Yet another reason to love Zvex pedals. In their small merchandise range is a pair of "Rasberry chick hot panties w/ Z.Vex logo" bearing the slogan "Crazy pedals for rich people".
Remember the tiny, cute Zvex Nano Head, a tiny tube guitar amp the size of your palm? Well, Zachary is back with the iMP AMP - an almost equally tiny stereo amp made with the same military-grade tubes, wrapped in engraved plexiglass. It costs $500, but think how happy it will make you!
Five reasons to covet the $400 Zvex Nano Head half-watt valve amp as much as I do:
1: It's tiny. That blue box at the bottom? It's smaller than an iPod
2: Those teeny little valves? The were originally designed for use in ballistic missiles
3: It has a one-inch cooling fan on the side, and a tiny speaker on the bottom
4: It can power a full-sized Marshall stack loud enough to record with
5: Inventor Zachary Vex has the most flattering Googlism entry I've ever seen
Over the last couple of years, I’ve spent a few evenings building DIY guitar effects. It's fun to build things that you can use. If you want to get started, one of the hardest things is buying components. Try to buy a 10Ω resistor from Farnell, and you’re faced with a choice of 345 items. So, starting out buying a kit is a good idea. At least you’ll know the parts are right, even if when your soldering isn’t.
However, not many people sell kits. Despite the potential markup on a handful of bulk components, the customer service is - presumably - a nightmare. Here are 23 companies who will sell you complete component kits for guitar effects - many more people produce PCBs, or sell finished pedals. Stay tuned for similar lists on synths/noise boxes and tube amplifiers.
1. Build Your Own Clone Probably the best known company in the business, BYOC have a huge range of kits
From the Confidence Booster, a $15 booster kit with no box or switch to the $150 analog delay that they describe as extremely difficult’. They have a very good reputation on the forums for selling reliable, easy to build kits. Their UK Distributor is Vibe-O-Tronic and Moody Sounds (below) sell them in Sweden.
2. General Guitar Gadgets
The other big player in US kits, GGG seem slightly less ambitious than BYOC, but still offer a good range of familiar sound-alike pedals in complete kits, including switches and pre-drilled boxes.
Prices $38 - $80
3. OL Circuits
Officially Licensed Circuits have an interesting collection of kits developed on various online communities. They sell the runoffgroove.com collection of famous guitar amps converted into pedals, plus various interesting valve circuits including the Beavis Tube Cricket amplifier.
4. 4ms pedals
Big range of exotic and interesting pedals, stand alone noise boxes and modular synth gear, including the knob-tacular Tremulus Lune. Kits and finished products available.
5. Small Bear
Small range of kits (boost, fuzz, tremolo) from the company who specialise in components for DIY pedal builders.
Grandaddies of DIY audio kits. They don’t sell any real stompboxes, but have a few interesting guitar projects like the QuadraFuzz, and an entire modular synth range.
Prices: $25 - $200+
7. Mod Kits
Small range of boost and distortion pedals, plus a reverb built around the Belton Brick.
8. Fuzz Box World
Sells one simple fuzz kit for $39
9. Get LoFi
An interesting range of simple circuits including a fuzz, an amp and (coming soon) a lo-fi delay. They don’t sell enclosures or switches, just the boards and components.
A few interesting noisy kits, including a Lo-Fi delay unit and various fuzzes.
Prices: $35 for the delay kit.
11. Devi Ever
Devi Ever is a Portland-based boutique builder who makes endless varieties of Fuzz. She sometimes sells kits through her Etsy shop, but is currently out of action.
12. Triode Electronics
Among their huge range of tube amp gear is one Germanium boost kit for $75.
13. MEK Electronic (Germany)
A big and varied range of kits including a Klon clone, a delay, a reverb and four (!) varieties of Muff Pi. They’re fairly cheap. The Fuzz Factory clone they sold me worked first time, and had a very neat layout.
Prices: €22 - €56
14. Musikding (Germany)
Fairly wide range of surprisingly cheap kits from a German supplier with a vast range of DIY effect parts.
15. Moody Sounds (Sweden)
Good range of pedals including the the interesting Moody Echo, which comes with a light sensitive option for extreme crazy. They also resell BYOC pedals in Sweden.
16. Pigeon FX (UK)
Small range of nice mojo-ish kits: Fuzz Faces and Rangemasters with carbon comp resistors, dark brown PCBs and big ol’ capacitors.
Prices: £15 for the boards and components.
17. DIY Stompboxes (Germany)
Big range of curiously translated but familiar-looking circuits, including clones of almost the full Zvex range.
18. DIY Pedal Kits (UK)
Small range of loopers and fuzzes. Despite pictures of Boss-style pedals all over the site, these all come in the more normal Hammond-style enclosures (Like MXR effect pedals)
19. Boutique Techniguitarre (France)
A small range of distortions and boosters, available in pre-drilled boxes with appropriate stickers.
20. Ess_7Stores (China)
An Ebay Store from Hong Kong selling an interesting-looking point-to-point wired (that’s putting it very politely) FET Fender Blackface preamp kit.
Price: $32 inc shipping
21. Quasar Electronics (UK)
A handful of guitar circuit kits from this old-school Velleman-ish educational company. I tried to build their trem and managed to mess it up, which is no reflection on them.
22. Beavis Board
$250 gets you a breadboard, specially made audio/power connectors and a complete kit of parts to build numerous projects. I thought about buying this when I first got started. I wish I had.
23. Tone Crafter
A breadboard in a stompbox for $150 with parts for 7 effects
If you are one of these companies and I’ve got something wrong, do get in touch. Main image: BYOC kit by Terekhova.
Beavis Audio, makers of the Most Awesome Fuzzbox In The World Ever, are now selling the Beavis Board, an effects pedal developers kit for no-mark electronic beginners like me. The whole kit costs $249, including a breadboard/psu/switch combo, a decent multimeter, a manual and a huge stash of parts. It's designed to solve three familiar problems: "Problem 1: Learning Soldering Sucks! Problem 2: Breadboards can be a hassle! Problem 3: Parts Sourcing Blows!... Frustrated Newbie? I guarantee that you will be successful with the beavis board, even if you been frustrated by building in the past.". As a newbie who's barely even got to the frustrated stage, I LOVE this idea - I'm sure you could get the bits cheaper elsewhere, but who has the time?
On the subject of Beavis... interesting times in the world of boutique pedals. Ooh La La is a new company set up by a former Zvex employee to mass-produce beautiful-looking pedals designed by other companies. They do various Devi Ever / Effector 13 pedals, have taken over the whole of Black Box Effects (previously here), and are apparently planning to work with Beavis next.
Zachary Vex's latest (well, March 2006) invention is the Ringtone. Unfortunately, it won't make everything you play sound like the Crazy Frog. It's a ring modulator with the carrier signal coming from an 8 step sequencer. That sounds like blah blah science blah until you watch this [QT] wonderful demo video. I was so inspired, I spent a whole 25 minutes making this Nord G2 patch based on the pedal, which doesn't sound or look nearly as cool, but doesn't cost $349, either...
There really hasn't been much of note from Summer NAMM. There's Ableton Live 5 (good but dull, $99 upgrade). But no new synths, no cool new effects, no amusing Behringer outrages. So, here are three new guitar pedals:
Digitech Jam Man: This is a guitar looper (record yourself playing, jam over the top, impress buddies). Interesting points: If you buy a 2gb compact flash card and put it in the back, you can record 6½ hours of loop. It's name is stolen from the Lexicon Jam Man, which was discontinued in 1997 but is still popular amongst people who like looping. They won't get sued, because Lexicon and Digitech are both divisions of Harman International. It has a USB connection... on a guitar pedal! In short, it's the polar opposite of the Zvex Loop Junky.
Boss RT-20: It's a leslie speaker simulator in a big pedal. Why interesting? Because it comes with a fantastically silly magic eye, which shows the 'virtual' bass and horn speakers spinning away. Here's a video [real player, sorry] of a guy playing his guitar synth through one.
Fender Blender: Fender's website says: "There are few Fender products with as much "indie cred" as the Fender Blender." Well, hey, there goes that problem. The Fender Blender is a mildly cultish fuzz/octave pedal. They fetch $3-400 on eBay, but that's peanuts compared with $1000+ for an Ampeg Scrambler, or $1600 for a Frogg Fuzz-Wa (OK, that bidder didn't actually pay up). So, the Fender re-issue for $199 might be more about making Fender look cool than satisfying "an overwhelming demand".
Want more pedals? Check out Analog Industries, where Chris has been running a great analog delay special for the last few days.
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MacMusic says that Moog are about to release two new analog delay pedals, to replace the long discontinued MF-104, which now regularly sells for over $1000 on ebay. There will be a limited-to-250 MF-104SD special, with 1.4sec delay, and a mass-produced MF-104Z, with 1 second. Very cool, but still $749! Alternative analog delays include the Zvex Lo-fi Loop Junkie (up to 20 sec delay for $325) or the re-issued Ibanez AD9 (300ms for $140).
A bit like a mainstream version of the Zvex Nano Head (only 300 times more powerful)(and solid state, not tube)(and without the hand-painted case), the Crate PowerBlock is a tiny, very cute 150 watt little amp head. It might be time for music gear manufacturers to get over blue LEDs, though... (via Harmony Central)