Do you feel that "handmade and wired" makes a better pedal?

Discussion in 'Effects, Pedals, Strings & Things' started by cmloeffler, Jan 12, 2006.


  1. cmloeffler

    cmloeffler Member

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    Sonically.

    *This is sort of a riff off some of the ideas in the "next bigthing" thread*

    I'm not arguing the ease of repait or superior construction (not having pots and switches mounted on thePCB, etc), but would most of the current boutique pedals sound just as good if they were made with the same parts, wave soldered, in an assembly lime in Korea?
    :confused:
     
  2. drolling

    drolling Member

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    Don't know if this directly addresses your question, but I was talking with one of this board's most popular independent builders the other night and when I asked him if he thought it was possible that the pedal I recently recieved could be *better* than average, he replied that the tolerances of the parts used pretty much guaranteed that each one would be identical.

    This guy doesn't build clones, but he also told me that his *original* design is so straightforward & simple that it would be impossible to patent. That's one of the reasons why he doesn't bother 'gooping' the circuit boards.

    We had a fascinating conversation that touched on everything from health risks associated with breathing solder fumes to new environmental protection laws in europe that make the USA seem like a 3rd world country in comparison.

    A refreshingly humble individual, he was adament that's there's no *magic* involved in the construction of stomp boxes. As an avid TGPer, I'm probably susceptible to the mystique that surrounds 'hand-built' items, in an industry dominated by large corporations pumping out assembly line product. But talking with this gentleman was a breath of fresh air that blew away the smoke & smashed the mirrors that surround the whole biz.
     
  3. Marcus Dahl

    Marcus Dahl Member

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    To me this is a yes and no answer. For pedals pcb is fine, but the big thing would be the quality of the parts. Yes a big company constructing a booteek design could be as good if they used quality parts and jacks/pots weren't pcb mounted. No if they don't, use quality parts etc... The bigger corps can make stuff cheaper than us smaller guys. Partially cause of their buying power. They buy in bulk and sell large quantities of stock. Cause they buy in bulk their pricies are cheaper, but they also look at getting the best deal possible too, and this leads to cheaper quality parts and sometimes construction too. There is a lot of bs in the booteek market w/ carbon comp resistors sound better, this pedal is better than that pedal, etc.., But I don't think you'll find those guys here blowing smoke.

    It's just my belief that you would see a difference in quality and care.
     
  4. Marcus Dahl

    Marcus Dahl Member

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    Sounds like a great conversation.
     
  5. r9player

    r9player Silver Supporting Member

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    Well I'd like to bring up my current experience working with Chad of CMATMODS got his phat boost which I love, and got his Tube Slammer which I think is great, but I need a little extra brightness/treble. So he says send me that one back I'll ship you this other one and if that doesn't work I'll mod it again for you.
    Now that is something you can't get from a factory line.
    Besides that if all parts are the same yes you likely get the same either handwired or pcb .. possibly even the same on a printed circuit board since this is all low power signals
     
  6. tfunster

    tfunster Gold Supporting Member

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    Just curious about the solder fumes health risk. Obviously it's not good to breath that stuff, but have there been studies done on it???? How much or how long of an exposure to it would cause health problems, and what are the health problems that result??? Sorry to hijack the thread, but I'm curious because I'll work on my guitar ever once in a while.
     
  7. drolling

    drolling Member

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    Yeah.. On his dime, too..
     
  8. drolling

    drolling Member

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    We were having a non-linear conversation that was going all over the map, but it was a statement he made about the lead content of solder used in amps that prompted me to ask "Don't you worry about the risk related to daily exposure to fumes?"

    "Well, heck, yeah.. But no more than I do about the cigarette that's always smoldering in the ashtray on my workbench."

    Having working in health care for almost 30 years, I don't give scientific studies anymore credibility than they deserve. But I'll never forget the day I watched a guy's chest get cracked open, revealing a glistening black set of lungs and asked the anesthetist if the patient was a coal miner or a 3 pack a day smoker. He glanced at the chart and said, Neither - he's just a lifelong city dweller.
     
  9. playon

    playon Supporting Member

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    I guess the British government thought solder fumes were dangerous enough that they wrote a pamphlet on the subject:


    www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg248.pdf


    "Rosin-based solder flux is now regarded as one of the most important causes of occupational asthma in Britain."


     
  10. tfunster

    tfunster Gold Supporting Member

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    Damn, I gotta stop tweaking my guitars
     
  11. THROBAK

    THROBAK Gold Supporting Member

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    One of the main advantages of buying a boutique pedal is that you are ideally getting a product where the components were chosen with the maker's ear not the accountant's or controller's pencil. Factory made pedals may or may not have components of good quality but the criteria are often to make the pedal fit in the existing box using standard caps... that are ordered in mega bulk quantities. An effect of any type is a recipe of components. The same recipe will give different flavors based upon how the components are chosen.

    Components like germanium transistors are avoided by the big guys because it takes too much hand work to get the good ones. And once you test for the good ones you really need to hear them in the pedal to be sure. So you need transistor sockets, and you need an experienced person to decide what sounds good and what does not and make the necessary changes. All of these things add up to more unnecessary costs in the eyes of the large makers. The boutique maker knows that the extra steps that the large maker is unwilling to do is where the tonal magic is.

    I use printed circuit boards but I use the thickest copper the board house will supply. The big builder likely won't use the thickest copper. I choose caps, resistors... based upon sound quality 1st. That means there is a variety of cap and resistor types and brands in my pedals. It makes for a more tonally complex sound this way. The big builder will likely use the smallest most economical component of decent quality of the same brand for everything. I design my pedals with trim pots to make sure that I can carefully bias each pedal individually. The big maker will use a fixed resistor in the right range with the attitude of close is good enough. I will test all metal film capacitors with a oscilloscope to identify the foil end and orient the cap properly within the circuit. The big maker will not do this.

    All of this can add up to a big difference in tonal quality between a mass produced and a boutique pedal.
     
  12. TieDyedDevil

    TieDyedDevil Member

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    Nope.

    Good design makes a better pedal.

    Sonically.
     
  13. Skreddy

    Skreddy Member

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    A recipe or a blueprint doesn't make a good meal or a good house.

    A bad cook or a bad builder will make a bad meal or a bad house.

    A good cook or a good builder will make a good meal or a good house.

    A good cook with an inspired recipe or a good builder with an ingenius blueprint will obviously create the optimal meal or house.

    Why is there even a question?

    Common sense.
     
  14. al carmichael

    al carmichael Member

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    It really depends on the builder. A guy who knows his stuff can make small modifications in the way he builds a boutique pedal--he can actually voice it for a customer. Some boutique builders won't be bothered, but some will. I know one, and I guarantee that he tests each pedal personally and if it doesn't sound the way he wants, he adjusts it until its right. You can't get that kind of attention out of factories that mass produce pedals. You might get a good pedal, but don't expect them to tweak it to your ear.

    It all depends on who's behind the soldering iron.
     
  15. StompBoxBlues

    StompBoxBlues Member

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    I have been soldering for 30+ years (obvoiusly, not the WHOLE 30+, nor am I in fact, soldering now...but you get my drift) went to two year school to get an electronics degree....anyway...

    I think the bigger health risk it getting burned by the iron (which happens anytime I have been away from soldering for a while....count on it, takes time to redevelop good habits like not "blindly reaching for the iron while looking at the part to be soldered"....

    Anyway, from almost the first, just by instinct, I developed the habit of slowly exhaling the whole time I solder something. For one thing, you aren't then inhaling the fumes (they dissipate quickly), and for another it steadys your hands, and helps focus your attention. It is an incredibly easy habit to get into once you try it a few times.

    Also helps not to directly lean over the solder point while soldering, but sometimes that can't be helped.

    More (or just as) important than that, WASH YOUR HANDS after handling solder, and try not to rub your eyes, eat food, put hands in mouth, etc. until you have washed.


    If you smoke, be aware (I learned this working in oil refineries where there is arsenic in tiny quantities in there a lot) that the cigarette is also a carrier from hands into lungs. It would be smart not to smoke either while handling, but I know from my smoking years, this one gets ignored....smoking seems made for working intense on small parts.


    Just my 02.
     
  16. Curt

    Curt Member

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  17. Marcus Dahl

    Marcus Dahl Member

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    Isn't that the truth. When doing anything with pedals except painting I have to have a smoke going. :Spank
     
  18. Unburst

    Unburst Member

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    Personally I don't care how a builder realises his vision, the tone is in the design.
     
  19. THROBAK

    THROBAK Gold Supporting Member

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    As far as the soldering fumes go no amount of them will be good for you. If you do a small amount of soldering then the exhaling trick and a fan is good enough. But if you do any quantity of soldering you really should get a fume extractor $650.00 - $850.00. It may sound like overkill but lead is suspected as a brain cancer risk. I know of one pedal maker that has brain cancer. If you use lead free solder the tin is a hazard as there are some radioactive isotopes of tin and they increase your exposure to gamma radiation and increase the cancer risk. Besides if you inhale solder fumes all day without an extractor it is just not pleasant. If you have ever paid for your own health insurance $850.00 is peanuts in the grand scheme of things.
     
  20. Don Rusk

    Don Rusk Gold Supporting Member

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    Im just waiting for Mad Hatter FX co to pop up ..... with some whackjob designs from the brains of those with metal deposits from doing this work over years......

    and paint and solder fumes combine for a big whammy...

    but as stated its probably not as bad as just living in a big city....

    Its better to be the Marlboro man in Montana than the Jogger in NYC
     

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