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building distortion pedal


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im guessing that your thinking about a distortion pedal that used actual tubes in it ye (if not then please correct me)

i have done alot of reasearch into guitar FX and amps and while im no expert i think i have enough knowledge to give you some pro's and cons to this idea

ill start with the cons

the biggest of these is quite simplly that tubes need mains power supply to get them to work. this means that if your building it yourself youd better know what you're doing lol

secondlly you should know something about the way that tube distortion is created.

in an amp there will be (very basically) a pre-amp and a power-amp. the power amp is built so that there is a maximum signal that it can take before it begins to distort. the pre-amp set up so that the amplification it gives can put the signal above and below this value. (sry if im being patronising but its just easier to make sure people know the basics)

on an amp when you change the gain you're changing the amplification of the preamp. high gain means high amplification on the preamp which means a large signal is sent into the power amp. this means that the tube in the power amp will be "overloaded" and so will distort

what this all means in short is that if you are trying to do this then you may as well go the whole way and just build a tube amp.

i will just quicklly list the pro's of this so as not to totally discourage you.

tube distortion just sounds nice. there is no denying it

it would be damn good fun to do (the entire basis for me doing electrical engineering at uni is so i can go build guitar FX and amps because its fun lol)

itd be damn impressive as well

if you are looking to research guitar FX then 1 place i will point you towards is

General Guitar Gadgets http://www.generalguitargadgets.com/v2/

if you check the links section as well then there are loads of useful sites from there

one last thing i will point out to you is this article. its on general guitar fx but its very useful so ill link to it anyway


all about designing your own distortion pedals

hope that all that helps


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The Tube Screamers are so rare now, when i get the guitar built, i might tackle that, friend of mine has one, he keeps it in a glass case now, I only got to play it once, before he knew it was rare, damn him for finding out!! those bad boys were awesome!!!


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The Tube Screamers are so rare now, when i get the guitar built, i might tackle that, friend of mine has one, he keeps it in a glass case now, I only got to play it once, before he knew it was rare, damn him for finding out!! those bad boys were awesome!!!


Aren't they still made new?

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If you're looking for an old-school TS808/TS9, check out Robert Keeley, madman modder for the stars. His "Baked" TS9 mod screams, and he's not expensive. he also does ProCo RATs, all kinds of wahs, etc. - check him out.

Oh, and if you want to roll yer own, here's a couple of places to start:

The Guitar Effects Oriented Webpage

Jack Orman's AMZ

Aron Nelson's Stompbox Page

These guys'll get you started - the sky's the limit! I love my Big Muff Pi clone mod, but it's so over the top, I can't use it without serious gating.

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the real problem i hav (and the reason i havnt built any FX yet) is getting cases and switches for them. i could really do with finding somewhere that icouldget old non working FX from andthen just canibalize them lol

i currentlly have loads of ideas for some wierd ass but cool things

among others ive got thiscrazy idea for a box that splits up the frequency spectrum of your guitar into different channels which can then be mixed back together with another box. this would mean you could do crazy things like have heavy distortion on the lower frequencies, a flanger on the mids and then delay on the high frequencies (for example, i duno if that would sound good but u get the idea) it wouldnt even be that hard to design lol

i love being geekeh

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yeah, the plastic radio shack box has to go, i have a hammond box for it, but i haven't painted it yet.

the blue one is a hammond box, the other 2 are made from housings from center airbag sensors out of Toyotas :D

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Here is one place to get you started: TonePad. They have one tube project there called the "Real McTube." There are many other references out there on the web if you search around.

Real McTube - have built this, it works great on my bass! With the "gain" at 40-50% it adds just enough crunch. BTW - it doesn't suck the bass frequencies! Wouldn't recommend as an overdrive for guitar, though. Unless you're after some "tube feel" only. To work on guitar, "gain" has to be turned all the way up, but then it doesn't give you a nice overdriven signal, it just makes some sort of "buzz" and adds noise. Anyway, the article itself is worth reading as it covers basics of tube stuff in a simple language so even I understood it and also explains how to tweak the Real McTube schematic to suit your taste. And you can easily add a tonestack if needed. Free soft: http://www.duncanamps.com/tsc/

I highly recommend another project from Tone Pad instead - Sansamp GT-2. Built this too, and made some A/B listening with my friends original GT-2. Couldn't tell a difference in sound. There's some work to put it all together, and it might not be the best choice as a first project, but for abt. $ 45-50 you get one hell of a good and versatile unit.

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ive seen the hammond boxes and they are very nice tho atm i havnt quite got the cash for them lol. the other problem i mentioned is the switches. if you want to have true bypass and an LED ON/OFF indicator then you can either get Triple Pole Single Throw heavy duty foot switches ($15 each is the cheapest you'll get them) or you can use the millenium bypass method which isnt that difficult to sort out but requires a little bit of know how. evven if you do sort that out then you need the normal DPDT foot switches which are about $5 to $10 each and then theres shipping ontop of that.

the electronics of stomp boxes is pretty easy and cheap. its the casings and switches/pots where you spend the most

LoveKraft i know the channel splitter is easy. i can design the entire thing myself without too much fuss. the plan would be to just have a passive channel splitter and then have a booster with variable gain for each channel. the mixer is very easy to make by just using an op-amp.

thinking about it, if people want i could probablly do a tutorial on the basics of guitar and FX box electronics. just to explain stuff like frequency filters, the basics of distortion etc. i realise that most of this is available on the web and that there are a few people here who already know alot more about this than me but i figure that some folk may find it useful. any takers?

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  • 4 weeks later...

just to make you smile (hopefully ) heres some of my pedal links



My Dual channel Hate Machine

it has a dual voice on it..

The song is done on a Six string in dropped "B" Tuning

sledgehammer is the current pedal that i produce and will be available at guitar centers and hopefully pedalgeek.com as well as musictoyz.com


this was the first song i did after i set my Ibanez on fire

these are the two that are still on this site i am presently tryign to work on a new website.

or you can check otu the ones i sell here






a little more recent sound clips..

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