Pedal Mods: A Master Class

Just look at all those... THINGS!

It’s a well-known fact that ‘Electronics is tuff™’, to coin a phrase. With that in mind, you can imagine the flurry of expletives that barreled through my mind once I’d removed the screws from the rear of this Boss BF-2 Flanger. “I have no idea what I’m doing”, I muttered sheepishly.

I like to think that, when it comes to guitars, I’m fairly well versed in maintenance and repair, and I’m pretty sure I know how to get a great tone either by switching potentiometer values, tone caps and the like. I’ll admit this: I’m blissfully unaware of the innerworkings of my floor-dwelling, tone altering friends. I can’t stress enough that I HAVE NO CLUE WHAT I’M DOING.

So, when John came to me and asked if I’d like to learn how to build pedals, I played it all cool-like. “Oh, psssssh. Yeah? I mean, like, why not? I’m pretty handy and good at things.” My interior dialogue was quite a bit different. I was panicked in a way reminiscent of the first time I was allowed to stay home by myself and told, “Don’t break anything”, which I did almost as soon as my parents stepped out the front door. I was freaking out.

The next day, this unassuming, purple pedal was sitting on my desk, taunting me. I paced for a while, pretended it wasn’t there, tried to think of what I could break just so that I could repair it, then relented. I was going to have to face this sooner or later.

So there I was, staring at this maze of wires and solder traces, marveling at the daunting yet elegant labyrinth before me. I decided to just dive in.

It called me all kinds of things. Terrible things. Things like the "Ð" word. *shudders*

John and Mike both promised the instructions would help, and they were right. After some trepidation having to do with my blatant ignorance of part codes (cleared up with aplomb and finesse by Mike Ball), I was off! The instructions included with every kit recommend testing the pedal after each part is changed, and with a dual purpose: it’s a great way to troubleshoot, and it’s also good to note the sonic benefits of each new component. The latter interested me more, so I decided to do just that.

As I made my way through the board I found myself relishing the next change as I would the next course in an elaborate Italian dinner. Each new replacement meant enhancement, and I was enthralled by the benefits of such tiny parts! I was equally spurred on by the relative ease at which I was able to remove and replace parts, not that I was working quickly at all.

I was about one-third of the way through the board when I realized that testing after each individual part had become cumbersome, as the amps and guitars are in another room entirely, so I switched to testing in groups. In my mind, the pedal had a status bar above it, and as I worked I imagined it lighting up further and further along its length, moving towards the thrill of victory.

Once I’d reached the last step, I wondered what the pedal would soon sound like; my mouth was watering and my mind, racing. I should admit that I don’t even really like the flange effect. Even so, I was entranced by the work. I couldn’t contain my excitement.

I seated the last new chip and breathed a sigh of accomplishment. Whether or not it worked, I’d at least learned a great deal about soldiering tiny things to tiny holes, and that was enough. I made my way to an amp, plugged in, and with great anticipation, engaged the pedal.

What I heard was more like a sonic bloom than a mere tune-up. The pedal, which produced stereotypically sterile and shallow swirls was now fully 3-dimensional and lush, with enough depth and overtones to make your head spin, man. I’ll put it this way: I don’t like flange, but I like this flange.

I’m a believer: John Fromel’s mod kits are the real deal. If you’re not happy with an existing unit, these kits will deliver.

Next up for me is the venerable Boss Compressor. Here’s hoping things go even more smoothly. John can crank these out in around half an hour; I took one hour and forty-five minutes, so I’ve a long way to go. Still, my appetite has been whetted, and I can’t wait to dig in again!

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