Falcon Drive Design Complete

This morning I finished the design for a new pedal, the Falcon Drive.  I’ll be taking reservations for a small run of them soon.


There it is on the breadboard. Doesn’t look like much, maybe, but it’ll do a nice JFET mostly-clean boost (slight compression, fatness, & edge on the pick attack; nice!), an asymmetric MOSFET/LED overdrive, and a scuzzy Schottky diode drive.

The finished enclosures will be laid out like this, with Kingman-style stamping and finishing. The second footswitch, LED, and colored knob are for a second gain/saturation preset.


True bypass, quiet switching, extremely high (10M) input impedance and low (3.3K) output impedance are featured to preserve treble and drive long cables. The Falcon has a huge range of useable gain; I love it for everything from always-on unity gain buffer to dimed out.

Video coming soon-ish. Before the reservations are closed, for sure, so you can decide if you (or the guitarist in your life) need one!

Kingmen #0001 and #0002 Finished

Over the past two weekends I’ve made progress on my first run of six Kingman pedals, and have finished the first two.  I know #0002, the one I’m keeping, will go into immediate use as Mars Lights continues to record our double LP.

Last weekend was given over to figuring out how to finish the enclosures.  I tried various combinations of paint, stamping, Sharpie, dry sanding, wet sanding, and clear coating.

Finished enclosures #0001-0006, left to right


Simple as the Kingman circuit is, there’s no circuit board; just parts mounted to the enclosure, point-to-point wiring, and two capacitors.

Dry-fitting jacks, switch, LED, and potentiometers

Yesterday I started wiring.  It’s not the prettiest but the connections are solid and it gets the job done.  No one can hear my wiring!


#0002 with its LED working

The first one took two and a half hours, but it worked on the first try.  I consider that a win.

#0002 alive and kicking!

After getting #0002 running (I numbered based on the enclosures.  Wanted to do something special with #0001 and thought it would benefit from me making and correcting any wiring mistakes on my own) I wired #0001 up today.  #0001 is the only enclosure I painted and will be the only one with black knobs.  Future Kingmen will look more like #0002 with the clear knobs, but without the purple smears.  I learned how to fix that, but thought that since purple is a royal color I would leave mine with the weird blurs.

Brothers #0001 (left) and #0002

Like I said, not the prettiest at all.  Neither were a lot of great-sounding vintage pedals!  I appreciate today’s beautiful PCB and wiring jobs as much as the next guitar player, but they’re not necessary for a circuit to do its job.

Gut shot of #0002

What have I learned?

  • How to finish enclosures in a unique way.  None of these first six are exactly how I plan to do them in the future; I learned how to avoid the smearing you see on #0002 (and to a lesser extent on subsequent ones) as I did the very last step.  Future boxes will look similar to #0006 but even cleaner around the stamps.
  • Stuffing PCBs is a very small part of making a pedal!  Honestly if the Kingman had a PCB with 20 components, it would only add maybe an hour or less to the 3 1/2 – 4 hours of labor I put into each of these pedals.  I imagine I’ll get faster over time, but there are limits.
  • Stamping is tricky.  Got to hit the stamp (not one’s fingers) square, hard, and on the intersection of any lines (such as where the three lines of a “K” meet).
  • I’m proud of fitting the input and output jacks on the same side of a mini enclosure, saving players’ pedal board space
  • I’m not done with this run – four more wiring jobs to do – but I’d do it again, and plan to.

Howwwlllllorrible Lyrics

While Drew’s over this afternoon, checking out my work mastering his new Dark Satellites record “Be Still,” please enjoy the track below.

I don’t know how many of you are familiar enough with late-period J.V. All*stars to appreciate this jokey butt-rock take on “Straighten Your Hair” (go listen!) but it is. spot. on. and just gets better as it goes on. It even includes a grunty metal “Ooohhhh!”

Original Studio Gear

The list below was in a folder of stuff from Mom on my last visit home.  It’s all the stuff Scott and I bought for our first home studio, and the core of which (the Digi 001 and a generic PC, which isn’t listed) I’ve used up to now.


I think I wrote it for my tax preparer in 2003 or 04.

It’s coincidental for it to show up now, as I’m halfway through buying a new core system (Focusrite Scarlett 18i20, new Mac, Reaper DAW) to replace ProTools and the Digi.  A lot of music has passed through the old rig over the years, and I’ll do an appreciation post once everything is unplugged.

DS-1 Lab Update

It lives, with thanks again to Jack Orman and Brett Miller.  I’ve mixed their ideas with my own and as you can see, if you look carefully, I have six new component values working in the DS-1 lab.  (They’re the ones on the tall, spindly legs.)


It’s sounding great; clearer, more responsive, gain range brought under control.  At minimum gain it’s a barely-there overdrive, just a dirty edge to the string attack, and if less drive is needed you’d need to not start with a DS-1!  At maximum gain I played Sabbath riffs for ten minutes.  The distortion is amp-like without trying to be anything it’s not.  That’s in keeping with my goal; to bring out the best in a cheap, widely available platform with the minimum effective number of changes.

I haven’t messed with the tone stack yet, but I have some ideas and it’s up next.

DS-1 Lab

I spent the afternoon installing sockets for some components in a DS-1 pedal so that I can easily experiment with some mods, turning it into a DS-1 laboratory of sorts.

You can see the sockets well in the photo below.  They’re the little black legs on the PCB that components can just pop into, instead of soldering components directly to the board.  There’s a transistor labeled “Q2” close to the center of the frame; look to the right of that for two socketed resistors.IMG_0340

No component values have changed, yet; I don’t have a real amp at home to test things on, just a tiny practice amp that’s enough to let me know I’m passing signal :-) Video to follow once I figure out some sounds I like.

I socketed:

  • R6 and R9 (input transistor bias and gain, respectively)
  • R7 (opamp gain)
  • Edit 2015 Nov 14 – C5 and C7 (different values than the MIJ DS-1s, as described by Brett Miller.  I left C8 alone, though he includes it in his MIJ mod, because I like the cutoff frequency created by the stock MIT DS-1 value for C8)
  • D4, D5 (the hard-clipping diodes), and C10 (low-pass filter)
  • R16, C12 (the low pass filter side of the tone stack), C11, R17 (the high pass filter side of the tone stack), and R15 (in series with the high pass filter side of the tone stack, reducing its output)
  • R18 (a resistor in series on the output; just cuts output, from what I can tell, though now that I type this I realize it may be part of biasing the Q7 transistor)

That amounts to two gain stages, the hard-clipping stage, three post-gain filter sections, and possibly the output level.  I plan to jumper all of the socketed components from the output back to the first gain stage to hear what that sounds like, see what improvements can be made (likely the Jack Orman phat mod), and build back toward the output from there stage by stage.

I’ll be experimenting with various hard-clipping options as well, with the goal of finding a few good ones to put on a switch.

Good times, and no soldering iron burns today!

Adventure Capitalists (Rob Spectre) EP Out Now

Stream and/or snag the debut EP from Adventure Capitalists (featuring Rob of Arturo Got The Shaft infamy) at https://www.adcap.biz/ and https://soundcloud.com/adventurecapitalists/sets/mvp !

Rob, James, and Business Cat have planted the flag of the geek rock revolution farther inside the neoliberal front lines than ever before, celebrating and skewering the dot com economy with equal nerve and verve. Check it.

Check Out Headphone Surround

Bobby O called Headphone Surround the next big thing in audio the other week, so I had to check it out. Samples are up at http://www.robertmargouleff.com/. I’m unclear how the technology works, but it simulates something like a 5.1 or 7.1 channel surround sound system on standard stereo headphones.

A quick listen to the headphone surround mix of “Thank You” on earbuds didn’t jump out at me… until I listened back to the original stereo mix. Then, the original mix seemed two-dimensional and flat compared to the headphone surround mix.

The Eleanor Rigby sample is cool because it A/Bs the standard and surround mixes back and forth for you, allowing you to compare the two. You also hear the different points in the surround mix solo’d (left-surround, left-front, center-front, right-front, right-surround). I notice that the surround mix does sound spacier, not necessarily in a pleasant way. Maybe it’s achieved using some type of convolution processing on the “-front” sounds, placing them “farther away” perceptually in the mix.

The standard mix sounds dry in comparison (again, not necessarily a bad thing; it is, after all, how the artist originally presented the material). One slightly weird thing about the standard mix, in comparison to the surround mix, is that I notice how the standard mix seems to place the sound directly inside my brain, instead of spread out in front of me like the surround mix.

Drew checked it out, too, saying “I listened to Eleanor Rigby and strongly prefer the standard version.”

I don’t disagree. Remixing existing studio works into headphone surround doesn’t do anything for me. I can see it working for live material, though, and it seems like a cool tool for artists to create sound specifically intended for headphone surround in the future.

Valiance Lyrics

Burning Days

Heard you walked again, though a hundred rides waited
(I) love the spirit, worry on the New-port winds
Those winds
Oh-oh, it’s hard not being alone on days that burn

Never spoke of it, the strength is in the secret
Trusting not to ask; only that your heart felt sure

Do you know? You were loved? You had me and so many more?
Would you have? Said yourself? You had your rock like Carly told?

Oh-oh, it’s hard not being alone on days that burn
Oh-oh, it’s hard to get the phone on days that burn

To The Infinite Boroughs

A little word is violent
An assumption of a war encourages division
What’s a fight without an enemy?
When we’re both the defense, and the foe?

They mean the very best here, but their prayers were answered
Ours were not
What’s a battle that lasts for eternity?
Why use fighting words, just for the world?
It’s just the world

The valiance and the victory
Is in the rasp of defiance, (ch-)ch-check it out:
“Grab your backstreet friend and get loud”

Will you speak to me now?
When will you know?

With a voice that’s rallying
To the infinite boroughs, ends of the earth
To the infinite earth
To the ends of the infinite earth

When will you know the valiance and the victory
Cannot be in the fight?
They are only in the life

That 80s Feel

Say wait, wait, wait and imagine where the story goes
Oh, just be honest
We’re not the first to get caught when the money came
Oh, there’ll never be a last

Pray, Sleepy, where’s that heart leading?
Tell me what we’re doing

Since the weather got into the hundreds
Oh, I cannot shake
The feeling that this all is connected
To the big collapse, to a heart attack

Hey, Sleepy, where’s that ’80s feel coming, coming from?
Hey, Sleepy, where’s that heart leading?

Hey, Sleepy, where’s that ’80s feel, tell me why we’re moving?
Hey, tell me what we’re doing? Sleepy?
Where’s that heart leading?

N Racine

Get into a taxi, kid, don’t you give the fare a thought
Spend it while it’s worth something, while the snow is deep
Fifty of us you could call, half a thousand cabs

Is it time, is this goodbye?

(You’re) going to hike it anyway, if I had to guess
Coming from the good life, we don’t let the cold get us
Scarves of every color made, hanging in your room; hanging in my room

Is it time?
Is this goodbye, is it time?

I imagine the sound of your boots
I can hear you, hear you breathing

Granted me the chance to ask, I halfway think you planned this end;
Valiant on N Racine, until the very last

Half A Million And More

Give me leave, lift each other on
Secret’s in both the sparkle and the mission

Fly on from here
Today’s as far as I’ll go, keep on your own

Through the black, think I hear a song
Half a million, minutes that I loved
Seasons of…

Fly on from here
Today’s as far as I’ll go, keep on your own
I want to see your backs against the sun
And pressing on
Today’s as far as I’ll go, keep on your own

Timeless Shade

Hey, Valiance
Yeah, I’m coming; Doc says it is
How’d you hide it? In the wind?

Aweigh-o-weigh, timeless shade, time is yours

I’m at work, got to go
Thanks for calling, I’ll see you soon
Keep your spirits in the room
And from vanishing
Calling you after

Aweigh-o-weigh, timeless shade, time is yours,
I am yours

Role Of A Lifetime

Before the call ends my role comes clear
Still asleep you couldn’t ask, but I was agreed

Someone needs to listen close
Free the questions
Open to the moments

Tell me all you want about the drugs; I won’t ask
I’ll attend your mind, your work, what you love, and
Reserve the fear

I don’t look at the odds
Or the folders the nurses give
You’re not odds;
You are radiant

Given this hell, I adored playing for you

Deeper Than Blood

Those moments, deeper than blood
Her devils, when they come

Who’s wondering? Who’s worrying?

Her angels, …

All hours, compounded power, will scatter away
All hours, compounded powers, are washing away

Persisting, in some unknown
My pilgrim, when you go

Who’s wondering? Who’s worrying?
I’m wondering, I’m worrying
I’m hurting, I’m healing

A Last Exhale

Oh, the winter’s come and gone
Left a shadow breathing in me
Lost my care about the end
Can I breathe the carbon ’til I sleep?

Having done what little’s mine
Finished out the role as needed
Oh, the weather is an empty stage
I can give myself the gift

Of a last exhale
Oh, a last exhale
Get past the pale

Would you say you feel it too?
Ringing emptiness of Abaddon?
Pulls the taste out of the world?
Leaves the dust that’s all we have to live on

There are days I cannot hold
There are mornings from the void of hell
There are nights I wish I had your place
Or at least the one beside

With a last exhale…

Oh, the winter’s come and gone
But the devils are alive in us

Beyond The Veil

When the pain came
They said it was worth a look
Oh kid, what did you think?

Like bombs buried in our guts
Suddenly life itself is repeating again,
Repeating again

When the pleasure’s like a note that changes everything
A taste to bring the memories back
Clearer than they were
Remember that we put on some good shows
And loved like we knew, that our sound
Our sound was fading

Like the 7:30 plane
Oh, I’m dying for an hour, at your room and you could say

What have you seen beyond the veil?
What did you see beyond the veil?

Through your eyes
I started to see beyond the veil
In your eyes
I started to see beyond…