Archive for July, 2016

Big Jam (Multivox) SE-1 Phaser

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

BigJam-SE-1-Phaser

What is it?
Multivox Big Jam SE-1 Phaser. Designed in Hauppauge, New York, made in Japan. Most likely made late 70’s.

It was a cold and dark late winter night. Ok, it may have been closer to spring or early summer, but anyway. I was chatting with a friend who had spotted an ebay listing of four defunct pedals from germany. And the price for the lot was rather appealing. Since i was completely out of cash but still wanted more pedals (obviously), i suggested that he bids on the deal and i’ll pay around 40%, fix the lot once they arrive and he can choose what he takes first. Not a perfect deal for me since the better pedals of the lot were, well, better – and thus, an obvious choice for the one who gets the first pick. Anyhow. The deal went down, i paid my share, fixed all four and was left with one overdrive pedal (which may be covered here at one point too) and this unit. The faults with this one were quite modest. The switch rubber had fallen off (gladly this wasn’t lost!) and the metal plate doing the switching was gone. Battery door and the slide pot knobs were missing as well. So the unit was in no condition to call it collectible or even working. Since the swtiching matrix itself was in working order, i made a new metal switch out of a washer and used heavy duty two-component glue to put the rubber mat back to its place – and what do you know, it works. Due to missing battery door i removed the battery leads as the unit would be next to unusable with a battery anyway. Now the unit was just left with missing battery door and slider knobs. I don’t think i’ll be able to locate either of those, so this’ll be the state this pedal will stay. At least for now. But in a case a duplicate was to appear…

BigJam-SE-1-Phaser-back

Before anything, the aesthetics usually play a huge role how o perceive pedals. Just look at the hand pointing to the power jack receptable! That is the kind of thing that always brings the smile and good vibes. Just like this wasn’t enough, removing the bottom plate shows a circuit board that is true work of beauty. Beautifully assembled board with soldered strips and so on. One negative thing is clear though. The board can be removed from the enclosure by either breaking or unsoldering the in/out jacks. One will suffice, but break or unsolder nevertheless.

BigJam-SE-1-Phaser-guts

With extremely flat housing, not much higher than a 9V battery itself, this and its peers from the same series are true beuties, but still these manage to remain as weird birds of all pedals. These seem to get their high lisitng/asking price from the age alone. Not so much due to the aesthetics or designs. Which would be way more interesting factors.  For some reason this unit and series simply doesn’t feel solid enough to warrant the usual high asking prices. And remember kids. Detachable battery door is always a f*n stupid idea. Avoid those at all cost. Otherwise, Multivox engineers did not go under from where the fence was at its highest. These pedals exhibit heart warming examples of engineering of their day. When the size is taken as a factor, these are very beatiful pedals indeed.

By the sound, controls and fact that i saw the component side of the board (and didn’t realize to snap a photo at that time), i’d go as far as to call this a derivative of EHX Small Stone. Which does mean a few things as is..

How does it sound?
Fat, slushy, twirling, psychedelic and not hurt by its relatively sluggish control range consisting of only LFO rate and effect depth. Still the overall tone is not just powerful but sweet as well. I don’t have much negative pointers for the unit in any way. The battery door design may be the biggest one, when talking about issues of Multivox Big Jam pedals. Maybe one could also argue that the floating plastic jacks are another issue. If that was argued, i’d remain dormant and just maybe nod my head as a sign of silent agreement.

To sum it up, Big Jam pedals are beatiful specimens of design and manufacturing of their day. Not so much usable stuff for todays guitarists or keyboardists. I’ll definitely keep my eye out and get more of these, if the price is right.

P.S. If Multivox is unknown brand to you, i suggest you check out wikipedia.

EHX Germanium4 Big Muff XO

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

EHX-G4BMP

What is it?
Electro-Harmonix Germanium4 Big Muff Pi. Made in NYC, USA in 1013.

Buzzword. Much like “cloud services” or “streamline” in some other contexts. For pedals it’s usually “Germanium”. Next and the biggest single question – how come this unit has nothing more to do with a Big Muff than its name.. Since late 60’s the Big Muff has mostly been the same four transistor circuit that can be compared to Tubescreamers to a certain degree, being somewhat a standard and a subject to numerous (hundreds, maybe) derivative clones over the years. So the marketing department at NYC has decided that in modern day it’s ok to sell anything with BMP name. Well, i don’t need to be this harsh. The designer team may have had a few people of prestige involved. But still. When i hear the name “Germanium Big Muff”, my initial thought will instantly move towards the classic four transistor circuit, with germanium transistors instead of the basic BC550C (or similar) that we see in all modern BMPs. Even the number 4 in the name would suggest this. But no.

EHX-G4BMP-guts1

In reality, the pedal is two separate circuits in series and there is basically nothing that would even point towards the classic Big Muff, except for the name. There is a trace at Freestompboxes forum (may not be 100% correct and to see it you’ll need to login), that’ll confirm the suspicion. Basically the distortion half uses the two NKT275s as clipping diodes in a feedback loop of a non-inverting opamp, where overdrive half has the two germs in a signal path, but still utilizing an opamp for recovery. This part has some similarities with the EHX Germanium OD released in XO series earlier. The transistors are those current repro NKT275s that EHX must have bought in as truckloads. For the rest of the components and board design, the unit is on par with all the other modern EHX pedals. Mixed SMD and through hole design.

EHX-G4BMP-guts2

But what comes to controls and other features, this isn’t as bad pedal as i first thought. The overdrive half offers very similar tones as the XO series GeOD, but with much wider controls. And the distortion goes with decent control set as well. To me, it seems that the biggest issue remains with “false” marketing and labeling. Another head scratcher is the price development of new and used market of these. Just a couple of years back you could score one of these used for $40€, but for some reason not explainable, the current street price is something notably higher.

How does it sound?
Not bad. Both halves are like peaches from separate cans. Neither of these may get the label of “musical”, but there are tons of those ye oldee school slightly misbiased germanium transistor tones available. Both halves activated, there is some high gainy/fuzzy sonic bliss in the air. Not enough to blast through the roof, but still very decent distortion with a vintage-like touch to it. If i wasn’t offended by the misleading marketing and labeling, i’d hype this pedal to a degeree that i rarely do. But since there is certain, slight feel of being swindled present, i hqave hard time of praising the unit.

It’s not bad, at all. It offers quite wide range of those misbiased old school drive tones that most of us love. Nevertheless, i believe this unit won’t be too popular and it’ll settle for the status it should have. A novelty, or a speciality, that’ll get one purpose covered nicely. Nice. Not shocking, but nice.

Greg Fryer Brian May Signature Treble Booster Touring

Friday, July 15th, 2016

GregFryer-BrianMayTBT

What is it?
Greg Fryer Brian May Signature Treble Booster Touring. Monster named unit that’s made most likely in th UK around 2010.

Don’t know where to begin. Got one of these in a trade and figured that i needed to have one, just to know what it’s all about. Sometimes i tend to look outside the box, but this is something that just doesn’t make all that much sense to me. Fryer guitars/amps/electronics is an UK brand that’s goal has been reproducing the Queen guitar tone since its formation in 2008. Mr. May is obvious idol for many for his high technical skill with guitar. I’ve listened to my share of Queen back in the day, so i’m quite happy that i don’t have to do so anymore. But then.. So a company based on marketing tools that can recreate this one guy’s tone? Sure. Why not. At least there seems to be a market and people to buy effect units, amps and guitars that’ll help them sound like mr. May. The original DIY amp that was used back in the day has been well documented and it’ll need a treble booster to make it distort per May’s tone. After all, it is just a ~0,75 watt germanium transistor loaded amplifier that runs on a single 9V battery. And since reissue and of the amp and a DIY kit of it were apparently a hit, there was a need to create suitable treble boosters for all the thousands of home guitarists chasing that May tone. There is some more info on Knight Audio Technologies page. And as the die hard May fans already know, i’m focusing on the factory made version(s), not the custom build original that mr. Fryer built for mr. May. The amp called Deacy amp and treble boosters are all listed at KAT store, with a bit more information that i can give. Anyway. There are three different boosters in this series, “Plus”, “Deluxe” and “Touring”. So far i’ve only seen a traced schematic for the Deluxe verion, but i believe these three are just voiced slightly differently between each other. And KAT shop descriptions agree with my assumption.

GregFryer-BrianMayTBT-guts1

The box has an input jack, output jack and a battery door. That’s it – all three versions are the same. Which makes me believe all three also share the PCB and contruction with the other versions. For the trace, you could head over to Paul’s page at paulinthelab.com. There you’ll find a schematic for the Deluxe version. Does it surprise anyone when the schematic shows a slightly modified Rangemaster? Probably not. But the real surprise comes when we check the board inside the unit.

GregFryer-BrianMayTBT-guts2

Yup. That’s goop. And reason to goop a Rangemaster clone? Seriously, i can’t come up with one. Trying to hide the fact that is is a Rangemaster without gain control? It is still just a single transistor treble booster that works in manner of dropping the lower frequencies and amplifying the treble content to a single transistor’s capabilities. As a gooped unit with such low feature list, i think it’s the best if we just move on.

How does it sound?
Like a treble booster. Kills your bottom and makes your guitar screech and scream. I have no access to Deacy amp or anything like it, so i can’t take a sip of the intended sound. As a standalone treble booster, this has a few advatages. Like the zeroconf. But then again, this feature has huge disadvantages as well. As is, this can only be used as always on unit, which i believe doesn’t suit that many guitarists. Think about it. You’ll spend a $1000€ on a guitar that has a sound that suits your preference, another $1000€ on an amp that, again, has a sound that suits your preference. Now, you take a $150€ treble booster that will discard most of the tone that your guitar and amp are capable of. And on top of this, you’ll be hooked on batteries for life. The current draw is minimal, but still. You’ll need to swap the battery at least before every gig so it won’t fail on you. I’d get the idea if this was presented as a basic stomp box which could be used on demand for leads and so on. Sure you can do that with a effects looper. But that’ll be still quite stupid idea as you get 5 EHX screaming birds for the price of one of these. You’ll really need to be in to May’s tone to even consider getting one of these.

DOD FX65B Stereo Chorus

Friday, July 8th, 2016

DOD-FX65B-StChorus

What is it?
DOD FX65B Stereo Chorus. Made in USA, early 1997.

Number of things to take a look at here! To begin with, the cool info at America’s pedal tells us that this model was an entry level chorus that was added to the FX series line-up in 1997 – and discontinued the following year. Entry level pricing and pretty much modern standard set of controls, but the manufacturing spanned over 1997 and 1998 only, which means that the number of manufactured units cannot be extremely high – in case you are wondering about that, you should check what other models DOD had going for them during that period. Yup. This is not the only new one presented during the spring of 1997. And what’s obvious, the FX65B was a successor for FX65 chorus that was initially released in 1985. The B-version has no internal trimpots, while the delay line configuration remains per the previous model.  The FX65/B both utilize MN3007 BBD which is driven by MN3101 cl0ck (the same configuration as found in Boss CE-2/3 by the way – which will no doubt lead to me comparing this to CE-2…).

DOD-FX65B-StChorus-guts

The LFO, mixing and buffering are done with three dual opamps, namely JRC4560. The non-B version has had number of revisions before this design, so the opamps have also been different during the 12 year run of the DOD FX-series budget chorus. The number of revisions were mostly seen at Due to board layout and opamp configuration, i’m leaning towards declaring this and its predecessors CE-2 derivatives. Most likely one of the opamp chips is performing as LFO, other as in/out buffers that include pre- and de-emphasis filtering. If the anti-aliasing filters are in place as they are in CE-2, then those are likely done with opamps instead of transistors. The three knob control set does suffice and offer very decent range of control. While the controls are not verbatim to CE-2, the main issue still stands…

How does it sound?
Not bad, but not ground breaking either. In 1997-98, this model has most likely had the best price/tone factor of all the units in the stores. If there is some unexplainable magic to the MN3007 BBD, then it is present here too. Sounding like a pretty basic, yet musical chorus and having nice, working set of controls, there’s little that can go wrong. And yes. There is a lot in common in terms of sound and tone with the heavily praised CE-2. So to acquire one of these (or the predecessor without the “B”) for current street prices is way more appealing idea than to hunt down a working CE-2 or CE-3 for at least three times the money. Sure this does not sound exactly like the praised classic, but still, this sounds very good and i see very little wrong with it.