Archive for July, 2013

Ibanez TM5 Thrashmetal

Monday, July 29th, 2013

TM5

What is it?
Ibanez TM5 Thrashmetal from Soundtank series in plastic enclosure, made in Taiwan around 1994-1996

Serial starting with 184 points to early-mid nineties date due to this being with its own type font. Earlier ones should be with uniform type face and so are the metal cased units. Serial is quite low for the box having its own typeface, so i’m assuming this is one of the first batches of TM5s with this font. Thrashmetal was apparently pretty popular pedal back in its day – and no wonder. It is very doog effect pedal, despite to popular disbelief that Soundtanks suck. They don’t. Period. This, like almost every tank in my collection, needed a new switch. Simple, low cost procedure which will give a new life for the box. Mods? No. This puppy won’t need any to sound good. Dirk hendrik has drawn a beautiful schematic for this. Schematic refers to metal cased unit, so there are some slight changes between later units and the first ones. Mainly the opamp used.

TM5-guts

For this unit, the opamp has 6552 413 printed on it, so it is in fact a Panasonic AN6552 – which is cited as Panasonic’s clone of NE5532 in some audio tweaker scenes. Apparently the first versions accomodated JRC4558 chips, but i strongly believe there’s no audible difference. Circuit has some details in common with Proco Rat, the main gain stage and hard clipping included. Rest of the circuit has not that much to do with a Proco design, with its discrete gain stages and active filters and other tricks. Simple, neat and very decent thing to have.

How does it sound?

Real nice. In my opinion, this is definitely one of the best designs in the whole Soundtank series. The short sustain with relatively high gain makes this circuit sound exactly like all the great bands that made 80’s thrash what it was at its best. Circuit isn’t metal in the way kids today see metal. It still offers that natural, amp-like super tight, accurate thrash sound, usually associated with 80s-90s Marshall distortions.  It may be worth mentioning that it doesn’t sound like a Rat at all. It sounds like i need to get a skateboard again.

DOD FX52 Classic Fuzz

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

DOD-FX52-ClassicFuzz.resized What is it?
DOD FX52 Classic Fuzz, Made in USA in early to mid 90s. Yup. It seems almost like yesterday when boxes of this series were in every young guitarists hands. It’s been 20 years already, but i wouldn’t exactly call it “vintage” for another two decades though.

This model was discontinued in 1998, and my units serial number points to manufacture date being close to first quarter of 1994. It’s not a perfect pedal in any way. The most interesting thing is that this one has the same PCB as FX50. Only a few component values differ and one clipping stage is omitted. There’s a lot of good info available on this circuit on the America’s Pedal site. You can find the schematic hosted at Experimentalists Anonymous, if you want to see it. Schematic shows a few things one would want to mod. Not going into that right now – as i would need another unit in my collection before i would dare to ravage one of these. Things i would do to her would be; adding a diode pair to the feedback loop of LF353, tuning/upping the gain on the tone driver half of that IC and probably doubling the hard clipping diodes and removing the 1n cap taming it. One could also tune the 22n and 10µ caps to their taste of tone control. Maybe even rethink some pot values and tapers.

DOD-FX52-ClassicFuzz-Guts1.resized

Chips not affiliated with bypass switching are LF353 for the gain and tone stages and JRC1458 as in and out buffers. Also. Note the unconnected components left from LF353. As you can see from the shot above, the model is marked on the board with permanent marker. Here’s another photo that shows what’s under the filter cap:

DOD-FX52-ClassicFuzz-Guts4.resized

So it’s built on FX50 PCB. According to internet, it seems that there are other models sharing the same board too.

How does it sound?
To be honest. I’ve heard a lot of better circuit designs. Where DOD advertised this with the spiel “The FX52 Classic Fuzz duplicates the sound of the early 60s distortion boxes, such as the Fuzz Face and the Fuzz Tone. A must for musicians looking for a more nostalgic sound.” – I Do not find the resemblence to Maestro or Arbiter fuzzes mentioned. It’s more compressed than Big Muff, while that would be the closest vintage circuit. I still can’t hear the Fuzz in there. It’s much closer to being just muddy distortion than a real Classic fuzz. It has decent output level and better-than-average sustain. Might keep it in my collection, just in case. But i don’t see myself fastening this to my pedal board anytime soon. Or maybe i should mod it after all…  Good thing you can get still these for cheap, at least at the time of writing.

Ibanez TS5 Tubescreamer

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Let’s start out with underrated, yet obvious classic.

TS5

What is it?
Ibanez TS5 Tubescreamer from Soundtank series in plastic enclosure, made in Taiwan around 1992-1995

This unit has serial number starting with 107, which suggests that it is early Taiwanese Tubescreamer with plastic enclosure. I’m not 100% sure about the serial numbers and how these tell the exact date, but the metal boxed Soundtanks i have all have their serials starting with 001 and the newest plastic one i have has it’s serial starting with 424. All Soundtanks have 6 figure serial numbers. For being from the early half of the 90’s, this unit is in fair condition. Like most of the tanks i’ve ever had, this one had bad connection on its switch. I swapped that for new Alps drop-in replacement and it is playable once again. The 9V battery snap was apparently broken somewhere along the way. It was replaced with cheapest possible soft headed snap by the previous owner. The wires were soldered on to the original snap’s wires. Nothing wrong with that – but the new joints were insulated with office friendly see through tape. I also swapped the snap for hard shell one and used some heat shrink to get it neat.

TS5-guts

As the photo shows, the board has TA75558P chip in it, which makes the board exactly 1:1 with current Maxon/Ibanez TS9 reissues. Yes. I’ve though about modding it. I won’t. Because of the reasonable condition and early serial, i’ve decided to keep this one as original. I could try to score another one and replace the chip with JRC4558D on that one – and of course, swap the two resistors at the output to make it TS808. Update! I bought another, newer unit in worse condition than this and modded it to FYA Electronics Arrow mod specs.

Schematic and tons of other information, plus many DIY projects on this circuit are widely available. Since the circuit is exactly like all the other Tubescreamers, i’d suggest that you read more about it from geofex’ classic article, “The Technology of the Tube Screamer“.

How does it sound?
Well. What do you expect? Circuitwise, it is 1:1 with TS9, so it won’t sound anything different from new store bought TS9. It sounds reasonably good, even with the expected mid hump, harsh unnatural dynamics and relatively low output level.  Output level is my opinion – TS’ are not boosters, but they do have sufficient output levels that go easily over unity. This may be heresy, but i’ve never been too much of an fan of Tubescreamers. There are a lot better overdrives out there. But yes. This one sounds 1:1 with TS9.

Sometimes a redo should work.

Friday, July 19th, 2013

It’s been a while since i used this domain for something useful. Most of my old writings were completely obsolete. All that is gone for good. I still dig the simple, minimal layout of this page, so complete overhaul of the content should suffice. Instead of talking/whining about this f*d up world in general, i thought i should use this site for something that i, well.. love.

Couple years ago i started building pedals by accident. Since then i’ve become somewhat a freak when it comes to guitar effects. I’ve studied a lot designs and made even some of my own (http://fyaelectronics.com/). I do not know everything about electronics, nor do i think i ever will. However, i do know theory to some extent and i have this gut feeling which tells me what value component will do what in where and why.

Anyway. The point of this overhaul is quite simple. My collection of new(ish) and vintage pedals seems to be ever growing. So why not write about some of them. My goal is to write about a pedal once a week. We’ll see if can keep that up… That’s enough of this crap.