Number 24 – First Edition
VauxFlores’ second venture into electronics production, now available in full technicolor splendor! Ladies and gentlemen, introducing Number 24. At the risk of one of my usual essay-length descriptions that my electronics blurbs tend to be, I’ll try to keep this straight to the point, hopefully without tangential ranting.
So what is it?
Number 24 is a high-gain three-transistor fuzz that’s similar to several other boutique fuzz pedals on the market, but designed to be easily produced using locally-sourced materials. But wait – locally-sourced materials – like, hobbyist grade? Aren’t high-end boutiques supposed to tout obscure components and arcane combinations of rare Soviet-grade tank electronics and audio-grade flux-capacitors? Sure, yeah, sometimes, if they’re available. Do these combinations change a circuit’s sound from commercial blandness to some sort of creamy, psychedelic tone wonderment? Eh, why not. Are they necessary to produce an extremely-versatile unit capable of several unique tones housed in a single box? In this case, not so much. Allow me to elaborate.
At the moment, I’m currently living a bit of an international lifestyle, bouncing back and forth between my home state of New York and San José, Costa Rica, but for the sake of argument, let’s focus on San José as my primary residence. For those unfamiliar with the city, or perhaps under the influence of Lonely Planet’s horrible reviews of just about every part of Costa Rica that doesn’t involve midwestern-chic, beaches or yoga retreats, San José is a pretty cool place with a thriving music scene. Musical tastes range across the spectrum and due to the city’s size, the scenes overlap considerably and very seldom do we suffer from a lack of activity, creativity or any other descriptive noun ending in -ity. However, one thing that Costa Rica does lack is a local manufacturing base, which shows in the fact that outside of coffee and agriculture, our second-largest economic resource is tourism. Meaning, unless you happen to be involved in one of the few larger trans-national production enterprises here, or are an exotic butterfly, most of your wares will have to be imported to the tune of a fairly sizable import tariff. In the case of us musical folk, this is a fairly bad thing, since it drives up the price of commercial audio gear considerably. Same goes for the boutique scene, and in my case, all the aforementioned fancy Soviet-grade tank-capacitors, which are hit with an even higher tariff, since they’re considered construction materials. As a result, the local market for boutique audio wares is limited, to say the least.
Hence the decision to go local. Another quick note on San José living: very seldom do you ever find everything you’re looking for in a single place. More likely, to assemble a single bill of materials for a box you’ll end up visiting five different places, each offering something similar to what you’re after, leading to a lot of patchwork on the part of the builder, as well as a degree of flexibility while prototyping. In short, improvisation is key, or at least something akin to that old saying about horseshoes and various military-grade explosive devices.
Back to the box. Once the materials were assembled, it was a matter of designing a circuit that would be able to produce a wide variety of tones using components that were common enough to prevent wild goose chases or the risk depleting supplies of anything considered regionally unique. To do so, individual bias controls were incorporated into each transistor, effectively creating three individual fuzz controls for the box that react differently depending on the settings of their counterparts. Similarly, a voltage sag was incorporated as well, creating a plethora of tones at different voltages, ranging from tin-can telephone chirps to barking square-wave surf-safaris invoking doom metal bellows from a modular synth. Twist a knob or two to bring out a wall of feedback with a couple low-octave sputters and another to change to a subtle overdrive. All said, the range of sounds are pretty amazing. But don’t take my word for it.