Basic Modding Supplies
Each of the modifications discussed here require the following:
• Soldering iron
• 60/40 rosin-core solder (don’t buy lead-free)
• Solder sucker (not mandatory, but very helpful)
• Desoldering braid
• Small side cuts/wire cutters
• Felt-tip marker
If you’ve ever owned an Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer or a Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive, you’ve probably noticed two things: You like the way they sound, but they could also really use a little something more. We’ve come up with some custom modifications that we feel give these pedals that “something more”—and the best part is that you can do the mods on your own! All you need to be able to do is follow instructions and know how to solder and desolder. (If you haven’t soldered before—or if you are a bit rusty and need a refresher—go to YouTube and watch CuriousInventor.com’s video “How and WHY to Solder Correctly,” and ExpertVillage.com’s “How to Solder: Removing Solder.”)
Modifying pedals can be an intensely rewarding experience—it’s like creating an entirely new pedal that feels and breathes differently than before. Sometimes it’s a battle, a game of wits, with you pitted against a mechanism that you so bravely took apart with the intentions of creating something more wonderful and awe inspiring. Sometimes it can be an emotional rollercoaster, especially if you are somewhat attached to the pedals that you are modifying. It’s very frustrating to be pumped up to play through your newly modded pedal and have it not work. That’s why it’s so crucial to follow all of the instructions outlined in this article. No one wants to break a perfectly good pedal while trying to “improve” it. Fortunately, if you follow the instructions outlined here, you’ll have an awesome-sounding pedal for you and the rest of the world to enjoy for the rest of your musical days—and that is where the fun lies.
Okay, let’s get started!
There are generally five stages to pedal modding, depending on how successful you are with replacing and/or adding parts the first time around. Read them carefully and remember to flip back and reference them at any point during the mod process to make sure you’re on the right track. One very important warning before moving on to the stages:
Avoid the temptation to try to work on two mods simultaneously. For example, don’t try to do the true-bypass mod while doing the variable mid-control mod. Working on different mods simultaneously usually makes the troubleshooting process a nightmare. Complete one modification starting at stage 1 and going through stage 5. Once that mod is finished, start over at stage 1 with the next mod.
Stage 1: Assess Mod Difficulty
This first stage is important because it’s when you decide whether to attempt a specific modification. The steps include:
1. Read all of the instructions.
2. Make a supply list (if one is not provided).
3. Determine the overall difficulty of the modification.
4. Decide whether or not you can pull off the mod without adversely affecting your pedal.
This last step is very important. If you don’t feel comfortable with the mod, don’t do it! Start with something easier and work your way up to build confidence and skill. Some of the modifications we’re talking about here are pretty tricky, and they will be much more difficult (though not impossible) for beginners. Note: Neither I nor anyone at my company, Wampler Pedals, can provide technical support for these modifications or assume responsibility for pedals damaged while performing these mods. If these modifications are too difficult for you, we may be able to perform them on your pedal, depending on our workload at the time. Visit wamplerpedals.com and click the Contact link for more details.
Stage 2: Prep for the Mod
If, in stage 1, you decided the mod isn’t a good idea at the moment, this stage includes boxing up your pedal and sending it in to us. If you are doing the mod, the steps include:
1. Turn on your soldering iron. I do this first so that it will be up
to temperature by the time I am done with the rest of the steps.
2. Gather parts, wire, and tools as described in your supply list.
3. If you use a sponge to clean your iron’s tip, wet it now.
4. Take a deep breath.
Stage 3: Mod Time!
This is the stage where it all happens. The steps include:
1. Remove the pedal’s back panel and take pictures of how the
circuit board and other internal parts are oriented before making
2. Take the circuit board out of the pedal’s enclosure. Note: Some circuit boards—including those in Boss and Ibanez units—cannot be removed all the way due to the way they are wired. In those cases, you can make it easier to move the circuit board around while it’s still attached to the case by loosening the potentiometers and/or the 1/4" jacks—but be careful not to break the wires.
3. Use a felt-tip marker to mark the leads of the components that need to be removed from the circuit on the solder side of the circuit board. Note: If you accidentally mark the wrong component, you can either just leave the mark on there as it will not affect the sound, or you can lightly heat the joint with your iron to remove the mark.
4. Remove the first component and replace it with the new one using the desoldering and soldering techniques learned in the videos mentioned at the beginning of this article.
5. Test the pedal to make sure it still works after the new component is in the circuit. Testing after each component change can save you a lot of time and frustration in the troubleshooting process, because you will know the exact point at which the circuit failed. You don’t have to put the circuit board back in the case—just make sure the 1/4" jacks are still connected to the case to ensure proper grounding.
6. Continue replacing or adding parts, one at a time—and testing the pedal after each addition or replacement—until the mod is complete.
Stage 4: Troubleshooting
If stage 3 went well and your stompbox works properly, skip this step. If not:
1. Relax! It’s fairly common for a pedal not to work right after
modding due to some easy-to-make mistakes.
2. Check to see if everything that is supposed to be grounded is grounded, and that everything that shouldn’t be grounded isn’t. Look for places where the input or output jack may be touching the case where it shouldn’t be. Also, check that the solder side of the circuit board is not in direct contact with the case. In the case of the true-bypass mod, check to make sure the lugs of the footswitch are not touching the case. Double-check all the solder joints. Note: It often helps to use a multimeter here. For a great video on how to use them, go to YouTube and search for AfroTechMods’ “THE BEST Multimeter Tutorial (HD).”
3. If you’re still having problems, watch Chromesphere.com’s YouTube video called “DIY Guitar Pedal Tutorial 9: Fault Diagnosing” to see several things you can check first-hand.
Stage 5: Final Testing
This is the most exciting stage—it’s where all your hard work pays off with an awesome, unique, and fresh-sounding pedal. The steps include:
1. After testing the pedal with the modification completed,
carefully put the pedal back together, making sure to tighten
everything down snug—but leave the back plate off.
2. Test the pedal one last time.
3. If it still works properly, install the back plate.
Now that you know all the stages, let’s get on to the fun stuff! All of the following mods are separate projects. You can do one of them, all of them, or maybe pick and choose two or three. No matter what mods you choose to do, your pedal will sound great when you’re done. However, if you decide to do the true-bypass mod, I suggest doing it first because you’re going to remove a couple of FETs, diodes, resistors, and capacitors, which will change the tone of your pedal a bit—and you don’t want to get the tone you want dialed in with these other mods only to have it changed by making it true-bypass. Just keep in mind that in the pictures shown here, I did my true-bypass mod last so there wasn’t a big hole in the unit for all of the pictures.