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Archive for March, 2012


Link Baiting – here fishy fishy fishy

Every time Apple releases a new product or updated product something strange happens. Every pundit who makes a living out of saying much about nothing becomes an instant expert on something they obviously know nothing about. Some even resort to calling in other equally inept experts to tell us the problems with “XYZ” or why “XYZ” is doomed to fail.

Or that the “XYZ” device is not as good as “ABC” which was from a different company and will sell 10 million by year end. Except the Apple “XYZ” thing sold 40 million in the first quarter.

The headlines smack of the National Perspirer from the 70’s where the headlines rarely had anything to do with the actual body of the article. They must assume their audience has an IQ of less than room temperature. At the South Pole.

Of course, you expect link baiting from pundits, and they are supposed to be somewhat confrontational. Even if they’re wrong. I suspect they are truly blissful. Because ignorance is bliss.

However, when someone like Consumer Reports jumps on the flagon wagon, like the “heat gate” from the new iPad you have to wonder if perhaps all this is somehow profitable to them. Because if there’s no money involved there’d be no reason for them to do it.

So maybe it drives up traffic to their web site and they grab a few more subscribers. Probably the same types that respond to the spam stock, sex and drug emails. Not exactly a stellar lot. But then Consumer Reports doesn’t care where it gets its money from, so long as it gets it.

I remember when CR was a magazine and you could rely on the information they published because it was properly tested and almost everything seemed to be covered. Now with all the products that show up and a lot of which dies almost as fast, they can’t keep up. And really, all kidding aside, they don’t try. I did have a subscription to CR three years ago and it was pathetic. Everything I wanted to look up was better served by reading user reports from Google search. Bye CR.

Thus my proposal is to take CR, the majority of the pundits and banish them to a corner on the internet where they can only read each others publishing. They’d be allowed out of the corner when they learn to be honest and get along with others. I doubt we’ll ever hear from them again.

In the meantime, I’d give them the same honesty and credibility that I’d extend to a teenage girls boyfriend who tells you his intentions are honourable.


Colour Organ

Anyone from the 50’s or 60’s can remember the old “colour organs” that everyone from Radio Shack to Heathkit sold by the boatloads. In those days you usually got a three channel whoop dee do model or a single channel one. The channels obviously were the EQ filters for the frequencies for the lights.

I don’t know how many of those goofy things I’ve built over the years, but apparently my brother remembered some of them rather fondly. So for a present I bought him one. It was very much like the old ones, used SCR’s and half of the circuit is live. Since little brother isn’t a tech kind of guy like myself, when I looked at the circuit I had some concerns. Like he’d fry himself, or the amp he was going to hook it into.

Thus when he finished building it and it didn’t work, I was actually quite relieved. The kit was called Color Blaster. And blaster I think was an adequate description of the circuit. I tossed the whole piece of junk in the dumpster.

Next stop, Xkitz. These guys make a superb quality product and have excellent tech support. I’d built a 12VDC version myself. So I ordered the 120V version (5 channel) for my brother.

The five channel one that I built:


For my brothers I also ordered the main control board because it’s nicer and has a microphone input. I supplied him with the right tools to build it and off he went.

He spent a couple of weeks, few hours each night, soldering, checking and making sure he was doing it right. I’d also given him a box to put it in, and apparently a rather dull nibbler that I’d had laying around. Least he said it was dull…(maybe I was just being sneaky to see how bad he really wanted to build stuff)…

When he completed it (he only got stuck in the power cord section wiring because that’s not in the assembly guide you have to read the schematic), he rechecked it and found a resistor in the wrong place. A quick fix and he was ready for box mounting. Another couple of hours with fitting the circuit in the box and he was ready for power up.

And power up it did. Worked perfectly right off the bat. When he called I don’t think I’ve ever heard him so excited. YouTube videos of it in action, and he was having a blast with it.

Now I have to give him credit in that he checked and rechecked his work several times. And was rewarded with a working unit the first go. We could all learn a little from that…

I had to make a label for his new “project” and he had an idea of exactly what he wanted…so this is the completed project:

Buzz Lite Gear

I have to say, I’m damned proud of the work he put into this thing. I hope he gets many years of giggles and grins from it…


Here come da Fuzz

Finished up the Rat Fuzz and it works almost the same as the first one. Except the gain of the transistor is a little higher. So I used my checker and found one a little closer to a match. Works great. The only error was I used the wrong kind of jack for the 2.1mm AC adapter. Looks like this:

2.1mm AC Jack.jpg

Course as soon as I plugged in the AC adapter the whole thing shorted out. The way pedals work, they use the outside for the switched part, so the centre is negative. Except in these style of jacks the barrel is GROUNDED. So the outside positive meets the negative of the circuit and poof. End of working…

Luckily it didn’t blow my power supply, but it took me some testing with my bench supply to figure out what I’d screwed up…

These are the CORRECT kind of jacks for guitar pedals…


The latest build is now completed…and works fabulous…from that old germanium buzz, to the newer silicon raspy crunch. And pretty much all points in between.

Rat Fuzz 3.JPG

My brother finished off his colour organ kit and I labeled up the box for him as well…He came up with the moniker, I just did the label.

Buzz Lite Gear.JPG


Fuzzy’s Buddy

I’ve been doing a lot of experimenting with the air brushes..Which involves painting, sanding, painting, sanding and well, there’s a pattern here. I decided to pick up some Auto Air white base coat and reducer. It’s far better for the aluminum boxes than the cheaper Createx (which seems to be best for porous surfaces.

So I’ve been experimenting with water based Tremclad. I even tried to thin it with Auto Air’s reducer. It works, but there’s a fine line between when you get enough on for a final wet coat and when it turns to a run and you get more practice at sanding…water (about 1:4) seems to work fairly decent with a 35 PSI airbrush. You can mist it on and it builds up not too badly.

Sure Tremclad is cheap, and when you’re trying stuff out, cheap is a good way to learn your chops. It’s really hard to get an absolute gloss top coat on it. It wants to speckle slightly. If you put it on with a brush it works better but of course you get brush streaks.

Easy to see what a transparent label on a white pedal will do compared to a dark blue metallic paint job…

Fuzz Flash

For a clear coat I’m using a very slightly thinner Polycrylic gloss clear. Works very nicely for a good clear coat.

Any way, if you’re ever painting pedals, apart from white and clear being the hardest colours to paint, they sure make the pedal stand out.


Fuzzy wasn’t fuzzy..oh yea?

Finished off the Rat Fuzz today…

RatFuzz Top

Wired into the box…

Rat Fuzz Inside

And she’s good to “distort” from a mild buzz to down right gravel..

RatFuzz End

Snarf snarf…


Here piggy piggy piggy…

On the test bench (that’d be my electronics work area), I have signal generators, scope, meters and all kinds of test gear. But one thing I lack is a audible signal tracer. You know, inject a 1Khz tone in a circuit, stick in a probe and see where it got lost…

I started of with the idea of building one. I usually start off with ideas of grandeur before common sense, occasionally, prevails. I worked out the size, speaker, amp, power supply and in the end it looked like it was going to be a lot of work and while it would have worked, I wasn’t elated with the fact I’d have to stick together a simple amplifier.

A little niggle in the back of my mind (not to be confused with scalp critters) and I remember seeing all those bedroom sized guitar amps. YEAH. So I started looking for something around the $25 to $50 mark. Turns out there’s lots to pick from and just as equally questionable quality in said item. Lots of IC’s to make it cheap to build and impossible to fix when I blow it up. Yes, things like that happen…

I phone my friend in the guitar store and said I was looking for a really small amp for my test bench. He assumed guitar test bench and suggested a Pignose. Hey, I remember those! He had a used one from, near as I could figure 1982-1984 or so. It needed a little work (scratchy pot, bad on/off switch) but no big deal for me. We made a deal and I brought “Piggy” home.


Considering the amp has probably seen a million miles of bad road and equally as many bedrooms, it’s in pretty fair shape for a 30 yr old amp. Someone at some point has changed the volume/switch control. I think. Looks like one of those mini-pots out of an old transistor radio. Actually the amp circuit itself does to.

When I cracked it open to see when it was made I was pretty surprised…

Pignose Serial

The original Pignose amps were made from about 1972/3 and had a fancy blue label. When they moved manufacturing offshore in the early 80’s they used this white label. And from what I can find, the series started with “A”. So this is one of the first 45 units that was built in Asia.

After more investigating, the parts and schematics for the Pignose amps have changed over the decades. Everything I could find built in Asia used Asian transistors. LIke 2SB172A, 2SB175B, 2SB324B (power transistors). Apparently they had a different sound than the US built ones. Or, so I’ve read. I honestly have no idea. Any way, I popped the circuit board off mine and that dropped my jaw somewhat…

Pignose PCB SideView

It might be hard to make out in the photo, but that’s a MJE3055 power transistor (there’s two of them). There’s also a 2N3904 and a 2N5412 (I think; hard to read the numbers).

Of course this doesn’t make a lick of sense for an Asian unit. What I think might have happened is that there were some left over boards from the US builds and those were shipped overseas to be assembled into working Pignose amps so the first few would have been the US PCB (my PCB is 002).

I doubt the amp is worth any real money since it’s seen better days, but I feel like I got a little treasure here and it sounds fabulous and works sweet. Yep. Win win…


New Power Supply Day…

I’ve been using a 30V 5A DC variable power supply from Circuit Specialists for over a year now. While it works quite well, it’s a rebranded “whatever”…


I connected up a 4.5A @ 12V load to it and the internal heatsink, which is nothing more than a flat piece of 3/16″ aluminum plate gets VERY hot. There’s a few token slots cut in the plate and they have the worlds noisiest fan inside the thing that is not temperature controlled, it just runs flat out. Worst than a vacuum cleaner. Ugh.

Since I need about 5 amps for a lot of my 12V testing and this little supply is getting stressed about it, it was time to go shopping for something that was built better (?) and could handle higher amperage.

In all my searching, you simply keep coming across similar units that I am sure are rebranded whatevers from Asia. Some had temperature controlled fans, but most, just ran the fan flat out all the time. Of course they said it was 51dbA, but I think that was measured from a nearby building. Mine was rated at 51dba and according to my DB meter it wasn’t even in the ballpark.

I happened across a few sites that showed guys opening up a Mastech power supply, either to fix it or show what was inside. What I noticed fan. Big heatsinks on the back. So I started to dig deeper and I emailed for more details. I settled on a HY3010D. That’s a linear supply, massive transformer, easy to fix if it goes south because it uses standard parts.

MasTech 3010D

You don’t get any leads with it, which is kind of odd and although it was packed well, someone managed to bash the fins on the heat sinks on the back. I was told there was a temperature controlled fan inside. So…like Dave from the EEVBlog says, “Don’t turn it on, take it apppaarrttt.” So I did.

You can see from the photo, there’s a control board, a relay board, display board in the front and … no fan. Zero. Nada.

HY3010D No Fan

This unit is almost twice the width of my original supply so my bench needed some rearranging to fit it in. I’t a linear supply so there are a lot of taps and relays on the transformer. The idea is that the voltage is done in steps so the transistors don’t have to dissipate all the “extra” over voltage. Keeps things cooler. I like it.

I checked the boards and the soldering and while not exactly stellar, it’s better than some I’ve seen. The wiring is quite neat. Controls operate nice and smooth in either voltage limit or current limiting mode.

Speaking standard parts, how many of these have you seen from the old days..2N3055’s…four of them. Yep. That’s 10 amps worth…


The control board looks kind of like a power resistor orgy. I’m guessing that’s the cheapest way to do it. It’s also not mounted all that great with only two screws holding the board. I think they could have done this a little better.


Any way, at the end of the day, it does the job, it’s QUIET!!!! We’ll have to wait and see what it’s lifespan is…