Wednesday, November 16, 2016

El cheapo power soak

Many years ago, when I was but a lad of 19 I had a 50watt valve amplifier and lived in a flat.
That amp was the Peavey Classic 50 head. It sounded great, but boy hoh by was it loud.

Back then I had a job repairing turntables and as a result had access to a catalogue of stuff that just wasn't available in the local Dick Smith (remember when they sold electronics components?).

Anyway, in said catalogue they had this thing called a speaker attenuator. It was a little pricey for my measly wage, but I thought that it might do the trick. It didn't and it has been sitting in one box or another for the last 17 years. That was until this afternoon when I fished it out and took to it with the soldering iron.

You see, I had an idea this morning, it was the same one that I had back in 1999.

I'd been on ebay and was searching for something when I saw a "power soak" that was cheap and looked suspiciously like the thing that I had in my workshop.

After a bit of searching on the commute, I came across this instructable and it turns out I'd been doing it wrong.

You see there was only solder on two of the three terminals, so I guess that I set about wiring it the wrong way.

Wiring it up the same as the instructable yielded the result that I was after so many moons ago!

I don't have the 50 watter any more, but I do have two Fives and a Fifteen.
Now the five can be cranked and not annoy the neighbours, but everything in my crappy little sound booth rattles and its a little unpleasant on the ears after a few minutes.

The fifteen on the other hand, gets too loud at just #3 on the dial.
Nice and clean at this point, but the sweet spot is a little further up the dial.

I've only tried out the attenuator on my Epiphone Valve Jr Half-Stack so far, but it worked flawlessly.
The amp can run full tilt and yield a nice gritty distortion, but be dialed down to almost nothing.

With this design, the amp sees 8 ohms at any level and is now at a nice neighbour friendly volume.

I got around to placing the power soak into an enclosure this weekend and try it out on my Fender Princeton. The results are good, but not as good as they were on the Valve Jr.

There are a couple of factors at play here at least.
The two biggest that I can identify are A: Power and B: Speaker interaction.

The Epiphone overdrives well and doesn't get nearly as loud as the Fender.
Sure its 1/3 the wattage, but that doesn't mean its only 1/3 as loud.
I've run them in stereo and they're not too different side by side.
The Epi isn't being drowned out by the Fender.
Though the fender does cause more rattling of the fixings in the booth.

The Fender does overdrive, but at maximum it is pretty fizzy and not anything like what you hear when running raw into the speaker at full volume.
From what I can tell, the amplifier / speaker interaction is where the great tone of this amp comes from. When the amp begins to distort, the speaker is working hard and lending its owe character to the overall sound. This seems to complement the amp's natural overdrive and also round out any unpleasant fizz. Either that or the assault on your ears means they can't pick out the nuances.

Dialing back the volume of the amp to (around 4 & 5) the zone where it straddles the clean/breaking up threshold and setting the power soak to just slightly higher than where I had it on the Valve Jr yielded a pretty nice tone. Clean and jangly with nice overdrive when hitting the strings hard.

I usually play with a neck pickup, but the bridge was better when using the power soak.
At a guess, its due to the same reason the overdrive at max volume wasn't great. The speaker plays a big part in the overall tone and maybe the lower frequencies are being rolled off a bit as well.

In conclusion, the price can't be beat for the control it provides over neighbourhood relations even if the unit does change the way your amp sounds. I'd love to try out a more expensive unit to see if they too suffer the fizziness that I experienced. I'm guessing that the answer would be yes due to the speaker not being driven the way it is intended. I still had very useable tone, but it is markedly different to the raw amp experience.

Your milage may vary.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Earthquaker Devices - Organizer

Hi Folks,

I know it's been a long time between posts but I haven't had much to report.
Everything is work, work, work.

I'm pretty sure you're not all that interested in balance sheets, economic order quotients or digging up tree roots and the intricacies of laying a flat garden path with recycled bricks.

Me either, but hey, that's my lot right now (Come on October!).

I did get a little reprieve and have been messing about in a friends studio, but nothing worth publishing yet.

A little way back there was a bit of spare cash and I spied a used Organizer pedal.
I'm a sucker for organ tones and I'm a lousy keyboard player so what's a man to do?

In earlier posts I've written about other pitch shifting devices such as the EHX Hog, Digitech Whammy, MXR Blue box and I think even a Boss OC3. Though the last two don't really count.

I liked the HOG, but it was too expensive and I had gear lust so it didn't last long in my collection.
There was a top end warble that I found to be a bit annoying for the price point. But this is just an artifact of the octave up pitch shifting.

I've heard it in the Whammy 4 and it is present in the Organiser (and POG and probably C9 too).

The Organizer is an interesting beast, but you'll want to use a nice clean power supply as it can amplify ripple from the DC input. I have a bunch of them and they vary within the same model designation, so its just a matter of messing about until you find a quiet one.

The manual suggests placing gain devices before it in the signal chain and after testing I can see why.
Any distortion after the fact will reveal clock noise from the delay chip on lag function. And if you're not using a clean power supply it will be even worse.

I would have thought that distorting on the input would have made tracking less accurate, but it works really well. I don't know the math or the way it actually works inside, but maybe its something about squaring off the waveform that simplifies things, but there is a harmonic component to distortion too so maybe I'm off the mark entirely.

What counts is the end result and it is pretty good.

The lag function "feels" like a delay when you move the knob, but I think may be its more akin to the halfway point on the HOG hold function (sort of like portamento on a synth). I'm not going to open it up, so I'll leave it a mystery.

Turing down the bass and dialing a blend of dry with the upper register can give a nice shimmer.
When coupled with reverb and delay the results are pleasing.
Dialing in the bottom end gives (as you would imagine) a nice full organ flavoured tone, especially when running into a Univibe (or clone) for that simulated leslie wobble.

Having seen the Decemberists this week, I know it's nowhere near the real deal, but still a really fund thing to play with.

I found the Organizer to be a fun and flexible pedal that I expect to retain in my collection (how many times can I keep buying the same basic thing right?)

Maybe one day I'll post a demo.....

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Found some stuff that I thought others might like :)

Anyone who knows me and has talked music, knows that I love Grandaddy.

I was trawling YouTube for video demos of the Yamaha Electone B-35n as I am soon to receive one to add to my collection.

I did'd find any good demos of that one specifically, but what I did come across was a channel that had some really nice songs that feature the Yamaha Electone C-35.

What's this go to do with Grandaddy you might ask?

Synth Arpeggios, I am a sucker for them.
Grandaddy uses them to great effect and so does the guy in the videos below.
Simple, beautiful.

Anyway if you're up for some nice instrumental tunes, then I suggest you head on over and checkout
Bagatellamusic also, do yourselves a favour and check out ( and by check out I mean throw your money at) Grandaddy and Jason Lytle 

Here are some videos that I quite liked. Enjoy!

Please note, I am not affiliated with any of the above.
I'm Just a fan.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Found Sound

I haven't been doing much music related stuff of late, so the posts have been few & far between.

Yesterday I was on the other side of town, near where I used to live & spend my money old music stuff. I decided to pop into the Swoppy, but didn't make it, as I saw that Found Sound was open for business (previously it was by appointment only).

I had a bit of a chat to the proprietor whom I have been acquainted with for a number of years.

Found Sound is a bit like the Swoppy, but the stock is a little bit fancier and they only sell items that they would like to own themselves (I'm paraphrasing).

Anyway, if you're in Melbourne you should definitely pop in and see what they've got.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Slow as a....

I sure do take my sweet time to finish stuff.

This time its an old junker guitar that I've had for a long, long time.

It has featured in a couple of posts already:

Scratch plate templates and Summer Projects

During one summer storm after painting the body, somehow water managed to get into the guitar's storage container and soaked it for a couple of weeks before I noticed.

The paint was pretty messed up, but the body was as good as before (eg: fairly rubbish).

Anyway a couple of weeks ago I felt the need to do something with my hands and slapped it back together in an afternoon.

Its not setup, but plays fairly well and stays in tune.

I'm using it to trigger a midi pickup and it is performing quite well.

Friday, January 16, 2015

ZVex Distortron

Last year I built a tagboard ZVex SHO clone.

It was nice.

Clean to very nasty and pretty cheap to build.
It also sounded really good.

Then one day it stopped working.

I tried debugging it, but the  accursed thing would not come back to life (even with a new transistor).

The accursed circuit went back into a box for another day.

I decided that I'd try to find a real one online for cheap (I'm not super cashed up).
Unfortunately that didn't pan out, but something else did.

I'd just finished an exam (which was conveniently located a short walk from my favourite shop) and had a few dollars in my pocket that I had been saving up for such a conjunction in locality & circumstance.

They didn't have any SHO's in store, but they did have a ZVex Distortron.

From what I can tell of the online reviews, this pedal doesn't really get the love that it deserves.

I imagine that has something to do with that its named fairly conventionally and isn't particularly eye catching. People are fickle and these things do count for many of them. I say they're missing out for being snobby.

This pedal is well made, has a small footprint and most importantly sounds good at any volume or setting.

It can clean up fairly well, though it always has a little bit of menace around the edges.
That my friends, is exactly what I was looking for in a dirt box.

It gives a massive amount of boost and a huge amount of dirt if you want.

The subs make my Princeton rumble something fierce but the 3 way switch takes care of that.
There is a lot of tonal variety and sounds great through an amp and equally good driving a series of pedals into a DI rig.

I didn't have a JTM45 to play into as recommended on the ZVex site, but I do have an Epiphone Valve Jr and a Fender Princeton. It sounds great in both amps and I imagine that it would sound great in any amp that you care to use.

Anyway, my advice is go try one out and judge for yourself, other people's opinions will only get you so far.



Its been a while since my last post, hasn't it?

Not terribly much has been going on in a musical sense of late.

This past year has been consumed by study and Kerbal Space Program for the most part.

More recently I've been tinkering with Arduino and am thinking of ways to incorporate it into future projects. There's something nice about not having to calculate R/C values for an LFO and being able to send a bit of code over an output instead.

There are a few things to write about and answers to some questions to post.

I'll try a little harder this year.


There was an error in this gadget