Fixing Pedals

Finished a couple of small soldering jobs this weekend.

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The DS-1 (orange guy) is my very first pedal.  Cole had added the Casper Electronics gated feedback mod a year or two ago; I swapped in a different transistor, changed the switching to a different leg of the transistor for quieter operation when the feedback is off, and added a “chaos” control (the knob on the side of the pedal) that can tame the feedback a little when it’s on.  This transistor oscillates with the distortion all the way up; rolling back the chaos control can change the pitch of or eliminate the oscillation.

The Korg 301dl just had a broken pot; simple, though it was kind of a bear to replace.  I couldn’t find a replacement pot with the same shaft as the original to accommodate the original knob so it got that clear one, which turned out to be easier to use anyway.

The DS-1 will go onto my Mars Lights board for the time being, until I finish the super ultimate modded DS-1 that’s currently in pieces.

The Korg will just hang around at home, which will be handy for times when my big board is at Drew’s.  It has a cool feature set including two presets, separate high and low frequency damping on the repeats, a hi-fi / lo-fi blend, and a weird ducking control.

What’s strange is that the ducking isn’t very interactive with the input signal; it’s more like another kind of pre-delay and the control sets the amount of time it takes the delay signal to come up to its full level.  That means that with the ducking maximized, if you hit a staccato note, you hear a bit of silence and then the delay fades in.  The ducking I’m used to from recording and the TimeFactor is more like a compression ratio, and would fade the echo in immediately as the the input signal dropped on a staccato note.

It doesn’t self-oscillate at maximum feedback level, which is OK – I have the DE7 for that – and can make for nice ambient pad sounds.

I’d like this pedal a lot more if the delays spilled over from one preset to the other.  It could actually back up my TimeFactor in a limited way if it did that, but we have songs – Nein, Stangray, Radio Edit – where I need an echo with a lot of feedback that spills over on bypass or when the preset changes.

I guess with the A/B box I plan to build and any two delays (like the DE7 and 301dl) I could back up the TimeFactor somewhat.  Maybe I need two A/B boxes?

h&s LPV Tracking Begins Thursday

Fourteen years of writing.

Five years of demos.

Fifteen months of planning.

Maybe most importantly, something like thirty years of brotherhood.

On Thursday I’ll start tracking drums for howie&scott’s fifth LP;  Ten new songs plus four b-side type extras.  Some of the riffs were written in 2002-03 along with the material that became signs.comets, while the newest song was composed this year.  The demos sound a bit like everything we’ve ever done, plus some new elements.

It will be the first I’ve done the main drums for h&s since Bigger Sounds For Fewer Folks (!).  It’s a logistical necessity given Scottie’s school schedule.

I hope to have drums done by the end of November.  After that it’s anyone’s guess; a late 2017 release seems within reach, but life happens, too.

A Rhodes To #LFK

Scott’s Rhodes piano came to Lawrence for a while.

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It needed to be tuned so I’ve been working on that.  It wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be; once I figured it out, it took about an hour.  I used an electronic tuner, and a clean boost guitar pedal to increase the signal for the higher notes.

Nothing’s recorded with it yet, but it sure is fun to play.

New Drums

They don’t look like much yet, but I bought a Vistalite kit yesterday. I’ve been enjoying playing Matt’s Vistalite at Dark Satellites practices for the past year or two, and the deal on these was too good to pass up.

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They’re not quite ready to play; I need to clean them up and at a minimum get a set of kick lug claws and rods and a cymbal mount or stand.

In the longer run I’ll try to convert the middle tom to a snare, probably put different heads on, and find a matching kick pedal (so my Slingerland pedal can stay with the gold sparkle Slingerland kit).

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Ever heavier! \m/

Night Mode

We have a new band.

I feel this is justified.  I’ll explain.

A couple of years ago Aaron Osborne loaned Drew a bunch of his vintage synthesizers while he had his floors re-done.  Drew started messing with them, making 4-track tape recordings as he figured them out, at night after his family had gone to sleep.  These experiments resulted in an album and a project name, “Night Mode.”  The album will be out soon.

Most of the synths are still at Drew’s.

His adventures reminded me of some drum synth ideas we’d had even longer ago when we first saw Expo 70.  I started playing with some software sequencers, then doing overdubs, then selling Drew on the idea that it would be ridiculous for us each to have separate synth side projects, and now I have a Night Mode record too.  It will be out later.

We have more ideas.  We’re going to get Matt and Damon Mar from Marsynth involved.  I suppose it could be called a collective, with Drew exercising some editorial influence.

It’s different enough from our other music – by turns krautrock-influenced, ambient, droning, sampled and twisted beyond recognition – that it definitely needed a name.  It’s an entirely different mode of music-making.

Night Mode.

Science!

I’ve been on a deep dive on biasing JFET gain stages for guitar pedals over the past couple of weeks.  It’s been a lot of time in the weeds, but I’m emerging with a quicker and more consistent method of biasing for the results I want.

Setting aside the details aside (links here, here, here, and here if you want those), within a batch of JFETs of the same part number individual characteristics will vary quite a bit.  To get reliable performance, JFETs must be measured and either 1) sorted into a group that will work in a given circuit and a group that won’t, or 2) individually biased to work in a circuit by adjusting the resistors surrounding the JFET (Rd and Rs in the diagram above).

I’ve been running controlled experiments, recording results, and generally doing low-level basement science and engineering with the goals of learning what matters and what doesn’t, and figuring out efficient ways of achieving the results I need for pedals.

There are a couple more things to check, but I’ll present conclusions and my biasing method (nothing novel, just a straightforward step-by-step process) here or at mrfuriousaudio.com when I have them.

EQ Phase in Parallel Processing Test

This video taught me about phase change in EQ.  It freaked me out a bit because I’ve used plenty of EQ in parallel processing during mixing on reverb and drum compression sends.

I did some testing in Reaper that reassured me that I haven’t made egregious mistakes in my mixes. The phase change around an EQ’s cutoff frequency is worth keeping in mind, but doesn’t drastically affect the summed output of signals in parallel.

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Click to enlarge

What you see above is my test Reaper session.  Fuzz’s song “Rat Race” is on two tracks playing in parallel; one has a high pass filter at 500 Hz (the top plugin window) and it’s phase change is also displayed as the orange line.  You can see that the EQ’d signal is somewhat out of phase with the unprocessed signal well above 500 Hz, potentially resulting in phase cancellation above 500 Hz when the signals are summed.

The spectrum analyzer (lower plugin window) shows the summed signals (the green background spectrum) and the unprocessed signal by itself (the pink foreground spectrum, which mostly looks lighter green where it’s overlaid on the summed signal).

What I notice is that the difference between the original (green) and parallel-processed-and-EQ’d (pink) signals diverges right at about 500 Hz and the difference is pretty consistent above that point.  For me, this is great news; the parallel processing behaves almost exactly as I naively expected it would, before I knew about the phase change described in the video.

A bad result would have been if the difference between the green and pink spectra began diverging around 500 Hz but grew slowly, up to 5K or 10K.  That would have meant that in my mixes, I was losing information between (in this example) 500 Hz and 10K without realizing it or compensating for the loss.

tl;dr – Sighs of relief and feelings of bullets dodged in the Studio/Laundry Room of Fury.

Nothing Like…

…shooting material for two videos, then realizing there’s something wrong with your camera.  :-|

Hopefully next week.  Taking off in an hour for Omaha and the DS show tonight.

Happy Belated 50th Sparks

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I had a head off of my gold sparkle kit last night preparing for the Dark Satellites show, and saw the stamp marking it manufactured in February 1966.  So, happy belated 50th birthday to my drums.

Falcon Noise Reduction

When I took the Falcon to Drew’s last week it sounded great, but we noticed it was pretty noisy (hum/interference-type noise, not the good kind).  So I’ve been on a zag to improve the power filtering.  I’ve added a part to #0001, and will add it and change the value of another part for future builds.

Here’s a test running several pedals direct into Reaper with their controls dimed:

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  1. Falcon (pre-change)
  2. Fulltone GT500 (OD side, then distortion side)
  3. Moog MF Drive
  4. BYOC Large Beaver (EHX Triangle Muff specs, with a larger input cap)
  5. Falcon (post-change)

This test did not control for different levels of gain available from each pedal; while it looks like the Large Beaver is the noisiest pedal, it’s also the fuzz in the group and probably has the most gain available.

While today’s change didn’t reduce the Falcon’s noise in dB it did change the frequency of the noise some, reducing bass frequencies.  I judge this to be an improvement.

An ear test with the Falcon maxed out vs. the MF Drive set for a similar gain and sound resulted in similar noise levels between the two pedals.  This lets me feel like the Falcon’s noise is acceptable, if not necessarily optimal.  The tradeoffs for better power filtering internally are a greater part count and/or a small loss of voltage available to the circuit.

I’ve learned a way to further reduce the switch pop you see at the beginning and end of each test (the large spikes when turning the pedal on and off).  It’s impractical to go back and implement on model #0001, but I’ll incorporate it into future builds.  #0001’s pops are already comparable to many high-quality pedals – usually passing unnoticed, especially playing into a dirty amp – so hopefully this change will reduce future Falcons’ pops below average.