefer using strip boards you will find that layout on the page I linked to above. Turret, tag, or vero, I highly recommend this build if you’re still learning how to build pedals. It’s a great sounding pedal and will be a real confidence booster.

Turret build enclosure

Turret build;(note clipping switch: up for germanium, down for silicon

One other minor detail but I want to mention it: I just got an order from Tayda Electronics that included one of their 1590B powder coated enclosures and it looks great! I love powder coating and this box didn’t let me down. I masked the whole thing and then drilled it out so I wouldn’t scratch it or mark it up and it came out sweet. I’m for sure going to get more of these. They come in black and white. Check them out.

DIY Eternity Burst and Crimson Drive: Awesome Pedals!

od=pedals-3I wanted to learn to build my own guitar pedals to save money, so I jumped in with both feet. I know how to solder, and electronics is something I am familiar with to a degree, but I’m talking minor repair stuff, not constructing circuits like these. I now understand what motivates most of the guys in the DIY world: It’s not so much about saving money, it’s more about the feeling of major accomplishment when you finish a build and plug it in and the damn thing actually works! It’s an incredible thing to put a bunch of components together and have a working fx pedal come out the other end. I just finished two more pedals that came out awesome. The first is based on a LovePedal Eternity Burst overdrive and the other is my new favorite and it’s based on an Earthquaker Devices Crimson Drive. It’s my first germanium based pedal and it’s freakin cool. I dig it. You may notice they both share the same paint design. I painted the Eternity first and I liked it so much I used the same scheme and colors on the Crimson Drive. (I borrowed the idea from the 6 Degrees FX Sally Drive). I’m looking at some other directions to take that part of the whole process, like powder coating, acid etching, and dipping. I have another idea for a carbon fiber enclosure that I’m looking into now. Hopefully that one will pan out.

od-pedals=4In my previous posts I laid out a method for beginners to get some experience building these things by eliminating what is to me the most frustrating part of the whole process, which is soldering all the little parts to the board without shorting anything out. They’re really close together and it just takes practice and patience to master. In fact the board from the Eternity is the one in the previous post and it’s my last build using the expanded vero board method. The Crimson Drive isn’t my first build using the standard compact layout, but it’s my first successful one. Even though it didn’t work on the first test run it still felt pretty damn good that I only had to debug it once. (had the input and output wires reversed on the switch). I’ve also learned to order parts in quantity so that I don’t have to order more for every build. There’s a ton of shit that I still have to learn about these circuits, and I REALLY need to work on wiring everything together in the enclosure, so I’ll keep plugging away at it. But as of now I’ve learned enough to have fun with it. And I get some awesome pedals in the process!

The Eternity has an issue but I’m sure I’ll figure it out soon. It works and sounds really good until you turn the gain past 2 o-clock. That’s where a high pitched squeal starts. Very weird. But that’s part of the fun with these things. Debugging is just part of the process. You can find a ton of layouts over at Guitar FX Layouts, here’s a link http://tagboardeffects.blogspot.com  Next post I’ll cover soldering equipment.

Rock On!

IC Chip Workaround

Using an 8 pin IC socket on an expanded vero board

ic-socket-adapter-0ic-socket-adapter-1-6One of the drawbacks to using an expanded vero board is attaching IC Chips like op-amps because obviously the pins can’t be expanded to match the board, but I have a workaround for this (you need to use an ic socket for this). First you have to determine where the connecting points need to be on the expanded board (makes it easier if you mark them Fig. 1). Next cut a piece of perfboard (plain with no copper on the back side) that will cover those points. Look at fig. 0 and you will see what I mean. Now take 8 little pieces of 22 gauge solid wire and bend them in a u shape with one side beign longer than the other and place the short end in the hole whare the socket pin will also go and the long end into the hole that matches up with the new pin locations. Place the socket so the pins are in the same holes as the wires then solder them in place (Fig. 2, 3, 4). From the underside use double face foam tape to cover the solder connections and simply slip the whole thing onto the expanded board and solder into place (Fig. 5, 6). To be honest I don’t know if this method is even accepted or proper or correct, but I do know that it freakin works!

Original article on DIY stomp boxes for absolute beginners

Speaker Cranker

Earthquaker Devices Speaker Cranker

Cranker2Ever since I got the Orange OR15 I haven’t used dirt pedals much. It really doesn’t need one unless you want to set the amp clean then drive it with a pedal so you can don’t have to fiddle with the amps controls to get the grit and grind when you need it. The problem was that even a low or medium gain overdrive seemed like it was just too much. So I started looking and rediscovered a great pedal: Earthquaker Devices Speaker Cranker. This is a one knob dirt pedal that sounds sweet at every setting. It’s a true bypass overdrive that can give you a mildly gritty boost or full-on overdrive. And just like all the other pedals that claim “transparency”, this one also colors your sound, but not very much. It rolls the highs off a bit which imho is a good thing, and it gives the tone a fuller, rounder sound. And it’s totally controllable. It has one control knob labeled “More” which controls the gain and makes the pedal super easy to use. The only issue I had was with the LED indicator. It’s bright white and when you turn it on the light blinds you. But this is a minor thing and was easily fixed with a dark red “Prismacolor” marker.  The Orange really likes this one, and so do I. I’m just sorry I didn’t try one out a long time ago. I did think about it once, but never pursued one. Bottom line: it’s a keeper.


Related articles

EHX Soul Food Overdrive

soul-foodI know what you’re gonna say before you even say it.  You’re gonna say “holy crap! this dude bought ANOTHER dirt pedal!” And my reply to that would be “yep I did”. But in my own defense I was talking about one of these for a long time and G.C. finally got some in. So it was “road trip” time again (man, that’s twice in under two weeks. Maybe there is something wrong with me). For $62 plus tax, this is a bargain that’s awfully hard to resist. So I figured why fight it. And it’s a great pedal. They say it’s a Klon clone, and it is pretty close. In fact for the price it’s close enough for me. Typical EHX build quality so it’ll be around a long time, and it’s got an understated but totally cool graphic on it. One thing I want to say up front is that I never really bought into the whole “transparent” claims by a lot of builders. To be fair, maybe those pedals do sound transparent to the builders, but it’s been my experience that every pedal puts some color on the sound. What matters for me is whether or not I like that color. Now I’m forced to rethink that opinion because I believe it actually is transparent.  That leads me to believe that I have never tried a truly “transparent” pedal before. It’s produces a really sweet low to medium gain drive, but it also produces a killer boost. The way I understand it is that it steps up the 9 volt power internally to achieve this. And it’s evident when you twist the volume knob. So it runs on 9 volts but only because I guess 18 volts would be redundant (or it would fry the pedal). What ever they did, they did it well. Sounds awesome with my Catalinbread Dirt Little Secret too. I just don’t think you could find a better deal on a new dirt box anywhere.

Catalinbread Dirty Little Secret MkIII

I couldn’t help it. It was one of those days, I was watching demo videos when I hit on one that got the gas (gear acquisition syndrome) goin’ strong! It was Andy at Pro Guitar Shops and a Catalinbread Dirty Little Secret overdrive. I really dig Andy’s demos. You really get a feel for the product because his audio quality is very high and of course his playing is just phenominal. I had seen this video before but I guess I wasn’t listening to the pedal, I was listening to Andy. But this time it hit me like a freight train, that pedal is freakin’ sweet. So after considering at length (about 30 seconds) the possibility of getting one I checked on line to find one locally then hit the road and snagged one ($169 at Sam Ash). This is supposed to be a Marshall in a box, and it certainly is that. It’s got an internal switch to go from Super Lead to Super Bass, and they nailed both. But it’s so much more than that. It has the sweetest smooth overdrive tone of any of my pedals. And it’ll throttle up to full on saturated Marshall with a twist of a couple knobs. Everything about it is so natural sounding. Like how the notes decay without getting frazzy at the end. And it stacks beautifully with other pedals. Catalinbread calls this a ‘foundation” pedal but it kicks ass as a stand alone overdrive. It also has an internal trim pot for presence. I haven’t felt the need to tweak that as of yet but give me time. It will run on 18 volts too, and I will be trying that out in a day or two.

This is now my “always on” drive, and here’s the coolest part: since I got it I haven’t used any other drives with it except the one time just to see how it sounds, because it doesn’t need em. This is my first Catalinbread unit and it’s pretty impressive in every respect (the build quality is second to none). I guess I may have to just grab more of their stuff, so stay tuned.