Posts Tagged ‘Tremolo’

Schaller TR-68 Tremolo

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Schaller-TR68-Tremolo

What is it?
Schaller TR-68 Tremolo. Made in germany, possibly around 90’s. Not sure about the date, but this version is without an indicator LED which is present in the later models.

I used to own one of these back in the days when millennium changed, but for a reason or another, i had to sell it around 2002. The memory served and i did miss the pedal. A lot. The i came home one night, drunk as a skunk and check out the pedal sale listings. Someone was selling TR-68 for peanuts as a broken unit. My first message to the seller may have not been the greatest piece of literature ever written, but we ended up making a sale.

The issues with the pedal were quite minor. The frequency pot was slightly loose and it was turned against the conducting wall of the enclosure, grounding the whole circuit. Plus the battery snap was turning in to dust. Former was an easy fix. Second too. I hadn’t fixed the second at the time i snapped the photo below.

Schaller-TR68-Tremolo-guts

Quite a lot of hand wired connections for a pedal of this age. The construction feels like good vintage. There is very little wrong with this pedal. Solid, original discreet design, high quality flip switch, most of the components are of german origin. The worst caveat is the non-bypass. Everything else just screams quality, integrity and sense in quality.

As for features, there are LFO frequency pot and amplitude pot. Former controls the speed of the amplitude modulation and the latter controls the effective depth of that frequency. Depth goes from near zero effect to silence versus unity level. Frequency ranges from very slow to fast.  And then there’s the speed switch, which changes that very slow to fast to from fast to very fast. Not fast enough for ring modulation speeds, but this is a tremolo, not a noise tool. And the LFO wave… To put it the best way i can,  LFO waveform is smooth.

Saddest thing is that it took me twelve years to get it back.

How does it sound?
Sine waved tremolo that just sounds awesome. The LFO wave is tweaked to perfection, so there is no need for a wave control. This circuit footprint simply works and sounds great as a sine type wave. Non-bypass is a know tone sucker, but somehow it feels right on this one. Or at least it doesn’t bother as much as bad electronic switching buffers that sometimes suck your tone in a bad manner.

This is a beautiful sounding tremolo effect with certain personal, vintage feel. Highly recommended tremolo.

EHX Holy Stain

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

EHX-HolyStain

What is it?
Electro Harmonix Holy Stain from XO series.Made in united states in 2010(ish).

Once again. Put a pedal, any pedal, for sale with a broken switch and a price tag around 20% of a new unit. You bet i’ll be there, bombing your email and throwing the little money i have against the computer screen. This was one of those. Simply swapped the defected 3PDT bypass switch and did a little cleaning. Unit works as it should. Or at least close to it.

Checking out the insides shows a DSP based big board. All done in current, dull EHX manner. I’m guessing the drive/fuzz/distortion is done with transistors and the rest is digital. It’s sort of like a modern hybrid.

EHX-HolyStain-guts

Let’s talk about the features a bit. To begin with, the Holy Stain looks like a cross breed between a Muff and a Holy Grail Reverb, with a few added extras. The main stomp switch is our bypass that sets the overall effect on and off. The basic side is controlled by two rotary switches, a tone control and a volume control. The first rotary selects between clean, fuzz or drive modes. The second selects overall tone color between bright, dark and warm. Tone control acts pretty much like the one on big muff pedals and volume is rather self-explanatory. All that is used to set the base tone.

Then we have the rest. Foot switch selects the digital effect mode between room reverb, hall reverb, a pitch shifter and a tremolo. These four modes share the two controls for all of them, the mix and amount. Mix sets the blend of this extra effect against the clean/fuzz/drive tone coming from the first part. The amount acts as a decay time setting for both reverbs. It also sets the frequency of the pitch shifter mode and the rate of the tremolo. Amount can be rocked with a external expression pedal, which makes the tremolo mode a lot more interesting and the pitch shifter to have similar features to a Whammy.

Limited, but still quite a set of features. These usually come pretty cheap, even as new. But if you think about the features and compare them to what you actually use – or want to use. For me, i would probably gone for separate drive and effects sections with a stomp to engage/disengage the effects other than the drive side. Sure there is notable amount of outside the box thinking when the designer has set the features, but…

How does it sound?
I’ll start with the good and go on about the bad a bit later. The Fuzz mode is actually good with its crisp lead sounds. On fuzz mode, the color settings are usable too, even though i tend to leave it on warm. Both reverbs are ok too, with a slight note explained further…

Off to the bad. First off, to me (yup, may be heresy, but i’m talking about my taste) the clean and drive modes are just bad. First thing that comes to mind is the horrible distortion section found in Digitech RP6 multi-effect. Color and tone controls won’t save those, no matter what. Other reason why the RP6 pops up to mind is the latency. All the digital effect modes are fine if you have your mix control below 35% mark. Higher than that, the guitar signal has already gone out of the speakers before the verbs/shifter/tremolo even think about touching the signal. Similar digital lag as heard on RP6.

One very good mode with almost usable multi-effect section – if you keep the mix down enough for it to work right. Otherwise… no.

Nux MF6 Digital Multi FX

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Nux-MF6-DigitalMFX

What is it?
Nux MF6 Digital Multi FX from the Nux First Series. Made in china in 00’s.

Whole Nux pedal line has been quite interesting line. Some of the designs are straight rip offs, but while the underlying design may be just that, the rest is well engineered and somewhat original. The “First Series”, as i’m going to be referring these units, have nice and personal enclosure design. According to interwebs, Nux is originally nothing more but a sub-brand of Cherub. Folks at Cherub may have wanted to build another brand that seems more prestigious. And they have, more or less, succeeded in that venture.

The enclosure is your standard medium strenght cast aluminium box with good rubber bottom and durable feeling plastic parts. The battery slot is accessible through the pedal lid, and its lid is the cheapest feeling part in whole unit.

Nux-MF6-DigitalMFX-ctrls

Controls on the top are one rotary switch for mode and four standard pots (one dual gang) for setting the parameters of the selected effect. In short, the effects this unit offers are tremolo, rotary, flanger, chorus, multivoice (which is one repeat dual delay in reality) and modulation delay. Others seem to have nice operation range, but the modulation on the mod delay can be turned off. So that the pedal can be used as a delay unit too. All in all, the number of usable effects is nothing short of impressive. And we should not forget about the stereo output and expression pedal input. So yes. There are quite a lot of features in this cheap pedal.

Nux-MF6-DigitalMFX-guts1

When taking a look under the hood, we see modern SMD board with relatively dull view. Flipping the board over shows what one would expect. It is, like the name suggests, a fully digital design. Once again i’m going to leave you with less analysis since my knowledge of all digital circuitry is very limited. There are couple of digital chips in addition to a few opamps. And a oscillator crystal. Feels a bit like a computer now doesn’t it…

Nux-MF6-DigitalMFX-guts2

I got the unit cheap as used one from a local dude. I didn’t have high hopes for it, but since i was, and still am, somewhat fond of the New Analog Series pedals, i wanted to try this one out too. The conclusion?

How does it sound?
Surprisingly good. There’s no negative thin digital feel to any of the modes. Most of the modulation types easily beat some of their analog counterparts. That’s what you won’t hear often from me. Most of the settings are usable. Overall sound is good. Or maybe even great. I do love it when a design offers more than i expected. Well worth a try if you spot used one for cheap.

Marshall VT-1 Vibratrem

Monday, February 17th, 2014

VT1-VibraTrem

What is it?
Marshall VT-1 Vibratrem, made in china around 2005.

The Marshall pedals are curious things. The hits in the 60’s and 70’s , another hits in early 90’s. After that the big black box series went through massive inflation. The next generation of Marshall pedals were introduced in early 00’s, while the players rediscovered the original Guv’nor and the original Bluesbreaker. While all the earlier Marshall pedals were just fuzzes, overdrives and distortions with one wah in the lineup, the “next generation” offered wider range of sounds. The nine effects in the next generation series have a few distortions, but also a reverb, delay and a few different modulation effects. This is one of them.

First of all, the idea of pairing a tremolo and a vibrato to a single box is a splendid idea. The controls are your standard depth and speed, with addition of LFO waveform control that can take the wave from square to saw wave. And then there’s a switch with two modes, a tremolo and a vibrato.

VT1-VibraTrem-guts1

Board looks like most modern designs. Dull and not too eye pleasing. But the overall construction with all the wires does look pleasing. Even though the wires all have terminal sockets to minimize the labour. Also, the through hole components does give us a hope that not all big name designs are done with baking the surface mount components in chinese toaster ovens with litres of flux residue all over them.

VT1-VibraTrem-guts2

It is quite complicated design that i’m not going to unravel more at this point. This would be a pain to reverse, not to mention how massive undertaking it would be to clone it. Quick searching did not reveal a a schematic, but it did point me to a reported fault.

Apparently  some units tend to come over unity level with sort of boosting the output level. At those brief test runs i had with my unit, i didn’t notice it. Guess i’ll need to revisit the testing. ..Or it could be one of those psycho-aural or psycho acoustic phenomenons often affiliated with tremolos and their output levels.

How does it sound?
When it comes to tremolos and vibes, i appreciate the fat and thick sounds. This heavy hitter provides those both with two distinctive wave forms. The sound is somewhat overwhelming, but still it keeps your guitar’s tone well in tact. Tremolo part is thick and juicy. Vibe is a lot brighter than most of the vibrato effects i’ve played with. That’s not a bad thing.

I’d say this makes a very usable effect in both modes. Personally i find the tremolo part to be more to my liking than the vibe, but it does sound good all the way. Recommended tool.

Ibanez TL5 Tremolo

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

TL5

What is it?
Ibanez TL5  Tremolo from soundtank series in plastic enclosure. Made in taiwan around 1995.

There are just a few highly peculiar effects in whole Ibanez catalog fom the seventies to today. This is one of them. Only tremolo Ibanez ever produced. And to be honest, the design isn’t bad at all. In all the simplicity, there’s TL022 opamp that acts as a LFO – which then controls the amplitude of BA6110 SIP voltage controlled amplifier. Dirk has drawn a beautiful schematic and posted it on his site.

TL5-guts1

The idea of using a VCA for amplitube modulation isn’t as popular method as i thought. The optical Vactrol and FET methods are present in more common designs. So this isn’t only special for Ibanez, but for the whole subgenre of tremolos. I’ve seen a few designs even utilizing a OTA for a tremolo effect, but for me, this was the first design with a VCA. Also the one transistor that’s controlled by LFO and pulsing the status LED is very nicely designed.

Traces look sort of like modern japanese drawing of a tree and the solder joints are neat. Components are also placed in very neatly. It’s getting harder to find anything really wrong with this unit.

TL5-guts2

Component side is one of the roomier ones in whole soundtank series. The way all the 1/8W resistors are laid in straight sets is also very eye pleasing. The biggest culprit once again is the switch. Replacing it isn’t that big of a task and is recommended as most of the original switches in this series will die eventually. All in all, this one is a must have. Ibanez (or basically Maxon) design that is at the same time quite original and versatile.

Springs up a question. Why Ibanez didn’t ever made another tremolo for any other series? In my opinion this doesn’t matter as now we have here a piece of Ibanez effect pedal history that will be a highly valued collectors item for its sound and design. Some people might argue that the value has already climbed to where it should be. I’d have to agree on that. If you are lucky, you can still find one for cheap.

How does it sound?
Like a world class tremolo. Soft with reasonably wide range of speeds and depths. The level control lets you boost the signal slightly to avoid all psychoaural volume drop issues. Really nice tremolo. One of the great beasts in a plastic box. Highly recommended pedal.

Boss TR-2 Tremolo

Monday, September 9th, 2013

Boss-TR2

What is it?
Boss TR-2 Tremolo. Unknown manufacture date. No serial, as the label has vanished at some point alolng the way. This came to me in a trade as a defunct unit. Gladly, it was just polarity protection diode and one burned resistor. No visible damage to the board itself.

Of all the tremolos i’ve played, this one just seemed solid by construction and sound. Nothing special or anything that made me go wow. Just one of those tools that are good to have. TR-2 was first released to the public in 1997. The Pb-Free label on the board suggest that this is quite new unit, maybe around 2010-11.

Boss-TR2-Guts1

As the photo above shows, all the opamps are SIP-chips. The LFO and gain recovery amps are M5218/NJM4558, while the modulation amplifier is M5207 VCA. The factory schematic (found on the internet) shows how the LFO is created – and how the modulation is applied to modulation amplifier. Neat and simple. Design is pretty straightforward and does not peak my interest more. Controls offer good range, while the wavefrom control is too subtle for my taste.

Boss-TR2-Guts2

Traces on the back of the board show neat soldering, but dull design. Almost machine-like autorouted feeling to it.

Some people have reported that the output level of this design is lower than unity, aka volume drop. I would mostly blame that on human brain perception or psycho acoustics, but the issue can be dealt in other ways too.  As the modulation recovery amp is wired as standard inverting amplifier, there is one resistor responsibe for the output level. That resistor being R12, the feedback resitor of IC2A in the schematic. Original value is 22K, but you could swap it for 27K or try on different values to tweak the output to your taste. You could even replacce that resistor with 50K pot to get control over the output level. Other option to try is to snip the C4 – 100nF capacitor taming the oscillator output. One more option is to lower the value of input limiting resistor of the modulation amp. This being R9, the 10K resistor. 6.8K should offer unity or slight boost. One more mod would be to remove C7. This will omit the high frequency taming at the recovery amp and let more highs through.

One could of course play with all of the above to tune it just perfect to your ears.

How does it sound?
Decent. Not too special, but nothing’s amiss or wrong. Mass tremolo with no personal character to it. LFO wave control leaves me a bit puzzled. It could be a lot better or just a bit more drastic. Not a bad thing to have. Wouldn’t buy this as a new unit, but i’m glad i got.

Danelectro DJ5 Tuna Melt Tremolo

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

DJ5-TunaMelt

What is it?
Danelectro DJ5 Tuna Melt Tremolo from Dano’s mini effects series.

This is one of those that should not be overlooked no matter what opinion you may have about the box/jacks/switch/whatever. Definitely one of the best and most desired boxes in the mini series in addition to Chicken Salad and a few other units. This will always have much more of user than collector value. Opening the  bottom plate reveals the basic electronic switching board, common to the mini series effects.

DJ5-TunaMelt-guts2

But taking that lower board off reveals the effect board. As always, the pots are just bigger trimmers with knobs attached to them, Hard/Soft switch is your standard submini on-on and so on. But wait. What’s the black blob next to lower opamp? Analog optoisolator (or also known as vactrol)!

DJ5-TunaMelt-guts5

So it is optical tremolo and it sounds like it. There are a few different ways to create good tremolo effect. Using analog optoisolator is one of the best. Optoisolators consist of two parts, the LED and LDR. LFO pushes the LED part to blink, which alternates the resistance of the LDR according to LFO speed. Which then causes the signal to go up and down in amplitude. Like i said, there are other good ways too. Here we have two TL072s for the modulation mixer amp and LFO driver. The modulation is applied to inverting input of the amplifier.

Quite simple design, now that i think of it. Mr. Clay Jones has drawn a traced schematic back in 2005. Found on FSBhere. The schematic shows that there are two switchable LFO wave forms. Other uses one half of other opamp and other has a transistor for faster decay.

DJ5-TunaMelt-guts4

Soldering work looks like the person soldering the components doesn’t really care for his/her job. Looks quite bad actually. Sad thing, but what do you expect from pedals in this price range?

I’ll post one more shot of the traces. Those looks pretty neat now don’t they!

DJ5-TunaMelt-guts3

Edit: The design has a “flaw” that i’ve run into earlier, but for some reason i’ve dismissed it. The depth control works only for the soft setting of the LFO wave switch. The control does nothing when the hard mode is engaged. The schematic mentioned above will confirm this.There’s no chance the depth control will do anything when using the hard mode. Also, i’ve seen photos with Tuna Melt units with three knobs instead of two and the switch, but i’ve never seen an actual unit with three knobs. I think there will be more updates to this post at some point…

How does it sound?
Very good. Both controls, depth and speed have a wide variety of useful stuff on the sweep. It sounds very mellow and soft, even with hard settings switched. Not as choppy as it could be, but this is still very nice tremolo. If you can score one for cheap – go for it.