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Pedal Q & A, Part Three

March 17, 2009
Greetings pedalheads! Welcome back to “Stomp School.” This month we’ll conclude our Q & A segment with this last batch of reader questions. This was a great idea that worked out very nicely, so we may revisit the Stomp School Q & A format again down the line. In the meantime, if you have any questions for us, please feel free to send them to stompschool@formusiciansonly.com. Now, let’s answer some questions…

Q: My true-bypass pedal is popping, what’s wrong?

A: All pedals with true bypass are prone to pop a little when the switch is clicked on, but most are designed to pop the minimum amount possible. When you first plug into some true-bypass pedals, they will pop very loudly until the capacitors charge up. This will diminish after the switches are cycled and a few minutes have passed. Popping may be louder when pedals are turned up louder. To test for actual problems, check it with just guitar > that pedal > amp. Test it with another amp too; a leaky input cap or preamp tube on an amp can make a truebypass pedal pop. The reason to remove other pedals from the signal path is that they can cause a true-bypass pedal to pop if one of the other pedals has a DC leak (bad capacitor). Also try a new battery or power supply, as a weak one can cause it to pop.

Q: I am running a clean boost into my overdrive pedal, but it’s not getting any louder.

A: The order of a clean boost and a dirt pedal (overdrive or distortion) determines what the clean boost will do. A clean boost into a distortion pedal will add more distortion. That’s because the distortion pedal is already clipping, and it will just clip more when you hit it harder. That’s also why a small amp cranked up (or a Marshall on 10) does not get louder when you hit it with a louder signal, it’s already out of headroom so it can only distort more. This is how a lot of us used the Electro-Harmonix LPB-1 back in the day, to overdrive the amp. A clean boost after a dirt pedal, however, will increase the volume without adding more distortion. So put it where it will do what you want (or get two: one for more distortion and one for more volume!)

Q: My new pedal with true-bypass is not turning on! Help!

A: Often a “bad switch” is just a new switch where the internal rocker has not seated quite right yet, especially after shipping—it can get a little out-of-whack. First try to get the switch set right by turning it on and off a dozen or so times rapidly. That will usually fix the switch problem. If not, it’s best to try resoldering the switch, as that will tend to get everything flowing well. Touch up the solder joint on the switch with the problem by adding a little solder to each lug. You need to do it quickly without heating up the switch too much. You also need to allow the switch to cool down a little before doing the next switch lug. Make sure to use SN60 or SN63 electronic solder with flux, made for electronics, not plumbing solder. That usually fixes a new switch problem.

Q: Can you modify or repair my (insert $30 plastic happy-meal toy brand here) pedal?

A: The problem with cheap pedals like that is that they use cheap proprietary parts (jacks, switches, pots, etc). These often break and can’t be replaced, as the sturdy parts that are used in handmade, handwired pedals won’t fit. They use circuit boards that have all the parts mounted on them in order to make the pedals cheaply with machine soldering.

In most cases, they also cannot be modified for true bypass, as they don’t have free mounted stomp switches with wires that can be redone. So mods or repairs on these pedals will cost as much or more than getting new one, which will probably break soon as well. We recommend investing in a quality pedal that will last longer and can be repaired if it is broken, or modified for improvements.

Well, that’s it for now. Let us know if you have any questions for future Q & A segments. And, as always, check back with us again next month for more pedal mania. Until then, keep on stompin’!



Tom Hughes
(a.k.a. Analog Tom) is the owner and proprietor of For Musicians Only (formusiciansonly.com) and author of Analog Man’s Guide To Vintage Effects. Questions or comments about this article can be sent to: stompschool@formusiciansonly.com.

Analog Man
(analogman.com) is one of the largest boutique effects manufacturers and retailers in the business, established by “Analog” Mike Piera in 1993. Mike can be reached at AnalogMike@aol.com.