So, we left off the last story with getting ready to work out why J's Big Muff sounded different ? I'm obviously not going to give too much away here. If I told you values and details, you'd all go and make your own ..... right ? I know all you "nerds" out there will want to look at pics so I'll put a few in.
From the outside and in it looked like a fairly standard, mostly original Ram Head era Big Muff. The PCB was the usual 3003 board that you'd expect.
You can see the PCB in the bottom left corner has snapped on one of the stand offs. This was why the pedal didn't work when it came into my workshop.
Let me say here that I am NOT and electrical engineer. I'm completely self taught in electronics, as with everything else I do. I've never done courses or been tutored on guitar building/repairing or electronics. I have had a working relationship with J for a few years now and have made him guitars and pedals in the past and we do amp repair work for him. So, I approached this project from the only way I know how and the way I look at everything I make. Let's just make one !!
I started by tracing out all the components. I am "familiar" with the Big Muff circuit thanks to making my own clones in the Big Mudds. I became kind of obsessed with this great circuit a few years ago before I even started using them myself.
It took a couple of days to work out what was going on here ? (yeah, I'm slow) The values of components were close to other Big Muffs I had here. I tested J's on the scope against a bunch of vintage Big Muffs and clones I had here. It was close to some of them. The D*A*M Ramhead is "close". I had a version 3 Big Muff with a factory fitted Ramhead board that was "close". My Ramhead Big Mudd was "close", but none of them were THE SAME ?
J's Big Muff was pretty original with the exception of DC filtering added by someone when the Boss style adaptor had been added and a pot and slider switch had been changed. The rest was factory. Even had the original switch. This was a good sign because I knew (or at least thought I knew) what made a Ramhead era Big Muff sound like that. I'll just make a PCB up with these values and I'll have it .......... right ?
Wrong. None of them sounded ...... right. They were ....... close, but so were some of the other ones I had. I've personally traced out eight different Ramhead Big Muffs and seen other schematics on the net that don't match any of them. To say EH were inconsistent is an understatement. This is why so many Big Muffs sound different to others. I don't think there's "good ones" and "bad ones", just different.
J has A LOT of vintage Big Muffs and clones and he's always said THIS ONE sounds different to them all. Does that mean only one was built this way ? Who knows ? All I knew was I had to find out why this one sounded different.
I was getting nervous. The more I "messed" with this pedal, the more I was worried I was going to do something that changed the tone. This was one of my holy grails and I was poking around trying to find it's secret. It took four days of building and tracing, and building again. Looking at circuits, staring at that PCB, measuring voltages, checking waves on the scope. I knew J wanted the pedal back, and preferably with a clone !!
Then I realized what was going on. Simple , right ? I made a PCB up and there it was. It was still "a little" off but there was that sound. Believe me, it was a great relief and not just a little bit of pride in what I'd done. Here I was discovering J Mascis's live sound. ME !! In the late 80's I would have killed to meet J, now I have talks with him about gear AND I get to make his pedal. I'm not too big to admit this is a very big honor for me.
So, after several more PCB's I had it. On the scope, in the workshop, in the practice room. There it was.
I made another one into one of my enclosures and packed it and J's original up and posted them over to J, and waited, and waited. How close was I ? Was it "good enough" ?
J emailed and said "you got it" ................. I was SO happy. I'd done it. Now for the next obvious step. "Hey J, can I make these and offer them to sell ?" To be honest, I thought J would say no. This is his secret weapon. This is Dinosaur Jr live. I've worked with lots of bands and some are .......... secretive about their gear. Others don't care because they know it's not just their pedal, or their guitar, or their amp ........... it's THEM, and let's face it, J Mascis is J Mascis.
Next story HERE.