Sunday, 21 April 2013

How does the Red Llama work?

I've always found electronics interesting. Yet when I found out that average components like resistors, capacitors, and diodes could be used in configuration to make an effect, I asked does it work? This is how I got the idea for this post. In this post, I will be explaining how the Way Huge Red Llama works. I built this pedal about a week ago and I can say it is a pretty sweet sounding overdrive/fuzz hybrid.

The Red Llama is actually a clone itself with some component changes. The original designer of the circuit is Craig Anderson. In an interview with Jeorge Tripps, creator of the way huge line, he said that he had bought this book called "Electronic Projects for Musicians" written by Craig Anderson. He also said that the first pedal he built was the Tube Sound Fuzz that was that book. Once I heard that this book existed, I quickly got it. In this book, Craig Anderson talks about the circuit. He explains how it works, why it works, and the reason it sounds so good.

These pictures just give a kind of overview of the circuit and talks a little bit about the sound

In the "background" section of the page, he talks about the use of field effect transistors or FET for distortion that has tube qualities. But in this project, he does't use FET transistors. The main amplifying section of this circuit is a CMOS hex inverter.

Most overdrive circuits use an amplifier. Either an op-amp (tube screamer) or a transistor (Lovepedal COT 50). The same way if you push a tube amp, it will overdrive, if you push and op-amp or FET it will do the same. 

The CMOS 4049 IC chip has multiple amplifiers in it. This pedal only uses two.
The best way to analyze a circuit is to look at the schematic. Luckaly, Craig Anderson gave it to us in his book

Basically there is two amplifying stages to this circuit. The first one amplifies the input signal and the second one will get overloaded and gets distorted. The picture of text also explains what all the other components do. 

This last piece of text he speaks highly of his creation. It really is a very nice effect, it is a tube sounding fuzz.
All the pieces of text that I have pictures of is from this section "how it works" 

Another thing I want to do with this post is show what the wave form looks like on an oscilloscope. I was very fortunate that my high school was able to let me borrow an oscilloscope from their physics lab. I've had a lot of fun playing around with this thing. 

I like to use my function generator as the input of the effect so I can see a nice and clean wave form. I keep it at 440Hz just cause thats an A on a guitar
From the function generator, or wave form generator, there are two cable that come out of it. The ground, black, and the signal, red. Since the pedal uses 1/4 inch jacks, I need to hook up the two probes to the jacks like so
The oscilloscope also has two probes but the configuration is different. There is one hook type thing, the signal, and the ground, alligator clip
After everything is hooked up properly, I just need to attach cables to and from the pedal

The bypassed signal is a nice and simple sign wave
The cool thing about this pedal it how dynamic it is.

On the wave form generator, there is a knob that controls the amplitude or the strength of the signal. This knob would be equivalent to your playing dynamics. 

This photo show the wave form with a very small amplitude, almost like you are barely strumming the guitar
And with the amplitude turned up some more the wave takes more of a square wave shape but not quite there yet
With the amplitude in the middle, the wave is fairly square. All fuzz boxes have a square wave form
With the level of the wave form set kinda high, the corners of the wave get sharper 

Depending on what pickups you use and the dynamic of your playing style, the signal will get more distorted. The pictures above had the same gain setting but just with a different amplitude. 

The gain on this pedal is not too monstrous. But it does have a great tone to it. These next pictures will show the gain knob in its full spectrum with the amplitude on the function generator set the same

Really pay attention to the corners of the wave.

This is my favourite setting. It gives a real nice crunch to your amp

The volume knob on this thing is incredible. It is really ear shattering it get's so loud.

This next photo is of the volume knob all the way up. The wave actually goes off the screen. You might be able to see the fait green lines near the top
To see the top of the wave, I had to switch the volts per division switch. So the scale of this smaller than the scale of the other pictures

I'm really glad I was able to do this. I learned a lot in the process. There is still a lot that is still confusion about audio electronics. But now I can say that I know how a CMOS hex inverter pushes the signal into overdrive to achieve a tube sound fuzz!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Way Huge Red Llama build report

I've had a few days to play with this pedal a little more. If there is one thing I can say about this pedal, it is the most unique overdrive tone I own. This thing boosts all the right frequencies. It an overdrive/fuzz hybrid kind of sound. When you turn it on, the first thing you notice is the chunky low end yet clear high end. It's fuzzyer on the low strings but overdriven on the high strings. This pedal is really dynamic with picking attack. It works great with your volume and tone knob as well with the amp tone controls. Also the volume control is get's really ear piercing. It can really push your amp to the extreme. So the sound of this beast is very unique, in a good way, and musical. Its great for a fuzzy tube amp kind of sound, almost like a tweed tone. This pedal is based on Craig Anderson's Tube Sound Fuzz circuit.

Ok so this project wasn't too hard to build but it did have it's challenges. Soldering was easier than last time, there were no diodes so I couldn't overheat anything. But the hardest part was fitting everything in the smallest enclosure I've ever worked with.

At the end of the day it worked out well
But soldering the wires from the board to the pot lugs was a challenge because it was such a small space. I'm going to need to find a better way of do this part
Other than that part, the rest was really fun to build

Here are some classy shots of the Way Huge Red Llama clone

 Thats not the actual wave form of the red llama, just a regular sign wave.
 I was thinking about doing a post about how pedals work. I would call it "how does it work" and I would explain how each component works together to create that given effect. I know a little about op amp and high pass filters, but I would love to learn more about circuitry and how it works.

Overall, I think this was a great project. I was able to take in all the lessons I learned from last project and applied it to this build to make it work. The one big tool that helped me a lot was the continuity tester. I was able to check if all the connections are strong. All and all, fun build. 

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Putting the guts into the Llama

The last step to this project is putting the board into the enclosure. For this build I bought a 1590b enclosure which is the second smallest you can get, it's the size of a phase 90 box. Anyway, it was a little tricky to place all the wires in the right spots, but I picked up a few simple methods. I will be using this wiring method (

Luckily I was able to just bend the LED lead onto the switch
 Last time I soldered a resistor to the cathode and let it free float. but this time I wanted something a little more sturdy so I soldered it to a strip board
 That LED board work out really well
 So there are the grounds that are all connected
 I did do the twisty wire thing cause it looks cool
 I left the battery adapter unsoldered cause some wires that need to be connected to the ground and 9v
 It's a funny story, I showed my other pedal to my grandfather, who was an electrician, and when I showed him my best work and he was slightly unimpressed with the sloppy wires. So this time I wanted to prove to him that I can do better. This time around I got out the needle nose pliers and bent everything in right angle. I really did the best I can on this one.
 The battery adapter all soldered up
 This part is the most sloppy of all of them
 Soldering underneath the board to the pot lugs was the most difficult part. Take your time on this part
 I am still shocked at the amount of space that is in the enclosure
 The knobs make pedal...they really do
I'll be coming up with the build report very soon when I've had some time to play with it