Archive for the ‘Dunlop’ Category

Dunlop JDF2 Fuzz Face

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Dunlop-JDF2-FuzzFace

What is it?
Dunlop JDF2 Fuzz Face. No idea where Dunlop currently makes these. If pot date codes are correct, this unit may have been rolled out in 2010.

I’ve already written about the blue Jimi Hendrix model, which seemed like a decent silicon transistor remake of the unit Jimi used back in the day. That unit did look like a vintage board. But it turned out to be a borg with its surface mount components and trimmers hidden on the solder side. I was quite reluctant to open this up due to the experience provided by the Hendrix model. Somehow i’m glad i eventually did.

For these later units, the board doesn’t even try to look like vintage units. It’s your standard modern Dunlop board with ground fills and lead-free solder. On top of that, we have trimmers for bias, which are hot glued to their places.

Dunlop-JDF2-FuzzFace-guts

Jacks and pots are connected with a clip on terminal and to minimize the amount of labour, the tiny board is mounted to the stomp switch terminals. This makes me wonder if those mini Fuzz Faces introduced in early 10’s have the same board inside. It would make sense. The transistors are AC218s, or at least they try to be. Those look a lot like restamped germaniums to me. If i try really hard to find something good to say, the pots, jacks and the battery snap are quality items that should be able to take a hit or two on the road.

No DC jack, nor any other good things we usually find in modern effects. Expect for the board, obviously. In all rather disappointing use for this enclosure. One should be able to score a period correct reproduction PCB through internet and use the enclosure with that.  But then again.. This is a piece of evidence how big brand and volumes can shift the idea in a design to something completely different. This will also be a part of Fuzz Face history, there’s no disputing that. In all. Decent unit. Nothing great and definitely nothing even close to the units sold as Fuzz Faces just a decade or two ago.

How does it sound?
Like every other Fuzz Face and its straight-on derivative. Sluggish output level, all or nothing -type of controls, decent behaviour with guitar controls and well. Most of that original Fuzz Face magic in sound is present. I’d say this is very nice entry level fuzz for the youngster who want to get their hands dirty with their very first germanium fuzz. Some might consider this a keeper due to it’s tone. I find it as a keeper only because it resembles the golden oldie visually. Tone is rather close and visual aesthetics are in place. That’s about it. Very cheap to manufacture and due to its reputation, the price is also easy to keep high. Still. Recommended for a first fuzz device (never mind the Big Muff Pi for this urpose), but that’s pretty much it. Get one if you can, but don’t pay too much for this Dunlop model.

Dunlop/MXR M-101 Phase 90

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

DunlopMXR-Phase90

What is it?
Dunlop/MXR M-101 Phase 90. Guessing on the serial number, this unit may have been manufactured around 2003 or 2004.

The classic, original MXR Phase 90 is a fine specimen in vast number vintage effects that have earned their milestone status in guitar effects. So it is a classic for good reason. However, the greatness ended when original MXR went bankrupt in mid 80’s. Later, Dunlop Manufacturing bought the rights for MXR brand and sunk their hands into the catalog of great designs. I’ve heard stories where one well known guitar brand from the western world was producing lower quality instruments than their daughter brand, which manufactured guitars in asia. So these cheaper sticks were simply way better than the ones the mother company was able to produce. So what do you think was the mother company’s solution? Order the daughter company to lower their quality, so they could keep selling their product, which had a brand of higher value. This resulted in tarnishing of daughter brand’s reputation. Now you might ask how does this have anything in common with this pedal? I’ll tell you. In one way. These Dunlop/MXRs have very little to do with original MXR pedals.

I know a number of people who have made a decision to never touch another MXR pedal after they have tried Phase 90. The board inside these current production is not the same board we find in pre-Dunlop era MXR Phase 90. I’ll get to the sound of this box a bit later, but here’s a photo of the board. Modern, with amount of layered ground fill that will blow your mind.

DunlopMXR-Phase90-guts1

Basic design doesn’t differ all that much between pre- and post-Dunlop era boxes. But it differs enough to transform the sound to something completely different. No. It’s not the ground fill i mentioned. It’s not the use of modern through hole components like metal film resistors and multilayer ceramic capacitors. It’s the circuit topology. The four JFET based phasing stages are intact. Excellent design in vintage units have a nice, smooth, lush phase to them. Someone at Dunlop thought that the classic could be better if there was a path to feed the already phased signal back to the beginning of the phase stages. Sure. This will make the phasing effect more drastic. Maybe even deeper. In this case it does kill the original beauty of the design. Completely.

DunlopMXR-Phase90-guts2

As you can see in the photo above, there’s a resistor missing right above the output jack. That’s the “feedback resistor” that makes the modern Phase 90 what it is. That resistor is easy enough to remove, but how would you feel about buying a mid price range pedal and having to mod it to get it even remotely useful? For me, i can say with absolute certainty that i’m not going to buy current production Dunlop/MXR Phase 90 as a new unit. Never. In reality, they are selling you an image and feel of this good old effect, but the insides are not up to that image. I’m not going into the fact that Dunlop also sells “Script” versions of these circuits. For a premium price. Of course.

Oh. A fun fact. Danelectro Pepperoni Phaser is 1:1 circuit copy of this badly modernized phaser.

How does it sound?
Before removing the R22 resistor – horrible. Mids get boosted due to this internal feedback and the circuit isn’t designed to handle this boost. And while it simply can’t take, we get very ugly distorted overall tone that can’t handle even the low output vintage styled single coil pickups. This is where everything goes wrong. Kid in your neighborhood has read in guitar magazines that his/her guitarist idol used MXR Phase 90 on the record he/she loves. Next thing you know, this kid needs to get a Phase 90. And when it sounds nothing like the one used on that album, what do you think this kid’s reaction will be? Maybe he/she just hates MXR for his/her misfortune. After all, that’s what it says on top of the box. MXR.

But if (and when) we snip the R22 out of the circuit, we get rather close to the unspoiled tone of the original Phase 90. The distorted mids are gone and mellow swirl takes over once again.

Conclusion – as stock? Horrible and not worth the 30-50 money units these sometimes go for as used. As modded? Way better. Still not exactly great, but good.

Dunlop JH-F1 Fuzz Face

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

Dunlop-JHF1-FuzzFace

What is it?
Dunlop JH-1F Fuzz Face. BC108 Si transistors and branded as “Authentic Hendrix”. Manufactured around 09-11.

The Fuzz Face is one of those that everyone should play at some point. Because if they haven’t, they’re really missing out on a lot. Fuzz is not a distrtion as in Overdrive/Distortion. Not at all. Usually your standard fuzzes are created by pair of transistors driving the hell out of each other, or shunt-series-feedback amplifiers. The basic schematic is very simple (courtesy of GEO). It’s a nine component circuit, plus two pots. As for the origins of Fuzz Face, well. The Vox/Solasound Tonebender had been released earlier in the same year, 1966. So there’s a chance that the Fuzz Face may be the first known example in a very long history of a company ripping off other company’s design.. But let’s get back to this particular unit.

Dunlop-JHF1-FuzzFace-back

Backplate has “Athentic Hendrix” stamp right next to all the common modern day labels. Yes. It’s lead free. Reportedly, mr. Hendrix used original germainum version until he got fed up with unreliable behaviour that comes naturally with Ge-devices. So he later on used only the version with Si-transistors. In which point the microphone stand bottom inspired enclosure turned blue, i really can’t tell. Must be earlier than when Arbiter reissues were assimilated by Dunlop as i’ve seen couple of old Arbiter units in blue for sale (needless to say that you’ll buy a car for that amount of money..). Anyway, the transistors in JH’s unit were BC108Cs. A lot higher in hFE gains than original NTK275 versions. Nowadays commonly loved Fuzz Face transistors, the AC128 were introduced much later in a Dallas Arbiter reissues.

Dunlop-JHF1-FuzzFace-guts1

Insides look like they are true to the original unit. Board layout and resistors are as expected. There are no modern day luxuries here! No indicator LED, nor power jack. Just a crude place for a 9V battery. 26mm pots and big semi-closed jacks. At first glance, in all the simplicity it is quite beautiful.

Dunlop-JHF1-FuzzFace-guts2

Board has everything laid out neatly. Four carbon composition transistors, two Philips electrolytic caps and one non-polar. which looks to me like it is 100nF and not 10 as in basic schematic. Looking deeper in to it, there are different versions of Fuzz Face. So hold the press. There should be trimmers, hidden caps and resistors.. And there are…

Dunlop-JHF1-FuzzFace-guts3

Unscrewing the board shows the Borg. The face is still there (and it is blue), but inside there’s the Locutus. SMD bias trimmers and tamer caps and so on. At first this unit sounded like it was slightly misbiased, but i thought that was a feature with BC108 transistors. In fact the trimmers were misbiased. No wonder the guy i got this from couldn’t get it thing to sound right. Tuned them by ear and got it running like it probably should. And just look at how the short on the right edge is fixed. You may now have a better idea why i sold off all my Dunlop made MXRs. I’m wondering if i should sell this off too as it gives me more reasons to dislike Jim Dunlop Manufacturing. Their plectrums are very good though… Sad thing you can’t score these for cheap. If you could, you should really think about getting a reproduction PCB and rebuilding the insides to match the 60’s specs with NKT275s. Maybe even repaint the enclosure to get your Picard back.

How does it sound?
Just as i expected. Harsher and colder than germanium versions i’ve played with. Actually. The guy i got this unit from told me that he bought it when he was after that “Fu Manchu” sound and got dissappointed. At that time i didn’t know that the unit was blue and it puzzled me a bit. Once i opened up the parcel, i wrote him back saying, “no wonder you couldn’t get it to sound right”. It sounds almost like a fuzz face, but in reality it is the day of the undead. Resistance is not futile. I’m thinking that i should probably stick with pedals with through hole components. You know, to stay organic. If you are looking for this exact sound, you should probably seek for modern chinese clone called “Blue Faze”. It is 1:1 and does not try to hide that it is the Borg. Plus it has all the modern day luxuries in miniature enclosure that sort of looks like three cubes in attack formation..