Number 23 – First Edition
Number 23 was devised originally as a research project I embarked upon shortly after completing an experimental guitar pedal that combined aspects of the synths I’ve been building since 2008 with a boutique distortion pedal. Astonished with the elegant simplicity of the pedal I incorporated into the synth and seeking a chance to expand my knowledge of electronics, I began studying the schematics of rare, vintage and boutique guitar pedals, looking for similarities in design and clues to what made each one unique. Similarly, after years of building and expanding on designs sourced from a very specific vein of electronics, I was seeking the challenge of working in a different field – one where the emphasis of design relies on simplicity, as opposed to networks of chaos. Additionally, another challenge for this particular project lies in the field of replication. With previous instruments, each one was viewed as a unique instrument, and were numbered accordingly. While sequential designs tended to be similar in layout and application, each one differed slightly. With Number 23, this is not the case – transistors are matched, circuits are etched, potentiometers have specific functions (as opposed to my explanation of “well, they do something…”) and voltage is stabilized – not to say that it’s not wild, it’s just different. And capable of being replicated in small batches.
So what is it exactly? Well, it’s kind of very strange fuzz pedal whose design is based off a rare, vintage guitar pedal called the Ampeg Scrambler, which was originally released in 1968 to less than stellar reviews. According to legend, less than 2000 original units were produced before Ampeg shifted gears and moved onto more lucrative ventures. However, owing to the small numbers of the original batch, as its general regard as something different, originals are now bought and sold at astronomical prices and legions of DIY builders have done their utmost to provide several viable clones of this box, most of which claiming to be an exact copy of the original. For Number 23, this is simply not the case – however, I still haven’t answered the question.
So what is it exactly? At it’s core, it’s a relatively un-gated fuzz pedal tuned to spit out frequencies slightly lower than your typical ’60’s fuzz guitar. In fact, playing on the lower register of the neck produces tones that recall aspects of drop-tuned sludge and doom metal. However, as you work your way up the neck, the harmonics are “scrambled,” much like the namesake of the box that this one is based off of – the result: strange ring-modulated warbles emerge and take precedence, creating sounds that could be better described as robotic alien freakouts, as opposed to viable guitar tones. This is due to the use of darlington transistors in place of traditional NPN’s, paired with modern silicone diodes, allowing a slightly sharper, aggressive sound with a couple ghosts in the machine thrown in for good measure as signals are amplified and buffered in a less than traditional fashion.
But wait, there’s more – outside of a modern interpretation of a rare, vintage pedal, there’s a couple additional tweaks built into this box. First, there’s a matter of voltage. With this edition, voltage can be dialed in to the user’s specifications. Unlike several gated fuzzboxes available, where starving the voltage creates abrupt, sputtering effects, this is not the case. Instead, it acts more as a delay for the effect, slowing the attack to the point where the blend between wet and dry becomes a dynamic element that ranges from a slight, ramped buzz to a full sonic assault. In this way, subtlety is key. Of course, being one who values a well-balanced approach to sound and electronics, opposite the controls for subtlety are the controls for the crazy – a fully controlled feedback loop that realigns every potentiometer on the box to something a little beyond the role of a traditional guitar pedal, ranging from a slight howl, to a robotic seizure to a massive, no-input beast that responds to every pedal tweak before it in the chain – versatility, as always, is key.
So there you have it – vintage design mixed with modern aesthetic, all wrapped into a small, individually-assembled, hand-painted box, produced in small batches to ensure quality, as well as to allow for modifications and improvement between runs. Batch number one is currently hot off the iron and ready for shipping. Outside of the pedal, each box ships in a hand-sewn purple fur carrying bag (easily modified to put more fuzz in your fuzz pedal), a snazzy lino-cut user manual and a tiny stuffed friend to keep it company on its journey. That said, we invite you to do what you can to support small businesses, diy aesthetics, anti-corporatism in the arts and quality craftsmanship to boot, all provided at a fair price. As always, operators are standing by.