Thursday, June 26, 2014

DIY Audio

Hi my name's JM, I'm a recent member of HackRVA. Since joining I've been working on some guitar effects pedal clones from You can see my build picture updates on our Flickr, here's the direct link to the album:

I've started with a ProCo Rat clone, its a simple op-amp based distortion pedal with three settings for volume, distortion and filter. I selected this pedal mainly because there was an instructable ( that had some comments on off-board setups with wiring shown. In the pipe I have a couple other distortion pedals I'd like to try my hand at, at Tonepad there are schematics for the Ampeg Scrambler and the Marshall GUVNOR. Down the road I'd really like to build a flanger, however, the designs for phasers and flangers that I've found all involve multiple IC's with complex boards.

So why make all of the pedals to begin with? Well my brother is a great guitarist. I'm nearly 30 and decided to revisit some life goals. One of the things I've always wanted to do but never stuck with was start a band. The kit I'm building at HackRVA will hopefully turn into the gear that we gig with. Looking ahead a little we have plans to start writing songs and practicing in about six months or so. Between now and then I'm doing daily metronome practice to hone in my metal picking skills (alternate picking, chugging, etc). I'll keep updating the flickr album and the project blog here with project milestones. The component orders to populate the boards are in the mail. Everything that I need to have a functioning pedal should be here in about a week. Assembly will take place sometime next week on the Rat. There are still some components I need to pick up / salvage, for instance a stomp-switch, however I think I can just jump the switch to make sure the circuit works as it should. Keep an eye out in about two weeks or so for a video (hopefully) showing a working distortion pedal. Once the team at the shop finishes the laser cutter project also look for some cool under-lit case designs, either in acrylic or baltic birch ply.

I wanted to start small because I don't have much of a background in electronics. I'm a nurse, although while I was in school I spent some time as an engineering student and took a couple basic circuits courses. I remember at the time wanting to get into some DIY audio, tube amplifiers and the like but I quickly realized I couldn't make that interest a reality. Mainly because of a lack of money and expertise. I feel like these two environmental factors are a large reason why many people choose to sit on the couch and watch Netflix instead of getting out there and making something. Luckily thats where HackRVA came in to the equation. At Hack I had immediate access to all of the tools needed to etch the boards, as well as fabricate the box (coming in the next several weeks). Eventually I'll even be able to add some cool embellishments (laser cutting on the case-work for instance). Materials costs are low, and all of the specialized tools are right here. At Hack you also have access to expertise. It was difficult sourcing the components to populate the boards. Mouser and DigiKey can be overwhelming places. Its nice to have access to a Makerspace where you can pull someone aside and have them help you dial in your parts list. The more you talk to people and read into the blogs and build logs the more you find interesting new avenues to explore, for instance I just ran accross Dustin's APC build tonight, and am looking forward to making one in the future.