This month we have the new Hot Cherry Overdrive from Dang! Creative Services! This overdrive is the second stomp box in our Funktronic line of effects pedals. A clone of the classic Marshall Bluesbreaker, this pedal is a great example of a somewhat transparent overdrive. I brings a nice, natural sounding distortion with out bringing too much crunch to your tone.
These pedals were also finished in bright red by a friend of mine using a really fantastic automotive-grade two-stage polyurethane finish. Coupled with the cool, retro graphics, brought to you by Dang! Creative, the results, again, are absolutely stunning.
Fresh off the workbench is this pair of stomp boxes designed here at Dang! Creative Services. These beauties will be marking a couple firsts for us. Firstly, La Calavera is the first in a series of pedals completed under the Funktronic label. Last year, we built the Funktronic Envelope Filter and decided to keep the name as an overall brand.
Secondly, these pedals were finished by by a good friend of mine who owns an auto body shop here in town. He was kind enough to paint these using the same two-stage process used in automotive finishing. The results are absolutely stunning.
This is the first in a series of pedals that I think represent some of the best work I have ever done. The “Calavera” concept art was appropriated from the popular Mexican card game, Loteria. I actually designed and built these with a buddy in mind who plays bass in a local Gothic/Pshycobilly band.
The pedal itself is a clone of the now-defunct Ampeg Scrambler. The Scrambler is a really interesting octave up ring modulator/fuzz pedal that produces a really sick, synthy-sounding fuzz. What makes this pedal really great is the Balance knob that acts as a wet/dry mix – an indispensable feature if you’re using effects with bass guitar. The Texture knob sort of increases the amount of octave-like effect.
Last few weeks I’ve been working on a little stompbox project. I designed three stompbox shells and will be building them out over the next few weeks. Here we have an Octave Divider, an Overdrive and an Octave Fuzz. The Octave Divider will be built from an original circuit designed by The Valve Wizard, while the Overdrive and Octave Fuzz will be clones of vintage pedals.
These will be pedals made almost entirely by scratch. I’ve etched the circuit boards and have been soldering the components in place. I’ll be posting images as the project progresses. I’m in the box-finishing stage now – one thing of note, is that a friend of mine with an auto body shop was kind enough to help me with the finishes. They look really fantastic. I should be sanding them and applying the decals today.
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!”
I just finished assembling this nifty little effect pedal. What we have here is what started a rehouse job that kind of mutated into it’s own thing. Years ago, I built a clone of an old MXR Envelope Filter from Tonepad. I’d modded it for bass by adding a “Deep” switch that added a couple of larger capacitors to lower the range of the sweep. Additionally, I’d added a couple of other mods recommended by Mark Hammer on DIYStompboxes.com.
Of course as with all bass effects, there was a sort of loss attack and low end which made using the filter onstage in a band situation a little uninspiring. I had decided to add a blend feature which would mix a little of my dry signal with the wet signal. Initially, I’d opted for a B.Blender circuit, but there wasn’t a pre-made PCB available. Looking around at some other options out there, I discovered the Paramix on GuitarPCB.com. The Paramix is a really cool pedal that would allow me not only to blend my dry signal with any effect in the effect loop, but would allow me to blend two separate effects independently of one another. Realizing that the Paramix was indeed a very powerful tool by itself I decided it would be best for me to make a box that would serve both the Paramix and the EF together.
Realizing that this would be a fairly cumbersome set of circuits, I came to the conclusion that I would need a larger enclosure. I found a really nice sloped steel enclosure over at EffectsEnclosures.com. David make these custom enclosures himself and they come in standard sizes. However, he happened to have had this extra large one laying around and he sold it to me at a very reasonable price. I gave it a little design that was my attempt at paying homage to some of the really cool looking old effects pedals of yesteryear such as units produced by Maestro and Mutron.
The Paramix was a bear of build, mostly due to my ineptitude. Thanks to the guys over at GuitarPCB.com I was able to troubleshoot and get it working. They were a tremendous help. After a really specific round of troubleshooting instructions, I was able to find that one of the pins on the IC socket would not make contact with the circuit board. They advised me to stick a little jumper in there to make the pins make better contact.
In the end, the pedal works and sounds great. I put the two side by side as separate effects, mainly so I could place Envelope Filter anywhere in the effects loop chain. The Paramix does a brilliant job blending the wet and dry signals together and really brings out the low end in my filter. I can pretty much dial in the Isley’s Fight the Power tone instantaneously. Even better, it also unlocks the awesomely funky potential of the otherwise useless reverse sweep mod. Yay!