John Bohlinger and the PG video crew visit the SoCal HQ of the revamped amp builder that has a growl for every guitarist.
Bad Cat Black Cat
The new Black Cat could’ve started with an “American” channel and a “British” channel, promising “classic” tones that remind you of your childhood guitar heroes, but you’ve already heard that promise and you’ve already played that amp. The Black Cat promise is different. Sure, we’re going to share some things in common with our forebears, like an all-tube signal path, powerful transformers, familiar controls and premium Celestion speakers, but what’s under the hood is uniquely Bad Cat.
The heart and soul of the new Black Cat is the immediate feeling of connection you get with it. It’s always lively and toneful, never feeling choked or constrained. Driven by a 20W power amp featuring a cathode bias pair of EL84s, it’s remarkably loud with enough headroom to play with a live drummer yet has an effective master volume control allowing for playing at home with no loss of tone.
- 20 Watts – 2 x EL84 Cathode-biased
- 2 Channels – Clean and Overdrive
- Channel-dedicated VOLUME and MASTER Controls
- Global TREBLE, BASS, and CUT Controls
- Bias-modulated Tremolo with INTENSITY and SPEED Controls
- Studio Quality Reverb
- Buffered Effects Loop
- 1 x 12” Celestion V30 “Bad Cat Custom” Speaker (Combo only)
- Two Button Footswitch and Slip Cover Included
Bad Cat Cub
The Cub was among the original Bad Cat designs – boutique and highly desired, it has been used on countless stages and recordings. Over the years, the Cub’s design has been steadily refined and improved. Every iteration brings something new to the table and our newest Cub is no exception. A single channel amplifier now with two gain modes, the updated original Cub circuitry is accessed in clean mode, while the overdriven mode features a newly voiced, more aggressive side to the Cub.
- 30W – 2x EL34 in Cathode-Bias Class AB Configuration
- Single Channel
- Clean and OD Gain Modes
- Two Discrete, Switchable Master Volume Controls
- Global Input Volume, Bass, Mid, Treble, and Presence Controls
- Studio Quality Reverb
- Buffered Effects Loop
- 1 x 12” Celestion V30 “Bad Cat Custom” Speaker (Combo Only)
- 2 Button Footswitch and Slip Cover Included
Bad Cat Hot Cat
The award winning Hot Cat amp was introduced in 2005 to great accolade. As pleased as we are with the original, the time had come for a whole new Hot Cat. We took everything we have learned over the last 20 years and applied it to this limitless reimagining of the Hot Cat. A two channel amplifier now with two gain modes per channel, the Hot Cat provides virtually limitless gain combinations as well as studio quality reverb, and an all new fully buffered effects loop.
- 45W – 2x EL34 in Fixed-Bias Class AB Configuration
- Two Channel
- Lo and Hi Gain Modes
- Two Discrete, Gain and Volume Controls per Channel
- Global Master, Bass, Mid, Treble, and Presence Controls
- Studio Quality Reverb
- Buffered Effects Loop
Bad Cat Lynx
Modern high gain players need tight low frequencies that punch and react quickly to staccato palm muting. They need high frequencies that cut without being harsh and grainy. They need effective midrange shaping with complexity and articulation. Finally, they need blistering gain with none of the noise. The new Lynx is designed to meet and exceed these demands. The Lynx has two distinct channels and a massive 7 gain stages. A new Lo/Hi switch allows exploration of gain stage topology not yet found in any other amplifier from Bad Cat.
- Designed and Built in Southern California
- 50W – 2x EL34 in fixed bias class AB configuration
- Two Channel
- Lo and Hi Gain Modes
- Channel-dedicated GAIN and VOLUME controls
- Global Master, Bass, Mid, Treble, and Presence Controls
- Adjustable noise gate circuit – Patent Applied For
- Buffered Effects Loop
- 12” Celestion Vintage 30 (Combo only)
Pedal users often get a sense of “mojo” from their stomps, but how technical is that magic? In the end, it may just come down to personal experience.
When an instrument, amplifier, or pedal seemingly has a certain magic to it, we often say it has “mojo.” The word “mojo” has very old roots, but came to relative prominence in America during the mid 20th century. There was a renaissance several decades later with the release of the hard-hitting spy documentary franchise, Austin Powers. It has come to represent anything empowering and special, but also connotes something ephemeral that can be found or lost.
There are some pedals that have mojo parts in them. These parts have unique powers or provenance that give any pedal they are installed in somewhat mythological properties. A classic example of this are the transistors in fuzz pedals. The NKT275, a transistor found in classic, vintage fuzzes, are so desired that unscrupulous vendors will sell fake versions to those seeking to tap into whatever mystical capabilities the real deal possesses.
I’ve heard from one well-regarded builder who keeps his stash of fuzz transistors in the fridge, and carefully solders each transistor’s lead with heat sinking to keep any of the magic from being consumed by soldering-iron heat. Fuzz circuits are often so simple, that any remarkable ability they have is attributed to the constituent parts instead of their overall design. So, whether they have unobtainable transistors, carbon composition resistors, or tropical fish capacitors, the consumer can assume this pedal is imbued with magical properties. This can be in spite of the fact that the transistors are likely the last of a production run of devices that have been picked over for the last 60 years, the resistors are poor performers by almost every quantifiable measure, and the most special thing about the capacitors may be their paint job.
Sometimes particular makes and models of pedals are the holders of mojo. The Klon Centaur, Nobels ODR-1, and EHX Deluxe Memory Man all have vintage variants where it’s widely held that they have something special about them. Over the years, changes have been made to each of these designs. Some of these changes are literally superficial: Changes have been made to enclosure printing or paint. Some changes are technically superficial: Components were changed, but aren’t in circuit positions that contribute to audible differences. Lastly, some substantive changes genuinely alter the end product.
“If it sounds as though I’m suspicious of mojo parts and pedals, it’s probably because I am.”
As a case study, take the Deluxe Memory Man (DMM). The DMM has gone through some cosmetic changes over the years. None of these things contributes to the sonic delivery of the pedal. At one point, the AC mains cable, internal transformer, and rectifier were ditched for a 24V DC input. Both of these power arrangements fed regulators with the same voltage outputs to the DMM circuitry. It is difficult to say that the audio circuitry in the pedal could be “aware” of the changes to power supply elements pre-regulator, and dubious that any resultant change could contribute to an audible difference in the pedal’s performance. That said, at one point in history, the pedal’s delay-producing bucket-brigade chips were changed out for different types due to parts availability. This is a real change that a subset of players can readily detect.
Here's the vintage version.
If it sounds as though I’m suspicious of mojo parts and pedals, it’s probably because I am, and I think you should be suspicious, too. However, try not to be cynical, as I absolutely do not think that it can all be written off as fantasy. Sometimes the sum of the parts is really greater than the whole. The pedals we love are not often complicated, but they are always comprehensive. Every constituent part of a device can vary at both conception and over time, and these parts can often combine in unique and interesting ways. The guiding principle of evaluating whether a particular stompbox is special has to be listening to it. Its pedigree and provenance might increase the chance of it being something special, but, as is often true, the proof of the pudding is in the tasting.
In my estimation, the most powerful part of mojo-equipped gear is our own faith in it. When we are convinced that something is good, we enjoy it more and play better, and when we enjoy it more and play better, we actually do sound better! There is a great deal of inaccessible gear with a well-earned representation for unlocking the best in those who play it. You can also be certain there is something readily available that may speak to you in the same way. Good luck in finding your mojo, baby
Never kit-built a stompbox? It’s easy—if you let pro pedal maker Alex Guaraldi of CopperSound be your guide. Here, he takes you on a step-by-step tour as he assembles a Build Your Own Clone Classic Delay.
For this DIY adventure, we’re going to be walking through the steps of building the Classic Delay pedal from Build Your Own Clone (BYOC), a company that has been a big player in the pedal-kit game for quite a while. This is a little more complicated than building a fuzz or overdrive, so I’m going to explain the process with great detail. Let’s get started.
Tools You’ll Need for This Project
- Soldering Iron
- #2 Phillips screwdriver
- Wire strippers
- 8 mm (5/16") nut driver/wrench
- 10 mm (25/64") nut driver/wrench
- 1/2" nut driver/wrench
- 14 mm (9/16") wrench
- Flush cutters
- Small needle-nosed pliers
- Third hands
These tools are available via a variety of suppliers, including StewMac, Allparts, and Amazon.
Step 1: Review the Instructions
The kit as it arrives (Photo 2).
Each BYOC kit comes with a detailed set of instructions in the form of a PDF that can easily be printed out. The Classic Delay’s instructions can be found at http://www.byocelectronics.com/classicdelayinstructions.pdf. They are 32 pages long, and I suggest following their steps as you read this article. Here, I will refer to specific page numbers that correspond with the steps. I’ve also taken photos to coincide with the steps. Within the instructions, we find a table of contents, pictures of the fully assembled pedal, a list of parts included, and step-by-step instructions from internal population and soldering to external assembly. With any kit, always read the instructions carefully before you start building.
Step 2: PCB set-up
A lot of pedal builders use PCB jigs that are specifically designed to hold several printed circuit boards so that they can be easily populated and soldered. These jigs are great tools. However, they’re not something a casual DIY enthusiast will often have. Essentially, all we really need to do is elevate the PCB off of the working surface so that the leads of the components can pass through the bottom side of the PCB. This is most helpful with components that can be soldered from the top side of the PCB. “Third hands” or “helping hands” (Photo 3) are a good tool for this job. So, what can we do to elevate the PCB if we don’t have access to third hands? Simply turn the enclosure upside down and place the PCB perpendicular (Photo 4). This will elevate the PCB enough to allow the component leads to easily pass through.
Step 3: Populating Resistors and Diodes (instructions page 9)
When populating PC boards, we typically like to work lowest to tallest in regards to the seating. Seating is how far above the PC board the component rests. Resistors and diodes sit pretty low to the PC board, so populating them first makes sense.Resistors: Remove the resistor from the paper ribbon, bend the leads (Photo 5), and place them through the corresponding pads (Photo 6) as directed. (A pad, by the way, is the term for the designated surface area of a component’s electric contact point.) A good practice is to populate all resistors of the same value before moving on to the next value. Populate all 1k resistors, then all 10k resistors, and so on.
Reading resistor color bands can be confusing, so don’t forget the reference guide on page 7 of the instructions. Here, you will find a detailed breakdown of each value and its corresponding 5-band reading (i.e. 1k = brown/black/black/brown/brown). Once all the resistors are placed, we can go on to the diode.
Diode: Next, we need to place the diode. Just like resistors, remove the diode from the paper ribbon, bend the leads, and place them through the corresponding pads. Diodes are polarized and need to be oriented a certain way (Photo 7). Be sure to match the diode to the outline on the PCB, as shown on page 10 of the instructions.
Step 4: Solder Resistors and Diode
Fire up the soldering iron! Once the iron is up to temperature (650 to 750 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on how fast you work), it’s time to get to work. Resistors and diodes can easily be soldered from the top side. So no need to flip the PCB over. Place the solder tip to the pad and feed the end of the tip a bit of solder. What we’re looking for here is solder that covers the entire pad, encapsulates the lead, and has a nice shine to it. Think of it like a shiny Hershey's Kiss shape (Photo 8). Repeat this step for every part. If you’re new to soldering, you should consult our concise guide to soldering, online or in PG’s October 2015 issue.
Soldering tip: Shut the iron off between population steps. Use a small, tabletop fan to blow the solder fumes away during soldering steps. Quick tutorial videos on YouTube are also of benefit here, for builders new to soldering.
Step 5: Trim the Leads
Next, place the PCB upside down to expose the leads (Photo 9). Using flush cutters, trim the excess leads (Photo 10).
Step 6: Soldering IC Sockets (page 11)
Place the 8-pin and 16-pin IC sockets into the corresponding pads on the top side of the PCB. We need to solder the IC socket pins from the bottom side. This means flipping the PCB over without having the IC sockets fall out. For this, I like to use a small piece of foam (Photo 11).
I place the foam on top of the PCB (Photo 12), then flip the foam and PCB simultaneously so the foam is below the PCB and the bottom side of the PCB is facing up (Photo 13).
For this soldering step, we’ll want to solder ONLY 1 pad and then flip the board over to ensure that the IC sockets are sitting flush. If the IC sockets are not flush, go back to the bottom side and reflow that solder pad while pressing the PCB downward and keeping it parallel to the work surface. Solder the remaining pads (Photo 14).
Step 7: Soldering the Voltage Regulator (page 12)
Place the voltage regulator into the three corresponding pads, while keeping mindful of the orientation. The flat side needs to match the outline on the PCB. Now, we’re ready to solder. This can be done from either side. Flush-cut the excess lead and we’re done here (Photo 15).
Step 8: Soldering the Trim Pot (page 13)
Place the trim pot (Photo 16) into its corresponding pads. For the trim pot provided, I found it easiest to solder the two exposed legs from the top side (Photo 17) and then the remaining leg from the bottom side.
Step 9: Soldering Ceramic and Film Caps (page 14)
Place all ceramic (pill-shaped) and film (red) caps into their respective locations. Again, use page 7 of the instructions as a reference for identifying the correct capacitors (i.e. 100n film cap, which may say “104” or “.1” or “u1” on the body). We’ll need to solder the pads from the bottom side. So, once again, the piece-of-foam trick can be your friend here. Flush-cut the excess lead and we’re done (Photo 18).
Tip: An alternate method would be to bend the leads away from each other so they stay in place when the PCB is flipped over (Photo 19).
Step 10: Soldering Electrolytic Caps (page 15)
Let’s do the same thing here as we just did in Step 9. One thing to note is that electrolytic capacitors are polarized and need to be populated in the correct orientation. This is denoted on both the PCB and the component itself. On the PCB, the positive pad is denoted by the square pad. On the electrolytic capacitor, the positive lead is the longer leg. Additionally, the negative lead of the cap also corresponds to the white strip on the body (Photo 20).
So, let’s go ahead and populate the caps and solder them with either the foam trick or by bending the leads. Flush-cut the excess lead and we’re done (Photo 21).
Step 11: Battery Snap and Hook-Up Wire
This DIY kit offers a battery option for those that feel so inclined. (See page 17 of the instructions.) For this step, we’ll need to connect the battery snap to the PCB. Before soldering, we’ll want to first feed the two wires through the holes directly below the solder pads. These holes act as strain relief for the battery snap and have + and - signs next to them (Photo 22). Then, simply solder the red wire to the positive (+) pad and the black wire to the negative (-) pad (Photo 23).
Next, we need to cut and strip the included wire (page 18). We need four 2.5" pieces of wire, and one 1.5" piece (Photo 24).
Place the 2.5" wires into the top side of the solder pads for in, out, and the two courtesy grounds—all handily marked. Then, solder from the bottom side. Do the same for the 1.5" wire going to the ring pad (Photo 25).
Tip: If painting the enclosure is desired, this is the last chance you’ll have to do it. After this, there will be components mounted to the chassis.
Step 12: Install DC Jack (page 19)
Place the DC jack into the large hole on the back heel of the enclosure and tighten the nut using a 14 mm (9/16") wrench (Photo 26).
Step 13: Potentiometers and Status LED (pages 20 and 21)
The included instructions for this next part have you mate the PCB to the inside of the enclosure. This will help line up the pots and LED. However, afterwards it will make soldering the remaining wire more difficult. Here’s a trick we can do that gives us the benefits of using the enclosure to help with pot alignment without needing to take the PCB out afterwards to solder the remaining wires. What we’ll want to do is simply use the face of the enclosure to hold the pots and set the LED height. Additionally, we can use the flush cutters to help balance the PCB (Photo 27). Be sure to have the long lead of the LED mate with the square pad, then solder away!
Step 14: Final Hook-Up Wire
My steps continue to vary slightly from the instructions throughout the rest of the build, so you might want to do a side-by-side comparison. Let’s finish the wire for the DC jack next. Cut and strip three 1.5" pieces. These need to be placed into the three power pads at the top of the PCB marked -, +, + , as in Photo 28.
Next, cut and strip five more 1.5" pieces. Place these in the footswitch pads at the bottom of the PCB marked 1, 2, 5, 7, 8 as shown in Photo 29.
Last wire! Cut one 1.5" piece. Only for this one, strip half an inch off of one side (Photo 30). Place the short-stripped side into the footswitch pad labeled 4.
Step 15: Footswitch prep
For the footswitch, we need to jump lugs 3 and 6. To do this, we’ll use the remaining wire. Place the footswitch into the correct hole on the face of the enclosure. Then, cut a 1" piece of wire and strip half of it. Feed the exposed wire through lug 3 and into lug 6 and then solder both (Photo 31). Cut the excess wire.
Step 16: Insert the IC
Now, we’re ready to insert the integrated circuits into their respective sockets. These need to be placed in the correct way, and there are two ways to identify them. Pin 1 is the top left leg of the IC—which is the rectangular black object in Photo 32. These legs are marked with a small dot in the top left corner or the upside of the IC is marked with a debossed half circle.
Step 17: Mounting and Final Soldering
PCB: Now for the real fun! We’re ready to start inserting chassis-mounted components. Let’s start with the populated PCB. Place the PCB with the three pots lining up with the drilled holes, place the pot washers on the shafts, and then tighten the pot nuts using a 10 mm (25/64") nut driver/wrench, for the results in Photo 33.
Footswitch: Now that the PCB is securely tightened, let’s go ahead and do the same for the footswitch. Remove all hardware from the footswitch bushing except for one nut and the lock washer (Photo 34).
Feed the footswitch through the footswitch hole, making sure that the footswitch has the two poles that we soldered together facing the bottom left (Photo 35).
Next, place the plastic washer onto the bushing (optional), and tighten the hex nut with a 14 mm (9/16") wrench (Photo 36).
Lets go ahead and solder the footswitch wires to their respective footswitch poles (Photo 37). See the instructions’ page 26 for pole-numbering reference.
Tip: Solder from the top row down—i.e. 1, 4, 7, then 2, 5, 8.Another tip: Remember that the wire for pole 4 also connects to pole 9.
Step 18: DC Jack
Next, we’ll need to solder the three wires that go to the DC jack, as explained in page 22 of the instructions. Start with the middle wire, since it sits the lowest and will be easier to get at without the other two wires in the way (Photo 38).
Step 19: Audio Jacks
The last chassis-mounted components are the two audio jacks. Let’s do the stereo input jack first. Go to page 24 of the instructions to see how these jacks are oriented. The lock washer goes on the bushing first, then gets placed into the hole to the left of the DC jack. Then, place the washer onto the bushing and tighten the hex nut with a 1/2" nut driver/wrench.
Follow the same steps for the mono output jack. And then, it’s the final soldering step: Solder the wires to the appropriate lugs on the audio jacks (Photo 39), as on instructions page 28. Then, finally, place the knobs on, tighten them down, and we’re done!