Archive for January, 2012

Idea for a new pedal

Posted: January 31, 2012 in FX
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As well as finishing off the 3 new pedals I have been working on (072, Solar Lifeforce and Divide By Zero) I have started thinking about a new utility pedal that I think would be pretty cool. The idea is a pedal that takes the input signal from a source, and uses 2 (possibly 3) astable multivibrators with controllable frequencies to create 2 (possibly 3) waves which are then put through a selectable logic gate (and/or/xor), and then an optional inverter to create a singular waveform, which is then used to control a gate which allows the audio to pass. The optional inverter will double the logic possibilities, so in total there is 6, but when you factor in the variation in frequencies the possible patterns become mind-boggling.

Basically this is an automated killswitch. Also toying with the idea of adding an fx loop (with a feedback option?) but I think to start with I will probably keep it simple. Sometimes I get an idea for a pedal and I try to incorporate too much into it, and I want to avoid that with this one. There’s going to be a momentary footswitch  that will reset the astable multivibrators A and B to allow the pattern to be reset whenever it is released, and LED’s to indicate the frequency of both the astable multivibrators, and the combined (output) signal after the logic gate and inversion.

Here’s a diagram that should give you a better idea of what I mean:

So this would have the following controls:

  • Pattern A frequency coarse
  • Pattern A frequency fine
  • Pattern B frequency coarse
  • Pattern B frequency fine
  • Pattern A LED
  • Pattern B LED
  • Combined pattern LED
  • Pattern LED’s toggle (ON/OFF)
  • Gate 3 way toggle (AND/OR/XOR)
  • Invert toggle (ON/OFF)
  • Reset Pattern momentary footswitch
  • Bypass/engage footswitch
  • Engaged LED

This should fit in a Hammond 1590BB enclosure, so a bit bigger, but still acceptable for a pedal board, especially for a pedal with quite a few controls. The input will be buffered before the audio switch, and I imagine there will be a 9v battery option if there is room. No idea for a name for this one yet, but I’m quite excited to get on designing the circuit once I have finished off the aforementioned pedals.

Development on the Endless Cosmos has gone pretty quiet over the last few months, but I think I have finalised the circuit today, I’ll bread board it over the weekend and hopefully have this little bad boy up and running over the next few weeks! I have renamed it Divide By Zero from Endless Cosmos, which I think suits it pretty well. The skull graphic has come from a little bitmap to ASCII image converter I made about a year a go. I think it looks pretty neat. Paint for this one is black sides, black base and white top, with black knobs maybe a purple or blue LED, who knows! Going to use Malekko style knobs. The ‘Fusion’ (wet/dry mix) feature is going to range from 100% dry/0% wet, to 0% dry / 100% wet. Entropy is basically the amount of the signal being sent back from the return to send jacks, and is switchable by the Entropy On/Off toggle, allowing the pedal to be used as a true bypass looper with blend as well as a blendable feedback looper. This features buffered input, send and return and an op-amp based blend circuit.


The font is pretty hard to read I know, but I like the look of it, and to be honest how often do you ever read the text on your pedals?!

Once again I’ve changed my mind on the specs for the Solar Lifeforce! After testing one of the 072 buffers and being quite surprised by the amount of high-end you gain back by having it in the circuit I have re-added it to the pedal! I have also gone with the boost feature, which essentially uses the other side of the 072 as a preamp to gain up to x5 gain. This should more than make up for any loss in volume experienced at low light conditions, when the LDR is exposed obviously. I’m going to build up the vero later, and I’m sure there will be minor adjustments, but I’m pretty sure it is 90% there. On this iteration of the artwork the ‘boost’, ‘volume’ or whatever it was before has been renamed ‘Core Temp’ to maintain the solar references.

One thing is for sure, when in ‘Vol’ mode, where this pedal is placed in the chain is going to be pretty important. For a lot of applications it is going to work better in the loop, but it may be nice before fuzzes to clean them up a bit with the ‘Solar Range’ reduced so the cut is not as large, and it will effectively control the intensity of the fuzz, just like rolling back your volume on your guitar.

Anyway, here’s the latest (and hopefully final!) revision of the artwork!

I’m going to be making a 072 op-amp based buffer pedal, pretty un exiting but my pedal board needs one. It’s a pretty simple buffer, 072’s are known for being quiet and they make great buffers. Probably be a one-off, but I’ll put them available to order on the ETSY shop at some point.

After a productive weekend fiddling with a bread board, LDR’s and different configurations I have decided the Solar Lifeforce is going to be super simple and very effective. I have done away with the master volume and buffer for good, and I guess surprisingly Bloom mode has gone. I did like it, but it was pretty useless with anything but a bright light shining on the pedal. The Wither mode that remains is really effective in normal lighting conditions and just feels much nicer to use. The CV option is still there, but what cutting all these semi-useful features has done is simplified a design making it much more affordable and much more useable. It may not look as cool, but at the end of the day it’s not really a tweakers pedal so hey! This pedal really comes into its own when you want really fast, sound changes, by putting your heel on the floor and rotating your foot back and forth over the LDR really fast you can get some amazing almost vibrato-y sounds that you really can’ get with any manual control I have ever played with from volume pot to volume pedal. This will work great with CV based stuff, and should be useful as an expression pedal (I haven’t tested this but I can’t see any reason it won’t work well). Anyway here’s the artwork, expect both in around 2 weeks.

Those of you who have ever played a WMD Geiger Counter will know how intimidating it can be the first time you get your mitts on one. I never thought a pedal could be intimidating, but the Geiger Counter defiantly proved me wrong. It is a 5 knobbed, 4 footed, one screened beast and taming it can be quite the task, mainly due to the wide range of the controls that push way beyond what most manufactures would deem reasonable limits.

Firstly read the manual (or RTFM as we say in Somerset)! Next read it again, it’s only one sheet of A4! You really need to understand the Geiger Counter to get the most from it so make sure you are familiar with what everything does before you start twiddling! Once that’s done the first thing that I do when trying to find a new sound with the WMD is to really think about the kind of sound I’m going for. Do I want lofi cleans, gated fuzz, wild trebly distortion, digital mess etc. I then look at the Wave Table WMD provide and try get a feel for what is what. I’m no expert, but the waves in the range 20-2B look a lot more like how I would expect an analog wave to look, than say waves 90-9F. In fact the only change between these waves that is obvious from the table is the frequency. As they look pretty standard I would go to these waveforms first for cleanish settings as they look pretty regular. Similarly the waves A0-A7 are so square that hard clipping is guaranteed, so these waves are not going to sound anything like a nice analog signal – just look at the attack and decay – it is non-existent! The wave is the very definition of a digital signal! These waves are going to sound nasty especially at lower sample rates. To be honest, although I look at the wave table a lot, my understanding and imagination limit my perception of the effect a specific wave will have on my signal (other that rough it up a bit) so a lot of the wave table section of the Geiger Counter is pure experimentation for me. Anyway, I usually settle on a wave to mess with, which tends to be the first in the family of wave shapes (have you noticed there are generally groups of similar shaped waves, which tend to get more extreme as they progress?). The tamest and cleanest wave is defiantly 20, and I use this one if I want to use the Geiger Counter to add textures and undertones or overtones. If I want to create a wall of digital noise I would generally use something irregular and nasty like D7.

Next I tend to set all the controls to a standard, which is the tamest setting for most tables, generally. I put:

  • Gain around 9 o’clock (most waves will need this set above minimum, but I tend to hold back a bit)
  • Tone around mid way
  • Tone enabled
  • Sample Rate on fine mode (red light) and set to max. The reason I set Sample Rate to fine mode is because most of the useful settings I have ever found with the Geiger Counter tend to be with only a slightly reduced Sample Rate. You can always revert to normal mode and drop the Sample Rate lower if you need to later, but I rarely do.
  • Bit Depth to max, and the toggle set to Bits.

The first thing I tend to do next is adjust the Bit Depth to the level that gives me the maximum output at the desired sound. Some Bit Depth settings will add gain without adding any noise, and you can get some wonderful distortions by tweaking this properly. This control can really affect the over all sound of the pedal, and I like to get this right first. It is also worth toggling to Mask mode and scrolling the entire range of the control to see if a particular sound jumps out at you. Some waves seem to work better in Bits mode, some in Mask, so you really just need to play with it and ‘feel out’ the right setting for the mood your in. I usually try the full range of the Bit Depth control in both Mask and Bits mode, and then try it pre and post wave. In Mask mode this is generally a ‘taste’ control, and you will find what you like best pretty quickly. This is actually a very complex control that shifts function quite a bit between Bits/Mask mode and it is worth reading the manual to get you head around it.

Next I tend to set gain, but before that you need to determine if you are using the Tone control. Sometimes with certain waves you won’t get any sound with the tone control enabled, and will have to disable it to let the hotter signal hit the wave table. I generally use tone, unless I have a wave that struggles to get a hot enough signal with it on. It’s super easy to over do the gain if you disable the tone control when you can get a good signal with it enabled. Anyway, set the gain as desired, and I usually tweak this and the Tone control in conjunction with each other to get a good base sound. I usually prefer the lower gain settings, and I quite like keeping the tone lower, but I do use it to its full range. It really depends on the wave you decide to use and your setup. For lofi settings that a lot of people seem to go for with the Geiger Counter you want this rolled back quite a bit.

Next, I tend to adjust the Sample Rate slowly by rolling it off to get just the right amount of ‘clang’. By reducing the Sample Rate you can reveal some interesting textures, but lower it too much and you will start getting a glitchy/cutting signal, which can be pretty cool, but can also become overwhelming quickly. I find the most useable settings have a very slightly reduced sample rate that adds a tiny bit of ‘clang’ like a subtle ring mod, but maintains the general feel of your overall tone. This is the money shot of the Geiger Counter in my opinion, and can make or break an incredible sound. For newcomers it is easy to overdo as it is one of the more predictable controls, but setting it too low too quickly will severely limit the different sounds you can create.

The best bit of advice I can give you is to write down good settings, and also other pedals and settings in your set up. The Geiger Counter is super responsive to other pedals and even changing guitar can really alter the sound you get from it, more than any other pedal I have ever tried. I would seriously try to place it before anything that compresses your signal to much – distortions (and obviously compressors!) will compress the dynamics of your playing and one of the things the Geiger Counter responds well to is changes in dynamics. I made this word document that I use for writing settings down on and I store them all in a big ring binder. Trust me you will never recall them otherwise! Lastly defiantly try and use it with an expression pedal, it opens up hours of fun and endless possibilities!

Click here to download my WMD Geiger Counter User Settings sheet as a PDF

Morse Devices ready!

Posted: January 18, 2012 in FX, Morse Device
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The first batch of Morse Device reversible killswitches are ready to  ship! Check out the shop to order, or email me directly for the slightly reduced price of £35