How today's vintage-authentic pedal builders meticulously recreate the dirty sounds of the past.
Stompboxes are made so, so many different ways—especially when it comes to the construction of the circuitry inside. Most builders today use modern surface-mount technology, others adopt the older method of using through-hole components, and some employ a mixture of both to create their circuits.
But there is a growing league of builders out there who specialize in making classic renditions of fuzz and dirt pedals the old-fashioned way: point-to-point style, completely by hand. What this means is that instead of the parts being soldered to a circuit board, they are connected directly to each other—the same way many vintage amplifiers were built, and a method still used by many high-end boutique amp makers.
The enclosures for these pedals are often fashioned to pay homage to the look of the stompboxes of yesteryear, complete with that relic'd patina and sweet name badge. Often, the aesthetic and art of this style of building pedals produces quite elegant results, both sonically and visually.
The circuits inside typically include just a handful of parts. The heart and soul of the process involves hunting down period-specific components (ideally, parts from the same time period as the parts used in building the original pedal) that must measure within a certain range and be meticulously tuned to each other. After all, it takes just the right combination to produce those ripping, classic fuzz tones we all know and love. Many point-to-point builders salvage parts out of broken electronics from the 1950s and 1960s, while simultaneously searching the web for new-old-stock, or NOS, components. Most of these components are long out of production, so there's quite a bit of treasure hunting involved in the production of these units. But troves of transistors and other components from the '60s and earlier can still be found … with luck and good intel.
"I feel like it's better to create boxes that will outlive me and be serviceable forever." —Patrick Brown of Collector Effectors
I recently spoke to two of these dedicated pedal revivalists to get some insight on their motivation and methods. Patrick Brown of Collector Effectors, based in Greensboro, North Carolina, builds his fuzzes—Buzzarounds, Tone Benders, Fuzz Faces—point-to-point, just loaded with gorgeous old parts, all neatly and perfectly arrayed. I asked Patrick what inspires him to build old-school while putting his own twist on things aesthetically.
"I think it's cool when people kind of take a classic and refine it," he says. "There's something great about getting that primitive gnarly-ness. I also like the idea that a unit can be repaired a few times with the old through-hole parts. I don't like the idea of a disposable circuit. I feel like it's better to create boxes that will outlive me and be serviceable forever, rather than go to a landfill, which is where unused tech ends up."Across the Atlantic Ocean, in Granada, Spain, César de Vicente from Lo-Fi Mind Effects is also dedicated to making pedals of the past—with a psychedelic vibe—part of the present day, with takes on the Rangemaster, Fuzz Face, Tone Bender, and more. His enclosures have an appealing and often weathered industrial look. I asked him what he finds appealing about old-school point-to-point builds.
This may look like a wall of junk electronics, in the Lo-Fi Mind Effects workshop, but as a resource for vintage transistors and other parts, it's solid gold.
"I like all kinds of constructions—designing PCBs and tagboards. But point-to-point has something special. The first time I saw the insides of a Hiwatt DR103 amp, I was mesmerized. Since then, I always try to build something that could match that beauty."
César has a wall of ancient, gutted radios in his workshop. The piles span from floor to ceiling, and they're part of his formula for finding vintage components. He rescues the rare-as-hen's-teeth transistors and other parts from these broken radios and uses them in his pedals. And he says he might even use the radio enclosures to build little amps someday.If you want to get a better appreciation for point-to-point work, take a close look inside a vintage or new-build old-school pedal the next time you've got its bottom cover off. You just might be inspired.
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Flare is a dual-function pedal with a tube-like booster and a 1970s-style ring modulator effect that can be played separately or together.
Flare’s ring modulator is based on the iconic tone of the original Dan Armstrong Green Ringer. This vintage classic was made famous by Frank Zappa who loved the unusual modulations created by generating a harmonic octave over notes. Messiah’s version offers two control knobs: a “Sparkle” tone attenuator and output Level control. Its taupe-gold body, purple and green knobs and stick-figure rock ’n’ roller holding up a flame convey an appropriately rockin’70s vibe.
In a unique twist, Messiah’s Flare pairs the ringer with a warm tube-style boost instead of a fuzz. Flare feeds the booster into the ringer for an extra punch, while preserving the Green Ringerspirit. The ringer side also turns any fuzz into an octafuzz, and it has the ability to quiet signal background noise fed through it.
The booster side features a single Boost knob to control the MOSFET circuit, making it very tube-amp-friendly with a warm, organic boost and gain of up to 32dB.
The pedal is a distinct improvement over the 1970s pedal that inspired it. “Most ringer pedals don’t track well,” Tom Hejda, owner of Messiah Guitars. “The player can’t rely on repeating the same effect even with the most consistently played notes. We carefully matched the components, so our ringer follows your every move, producing that slightly dirty octave you expect on demand.”
Messiah developed this vintage octave pedal with flexible features so that people who love that messy, dirty Zappa-esque sound can get there with ease but there’s also something for those who have not fallen in love with fuzz or the Green Ringer alone. Flare offers an array of sonic options while retaining simplicity in the controls.
Each Flair Pedal Includes:
- 3 control knobs: Boost, Sparkle, and Level
- Two effects – Ring Modulator and Boost – can be used together or separately
- Space-saving top side jacks
- Durable, cast aluminum alloy 125B enclosure with fun artwork
- Easy to see, illuminated True-bypass foot switch
- Standard 9V pedal power input
Flare Pedal Demo
Messiah Guitars pedals are designed with an explorative player in mind. Like their custom guitars and amplifiers, Messiah’s pedals are hand-crafted in Los Angeles for a long life with guaranteed quality.
Flare retails for $199.00 and can be purchased directly at Messiah Guitars or you can hear it in person at Impulse Music Co. in Canyon Country, CA.
For more information, please visit messiahguitars.com.
This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal.
If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck, and QUACKS like a duck, then it must be a duck. That's how we came up with the name for our new envelope filter. This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal. Trevor explains how this is possible in the launch video, as well as gives a demo on Le Canard’s operation.
The attack control determines how quickly the filter responds to the envelope, and the decay sets how quickly the filter releases afterward. The range controls which frequency spectrum the filter does its magic on. Add to this relay-based full-bypass switching with failsafe, and you've got one crazy little quacky beast. It is so expressive that you'll want to give up on your rocker-wah forever.
The MayFly Le Canard envelope filter features:
- Super fast responding envelope follower. Touch it and it jumps!
- Range control to dial in the character of the filter
- Attack control to control how fast the filter moves on that first touch
- Release control to control how slowly the filter slides back to baseline
- Full bypass using relays with Fail SafeTM (automatically switches to bypass if the pedal loses power)
- Cast aluminum enclosure with groovy artwork
- MSRP $149 USD ($199 CAD)
Introducing the MayFly Le Canard Envelope Filter
All MayFly pedals are hand-made in Canada.
For more information, please visit mayflyaudio.com.
Outlaw Effects introduces their next generation of NOMAD rechargeable battery-powered pedal boards.
Available in two sizes, NOMAD ISO is a compact, versatile tool that offers the convenience of a fully powered board plus the additional freedom of not having to plug into an outlet. NOMAD ISO is ideal for stages with limited outlet availability, quick changeovers, busking outdoors, temporary rehearsal locations, and more.
NOMAD ISO builds upon the legacy of the ultra-convenient and reliable NOMAD rechargeable pedalboard line originally launched in 2018. The brand new NOMAD ISO editions feature eight isolated outputs (1 x 9V DC, and 1 switchable 9V/12V DC) for even more versatility and clean, quiet power. With an integrated lithium-ion battery pack boasting 12800mAh capacity, NOMAD ISO can fuel a wide array of pedals, and will last over 10 hours* on a single charge.
Each NOMAD ISO pedal board includes adhesive hook & loop pedal-mounting tape, eight (8) standard DC connector cables, and one (1) reverse polarity DC cable, giving you everything you need to build your ultimate "off-the-grid" rig. A rugged, road-ready padded gig bag with shoulder strap is also included, to safely protect your gear while you're on the move.
NOMAD ISO S
NOMAD ISO S: MSRP $309 / MAP: $249
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 5 ¼"
NOMAD ISO M
NOMAD ISO M: MSRP $349 / MAP $279
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 11"
More info: https://www.outlawguitareffects.com.