Phase 90

there’s been a hole on my pedalboard these last few months and I finally got around to fixing it. I usually don’t use many modulation pedals at all. My board is usually an excessive amount of dirt pedals, one or two delays, and maybe a compressor. If I’m feeling extra adventurous I’ll add a tremolo. The only modulation pedal I really truly enjoy is a good ol’ phase shift. After selling my Black Russian Small Stone several months ago (due to it’s horrible bypass, enormous size, and failing capacitors) I decided instead of replacing it with another Small Stone I’d try building it’s arch nemesis, the MXR Phase 90. Using the Vero layout I found at Sabrotone.com and several tips from Tonepad.com I set out to build a Phase 90 with a couple tricks up its sleeves.

A little bit of an oversimplified background: The Phase 90 has 2 variations; The “Script” model, and the “Block” model. Basically, IIRC, the Script model was the first model released by MXR back in the 70’s. A few years later, they made several modifications to the circuit and thus the “Block” version was born. One of these modifications is the addition of a feedback resistor (the infamous R28) which adds a bit of distortion to the signal, but also makes the phase effect a bit more pronounced. The Script version lacks this feature, and is a bit smoother, more subtle, and cleaner. From previous experience with both models I decided to forgo the mode switch on the vero layout and just have a script mode.

Modifications: One of the first modifications I wanted to add was an “Intensity” or “Depth” knob. There are two schools of thought regarding how to do this, and they both involve replacing the 1M resistor (R17 on Harold’s layout) with a resistor and a pot. I’ve heard of people using a very small valued resistor (like 680 ohms) with a 1M Linear pot, but for those of us who don’t want that much versatility you can swap in a 500K-ish resistor with a 500K pot. I opted for the latter, and it still gives me quite a range of sounds that I can fine tune.

Modified Phase 90 Gutshot

Speaking of fine tuning, the other modification I added was a quasi volume pot. Removing the 150K resistor located between the base and collector of the 2n4125 (R_____ on Harold’s layout) and replacing it with a 100K resistor in line with a 100K pot acts like a very small range volume pot that will help greatly in matching the bypass volume with that of the effected signal. I always hated the volume drop on my Small Stone, and while the volume pot doesn’t have a great amount of “range”, it certainly helps in achieving a balanced level.

Matching JFETS: The most important part of building a phase 90 (or 45, or 100) is ensuring that you use matched JFETS. Instead of buying a pre-matched quad I decided to buy a bulk set (50) and match them myself. Using the following schematic and my trusty multimeter I was able to find multiple matched quads for the same price as buying one pre-matched set.

JFET Matcher Vero

JFET Matcher Vero layout

Now if I decide to build another phaser down the line I’ll already have the JFETS matched and ready to go.

JFET Matcher

Hooked up to my DMM.

Finish: Here’s a fun idea. I haven’t yet decided on artwork for this pedal, so feel free to comment and let me know what you think I should put on the pedal. It has a bright green LED, if that helps with inspiration.

Phase 90

 

Paul Cochrane Timmy

Here’s my take one the Danelectro Cool Cat Transparent Overdrive, err, the Lovepedal Amp 11, sorry, the Paul Cochrane Timmy. In the days where 90% of boutique dirt pedals are based on either a Fuzz Face, a Tube Screamer, or a Big Muff, it’s nice to see something original sound so good. This pedal is a great low to mid gain overdrive that compliments your current rig, rather than colour it. Known for it’s transparency, it sounds great boosting a slightly overdriven amp. While I find it somewhat buzzy at lower volumes with the gain knob past noon, if you turn up your amp and turn the pedal’s gain down that buzziness disappears. This pedal won’t turn your Gorilla amp and Sears guitar into Eric Johnson’s wet dream, but if you already have a decent guitar and tube amp this may be the pedal to use to get “your” tone, with more gain and impeccable transparency.

I won’t post the schematic to this one, as Paul is a great guy, and sells this pedal at a very reasonable price. I just like building my own gear, as I can tweak the circuit as I go. I didn’t really mod this pedal too much. The only real modification I did was swapping one silicon diode with a germanium, just to switch it up a bit. The diode toggle switch has 3 settings. The middle setting is stock, with 4 silicon diodes. The top position adds 2 additional silicon diodes, while the bottom position adds the previously mentioned germanium diode (1N34A). To be honest I think I prefer the stock position. Here’s how she looks on the inside.

Paul Cochrane Timmy Clone Gutshot

I kept the enclosure a basic glossy white, and added a green LED (I’ve been all about the green LEDs these last few builds). I really enjoy the 2 band EQ; the pedal does sound a bit bright on my setup, but with the treble cut control I can tame most of it out without the pedal sounding muddy. While the pedal doesn’t have high amount of gain it works great as a clean boost as the sheer volume of the pedal can really punish your amp (transparently, of course).

Paul Cochrane Timmy Clone

 

 

Rangemaster in an Altoids Tin

And now for something completely different. After running out of Hammond enclosures recently I started to look for other cases to hold pedals. I came across a website that had a small circuit (I think it was an LED light) inside an Altoids mint tin, and I thought “well I could probably fit a circuit in there!” and thus this Rangemaster was born.

A little background first. The Dallas Rangemaster was one of the first treble boosters, and was widely used in the late 1960s and early 1970s by guitarists such as Eric Clapton, Tony Iommi and Richie Blackmore. It’s a treble booster that uses a single germanium transistor (either an OC44 or an OC71) and wasn’t originally a pedal, but a unit that would sit on top of your amp. While the originals are rare and difficult to find, many reissues have been released over the years. In the spirit of the original amp-top unit, I decided to use an Altoids mint tin to build my own version of this classic circuit.

It’s a very simple circuit to build, with 4 caps, 3 resistors, 1 pot, and 1 germanium transistor. I used a NOS OC44 in my build, but I used a socket, so I can swap it out if I’d like to experiment with other germaniums.

Rangemaster vero

Make sure to reverse pot lugs 1 & 3 as the layout is incorrect.

Originally I thought it would be difficult to fit everything into the enclosure, but after measuring I found there was plenty of room for the switch, battery, jacks, pot, and circuit board. Because it is a positive ground pedal I would not be able to daisy chain it with the majority of my other pedals, so I omitted adding a power jack. Without an LED I figured the power draw would be very low, so I’m not concerned with the fact that it’s only battery powered. Here’s what I ended up with.

Rangemaster Gutshot

As you can see there is plenty of room left in the circuit. I lined the bottom of the case with sticky-backed foam, to avoid any shorts. The enclosure is fairly fragile, as these tins are designed to hold mints, not boutique guitar pedals. But as an amp-top effect it works out great.

Altoids Rangemaster

How does it sound? Absolutely incredible. I have a buddy who has a reissue Dallas Rangemaster and we plan on AB’ing it in the near future. I’ll keep you posted on the results, but in the mean time I’ll say that it sounds great with my Strat into a Tweed Champ, very similar to the set-up used by a very well known blues player 😉

%d bloggers like this: