Building a multi-effect unit (a la Cornish, etc.)

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Building a multi-effect unit (a la Cornish, etc.)

Postby Dr Tony Balls » 22 Apr 2011, 15:04

So....a friend asked me to build him a single unit that has 5 effects in it (fuzz, boost, phase, delay, tremolo). I say 'Cornish' in the title because thats what i immediately thought about when he asked me about it, but it doesnt need to be all crazy road-worthy or anything. I would like to make it nice, though. Im already thinking about buffering everything with a buffer at the input of the unit and one at the output of each effect. Im wondering what thoughts you all have about building such a unit?

Also, one of my considerations was order of effects. My initial thought was to set the order up the way that sounds best and hard wire it that way to keep things clean. However im worried that he *might* want to change the order of things or add outboard effects into the middle of the chain. I was thinking about adding separate ins and outs for each effect, like a switchboard, but I think that could get messy for everyday use with jumpers everywhere. The solution Im eyeing is using switching jacks, such that if no jumper is inserted, a connection is automatically made to the next effect. It would mean a lot of runs (shielded, definitely) from the jacks to the switches, though.

Here's the enclosure im working with and a mock-up of knob/switch placement:

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Re: Building a multi-effect unit (a la Cornish, etc.)

Postby Crumbchildz » 22 Apr 2011, 15:20

I built a unit similar to that for one of my clients, and exactly what you're concerned about happened. "Can we put the fuzz before the overdrive?" and then a week later, back again. I'd try to talk him out of the all in one device. Worst case scenario, if his boost craps out (hopefully wouldn't :D ) then he also looses his phase, trem, etc. It's like one of those TV's that has a DVD and VCR built into, if one breaks, you lose everything. Regardless, that box looks great!
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Re: Building a multi-effect unit (a la Cornish, etc.)

Postby Dr Tony Balls » 22 Apr 2011, 15:30

well yeah....this is just for a buddy not for a client, so i'm more okay with being ridiculous. In fact, i'd say that a decent chunk of the point of this is to be ridiculous.
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Re: Building a multi-effect unit (a la Cornish, etc.)

Postby Hides-His-Eyes » 22 Apr 2011, 15:35

If it was me I'd be looking at doing my order selection using internal jumpers. But there's no way to put the effect on the far left first in the chain without long cable runs; the things that need to be connected (knobs, switches) are unavoidable.

You might consider putting 3 pots on every pedal and making them able to be PHYSICALLY swapped around...
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Re: Building a multi-effect unit (a la Cornish, etc.)

Postby johnnyg » 22 Apr 2011, 15:40

Crumbchildz wrote: Regardless, that box looks great!


+1 - it'll look great...

I think there's quite a lot of value in something like this - but only if you can be set in concrete about the pedals you want and need... and have an established order - personally the hassle of adding internal switches or jumpers would negate the project for me.

The value is how easy lugging your effects to and from rehearsal and gigs would be - and how clean and tidy it makes things.
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Re: Building a multi-effect unit (a la Cornish, etc.)

Postby Dr Tony Balls » 22 Apr 2011, 15:49

Internal switches or jumpers WOULD be cool, but i'm into keeping the non-technical folks (my buddy) on the outside of the box. I do like the modular 3-knob switchable thing, though....

As for long runs, im not too worried about it because of the buffers and shielded cable.
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Re: Building a multi-effect unit (a la Cornish, etc.)

Postby culturejam » 22 Apr 2011, 16:13

Dr Tony Balls wrote: I was thinking about adding separate ins and outs for each effect, like a switchboard,

I too have pondered the multi-effect box. And I came to the conclusion that *for me*, the only way I'd end up being happy was to use separate in/out jacks for each effect and use very short patch cables to determine effect order or whether a given effect was in the chain at all.

Maybe explain the options to your friend and ask him how he thinks he might like it to work?
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Re: Building a multi-effect unit (a la Cornish, etc.)

Postby Dr Tony Balls » 22 Apr 2011, 16:56

well....he's trusting me to do what's best. He's fine with the idea of separate ins/outs and jumpers, but I personally think its cumbersome to need 4 jumpers there all the time. I think I can wrap my head around the switched-jack idea enough to get that working.

what about current supply for the power source? Think a 9V/650mA wall wart will do?
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Re: Building a multi-effect unit (a la Cornish, etc.)

Postby Hides-His-Eyes » 22 Apr 2011, 17:15

A SMPS like the 'one-spot' would be ideal, but 600mA should be plenty.
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Re: Building a multi-effect unit (a la Cornish, etc.)

Postby Greenmachine » 22 Apr 2011, 17:33

johnnyg wrote:
Crumbchildz wrote: Regardless, that box looks great!



The value is how easy lugging your effects to and from rehearsal and gigs would be - and how clean and tidy it makes things.


Agreed. I made something like this and I don't bring it to jams cause I can't stuff it into my combo amp. Also, I rarely use a couple of the things I stuck in there. I guess in the end it's more of a novelty build for me. If I could do it all over again, I'd just pick three pedals in there and keep it small - maybe four.

viewtopic.php?f=10&t=10702&hilit=how+many+effects
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Re: Building a multi-effect unit (a la Cornish, etc.)

Postby culturejam » 22 Apr 2011, 17:52

Greenmachine wrote:If I could do it all over again, I'd just pick three pedals in there and keep it small - maybe four.

I agree. I think three is a great number. I'd do dirt/phaser/delay if it were my build.
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Re: Building a multi-effect unit (a la Cornish, etc.)

Postby johnnyg » 22 Apr 2011, 17:57

Greenmachine wrote: Agreed. I made something like this and I don't bring it to jams cause I can't stuff it into my combo amp. Also, I rarely use a couple of the things I stuck in there. I guess in the end it's more of a novelty build for me. If I could do it all over again, I'd just pick three pedals in there and keep it small - maybe four.

viewtopic.php?f=10&t=10702&hilit=how+many+effects


:shock: Wow - what a beast! That's impressive Greenmachine - great man! A lot of work, which makes it a real shame you don't use it much... but still that seems to be how you learn with diy :| - I've a great big plastic box full of things I've built and found I don't like (I pulled my RAT clone out today, but it's just been thrown back in there :lol: )

I guess this is where Pete C really earns his rep and client list - the powering and buffering inside one of these things...

A small three pedal version is a fantastic idea - CJ's suggestion is good. I only ever use a few things at once (being kind of lazy I guess)... it's just I haven't found what I'm looking for yet (the same problem with pedals was Bono's inspiration for the relevant U2 song I believe :blackeye )
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Re: Building a multi-effect unit (a la Cornish, etc.)

Postby Greenmachine » 22 Apr 2011, 18:08

I hear what you're saying with "don't know what I use yet". I've been building pedals for about three years now and I suppose it was last year that I realized I only really use three things: dirt, delay and fuzz. Frankly, I don't even use the delay and fuzz that much. Chorus is fun these days because I'm having a personal 80's revival in my living room ('Til Tuesday).

I'm over the phaser effect. Too swooshy for me. I like hearing others use it though.
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Re: Building a multi-effect unit (a la Cornish, etc.)

Postby Duckman » 22 Apr 2011, 20:03

I think the possibility of different IN/OUT routings via a patch bay, is the most interesting option, 'cause your friend will be able to experiment for his ideal configuration.
Dr Tony Balls wrote:he's trusting me to do what's best.

Make your suggestion... and maybe he didn't need any change :lol:
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Re: Building a multi-effect unit (a la Cornish, etc.)

Postby DaveKerr » 22 Apr 2011, 20:04

I've got an old Army communications box that's too small for a spring reverb but too big and heavy to stuff it with just one effect. I've been thinking about putting an ROG splitter/blender in there, with one side going to fuzz/reverb/boost and the other side one of the Mid-Fi variants (frequency central's Clari(Not) mod, probably) and maybe a Vibrostomp. I'm still trying to improve my chops with simple stand-alone pedals before multiplying the mistakes all in one box.
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Re: Building a multi-effect unit (a la Cornish, etc.)

Postby mictester » 22 Apr 2011, 20:31

I've built quite a lot of "multi-effect" units. The most common combination I'm asked for is Fuzz or Compressor, then either a Big Muff Plus or a Tubescreamer(ish),wah (often with an auto-wah option), phaser or chorus, then finally echo / reverb. The whole thing gets wrapped with buffers in and out. One of the big advantages you can include is a measure of voltage control - I do the level sensing of the guitar signal before any of the envelope affecting effects, and can then drive auto-wah or auto-phaser or an envelope generator (or envelope restorer) from the unaffected guitar signal, thereby retaining the dynamic control from the player's technique. The voltage-control also allows the use of expression pedals for wah and volume (I even do a wireless, Bluetooth-connected expression pedal for people who don't like lots of wires!)

It requires thought and planning - sometimes I'll look at what a player is using already as separates, and the way in which they're interconnected - then I'll emulate their set-up in a one-box unit. I find that most players have a firm idea of the order they want their effects to be in - it's the way they've been doing it for years! The only recent change to that was one musician who wanted to (switchably) select where his wah pedal was in the chain. This posed a few problems at first, but the use of electronic switching and routing eliminated most of the problems!
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Re: Building a multi-effect unit (a la Cornish, etc.)

Postby Hides-His-Eyes » 22 Apr 2011, 20:52

Switching effects order with CMOS is a massive pain in the arse and anyone who says otherwise is a liar ;) By the time you've got gates in for wah first or fuzz first and the bypass gates and whatnot, do you use a PIC for the switching logic or do you use CMOS chips? I'm trying to think how many logic gates you need off the top of my head but it's been too hot today.
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Re: Building a multi-effect unit (a la Cornish, etc.)

Postby mictester » 22 Apr 2011, 21:26

The CMOS is actually really simple for the switching. 4013s and a bit of diode logic ("wired-OR" gates) are the way to go. I use momentary footswitches and CMOS bistables all the time. You must remember - the 4013 has two bistables, and the 4066 has four switches in it. The 4053 is also an excellent choice for some functions - it has changeover switches and an overall "chip enable" pin which can be really useful! All you have to remember is to bias the CMOS switches to half the audio supply rail to eliminate switching clicks, and to use fairly low impedance audio (10 k is good) at the switching nodes.

The other huge advantage of the one-box approach is the ability to use whatever supply rails you wish. My units are powered by commercial switched-mode PSU modules that will accept any AC supply from 80V to 275V and any input frequency from 35 - 75 Hz. I like to run my MN3007s at 15V (as the datasheet recommends), for example, and run the switching logic off a bipolar +/- 8V supply (the CMOS has a maximum working voltage of 18V). I run "Fuzz Face" boards from about 7.5 Volts (works well with the circuit I prefer), and the voltage is derived using a LM317 regulator with a preset to tweak the supply for optimum fuzziness. I'm not constrained by the need to conserve current for battery operation or by the voltages available from batteries. I can also use really bright, current-hungry LEDs that look amazing!

The wah circuit I use is a VCF (a state-variable type). It's usually configured to have a similar response to a Cry Baby, but can have options for lowpass, bandpass and highpass modes. With voltage control, it's easy to make the board guitar or bass-friendly at the flick of a switch. The boxes usually also have a VCA, which can be used with the expression pedal as a volume pedal. This also gives the option of tremolo by introducing the output of an LFO to the control point of the VCA.

The Bluetooth parts I use come from http://www.rfsolutions.co.uk and are based on their development kit. The position of the pedal is measured using an inclinometer which is converted to a 12-bit number which is transmitted to the corresponding receiver module. A simple D to A (R2R-ladder) gives a DC voltage representation of the pedal position. This voltage is then passed to the VCF or VCA as required. The Bluetooth parts are also audio-capable, and I have built two rigs that fed the output of the pedalboard to the backline that way.

One version I built had a set of DIP switches internally to switch the order of effects to the bus-system inside the box. It was a pretty neat solution, but I had issues with preventing "bleed" to and from high-gain boards. A simple approach is better!
Last edited by mictester on 22 Apr 2011, 21:31, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Building a multi-effect unit (a la Cornish, etc.)

Postby reneshelle » 22 Apr 2011, 21:29

Go for simplicity! (Unless you prefer the CMOS challenge)

I would say just hardwire the lot. It's not that hard to change the effects order as long as you don't want to change the physical placement on the board at the same time. Find out if he likes the phase before or after the drive, and the same with the boost. If he later wants a send/return, it will be easy to ad.

You could have an inputbuffer if you fell his rig needs it when everything is bypassed, but I wouldn't bother buffering the individual outputs. Some would say never to put a buffer in front of a fuzz, others say something else... I know very little of fuzz pedals as I don't use them.

Make it simple and easy to grab'n'go. That's the main thing with a board like this. Simplicity. Also a built in psu would be killer!

Just my humble opinion...
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Re: Building a multi-effect unit (a la Cornish, etc.)

Postby Dr Tony Balls » 22 Apr 2011, 21:55

reneshelle wrote:Go for simplicity! (Unless you prefer the CMOS challenge)

I would say just hardwire the lot. It's not that hard to change the effects order as long as you don't want to change the physical placement on the board at the same time. Find out if he likes the phase before or after the drive, and the same with the boost. If he later wants a send/return, it will be easy to ad.




well I messed around with some stuff and im pretty confident about what the order should be. what i'm most concerned about is what IF he wants something like a wah (something I would normally put after my fuzz)? Its the ability to stick something in the middle that im thinking about.
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