Archive for July, 2014

Ibanez BP5 Bass Compressor

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014


What is it?
Ibanez BP5 Bass Comp compressor from the Soundtank series. Made in taiwan around mid 90’s.

Who would have thought that BP5 was the hardest unit to find in all the plastic Soundtanks? Well it was. The complete series did come by more easily than i expected, but there were still a couple of the units that were a lot harder to find than others. My guess is that the number of manufactured units were correlating hard with the sales. Which also means that there are tons and tons of Thrashmetals, Power Leads, 60’s Fuzzes and Tubescreamers just waiting for you to grab them. While the less succesful units are getting scarce, one should still be able to source the Bass Comp or Autowah for relatively low prices. If one keeps him/her eyes open. I did finally get one. Don’t exactly remember what i paid for this, but it wasn’t too cheap.


Once the bottom plate is out, the board looks exactly like the CP5, the guitar compressor from the same series. Once we take the board out to see it better, it is exactly the same board. Including the silk screened CP5 label. And if we look at these two closer, we see that there isn’t too much of a difference on the pedals. To be exact, the only change between CP5 and BP5 is one capacitor value. Sure. I knew about the differences before acquiring the unit, which may have been the reason i didn’t go for the ones that were out there with ridiculous price tags.


So this is pretty much the same pedal as the CP5, CP10 and CPL. Well designed and well working BA6110 VCA-based compressor.

I must wave a flag here. This is the last post about the plastic soundtanks for this blog. Yup. I’ve finally covered all of them. At the time of writing, there are still two metal cased units i’m on a hunt for. And those two are the original Thrashmetal (i’ve got three plastic ones) and the original Power Lead (i’ve got two plastic ones).

How does it sound?
If there is a difference between this unit and the CP5, i’m having real hard time hearing it. Not too noisy or mushy. I feel that the attack knob is rather useless, but that doesn’t make the rest of the features or sounds any less desirable. To sum it up, this is a poor man’s CP10. Defined and very usable unit. Superb thing with single coils. Haven’t played a lot with this on bass though.

EHX Nano LPB-1 Linear Power Booster

Saturday, July 26th, 2014


What is it?
Electro-Harmonix LPB-1 Linear Power Booster from EHX Nano series. Made in US in 00’s.

I’ve been over this units grandfather before in the form of EGO Microphone Booster. In its heart it is still the same simple one-transistor-as-amplifier booster. The base topology remains, even there are a number of modern additions to the box. First off, the bypass method is per modern standard, meaning a 3PDT stomp switch with true bypass. There are power filtering and polarity protection present and chokes for input and output. The tiny, simple circuit can now be powered by modern standard power supply or a battery. Board layout is really ugly and there’s acres of wasteland in there.


I had a conversation with one person who was looking for plain volume boost for his setup and asked me what he should do about it. Get a custom build from me or try some commercial solution? Or some other option? I said “i think the best way to see if a simple booster is what you want, is to buy a LPB-1 as used unit”. You know, since you can get one for 25€ post-paid. I also said that if it didn’t suit him, i’d buy it off from him with that price. And here we are. I wasn’t planning on buying one, but i guess it’s good to have one of these too. and now the dude knows that he can’t get pure, clean power amp volume boost out of any pedal. He’ll need an amp that can do that.

How does it sound?
Like a single transistor booster. Clever and nice way to get your vintage-style single coils to light up. Some might even use this as a boos for clean lead sounds. But still i’d recommend this only for single coil pickups with lowish output. Ive been playing around with these circuits over the years, but once i got this unit.. I though it was broken. On any setting over unity level, it started to break up the sound in not so great manner. I checked the unit over and it was (still is) fine. I took another guitar and, yup. The super high output Hagström customs were just too much for it. The distortion created by too high input level isn’t pleasing.

Overall tone? Clean, colorless, tasteless, odorless simple boost. A tool.

DOD FX100 Even Harmonic Overdrive

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014


What is it?
DOD FX100 Even Harmonic Overdrive (with Integrated Tube (TM) Technology. Made in USA in 1997.

Of course i was curious about this new and exciting thing called Integrated Tube (TM), or I.T. (TM) technology. What it actually is – it is how marketing department takes random words, put them one after another and place (TM) after it. Sure. It sounds very good and interesting to many to see new technologies arise and be put in use. And in this case, what does the I.T. (TM) really mean? There is a JRC4558 dual opamp in there. So my next question is, “Are you kidding me?!?”


Actually, the two dual opamps it this late ’97 or early ’98 unit are JRC4560Ds. So apparently the I.T. (TM) doesn’t mean even that. Now let’s put the disappointment aside and check the schematic. Your guitar’s signal journeys trough a FET buffer and reaches a gain stage with Drive control on it. Then we have another FET/BJT gain stage followed by a strange world of single diode clipping (note to self – do not pay big money for FX101, as that is the same circuit, without I.T. (TM) and with a single diode added). Journey continues through a dual gyrator circuitry, which also is a home to Lows control. On the path comes a passive highs filter with a pot on it. This is also the place where we’ll have the volume control. After this, the journey is about to end. We have only make-up gain stage and amp simulated output stages left.

So did this journey warrant any claims for new and exciting technologies? No. Was it really worth it to get (TM) status to something that’s already been done over and over by just about every manufacturer?

Further reading on America’s Pedal website

How does it sound?
Ok sounding overdrive with sluggish output level. I’d say the level is insufficient for anything else but very low, vintage output single coil pickups. Clipping doesn’t feel broken, but nice, warm and harmonic. Even. Lows and highs are controlled nicely, but this just isn’t a very good pedal. Oh. Yes. It’s just my opinion. It doesn’t mean that the unit would really suck. It just means that after the marketing department had its way with me, then come the real issues. Makes me wonder i should just solder that missing diode in and pretend this is a FX101.

Danelectro DJ-20 Rocky Road Spinning Speaker

Monday, July 21st, 2014


What is it?
Danelectro DJ-20 Rocky Road Spinning Speaker from Danelectro Mini series. Made in china around mid 00’s.

Leslie simulators are one sub-genre of effects that i haven’t had a lot of interest on. Is it a tremolo? A vibe? A Chorus? No. It’s a Leslie simulator. Which translates to it being a tremolo, vibe and delayless chorus. In essence, it is a amplitude modulation effect, designed to give you a feel of a spinning speaker-like illusion. Sort of like a stereo tremolo/vibe that goes ping-pong. In fact, a Leslie simulator is nothing more than a marketing scheme. Rarer the idea for the pedal, the better chance to sell them.


On the technical side, the effect is created with a HE83015 8-bit micro-controller. There is a schematic for the complete circuit on the builder forums (you’ll need to log in to FSB to see it, so no link at the moment). Basically we have a overdrive/distortion that’s given to the programmed digital controller for amplitude modulation in stereo (or that’s how i read it). And once again, my shortcomings in the area of digital micro-controllers prevent me from digging any deeper. For now. So it is a lot more complicated than what you would expect from a stereo tremolo.

Design has peculiarities like only Dano can deliver. The Ramp up/down feature  only works in fast setting. And the distortion, or the Drive as it’s called…

How does it sound?
Um. I don’t know what to say. The drive part sounds pretty awful with its broken sounding clipping. As a huge disadvantage, we also have a volume boost when effect is activated. Only good feature is the ramp. This offers fun and wild modulation speed changes that are gradual, not instant.

This unit has gained some status, but why.. Beats me. Nice novelty toy, but not by far a good, usable effect. If a real Leslie sounded like this, i have a hard time believing anyone would have ever used one for anything. To sum it up – this definitely has something inside that we don”t see every day in pedals. But that doesn’t make it any more good than what it actually is. A novelty toy.

Colorless writings, part 13 – The Power

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

I just noticed something. It’s been exactly one year since i started the current reincarnation of this blog. Since 19th of july 2013, i’ve written 144 posts. Eleven and thirteen bi-monthly. This post marks 13th Colorless Writing, which also mens that i’ve written my reviews/analysis on 130 pedals so far. To be honest, i’m not sure if can keep the pace as i may run out of pedals to write about at some point. Maybe a little less per month should suffice… Anyway. I’d like to thank you, all my readers. Thank you. Now let’s get over this crap and talk about Power!

Powering up the pedals are we?

Yup. It’s been a while since i started to read Denton J. Dalley’s book called Electronics for guitarists. The first edition is up on the web for grabs, but i didn’t know that at the time i bought myself a paperback version of the book’s second edition. The first edidion has most of the information, but second has over 200 pages more and it’s been updated on many subjects. Not to mention there’s a foreword by Billy Zoom. This book is highly recommended reading by the way.  The book starts out by saying a thing or two about the power. In our modern world we get our electricity through our wall sockets and what we get is a alternating current electricity. AC has a lot advantages when we need to transfer that power from power plant to our houses, rehearsal studios and clubs we gig at. The loss is a lot lower than what it would be to transfer DC current. To be exact, the DC would be real pain to move if we need to have more than fifty meters between the supply and the user. So what does this all have to do with our gear? Well. Everything from amplifiers to your pedals require direct current to work. Only thing that’s AC in our gear is the guitar’s (or bass’) signal itself (and some parts of our amplifiers, but i’ll disregared that for now). And that DC we’re hoping to use should be as stable as possible.

I’m not about to go too deep in AC power part, but think of a straight line where that line is zero volts. Now picture a sine wave going up and down that line, upper half reaching +120 volts and lower half -120 volts (that’s for us europeans). That’s what the AC coming from your wall socket looks like in theory. There are different phases to it, usually three, but the one is enough for our examples. Now, we need to turn that power in to a stable DC source for our pedals.

There are basically at least two things we need to do that. First, the transformer. What that does is it drops the voltage down and bounces the bottom half of the sine wave we discussed a second ago to the upper half, making the upper half a DC source. Let’s assume that this transformer is something we may find in standard 9V wall wart power supply. That’ll make the DC voltage appear on the line, but the dropping the voltage to something like 13-15 volts. Since the AC looked like a sine wave on that line, pushing the bottom part to top part doesn’t make it stable 13-15 volts. Sine wave stays in the equation, it’s simply pushed between zero and 13-15 volts instead of being where it was – between zero/minus and zero/plus. Due to sine wave looking like it does, there are bound to be lower voltages on along the line with our DC we got out of the transformer. For example, the new DC voltage could vary from +12 to +16 volts after the transformer.

And that’s called the ripple effect?

Exactly. Now, if we were to push that DC voltage to our pedals, we’d notice a high noise floor, hum or even loud oscillations and and other unwanted noises on some pedals. All these issues are usually generated by unstable, unregulated DC source. The second thing we need for a DC supply is a regulator. Regulators like 7809 are designed to take slighty higher voltage than their output and levelling the ripples. These regulators also need a few filter capacitors to function right. Since in this case we want regulated 9V DC output, the input for the regulator needs to be at least 12V. That’s why we used the transformer above to generate unregulated 13-15 voltage. The regulator cannot up the voltage, so if you feed the 9V regulator only 7 to 9 volts, you won’t be getting out nine, but a lot lower reading. It will need that 12V to fuction properly.

And next i’d like to take a look at the filter capacitors. The regulator usually wants some form of ripple filtering before its input and after its output. Let’s say that out wall wart in this case has 47µF caps at those positions. We may still have some ripples left, as even the best transformers and regulators are subject to what we feed them. Not all wall sockets offer neat and perfect sine wave. There will be variances. This is why we want and need to have power filtering in our pedals too.

Well. Maybe not for every single pedal, but most. Some wild fuzzes are better to be left without additional filtering as their features may be downsized by too stable DC source. But for non-dirt effects, the extra filtering is wanted. Looking at the filter, the idea is to place a capacitor between the supply and the ground. This will push the AC leftover ripples to the ground leaving cleaner DC voltage for the pedal. Mathematically thinking, the capacitor should be BIG to have a sufficient effect. That’s why you’ll find 1000µF and even 2200µF capacitors in some pedals.

But how does the unregulated power source affect the pedals?

Think of this like if you were powering your pedal with lab power suply that has voltage setting on a knob. Then you wiggle the voltage control between eight and ten volts as fast as you can. This will affect the operation of all your semiconductors. With fast and uncontrolled changes in operating conditions, the operational amplifiers can’t function properly. Same goes with your transistors. As supply and reference voltage changes, so change the operating conditions. And as the ripples come out at the same frequency as your wall socket pushes the AC out, you’ll have ~60Hz hum at the pedal’s output. In some extreme cases the ripple will result in even worse situations, like oscillations. But if we take one tiny 100pF cap and onebigger 220µF cap between the supply and the ground, that will send most of the inconsistencies in your DC voltage to ground.

There are a lot of different manufacturers offering their solution on how to power up your pedals. Some of those are well designed and offer very stable DC for your use. Some others.. Not so much. If your pedals sound like crap with lots of extra noises on their character, you should point your eyes to the power supply first. Even if it’s made by one of the biggest names in the business, it doesn’t mean that it will be the best choice for you and your chosen pedals. There is only one completely stable DC power source. And that’s a battery. But you can get a well regulated wall wart power supply that will serve you for 10 years easy – for the same price as you would need to spend on three batteries. Which is why i recommend using a good, regulated, stable powersource that turns the wall socket AC to the DC voltage you need.

Digitech DSB Screamin Blues

Thursday, July 17th, 2014


What is it?
Digitech Screaming Blues Overdrive/Distortion from “D”, or “Distortion” series. Made in china around mid 00’s.

When DOD seized to produce the later versions of the famous overdrives like FX50B, their closest successor would be the DOD FX102 Mystic Blues overdrive. When DOD seized to exist, the next step for the design was the Digitech Screaming Blues. In retrospect, the design analogy would be somthing like OD250 -> FX50 -> FX50B -> FX102 Mystic Blues -> DSB Screaming Blues. So is it a direct descendent of OD250 overdrive/preamp? I’d say sort of. Not that direct, but descendent nonetheless. Granted. The design differences between OD250 and Screamin’ Blues couldn’t be more a part, but then again, the FX50B isn’t that close to either one. All this may be be speculation, but the timeline matches.


Modern, dull traces on a board where there’s room to do anything. Once again, this shares the electronic switching part of the board design with all the other “Distortion” series pedals. The buffers and in/out section appears to be the same too. As we can see from the photo below, the gain pot is dual gang, while the EQ section doesn’t differ that much from a Bad Monkey.


Standard mix of panasonic and mylar caps with all SMD resistors and semiconductors. Not too eye-pleasing, but the reason for the units greatness doesn’t come from the design. It comes through use.

How does it sound?
Defined, clear overdrive. Where as the Bad Monkey takes the prize with honking mids alá Tubescreamer, this one stays way more transparent and natural. Where does the “Blues” part in the name originate, i can’t say. But its armed with fairly versatile EQ section, ranging from thin and piercing to blasting lows and literally screaming highs and the drive control range is rather pleasing too. It surely goes from mild overdrive to big distortion. I don’t have a lot of bad things to say about this unit. It’s not super great, but it isn’t bad at all.

For the current market of used units, you should be able to score one for peanuts. It never hurts to have a usable, defined sounding pedal – may it be rather generic – in your bag. Especially when it sets you back a 20 bucks.

Ibanez DDL20 Delay III

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014


What is it?
Ibanez DDL20 Delay III from Power series. Made in japan around mid 80’s.

I should count the Ibanez delays. Yup. At least 18 different delay units are listed at the Effectsdatabase. Sure, this includes all the units from different series since 70’s, but that’s still a lot of delays. The features on this particular one are great. From slight 8ms tracking effects, all the way to 1024 milliseconds of delay. And every possible delay time in between. The six time ranges are selected on a switch, otherwise the controls are your standard Mix = Delay Level, Time = Delay Time and Feedback = Repeat. Once the bottom plate is removed, there are a ton of neat little solder joints for through hole components and a Maxon branded digital chip.


Bottom of the board looks like green leather jacket on a punk. May the joints represent studs. And once we flip the board around, there are 6 SIP opamps, three more Mitsubishi bipolar dual opamps in DIP packages and a regulator. That’s a lot of stuff squeezed into such a little board. Stamp on the board shows that this unit shares the board with DML Digital Modulation Delay. As you can see from the first shot taken from the bottom, there are a few empty pads.


The board design pleases the eye. But i do apologize for not going deeper in to the design itself. Reason being that i don’t understand it well enough myself to say anything insightful about it. Well built and designed. These unit will endure use.

How does it sound?
Not special, but very, very good. Like most Ibanez delay units, this one offers solid sounds. Which is also a weakness for a few Ibanez delays. Where almost every single Ibanez unit has its own character and a face, so to speak, the delays from Power and Master series are sort of Ibanez’ line on Bosses. There’s nothing wrong with them, but some of them do tend to sound rather generic. This is one of those. Makes me wonder why did Ibanez release three different, un-modulated digital delays for Power series? I have no idea. The feature differences are slight and the overall sounds from all three are close to each other. All of them are action packed and sound good. With similar setting on each, i doubt many would survive a “Pepsi Challenge” if i played with all three to you with your eyes blindfolded.

None of that makes this a bad sounding unit. If you see one for cheap, grab it. These do not move around too much these days.

Marshall GV-2 Guv’nor Plus

Sunday, July 13th, 2014


What is it?
Marshall GV-2 Guv’nor Plus. Made in china around early 00’s. Don’t know if there is any official name for this series of pedals, so i’m calling it “Small metal series”.

The original Guv’nor design was a bit of a hit. Not in least due to Gary Moore, who was doing the best promotion possible. Either way, the success of the original unit was little off from questionable. Somehow most folks only reacted to the pedal ten or more years late. I’ll be talking more about the original Guv’nor in a post about original Guv’nor when the time comes. Anyway.

This unit is successor for the original Big Black Guv’nor. With added “Deep” control and a complete redesign, the design team must have had a goal of having the (in)famous tone intact, while modernizing the behavior and sound.


Board design matches the rest of the units in the series with its modern dull traces with autorouted visual feel to them. Otherwise the labor looks fine and this series boxes are well made. Should last your use and abuse for times to come. Schematic appears to be available online. This version of the factory schematic addresses a few issues on the board. First of all, some folks have found the tone stack to be nothing close to their preferences. So there are notes how to match yours to the original, black Guv’nor. And other thing. This addresses a considerable design flaw. There is a 470pF capacitor from after the volume control to ground. I have no idea what the designers were after, but value of 470pF will dump everything that would be called bright to the ground. Meaning that with this cap on board you are bound to lose a lot of highs. Sure. You could swap the cap for something like 47pF to have a way better higher frequency response. But is seems that many people want to omit that cap altogether. And i can’t blame them.


The dual operational amplifiers are once again TL072, manufactured by Texas Instruments. It is not a bad opamp and it surely seems to be a weapon of choice for almost every Marshall pedal. The clipping diodes are in hard clipping configuration, just like found in older Guv’nor version. So there are similarities, while the overall complexity of the circuit here is noticeably higher.


The circuit inside the box is made of three boards. One for the main board, one for controls (which are, no surprise, a 9mm pots with two of them having dual separate sweeps) and one for switching. The hot glue in there doesn’t look that good. Otherwise the build quality is decent.

The controls are your standard three band hi/mid/low for EQ, wich offers nice versatility. Other standard controls are gain and volume. The “Deep” control controls lower mids of the frequency scale from scooped to boosted.

How does it sound?
Certain qualities to the sound are per the original, nowadays a classic Guv’nor. This simply sounds way more muddy and undefined due to that single capacitor noted above. Three band EQ is nice thing to have and it follows the basic principles of the tone controls found in Marshall amplifiers. With the lower mids on a “Deep” knob, the tone controls are very nice and should be enough to please any tweaker. Volume levels are sufficient and the gain range goes from mildly overdriven tone to near massive distortion. But for the muddy and undefined.. You’ll be better of with some other pedal. Or you could just simply snip the C22 cap off the board.

For the price – it is an ok pedal. Not too great, but not that sucky either. One of the worst in the series, but still slightly better than many other manufacturer’s distortion units. Go figure. I don’t see myself using this for anything though.

Pearl PH-03 Phaser

Friday, July 11th, 2014


What is it?
Pearl PH-03 Phaser from Sound Spice series. Made in japan around early 80’s.

This is one if those boxes i managed to buy off from mr. Lindèn and it came with reasonable price too. The unit is very lightly used and it even has its own retail box with minimal wear. These do not come by every day. For example, at the time of me writing this, there are no units listed on eBay. According to, these usually sell for something between 50 and 100 USD. This feels a bit low as there are not that many units available. Maybe this phaser simple hasn’t had the cult status of the overdrive or octaver boxes from the same series. I personally think it should. Here’s why.


Classic hand drawn acid trip traces on a fat old japanese style PCB gives out eye candy that you can expect from similar boxes of the era. Solid quality and beauty combined. Pedal is made out of two different boards. One for bypass switching and the main board. Flipping the board over gives out a view that one did not expect to see in a phaser. I was waiting to see your standard Phase 90 derivative or something similar where phaseing is done with discrete JFETs. No. There are obvious modulation stages, done with dual opamps and an LFO, which doesn’t seem that standard either. The big chip in the has been painted black so tinkerers would have a hard time finding out what it is. Since there’s no telling what the chip is just by looking at it, i thought i’d check for a schematic if that would shed some light on the matter. There is an old factory schematic up at FIS. No luck. The schem says it’s “exclusive use”, which in pedals, usually means  that it isn’t that secretive, nor is it made exclusive for this design. Usually these are your standard parts that are just obscured. I didn’t want to stop there. I found an discussion about the circuit on FreeStompBoxes forum ( you may need to log in to see it). Anyway, someone had bought one of these as a defunct unit and found MC14069 chip where IC4 should have been. So it’s pretty obvious that someone else had already tried repairing that unit – by replacing the chip for something that clearly isn’t the right one.


User Tube-Exorcist suggest that the original chip may be a AM79C11 (can’t find any info or datasheet about it), a obsolete quad JFET. Which would definitely make sense.

The design isn’t your run of the mill phaser. The LFO isn’t anything too exotic, but the modulation stage is. May the chip be what ever, it isn’t usual to have a quad JFET DIP16 chip in your phaser. If the chip is (and it probably is) a quad JFET, that would mean that the design is in its heart a four stage phaser. Still a sort of derivative to Phase 90, but not exactly. Either way. This offers some mystery and i like it. Besides, the four effective controls are also something that every other phaser doesn’t have.

How does it sound?
Lushy and wild. Not as deep as EHX Small Stone, but a lot more powerful than your average Phase 90 and its derivatives. From mild, slow sweeps to nearly massive wobble. Feedback and manual controls offer a lot of room for variation. It is very nice sounding phaser. Probably one of the greatest ones with only four phasing stages.

DOD FX91 Bass Overdrive

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

DOD-FX91-BODWhat is it?
DOD FX91 Bass Overdrive from DOD FX-series. Made in US around year 2000. No serial or battery door in tact, even though this late enclosure version has the door attached with a rod.

Bass overdrives are a fun genre. I’ve seen a few and nearly all of them are pretty standard overdrive circuits with no cut on the low frequencies. Which means that the designs may be slightly too fat for guitar, but i still think these should be tried on guitar too. America’s Pedal has some info about the unit. It apparently shares the circuit board with FX102 mystic Blues overdrive. There are more features for this version, which explains empty pads on both effects.


There is a schematic up on the web without the switching part. The drawing shows a buffer at the input, which passes the signal to pretty standard clipping amp and on to a Blend control which mixes the clean signal with the output of that clipping amp. That is followed by a tone stack and a recovery amp and a volume control. simple, but decent design.


Interesting little fact about these units is that at least some of the units have a factory error. The R3 should be 1K resistor, but some units have a resistor with 200R value on its place instead. This change adds a noticeable amount of gain coming out of the clipping amp, and it shifts the frequency around too. You can read more about it at DIYStompboxes forum.

How does it sound?
Fat and useful. Serves well as bass overdrive and the blend control works also well. There’s enough gain to get soaring blast sounds out. I’ve played with this with a bass and a guitar. Bass is obvious choice to use this with, but it offers very nice boost features for a guitar too. Reasonably  good effect.