The Funky Popsicle has a really fun little design on the box that I recycled from another electronics project I did several years ago. I was looking for a retro graphic that was a both nostalgic and, well, funky and modern. The box itself is painted a really cool automotive metallic root beer color, that doesn’t really render onscreen well, but I think the image sort of speaks enough to communicate the look I was going for.
The pedal itself is clone of the ever-popular Electroharmonix BassBalls Envelope Filter complete with a few really cool mods suggested by Mark Hammer at diystompboxes.com. By itself, I always felt that the EHX BassBalls was more of a novelty than a useful pedal. It sounds really cool, but in practical use, it’s not really all that effective. However, with a few mods, it can be really cool. I highly recommend adding the Decay knob and the Mix knob (the Mix adjusts the emphasis between the upper and lower sweep). This adds a whole new realm of usable and dynamic sounds to the pedal. And with a Boss OC-2 Octaver before it – look out – synth bass ahoy! I also opted to keep the stock fuzz circuit, because after hearing the Bassballs demos, I actually liked the froggy vocal character it produces. Now mind you, the easiest, and most common mod is to mount the internal trimpots on the outside of the box, but after hearing a few demos and actually building the pedal myself, I felt that moving the trimpots isn’t a worthwhile mod. Most of the sounds aren’t very usable, and as far as adjusting the lower filter, there’s a really only small window of usability. Mark Hammer’s suggested mods, do include mounting the upper filter pot on the outside, and this does add extra dimension of cool tweakability.
Another little point I might add, this was my first stab at etching my own PCB. Initially, I tried using the more friendly vinegar and hydrogen peroxide method, but it didn’t work for me. I ended up buying some etchant at Radio Shack and it worked great! I hate the using nasty chemicals bit, but I love that I now have two extra PCB’s and another Funky Popsicle box on my workbench.
In the end, this is currently my favorite envelope filter pedal. It sounds great, and when it’s blended into my dry signal, it makes for a really fun effect. It can produce a lot of really cool sounds and it is intensely dynamic and responsive to touch. The li’l lady seemed to be impressed as well. When I first tested it, she happened to walk into the garage and she said, “I really like that – it sounds like coconuts!”