An affordable but challenging DIY tube distortion pedal.
|Download Example 1
|Clip recorded with a 1978 Greco EG-700 into a Fender Twin Reverb combo reissue.|
That obsession is the basis for most small startups that design and produce our favorite boutique equipment. Interestingly, it has also spawned a branch of the industry that allows players to build gear for themselves. Mod Kits DIY is one of those companies, offering pedal and amp kits to players who have a taste for tinkering. With practically non-existent labor costs, Mod Kits DIY can afford to price their products well within the budgets of everyday players. Two of their kits—the Verb (also reviewed) and the Persuader—offer more than just time-honored reverb effects and tube overdrive. These kits also provide us the satisfaction of building our own tone generators.
A 12AX7-powered tube overdrive unit with Volume and Gain controls to shape its tone, the Persuader is essentially a tube preamp in a pedal form. For you tube circuit-enthusiasts out there, the 12AX7 operates in a starved plate mode, pushed by a solid-state gain boost circuit. The kit ships with an inexpensive Chinese 12AX7 tube, along with a detailed set of instructions that matched the heftiness of those included with the Verb kit. As with the Verb, Mod Kits recommends powering the Persuader from a 9V adaptor, though the pedal works with a 9V battery.
The Persuader’s circuit relies on the same tag-board, point-to-point build that the Verb shares, but it’s a much more intricate project due to the number of contact points that need to be soldered. Several board components share the same tag points, and therefore require having their leads bent and secured in place until other parts have been added many steps later.
One of the more frustrating aspects of assembling the kit was having to install small board components—such as resistors, transistors, and capacitors—then add wiring, and then follow that with yet more small components. This is where knowing how to neatly tuck wire really comes into play. Otherwise, it’s easy to let the whole shebang degenerate into a rat’s-nest of wires that can simply get in the way of your work.
It was a tedious process, but worth it in the end. After putting the Persuader between my 1978 Greco EG-700 and a Vox AC30CC2 combo, I half expected a smooth, low-key, tube distortion. But what I got was a snarling, vintage distortion with a fuzz-like bite in the upper registers. The tone stayed tight and percussive as I ranged up and down the neck with single-note funk riffs and seventh chords.
Because the Persuader uses a 12AX7 preamp tube, there was nothing stopping me from taming the device by replacing it with a lower gain 12AT7. This gave the Persuader more headroom and imparted a glassier sheen to the midrange and top end. Popping in a Groove Tubes Mullard ECC83 reissue darkened the tone considerably, nudging the Persuader into the realm of classic-rock fuzz. I would have appreciated a rotary tone control, but after building the kit I realized there would have been hardly enough room to fit another potentiometer in the enclosure.
For vintage distortion and fuzzy tones on a budget, the Persuader is an excellent choice. It’s not the easiest kit to build, but certainly one of the most rewarding. And, costing just below $65, the price is right too.
you’re after a simple tube distortion that can generate some great fuzz-like tones.
you need a more modern overdrive.
Street $64.95 - Mod Kits DIY - modkitsdiy.com
Click here to read our review of The Verb...