BYOC Overdrive 2
Based on: Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer
Time to Build: about 8 hours
Tools: Soldering iron w/ pencil tip, solder, screwdriver, wire clippers (tweezers and/ or needle-nose pliers are helpful).
Price: $94.99; MOSFET conversion kit $7.99
Complexity: 3 (out of 5)
BYOC’s Overdrive 1 was a clone of the original TS808 circuit, considered the Holy Grail of Tube Screamers by enthusiasts. It was also one of BYOC’s best selling kits, so it was only natural when creating a new iteration of the kit to try and take it a step farther. The OD2 features two separate circuits integrated into a single box. The overdrive circuit is pretty much a Tube Screamer with some favorite mods added in and made switchable. A completely independent clean boost is available at the stomp of a switch. There is also a kit available to convert some or all of the circuit to MOSFET components, which some claim gives it a more tube-like and natural sounding drive at the expense of sometimes being noisier. Three internal trimpots allow you to tweak the min. and max. distortion and loudness. It’s a very flexible pedal.
Having modded some guitars and stompboxes in the past, I felt fairly confident about my soldering skills, but my grasp of the principles of electronics is about the same as my grasp of experimental neurosurgery, which is to say non-existent, so looking at the schematic at the end of the manual was useless to me. Fortunately, the instructions are very much idiot-friendly, with photographs of the PCB and colored outlines detailing the locations of components. Still, for a total newcomer to the soldering iron, this project might present a real challenge.
The first thing I did was dump out all the components onto a big piece of cardboard, sort them out, tape them down and write their values beside them with a sharpie. The parts list provided in the manual is great for this. I also used a web-based resistor color code calculator to provide me with the values for the many resistors in the kit; a number of such calculators can be easily found with Google. I did the same for the MOSFET kit’s components separately. Except for a mysterious capacitor that didn’t seem to be listed (but was used later in the build), and a still-mysterious pot that wasn’t mentioned anywhere at all, everything was accounted for. My kit was missing nothing.
The end of the manual covers options for building the MOSFET conversions. Different stages of the circuit can be built to standard or MOSFET specs, and each has its own effect. The boost and clipping stages I chose to go MOSFET on, so one of the most challenging aspects of my build was using the diagrams at the end of the manual to isolate those stages on the PCB, and then figuring out which components to swap out and which not to. Each step in the manual tells you what to do differently if you’re using the MOSFET kit, but it assumes that you’re building everything that way. If you want a more straightforward build, the instructions are quite clear, and it’s fairly simple.
The only moment of ambiguity came when I was about to solder the footswitch wires to the PCB. The manual had thus far used the terms like component side to refer to the sides of the board, but now simply told me to “load the wires in from the top and solder on the bottom side.” To be fair, had
I taken a moment to think about how everything was to fit in the enclosure I would have made the correct decision. Instead, I figured the top side of the board must be the side that will face up when the pedal is completed. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.
It sounds like a good Tube Screamer: the overdrive is great, with that edgy sort of breakup I love, and the switchable mods allow for the selection of 3 EQ settings: Normal (the TS’s characteristic midrange hump), Full (a flatter EQ) and Fat (bass boost). Another switch lets you pick your clipping mode: silicon diodes or LEDs (or MOSFET transistors, if you build it that way) or “lift,” which bypasses the clipping stage entirely. It’s as great-sounding a pedal as you’d expect a clone of the revered 808 to be.
There are some challenges to building this kit, but it can be done easily enough with time and patience. If you’ve never held a soldering iron before, consider trying a simpler kit first to get a feel for it, but once the motor skills are in place, little to no electronics know-how is needed to succeed. For the feeling of achievement that comes from building something practical, and some DIY cred, BYOC kits are an excellent option. —IM