Archive for September, 2014

Danelectro CM-1 Metal

Saturday, September 6th, 2014

CM1-Metal

What is it?
Danelectro CM-1 Metal from Danelectro Cool Cat series. Made in china late 00’s.

Another metal distortion. While Dano’s Cool Cat series has pleasing and personal enclosure, most designs seem to be simple rip offs with very little original in them designwise. Currently i’m not sure what this particular unit based on, but everything about it is pretty much on par with all the other units in the series.

CM1-Metal-guts1

We’ll find three separate boards inside. One universal for 3PDT stomps switch, one for in/out/dc jacks. These boards are, like i said, universal and the same ones are used throughout the series. The bottom board is the effect. Construction is mostly SMD with couple of the caps being metalized polyester. Three oapms are running the show.

CM1-Metal-guts2

I’m pretty sure this is a slightly modified derivative of some other pedal. Just can’t point my finger to any directions right now. While it may look pleasing, the control knobs are horrible. Sure they are meant to be “set and forget”, but that set once part is killing me. Dual pots with stacked concentric knobs are not a bad thing if executed like in many boss pedals. Here, the turning of the either level usually results in both setting being shifted. Annoying.

I’d be rather interested to find out what this is based on. If you have any solid information, drop a line in the comments. I may study the connections at one point. If i happen to get interested enough.  To sum it – Standard metal distortion. Not bad, but not too great either.

How does it sound?
Like so may other motal distortions. EQ section is powerful and gain plus level setting are sufficient. The overall tone reminds me a bit of Boss HM-2, but here we have separate mid control. I do find this usable metal distortion, but it’ll always stay behind HM-2 and HM-3. I’d say this goes to the same category with DOD American Metal and Death Metal. Again, not bad, but not too great either.

Ibanez BB9 Bottom Booster

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

BB9-BottomBooster

What is it?
Ibanez BB9 Bottom Booster, from modern 9-series. Made in china around 2010 or so.

There are only a few Ibanez designs that are more like meh. This is definitely not one of those. I had interest for this for some time, before i spotted one for reasonable price tag on one auction site. This particular unit was apparently a demo unit for some store. Very little wear and nice near mint condition with original  box and papers. Played with this for quite some time once i received it. There is a beautiful traced schematic up at Dirk’s page, so there were no rush in seeing how it is made. Reason for opening it wasn’t as usual as for most pedals.

That reason being a small mishap on the studio floor. I had just recorded all base guitars for 11 tracks of 12 for the album we were doing. I thought i needed to add a bit of reverb for the other effect line. I took my previously repaired Boss RV-2 out of the bag and chained it with all the other pedal in that chain. This resulted in nothing more but a hiss. Something went terribly wrong and my BB9 was dead. I figured it had to be some sort of power surge, but since i (obviously) didn’t have suitable tools or spare parts with me, i had to make due with other solutions for the second effect line on the last track.

BB9-BottomBooster-guts1

Once the unit was back at my desk, the fault was easy to track down. No power. This is where Dirk’s schematic came in really handy. Don’t know how that surge occurred, but it burned the DC-DC converter (a.k.a. charge pump) chip. As you can see in the (crappy) photo below, the chip on top left is socketed. I almost never use sockets for anything, but since the charge pump on this one *can* die, i figured it’s best to have it socketed. After swapping the chip and polarity protection diode as a precaution, the box rocks again.

BB9-BottomBooster-guts2

To get going on this post, the design of the BB9 is solid Maxon quality with modern board design and manufacturing method. If you checked the schematic linked above, you’ll see a power supply section that creates a bipolar +9/-9 volt swing with LT1044 DC-DC converter. This means that the pedal runs actually on 18 volts, using ground’s zero volts as a reference voltage.  For me and my fix, i only had ICL7660S chips at hand, but these are pin-to-pin equivalent and they can be used as a drop-in replacement for each other.

On the topology, is one half of JRC4558 acting as input buffer. Then we have dual gang potentiometer setting the level of signal passed to gain recovery and the actual gain of the clipping amp that is paired with a static gyrator that sets the boosted frequencies. After these we have active tone control to have nice control over the treble content. This leads to level control and output. Not too conventional way to create overdriven boost.

BB9-BottomBooster-guts3

What comes to box design, it surely ain’t as aesthetic as the 30 year older 9-serie units. It isn’t ugly though. Sort of reminds me a bit of build methods we can find in Marshall small metal series pedals. Pedal follows the original series on the enclosure and carbon film resistors, but not much else. Here we have four separate boards to ease the manual labor. Neat and beautiful on the outside, but pretty dull on the inside – except for the circuit design.

How does it sound?
So good that no words are enough to match it. BB9 offers mild overdrive tones with really, really good sounding frequency response. It is not a distortion nor a classic overdrive in sense of tubescreamers or others, but something that brings your tube amp alive in a manner that can only be matched by few others. Also, it’s not a clean booster. It is a pedal that will give out better, no matter how subjective that term is, overall tone. Little bit of grit and boost combined. Even the voltage swing has a strong emotion-like feeling of great amount of available headroom. This is definitely one of the greatest sounding Ibanez branded boxes. Ever.

Boss PH-3 Phase Shifter

Monday, September 1st, 2014

One more Boss before moving on…

Boss-PH3

What is it?
Boss PH-3 Phase Shifter from compact series. Made in taiwan, april 2008.

PH-3 marks a very first digital phaser in the Boss catalog. All the previous ones, released before the year 2000, were more like all standard phasers from any other manufacturer – BBD based analog phasers. PH-3 introduced couple of quite innovative modes to the world. Basic modes are digital recreations of four, eight, ten and twelve staged phasing. Modes that were next to groundbreaking at the time of release are rise, fall and step modes. Rise and fall modes are also known as barber pole modes. Step mode sort of randomizes the sweep, resulting in unexpected phasing sweeps.

See. The new ideas on this one were so exciting that i simply skipped my normal pattern and ran straight to the features. Getting back to basics.. Board bottom looks like something that i haven’t seen in the compact series before. All  components are on the other side and the second side traces and vias look modern, but still quite new to me.

Boss-PH3-guts1

And once we flip the board over, we’ll have Roland branded digital signal processor. There’s a schematic floating around at Photobucket. To sum the design, there are analog buffers at the input and output. Connected to the mixing amplifier is the AD/DA converter chip. Which is then connected to a DSP and a CPU running at 4.233MHz. In  retrospect, a slightly faster processing speeds than what we’ll find in Super NES. Sure, i’m psyched about the geekiness of the fact. Way more than by the design itself.

Boss-PH3-guts2

Can’t help myself. These computer-like pedals can offer some reasonable tones and sometimes even something completely new. Still i’m left cold and somewhat bored by the designs. It may be just current me talking, but analog designs are the ones where the real magic happens. I see little value for a VST plugin in a stompbox. This stance may change someday. But i’m fairly certain that day won’t be any of the 365 days of 2014 or 2015.

How does it sound?
Like most well designed/programmed pedals of the modern, digital world. These things get the job done without degrading the guitar’s sound too much. Actually, little enough to go unnoticed. The modes are new and exciting addition to the pedal sounds people crave. Even though it sounds good and the old school modeling modes also sound good, there is something missing. It just doesn’t feel like a guitar effect.It feels a lot more like a generic studio tool. Exactly like a VST plugin in a stompbox. Nice thing to play around with. But. Pre 2000 Boss effects are more my cup of tea.