Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Music Kits #1: DIY guitar effect pedal kits

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.

Price: $15-$150

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.

Prices: $65-$135

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.
Prices: $90-$140

5. Small Bear
Small range of kits (boost, fuzz, tremolo) from the company who specialise in components for DIY pedal builders.

Prices: $36-$85

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.

Prices: $25-$100

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.

Prices: $18-$25

10. Synthrotek
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.

Prices: €21-€35

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.

Prices: €45-€75

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.

Prices: €25-€85

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)

Prices: £35-£60

19. Boutique Techniguitarre (France)
A small range of distortions and boosters, available in pre-drilled boxes with appropriate stickers.

Prices €38-€59

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.

Prices: £12-25


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.

Slight return

A few posts on Music Thing should appear over the next week or two, dumps of research and notes that I thought it would be fun to share. Normal service will not, I'm afraid, be resumed...

V12 Lamborghini parade

As you must by now be sadly aware, the Lamborghini Murcielago is no more. So, what better way to say goodbye than with a parade of iconic V12 Lamborghinis of yore?

(Normally at this point I'd say something like 'I'll have the (x)', but I just can't choose between them...)

The five ages of Gran Turismo

The original Gran Turismo was released when I was sixteen years old, and it was the most exciting game I'd ever seen. Not only could you race Skylines and Imprezas (which weren't so ubiquitous on Britain's roads back then), but you could drive everyday cars too - Peugeot 206s, Honda Civics... the realism was mesmerising. I used to bore my dad with replays, saying 'look, it's just like watching motor racing on telly!'. How wrong I was. Looking back at it now, it seems blocky and basic.

Of course, it's all relative. It was the best that was available at the time; the cars were made of a few hundred polygons apiece, whereas by Gran Turismo 4 each one was made of over 4000. The cars of Gran Turismo 5 consist of half a million polygons apiece, which is frankly mind-boggling. It's scarcely a game any more, it's an art form. I imagine in five years time GT5 will be very dated, but for now it looks phenomenal. Take a peek at the videos below, you can see how the series grew organically into the visual goliath it is today.

Gran Turismo - 1998, PlayStation

Gran Turismo 2 - 2000, PlayStation

Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec - 2001, PlayStation 2

Gran Turismo 4 - 2005, PlayStation 2

Gran Turismo 5 - 2010, PlayStation 3

Latham F2 Super Sports

The Latham F2 Super Sports was a kit car based on the Triumph Dolomite, circa 1987. There were 26 built, most using the 2.0 16v Sprint engine. They weighed around 700kg, and were (supposedly) the world's first open-top road cars to feature all-composite monocoque construction. You can learn more here.

Oulton Park, 1988

Various awesome retro machines here, including an epic battle between a mkIII Escort and a Ginetta, and an inexpertly-driven Rover SD1. The star of the show, however, is the wide-arched mkI Escort... for further info (and various other insanely wide-arched racers) click here.

Monday, November 29, 2010

History of Chevrolet

General Motors owns Chevrolet, a great American car manufacturer. W.C. Durant in Detroit, Michigan started the company. The cars produced were first brought out by racecar driver, Louis Chevrolet. He established an automobile for $2150, which were six cylinders and 4.9 litres. The first big car produced on the market was the Baby Grand, which was sold for $875. Electrics were optional on Chevrolets until 1917. With the first real boost in production and innovation cars were sold at a standard price increasing sales to 70,701 from 13,600.

Louis Chevrolet
In 1917 General Motors acquired Chevrolet. In 1920 Ford and Dodge were the only leaders above Chevrolet's marque. As competition rose Chevrolet began preparation for new models as well as styles. They came up with a few standard automobiles, which were no different than competitors until their 1925 Superior. This coach had disc wheels and "Duco cellulose finish (refer to source 6)" selling for only $650. This allowed for Chevrolet to outsell Ford for the first time, even though Ford was switching over from the Model T to A. One big development came in 1929 with the "Cast Iron Wonder" which sold more than a million cars in its first year at $595.
In 1931 Chevrolet finally surpassed Ford for a matter of 3 years. During the 1930's Chevy became aware of the need to improvise. They came up with many new styles adding to their collection of automobiles. Thy created V-grilles, hydraulic brakes, large engines, column shifts, along with convertibles. They also manufactured a station wagon in 1939. While in 1940 they offered a power top convertible with low prices. Also during the coming months Juan Manuel Fangio won a race in Argentina using one of the new coupes.
As years passed the company increased sales, production, and opportunities. In 1949 they underwent surgery on their cars by extensively restyling to produce a sedan costing $1460. A major impact came in 1950 with the offering of a 2 speed fully automatic transmission. In 1953 the Corvette sports car was produced with a V-6 and fiberglass body.
The Corvette was a spectacular automobile. It needed more so it was reassembled to acquire an 8-cylinder engine with options such as air suspension. Another breakthrough car was the 1960 Corvair, which was reproduced to include a turbo-supercharged engine.
The Chevrolet Company has produced many new models over the years. They have become a leader in the industry under General Motors. With newer models of sports cars, full size pickup trucks, sedans, and coupes the company has grown with immense popularity. The company proved the need of American manufacturers to diversify their products. They improved using new styles such as disc brakes, headlamps, engine size, faster, as well as more reliable cars. Some of their greatest accomplishments were the Camaro, Corvette, the luxurious Caprice, Chevelle, and the Impala. Chevrolet has always been a competitor; they produce in order to satisfy the needs of the consumer by offering great automobiles at low prices.

Gallardo Spyder Performante

In LA, the covers have been lifted from Sant'Agata's latest - the Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Spyder Performante. Think of it as a Superleggera version of the current Spyder, with 65kg having been shaved from it via the prodigious use of aluminium and carbon-fibre. The 570bhp 5.2-litre V10 gets you to 62mph in 3.9s and goes on to 201mph (although you wouldn't want to do that with the roof down), meaning it's just half a second off the coupe's acceleration pace and only 1mph slower at the top end, as if you'd ever notice. The reprofiled nose creates extra downforce over the front axle, while the lower C02 figure adds texture to Lambo's promise of 'less weight, more fascination'. I'm sure Balboni would approve.

Race of Champions Audi-tastrophe

The Race of Champions is not a good place to be driving an Audi. Just look what Heikki Kovalainen did to this R8:

...and look what Michèle Mouton did!

The Speed Camera Lottery

The latest Fun Theory act from Volkswagen makes the (perhaps slightly obvious) point that the most effective way to stop people speeding is to offer them cash not to. Nicely done.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Ferrari 512 BB LM

The Ferrari 512 BB LM was a factory-developed endurance racer based around the roadgoing 512 BB. Honed in Pininfarina's wind tunnel, the extended nose and roofline-enveloping tail increased the length of the car by eighteen inches, but overall weight was 1235lb less. The 5.0-litre flat-twelve was tweaked to produce 480bhp (120bhp up on standard), with power meeting tarmac via tyres that were 10" wide at the front and a monstrous 13" at the rear.

They were never enormously competitive or successful, finishing far down the rankings on the occasions that they didn't retire or crash out. But that's not really the point of the BB LM; the fact that any factory, let alone one as proud and meticulous as Ferrari, should put such vast efforts into developing a racer from a road car to compete at the very top levels of contemporary motorsport when there's so little to be drawn in return is truly something to cherish. And, of course, the cars look and sound astonishing - quite a legacy for the development teams to be proud of.

You can see more photos here.

Hooning with Skogenracing

They love old Fords. They hate tyres. They use one to destroy the other.
(You may need to turn your speakers off, the soundtrack's kind of awful...)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Climb Attack Brazil

Has a Hyundai ever looked this good...?

Here we find Rhys Millen drifting a Genesis up the Serra Do Rio Do Rastro in Santa Catarina, Brazil. Beautiful scenery? Check. Impressive cinematography? Check. Copious smoke? That's a big check...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Metropolis II

Metropolis II is an art installation by a guy named Chris Burden that features 1,200 toy cars. Every hour, a hundred thousand cars pass through his city of wood blocks and Lego. Why? Well, why not?

Stanced Bora

The VW Bora (or Jetta, as it's known in the States) is the Golf's oft-forgotten brother, sidelined as being the overly sensible family-sized version of the popular hatchback. Of course, canny second-hand buyers know that it's the better value option once someone else has swallowed the depreciation; after all, they're exactly the same car - the Bora just has a bigger boot.

They can be made to look pretty aggressive too, as these photos demonstrate: rims, stance and you're good to go. And this detail treatment of the headlights is superb...

More here.

Fiat enters the US

They've made a right pig's ear of this.

There are two groups of people in the US: people who've never heard of Fiat, and people who have heard of them and think they make unreliable grot-boxes. So what's the best way to officially introduce the brand to the market for the first time? A horribly cheesy advert with a godawful soundtrack that's way too long for the American attention span? Yeah, that'll work.

Rally Costa Brava 2010

Click here for an excellent set of photos of the build-up to the historic Rally Costa Brava 2010.

You can learn more about the event here.

Patinated Type 38

How much would you pay for a pile of Bugatti bits? A few hundred? A couple of grand?
This barn-find Type 38, dismantled, incomplete and lacking engine and body, sold at auction recently for £68,000. Click here for further info from Bonhams.

For reference, here's what it would have looked like:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pirelli return to F1

Bridgestone have been the sole supplier of tyres to the Formula One championship since 2007. Prior to that they used to fight it out with Michelin, with drivers' on-screen stats featuring a little 'B' or 'M' to denote who was running what. But after nineteen years out of the sport, Pirelli will be returning as F1's official tyre company for the 2011 season; it will be a welcome return - after all, Nino Farina won the very first Grand Prix on Pirelli rubber back in 1950. Given that, with the absence of refuelling, races are often won and lost on tyre strategy, they will be under massive pressure to deliver quality product... after all, the last thing you want is Fernando Alonso shaking his fist at you as his super-softs delaminate.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Risky Devils: extended cut

Chicago's Risky Devils don't drift for fame or money - they just do it because that's what they do. (A cynic might argue that filming yourself doing it and sharing it around the internet is a quest for fame, but hey...)
By the looks of it, they crash a lot too. But that's all part of the fun.

Risky Devils / Extended Cut from Casey Bohrnell on Vimeo.

Panther 365 GTB/4

There are few cars as beautiful as the Ferrari 365 GTB/4 'Daytona'. So would you be brave enough to rebody one as a shooting break? Luigi Chinetti Jr was. In 1974 the son of the three-times Le Mans winner Luigi Chinetti penned a radically altered design, with detail layout by Gene Garfinkle and Bob Gittelman, which was made into a reality by Panther Westwinds of Surrey.
A multiple concours winner, the Panther Daytona has only covered around 5,000 miles from new and is worth around half a million dollars today. (This, to me, seems a bit of a shame - why design in extra practicality if you're not going to then spend your days touring around the hotels and casinos of Europe...?)

Peking-to-Paris 2010

This year's Peking-to-Paris rally featured a raft of historic vehicles ranging from a 1907 Itala 40 to a '68 Vauxhall Viva GT, via a Bentley Le Mans, Aston Martin DB5, Alfa Romeo 6C, Tatra 87 and many others. It's testament to the tenacity and mechanical ingenuity of the competitors that 86 of the 98 entrants reached the finish line, braving extremes of weather, near-impenetrable terrain, hostile locals and all manner of automotive hiccups. This picture of a slippery Beetle sums up the spirit of it pretty nicely, I think:

The first Peking-to-Paris rally took place in 1907; five cars started, four of which managed to make it to Paris, despite having no maps of the uncharted route and, of course, no navigation or communication equipment or access to garages. The route was revisted in 1997, then again in 2007 as a centenary run. The fifth Peking-to-Paris will take place in 2013 - see here for further info.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

History of Volvo

Volvo, Latin for "I roll", was born on April 14th, 1927 when the first car "Jakob" left the factory in Gothenburg, Sweden. Founded by Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larsson, the company was formed on a background of quality and safety which were both of paramount importance, a concept that still applies to the Volvo cars of today.
The fledgling company produced both closed top and cabriolet models of their new four-cylinder OV4 and PV4 models, which were constructed to better withstand the harsh Swedish climate, than contemporary US imports. Both carried the Swedish symbol for iron attached to a diagonal piece if metal on the front grille – another aspect of Volvo’s heritage that can still be seen on today’s models.

In 1929 a six-cylinder PV651 model had been introduced which was both longer and wider than the Jakob. Its success helped the company to purchase its engine supplier and buy its first factory and by the end of 1931 return it’s first dividend to shareholders.
The first production milestone of 10,000 Volvo’s was reached in May 1932 and it was not long before Volvo dealers were asking the company to develop a more inexpensive car "for the people". This was the PV 51 model of 1936, similar to the more expensive PV36 in design, but smaller in size and less well equipped.
The Second World War significantly restricted Volvo’s production of cars, but by the autumn of 1944 the company had unveiled one of its most significant cars – the PV444. Volvo’s first "true" small car, its stylish design combined American flair with European size and it was an instant success. The PV444 and the PV544 would dominate Volvo production through to the mid 1960’s and be the first models to gain Volvo a slice of the important US market during the 1950’s.
Another popular model was the Volvo 120 introduced in 1956 and often called the Amazon.
Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larsson
Safety features and accident protection were a key factor in this cars design and this was enhanced even further in 1959 when both the Amazon and PV544 were equipped with three-point safety belts – a world first and an invention pioneered by Volvo’s head of safety engineering, Nils Bohlin.
Volvo’s first sports car was the P1800, unveiled in 1960. Considered to be an excellent touring car with it’s sleek coupe lines, the P1800 went on to find fame in "The Sain" TV series with Roger Moore behind the wheel.
By 1964 Volvo had opened a new production plant in Torslanda, Sweden capable of producing up to 200,000 cars a year and by 1966 the Volvo 140 family was introduced firstly as a saloon and later as an estate, helping to cement a family market that Volvo was rapidly claiming as its own.
Innovations in safety and environmental care continued apace with crumple zones, rear facing child seats, collapsible steering columns, side collision protection and the three-way catalytic converter with Lambdasond all being introduced on Volvo’s in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
The Volvo 240 range replaced the 140 with even higher levels of safety and quality and was joined by the smaller Volvo 340 models from Holland to take Volvo’s sales past the 4 million mark by the end of the 1970’s.
In turn the Volvo 700 series of 1982 took Volvo yet another step into the exclusive market for personalised high-quality cars. Later in the decade the 340 was replaced by the Volvo 400 series which won plaudits for its roadholding and safety as well as its generous amount of interior space.
A completely new and different Volvo was launched to the world in June 1991. The Volvo 850 was Volvo’s first front wheel drive executive car, with a transverse, five-cylinder engine. Its high level of safety combined with real driving pleasure won the car many independent awards.
The proposed merger with Renault fell through in its final stages in 1993 leaving Volvo as one of the few remaining independent car manufacturers. This marked a key turn in the company’s plans and paved the way for Volvo’s new dynamic product strategy with the introduction in 1996 of the sleek and more rounded designs of the Volvo S40 and V40.
They, like the Volvo C70 coupe and convertible that were introduced later that year, were cars that combined all of Volvo’s traditional values of safety, environmental care with sporty, elegant and exciting design and engineering.
With the Volvo S80 sedan of 1998 and the V70 wagon of 1999, all of this new engineering and design was brought together in a cars that both Gustaf Larson and Assar Gabrielson would have recognised as Volvo’s that represented their wishes for safe, quality products, but that can hold a fascination and desire for customers in today’s sophisticated car market.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Autumn Drift Matsuri 2010

The soundtrack may be slightly irritating, but the breathtaking cinematography more than makes up for it. Watch it on fullscreen!

Autumn Drift Matsuri 2010 - Ebisu Circuit, Japan from Remi Schouten on Vimeo.

'68 Corvette Sportwagon

Quite unusual, this. It's a '68 Corvette that's been made into a kind of shooting break (except without any side windows), and I really think it works. The bowtie tail-light may be a mistake, but the extended roofline doesn't look out of place at all, and that gorgeous Kandy Apple Red finishes it off beautifully. The breathed-on 327cu.in. V8 suggests that it got some go to back up the show too...

Click here.