There's always tinkering happening at the MI workshop and this is a fine example of the R&D that happens here.
Before our NAMM trip earlier this year, we were putting together our pedal boards and struggled to find an ultra-low noise, super compact COMPLETELY ISOLATED*** universal 9V power supply. There are some good options out there, but power supplies need not be the size of a lunch box with the right design.
We've been throwing around the idea of making a power supply for some time after making a few for the workshop. But it wasn't until recently that we successfully built a working prototype, shown in all of its naked glory above. With some hand-wound transformers and a very efficient switching transistor, we have come up with a 9V power supply with as many output taps as required, at any current required, and each individual tap is isolated from each other - all able to fit into a standard Crunch Box size pedal.
***ISOLATED GROUND!!! This term gets spouted in the marketing with every power supply on the market and is incorrectly used by a lot. Let's try and clear this up.***
The aim of your amp/guitar/pedal set-up is to have a single ground path between any two ‘points’ in your signal chain. If you’re using a power supply with a common ground between all the outputs, then you can have multiple paths between any two points. An isolated power supply does this by keeping every the ground of every output tap completely electrically isolated, and relies on the ground connection between your devices to maintain the same reference. This prevents your guitar signal ground from connecting to multiple pedals at the power supply. If there is no isolation, ground loops can occur and that's when you get that nasty hum and buzzing destroying that tone you've worked so hard to get. There's nothing worse than playing a gig with a noisy, "dirty" setup. This is more common in "daisy-chain setups" and non-isolated power supplies.
Most offenders of the misuse of the term "isolated ground" will say that the ground of the input is isolated from the ground of the OUTPUTS AS A WHOLE. However, the grounds of these multiple outputs are actually all connected together - you might as well use a daisy-chain/wall-wart set-up as the ideal power supply should have isolated grounds for EACH OF THE OUTPUTS.
The amount of current available at this stage is dependant on the current supplied at the input. For our proto, 2A is supplied across all THE SUM of all eight output taps. That means, if you have five drive pedals taking 10mA each, the remaining three output taps have 1.95A available. This allows a whole pedal board (of eight pedals) to be powered comfortably. This 2A can be increased to 20A if we wanted, but 2A is normally sufficient for most board uses.
We hooked up our prototype power supply with our drive pedals, including the PNP germanium Neo Fuzz with great, super-quiet success. No need for reverse polarity leads - the pedal power supply takes care of that for you.
Now, who wants one???
This feedback saw the birth of the Super Crunch Box idea (that is still in prototype phase), and now the Super Blues Pro!
The Blues Pro has always delivered in the low/mid gain overdrive tones, and sounds great through any amp or guitar/pickup combination. As the gain goes up, you can get more compression and super-squishy fuzz tone at a flick of a toggle switch. The mid-focused TS sound is a classic found on a lot of blues and rock recordings, and the Blues Pro took that initial design a step further. That is how the Super Blues Pro was tackled - but what could I add to keep the pedal true to its origin, but extend it a bit further?
First, headroom! Like the new Boost 'n' Buff v.3 and soon, the Super Crunch Box, we have added internal voltage multiplying circuitry to boost the operating voltage from a 9V only input, to give the Super Blues Pro 18V supply. This added headroom gives more clarity in the top end and attack and really adds that sparkle for low-gain boosting your amplifier.
Next, I wanted to expand the kinds of overdrive tones that can be dialled in and stand alongside the tone of the original Blues Pro. This has been done with the introduction of the DETAIL, BODY and TRIM controls:
DETAIL - This is essentially like the original tone control on the Blues Pro
BODY - One of the main features of the Blues Pro is a bass/low-mid boost to help get rid of the typical mid-hump of the typical TS type of pedal. The BODY control essentially makes this variable, so you can go for a more mid-focused tone, traditional Blues Pro (with the BODY set to 12 O'clock), or even more low end by cranking the BODY
TRIM - This is essentially a second gain control, which affects the gain in a different part of the circuit. The TRIM and GAIN controls have different frequency responses, so you can achieve a wide variety of tones by adjusting these two controls. The standard Blues Pro sounds can be achieved with the TRIM control set to 2 0'clock.
Finally, I wanted to give users the control of the clipping structure of the overdrive signal - allowing anything from a low-gain, open overdrive tone to the super-compressed, mid-gain fuzz found in the previous version. This is controlled via the two toggle switches, each having three options; Silicon, MOSFET or none.
The interesting thing (which I don't think has been done before,... I'm certainly not aware of any instances) is the ability to choose the clipping device for each side of the waveform individually. The top switch controls the clipping of the top of the waveform, while the bottom switch selects the clipping device for the bottom of the waveform. This means that you can now experiment with say, diode clipping on the top, and MOSFET on the bottom, or No clipping for the top of the waveform, but diode on the bottom etc.
Another thing to point out as well is that the silicon diodes for the top and bottom are in fact different diodes, to add a slight asymmetry to the waveform in Silicon mode. But this also means that you get a slight difference in the tone and feel of the pedal swap switch settings. Also, the MOSFET mode actually uses the clipping characteristics of the MOSFET itself, not the reverse protection diode commonly integrated into the devices.
The range of clipping tones available include the classic TS sounds of the original Blues Pro, or a range of compressed fuzz sounds, all with varying attack dependent on the diodes selected. As the gain increases and bringing in the TRIM control you can opt for a smooth, mid-rich overdrive a la Dumble amplifier tones, or an open, chiming top-end boost.
I'm really excited about the Super Blues Pro, and I'm really looking forward to getting it into the hands of the Blues Pro fans!
The very first "The Guitar Noize Podcast" launched this week and I am proud to have been asked to be the very first builder to be featured.
In the discussion with Jon from Guitar Noize, I was asked about all of our new releases planned for 2012 (which there are many!!) and things that are in the pipeline. Have a listen on the link below and stay tuned to the podcast series for more featured Australian builders and musicians.
Over the years, MI Effects has been known for great overdrive and distortion pedals and always have been asked "When will MI do a delay pedal?" There have been prototypes, and designs and ideas, but for the designs to come to fruition the pedal would have to retail for $1000, and no-one would pay that (would they?).
But as of late, there have been a lot of manufacturers using the PT2399 chip; a digital delay that emulates an analog or tape delay sound. The PT2399 is a great value bundle in one IC, however it does have its limitations and these are apparent if you have played the current pedals in the market. So instead of trying to force this chip to be the replacement for your Echoplex, I decided to embrace these limitations and release a delay pedal that doesn't quite fit into any category - yes it can do those classic modulated delays sounds (and very, very well too) but can be pushed to do so much more, and in turn, hopefully inspire some new sounds and experimentation.
So here it is: the (as-of-yet unnamed) MI Effects Lo-Fi Delay. A lot of careful design has gone into what goes around the PT chip to give modulation like no other pedal. There is control over the filtering of the delay signal that really gives a new perspective with a flick of the switch, and also the input and output of the pedal carefully honed to give you the control of the best signal-to-noise ratio.
The controls are:
Combining all of these features gives every guitarist, and instrumentalist, a whole new palette of sounds with something there for every guitarist. Modulation can go from subtle to extreme, or have pristine, clean repeats to distorted, washy, smeared reverb-like trails. Use the square wave for choppy, rhythmic pulses or triangle wave for classic chorus/vibrato. I encourage you to dig deeper and get inspired with some new sounds.
At the MI Workshop, I have always wanted to fully trick-out a Crunch Box to see how many mods and features we could fit into its small enclosure. So one rainy afternoon I did just that, and decided to give three away for our Facebook and Twitter followers.
I was pleasantly surprised with how the Crunch Box sound had evolved with these added features. This, plus the constant feedback from customers wanting this new Crunch Box, led us to prototype the Super Crunch Box.
The Crunch Box has been around for quite a few years now, and has even inspired several clones and knock-offs. So I threw some ideas around the workshop, and came up with a design that expands the flexibility of the original, without an large rise in price.
First Upgrade: 18V Internal Supply
All stock MI drive pedals can be run up to 24V for more headroom, giving more clarity and a tighter bottom end. We know that a lot of our users run our pedals at higher voltage, but are aware of the troubles of running extra adaptors for these pedals. So a feature I am looking to implement in our future designs is the addition of circuitry to double the input voltage of your 9V adaptor/battery to supply 18V to the pedal. This is a great feature that your pedal board will happy with. The pedal sounds bigger, tighter and more responsive at 18V.
Second Upgrade: External Presence Control
The internal presence control was implemented to integrate easier with every user's amp setup. Some amps are brighter or darker than the ones we use to test, so by dialling in the Presence control you can control the shape of your sound through your setup. By placing it as an external control, you can really pull some great sounds that sit well in a mix, or to have more control with a range of guitars/amps you might use. The interaction with the Tone control is important as dialling in more Presence can cut really well, but also the lows won't feel as powerful, so use it with that in mind. This greatly increases the versatility of the Crunch Box, but for those who want to rock it old school, just leave the presence at 50% and proceed as normal!
Third Upgrade: Lo/Hi Gain Switch
This switch adds a great amount of tones that will suit many different playing styles. In Lo Gain Mode, the Crunch Box really cleans up well with the guitar volume knob and has a glassier tone. It still has a lot of gain (it is a Crunch Box after all!) but there is more string definition and top end than Hi Gain Mode. Hi Gain Mode is the stock Crunch Box amount of gain, so you can still get that "hot-rod" sound as with previous versions.
Fourth Upgrade: Clipping Selector
Like the Lo/Hi Gain Switch, this switch aims to tap in to the lower end of the gain spectrum. The switch selects between two different clipping structures, with one still the stock red LEDs as in the original. The other clipping mode provides a softer clipping of the signal, again to provide some flexibility to the overall distorted signal. The softer clipping mode, coupled with the Lo Gain Mode really provides a sparkly, break-up sound that you wouldn't think comes from a Crunch Box.
I'm proud of the layout of this design and how all of these features were able to be incorporated around the core Crunch Box sound. There are a few hitches we are working through, and a few IC/diode combinations we are experimenting with. Once I'm happy with the outcome, a video demo will go up showing all of these new features. We're hoping for a mid-year release on this one and for the price to be $149 all things going well, which I'm super excited about, give all the extra features we're putting in.
Hope you guys like it!
This is the production prototype of the Megalith Gamma, shown sitting above its big brother, the Megalith Beta. The production prototype uses the final PCB layout, silkscreened powdercoated chassis, and all of the parts that would be used in the final production model. It allows us to finalise any last details before starting a large production run. We whipped up a headshell and covered it in camouflage "camo" tolex for a bit of fun. The production model will be in black. It wouldn't be metal if it wasn't in black!
We are really happy with the final prototype and are looking to begin production come mid-year. Below is a quick demo and explanation of some of the features of the Gamma.