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Guitar Pedal Tinkering

Postby UneducatedWeasl » Mon Nov 26, 2012 10:12 pm

Hey all,

Got a Frontline Series II Heavy Metal Distortion for free with another pedal that I bought, as it was busted (in the guy's words: has something funny going on with it). I get signal through it, and the controls do what you would expect (apart from the oddly named 'Sensitivity' which controls the distortion) but the thing is a massive tone suck, and pretty quiet. I have to turn the volume on it up to full, and even then it just doesn't get anywhere near the clean volume.

I've got no idea where to start in diagnosing the issue, so I thought I'd ask if anyone happens to have any experience with this particular pedal, or can suggest a few common causes of lack of volume and loss of tone that I could try and look for as a starting point. I've got no experience with opening up pedals and tinkering, but I figured that if there was any pedal that I can afford to screw up on, then this is probably the one. It might not be possible that there is anything I can do, in which case I would probably just cut my losses on the thing, but it's worth a shot

It's in no way a nice distortion (tbh, I'd quite like to get it up to working condition, just so I can have 'awful cheap distortion pedal' as a tool for the odd time I might need it in the studio) so no big loss if it doesn't work out.

Any ideas?
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Re: Guitar Pedal Tinkering

Postby zenguitar » Tue Nov 27, 2012 12:26 am

Well, when it comes to building your own pedals, the most expensive parts are the case, pots, and sockets.

So the way I look at it is like this...

Do you want to spend hours and hours over days and weeks tracing down the problem, solving it eventually, and then realising that it isn't that good anyway?

Or would you like to cut your losses, use that Frontline pedal as a case donor, and build something yourself that could sound a lot better for peanuts?

If it's the latter, there are lots of great resources online. But if you want a great pointer to some classic pedals you can build for a couple of quids worth of parts on strip board, Guitar FX Layouts has around 500 FX pedals worked out, the vast majority verified by 3rd parties, all ready for you to build.

Andy
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Re: Guitar Pedal Tinkering

Postby UneducatedWeasl » Tue Nov 27, 2012 1:01 am

You make a very good point, although yhat does of course mean that I have to decide what kind of a distortion that I want to use. I've got a Hotcake as my primary overdrive (clean tube amps are lovely, but I do miss a dirty channel now and then) and then a Muff-Style Fuzz for when I need something fairly silly (although not nearly as stupid as a Fuzz Factory, which is just mental), so hopefully I'll be able to fine something inbetween the two.

I was kind of hoping that there would be a few common problems that I could look at, just in case it was a quick fix. I'll give that site a look though, see if I can find something that'll work nicely.

Ta,
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Re: Guitar Pedal Tinkering

Postby zenguitar » Tue Nov 27, 2012 1:54 pm

There is a wonderful site called GEOFEX which has long been one of the prime online references for FX builders and modders. It can sometimes be difficult to link to specific pages within the site, but it is worth exploring all of the links on the left hand side and in the top left corner.

There is a lot on trouble shooting there. Lots of stuff on how FX work. Once you have an idea of the different ways that distortion pedals work, have a look at the Frontline and see if you can identify what type it is. I would imagine that it has an op amp plus some diodes for clipping. Do some creative searching for FX schematics, there are a lot of sites out there with them and there is a chance that you will find one for this pedal. A schematic will help you diagnose what is wrong. If you can't find one you could always patiently draw one yourself from the pcb, but you might have to look up the data sheet for any op amp inside.

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