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Product FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

About Our Products

Some of these responses will be useful information for first-time builders of effects. Others are tips and references for more experienced DIYers.
 

"Support"

  • What do you mean when you say that you support many of the projects at Tonepad, GGG, etc.? Do you offer kits for any of them?

We do our best to stock both common components and the sometimes hard-to-find, obsolete devices that were used in the classic pedals for which these companies offer PC boards. Sometimes we suggest work-alikes or replacements.

We don't offer kits per se, partly because we don't want to be breaking up packages when someone wants red or blue knobs instead of black. Also, while it would be nice if we could have you click one button to fill the shopping cart with all the parts for a particular pedal, our software was never designed to permit this.

However:

While you do have to do your own shopping, we maintain a large library of spreadsheets, each with all of the parts for, for example, a Fuzz Face, Tonebender, etc. If you have questions, tell us which pedals you want to build and we'll e-mail you the right files. This makes shopping easier for you, and we get your order in a standard format that we can process quickly. In effect, you "roll-your-own" customized kit.

 

Germanium Transistors

 
There is a whole FAQ on this subject in my How-Tos.
  • Why are the NPN devices so much more expensive than the PNP? What advantage, if any, do they offer?
 

According to R. G. Keen (who was doing this at the time), NPN germanium that is quiet and of suitable gain for Fuzz Faces was harder to make back in the day than PNP. So, today, raw NPN germanium stock is harder to find and much more expensive.

The big advantage of NPN devices is that they allow you to build a Fuzz Face negative-ground. Done this way, you can power the pedal from the same supply that runs everything else on your pedal board. If you build positive-ground using PNP devices, you must either install a battery or power from a separate supply.

To anticipate a question, it is possible to use PNP devices and wire negative-ground. However, because many intractable problems with motorboating noise have been reported with such builds, it's not recommended. You Can build an NPN Fuzz Face or Rangemaster on a limited budget by using low-gain devices in Darlington pairs. See the articles in How-Tos.

 

Silicon Transistors For Fuzz Faces

  • How come you don't offer matched pairs of silicon devices? Is it necessary to match them?

Silicon parts are so much cheaper than germanium that it's perfectly reasonable to buy a small bunch and measure the gains on your own. Because silicon typically doesn't leak much and isn't so temp-sensitive, the gain scale of a multimeter (even most economy models now offer this) will give you a usable reading.

IMO, matching them for the FF is desireable. The typical Fuzz Face circuit with stock values for the bias resistors tends to sound harsh when the gains of the devices are too high. The good news is that because silicon transistors are relatively cheap and a very wide variety of types and gain buckets is readily available, it is not difficult to come up with an early '80s FF that sounds as good as anything Hendrix would have used.

This article:

Breadboarding A Silicon Fuzz Face

has a lot of useful information on setting up and tweaking a silicon Fuzz Face. However, I emphasize again: There is nothing magic about the particular devices I used. Hundreds of types will work, they will all sound slightly different, and nobody can tell you which ones will curl your fur. Happy Experimenting!

 

2N5133 Transistors For The Big Muff - SKU 2017A

 
  • I want the classic "dot" package devices, but with very high Hfe.

At one time, a small percentage of the devices that I was receiving had gains of several hundred. This is not "mojo." It's just the result of normal manufacturing variance in fab lines of the time, coupled with a loose spec for the 2N5133...anything in that package with Hfe over 50 qualifies, and that's what I was seeing. The NOS transistor market being the opaque creature that it is, at a point the lots I received contained fewer of these "outliers." A lot of hype developed around them, which was emphatically not my intent.

Few of the devices in my present stock of SKU 2017A hit over 100. For DIYers who want a few devices in the "dot" package that are guaranteed to be hotter, there are now numerous choices in the Stock List in Bulk For FFs and BMPs and TO-105 "Dots".

 

Germanium Diodes

 

  • I need a 1N34a.

The work-alikes that I offer as SKU 2209 will always be OK wherever the 1N34a is specified for clipping. That said, there are hundreds of types of both small signal and power diodes that will also work, and they will all sound slightly different because of differences in forward conduction voltage (V fwd) and junction capacitance.

  • I need a 1N100 for the Orange Squeezer.

I have a limited stock of these by ITT if you want "authentic". But the exact type is not critical to performance, and many others will work.

 

LEDs

 
  • What value series resistor do I need?

The value needed depends on the type/size of LED, and on the compromise you make between desired brightness and battery drain. With a 9-volt supply, 5mm diffused types like SKU 2300 are readily visible with a series resistance as high as 2.7K. High-brightness water-clear types will be fine with up to 8.2K.

  • How do I secure the LED in one of your metal bezels?

--Insert the LED all the way into the bezel.

--Add ONE drop of Krazy Glue or similar adhesive in back.

--Slip the black plastic  retainer on and press in place.

--Wait ten seconds. Done.

 

Switches

 
  • I have a BOSS/Ibanez xxx pedal and need to replace the effect in/out switch?

    We stock several tactile switches that are either OEM replacements or work-arounds. If we don't have the one you need, try contacting partsisparts.net or calling:

--Roland/BOSS Customer Service: 323-890-3700

--Hoshino USA (Ibanez): 800-669-8262

  • I want to re-house a pedal. How do I know what kind of switch I need to replace the effect in/out switch?

    If the existing switch has only two contacts, you want a momentary switch. That will provide a simple contact closure to trigger the electronic bypass in the pedal. There are several suitable choices in the Stock List: The Carling 110-PM-OFF is very rugged and has a solid, mechanical "ker-chunk" action. The Taiwanese X-wing SPDT Momentary is inxepensive, but less rugged, also has a solid mechanical click. The "Soft-Touch" Momentary, SKU 0206A, is very rugged and inexpensive, with a completely smooth action.

    If the existing stomp switch is a stomp switch with three contacts, it's probably an SPDT latching switch wired "half-bypass." This was common in older pedals when DPDT switches were much more expensive. Replace with a DPDT or 3PDT and re-wire for true bypass. There are numerous on-line references that cover how to do this.

    For pedals that use a six-contact, DPDT switch, replace with Carling, Alpha or 3PDT, depending on cost, mechanical considerations and whether you want/need to drive an in-use LED.

  • I'm working in a very quiet environment and need a true-bypass switch that does not have a mechanical "ker-chunk."

    I don't have or know of a silent true-bypass stomp switch. That said, there are ways to handle this problem, though none is simple.

    This actuator:

    http://smallbear-electronics.mybigcommerce.com/switch-actuator-for-b-o-b/ is silent in operation. Combine it with a multi-pole tactile switch: http://smallbear-electronics.mybigcommerce.com/4pdt-latching-pcb-mount/ and you have the equivalent of a silent stomper. But you will have to pay Very careful attention to getting the registration of the parts correct and to securely mounting the switch.

    You can also combine a "Soft-Touch" momentary switch:

    http://smallbear-electronics.mybigcommerce.com/momentary-spst-no-soft-touch/ 

    with a latching relay:

    http://smallbear-electronics.mybigcommerce.com/relay-dpdt-5-volt-single-coil-latching/

    though you'll need a circuit to de-bounce the switch contacts. There is info on this subject at Geofex.com.

    Monomonster or Molten Voltage ICs and modules are still another possibility:

    http://smallbear-electronics.mybigcommerce.com/monomonster/

    http://smallbear-electronics.mybigcommerce.com/molten-voltage-pedalsync-1/

Enclosures

 
  • Is your "B-size" enclosure exactly the the same as the one that ZVex uses?

    It is the same enclosure, made from the same mold. When producing for us, the factory puts an insert in the mold that blocks the ZVex logo from being cast.

  •  Will you drill/paint/powder-coat my enclosure?

    We do not offer these services. Companies we know of that do drill and powder-coat to order are

  • I would like to drill my own enclosure, but I don't know how to locate the holes correctly. Also, what kind of drill do I need for aluminum boxes?

My article on crafting a "Shell" for a pedal covers the use of paper templates for locating holes and gives an example. Ordinary twist drills are fine for drilling, but many DIYers like to use a step-drill, usually referred to by its trade name Unibit.

  • What are the advantages/disadvantages to using the inkjet decal stock as opposed to the laser material?

    Because you use it with a laser printer (or color photocopier), you can get a higher print density on the laser stock. Also, the laser stock is compatible with Micro-Sol decal softener, which makes it easier to get a "painted-on" appearance. The decal softener will not work with the inkjet stock.

  • How do I use the decal stock/iron-on transfer materials?

Here are links to the manufacturer's instructions for the inkjet and laser materials. The iron-on transfer material is Avery Label #3279.

PC Boards

 
  • Can I use a marking pen to draw traces on the copper?

A Sharpie permanent marker is workable for this, but a purpose-made industrial marker like the Dykem, SKU 0417, will give you a heavier, darker line.

Resistors

 
  • I have heard that composition resistors give superior tone. How come you don't stock them?

    Composition resistors do make a difference in high-voltage tube amp circuits. See this piece by R.G. Keen: http://diystompboxes.com/pedals/rgccmp.html

  • Carbon Film vs. Metal Film?

    Carbon film will always work, and it's a little cheaper. Metal film sometimes helps to reduce noise in the signal path of very high-gain circuits like preamps and compressors.

Potentiometers (Panel-Mounted)

  • Will your SKU nnnn knob fit SKU nnnn pot?

    Unless otherwise specifically noted, All of the pots on the Stock List have a 1/4-inch diameter, smooth, full-round shaft. All of the knobs meet this spec, also unless specifically noted

  • What style of pot do I need for my guitar?
  • SBE prefers to maintain its focus on parts for pedals. Guitar pots usually need to tolerate more rotations than pots used in effects. Also, they typically have a splined and knurled shaft that accepts a push-on knob. For these reason, I suggest shopping at specialty web sites like guitarelectronics.com or musiciansfriend.com. Mouser.com also now carries guitar pots, and the prices look better than what I have seen at specialty sites.

  • Pots For BOSS/Ibanez pedals?

    The Alpha 16mm types with solder terms are adaptable to many of the older models. The 20K "W" taper is an exact match for the "G" taper tone pot in the Tube Screamer. For PC-mount types or styles that I don't carry, try partsisparts.net or the manufacturer's customer service:

    Roland/BOSS: 323-890-3700

    Hoshino USA (Ibanez): 800-669-8262

Wah-Wah and Swell Pedal Pots and Parts

 
    • Which pot should I buy for my Crybaby?

      Any of the Wah pots on the Stock List are mechanically compatible with the Crybaby, and will fit many other makes. That said, they differ in resistance and in taper, taper being the relationship between change in resistance and change in rotation.

      Resistance and taper both affect the "quackiness" and response of the pedal, and those qualities are very much matters of personal taste. If you are trying a type of wah pot for the first time, connect it with alligator leads. Wah pots can be exchanged as long as they are not soldered to or mechanically damaged.

    •  My Dunlop/Black Top/ProPot has gotten scratchy. Can I quiet it down?

      All of these pots, as well as the SBE Black Bear, are variants of an industrial pot that was developed originally as a joy-stick control. Based on a lot of anecdotal evidence and testing by some SBE commercial customers, we conclude that the lubricant that the maker puts in these picks up dust in some environments, and that sometimes makes the pot noisy.

      The present version of the Black Bear is deliberately made without that lubricant. So far, we have not had complaints of shortened life, or of scratchiness. As for the other types, the scratchiness almost always disappears if you diasassemble the pot completely, wash the parts thoroughly with Deoxit or similar solvent, and reassemble.

    •  What Transistors will give the best sound in my Crybaby?

      I can't give you an absolute answer, because I can't know exactly what combination of bias conditions and gain will please someone. That said, feedback from customers indicates that a transistor gain in the 300 range is likely to be happy-making. While various BC10x types are popular and will hit that gain bucket, Any quiet silicon device will work. We do not offer sorted silicon for this application; we don't have the time or staff to do so, nor do we want to only sell the relatively few parts that hit a narrow gain range. If you are looking for the holy grail, buy a small selection, take out your multimeter and breadboard and have at it. Your remainders will still be perfectly usable for other jobs. 

      Please note also: IMO, the transistor type has Much less to do with shaping the tone than the inductor and the tank cap. Concerning those components, see the responses following.

    • What inductor do you recommend for modding my Crybaby?

      This is completely a matter of personal taste, and the same guarantee applies to these as to Wah pots: Treat gently, test without soldering, and they are returnable if you are not happy with the tone. NB: For the money, the Eleca halo is a very good value.

    • What type/make of capacitor do you recommend for the tank circuit?

      Any decent quality (Panasonic, Topmay) film capacitor of the right value will work. That said, two parts with the same capacitance may sound slightly different because of differences in physical construction. Many people use high-voltage film types like the Mallory 150 or Sprague Orange drop. We now also have a wide variety of old-stock parts, both poly-film and papar-in-oil (PIO) that are popular with some tone-seekers. It's a matter of personal taste, and the subject of endless discussions on the DIY Forums.

 

Pedal Power and Transformer Issues

 
  • Why do I get hum when I power my pedal with a wall wart?

    Consumer wall transformers, like the unregulated types in the Stock List, include only a bare minimum of filtering to keep them as inexpensive as possible. This is OK for powering computer speakers, for example, but the ripple current shows up as hum in high-gain circuits.

    Some pedals include extra filtering and regulation and so are OK with an unregulated wall wart; a number of the old E-H pedals were designed this way, for example. If your pedal needs cleaned-up power, you have choices:

    • Buy an unregulated wall wart, and build an add-on that includes a three-terminal regulator and filter capacitors. There are many on-line references that describe how to do this.
    • Buy a wall wart that includes regulation and filtering, like the Morley, SKU 2401K.
    • Build a Small Wart.

Capacitors

 
  • The article I'm building from specifies "poly film" or "polyester film" types. Which are those on the Stock List?

    You'll find these in Panasonic Low-voltage poly films. For 1 mf., you'll find the Cornell-Dublier DME radial and the BC Components box style. GeneralGuitarGadgets boards are laid out for the DME radial, while Tonepad standardizes on the box.

    The other poly film types, like Sprague and Mallory, are usually used for tube amp repair, though some people also use them to replace tone caps in guitars and Wah pedals.

  • Help!! There so many ways of expressing capacitor values!

    Capacitor values on the Stock List are Always expressed either as Microfarad (You'll see it as mf., mfd., uf., uF. in schematics and lists,) or picofarad (pf.). The use of mf. as "millifarad" is a change of recent years; it can be confusing, but the correct translation will be clear enough from how the capacitor is being used.

    1000 pf. = .001 mf. = 1 nf. (nanofarad) That last is a European usage that you'll see a lot. 

  • How do I read the value code on the poly films?

    Briefly: The value is in picofarads (pf.), expressed as two digits and a multiplier. For example, 103 is 10 + 3 zeroes or 10000 pf. To convert to microfarad, move the decimal point six places left. So 10,000 pf. = .01 mf.

    The value is usually followed by a letter that indicates tolerance, or allowable variance from the marked value. J means +/- 5%, K means +/- 10%

  • What working voltage do I need?
  • At least 50% greater than the power supply voltage. For a 9 Volt pedal, a minimum of 15 volts is fine.

Wire

  • What kind of wire should I use for pedal internals? What's the difference between pre-bond, regular stranded and solid tinned? When should I use shielded cable?

#22 or #24 gauge is fine for internal wiring. Ordinary stranded is OK, but I find pre-bond easier to work with; the strands are tinned so that they take solder easily, and they are heated electrically during manufacture to partially marry the strands. Makes it easier to route in a crowded chassis.

Solid tinned copper is recommended for breadboarding. Shielded cable is sometimes used for input and output connections to reduce noise.

 

ICs - Op-Amps

  • I'm building a Ross/Dynacomp. What's the difference between the CA3080E  and CA3080A
  • What about the LM308N/LM308AH for the RAT/Rodent clones?

    "E" is plastic 8-pin dual in-line package, "A" is metal can. Either will work, though you have to bend the leads of the can package to fit the dual in-line format on a PC Board. The can has a reputation for being a little quieter. Same answers for the LM308: "N" is plastic dual in-line, "AH" is metal can.

  • What is the provenance of the JRC4558D chips that you sell? Is there anything to the reports of superior tone in Tube Screamers from the JRC4558Ds that were manufactured in the 70s and 80s?

    The parts I sell are current production, purchased from an authorized distributor for the manufacturer, New Japan Radio. Knowledgeable professionals who have done A-B tests report no difference in tone between current-production and old-stock chips. Nonetheless, these reports persist. Let your own ears be your guide, and be aware that on-line offers of "NOS" JRC4558D are almost surely Not old-stock.

  • What ICs can I substitute for the JRC4558D in the TS?

    Many other dual op-amps are pin-compatible and are known to work: TLC2262, TLC2272, LM833, TL072, RC4558P, NE5532, OP2134PA, OP2604AP.

    Note that if you are willing to breadboard the circuit so that you can easily swap other components, you'll find that changing values and types of coupling caps, types of clipping diodes and the configuration of the diode loop, and the gains of the stages, create Much more pronounced changes in tone than changing chips. The "Bible" concerning these mods is R. G. Keen's article, "The Technology Of The Tube Screamer," at GEOFEX.com. Welcome to DIY pedal madness...

  • Can you offer quantity discounts/supply commercial quantities of any obsolete op-amps/other devices?

I don't sell quantities of many obsolete chips; it is not a good business for Small Bear. Partly, it's because the amount of poor quality--or downright bad--stock on the broker market has forced honest re-sellers such as SBE into having to test every part by hand. We can do that for individual hobbyists; we don't have the resources to do it for commercial customers, and I don't want to go that route. We do have some bulk lots of silicon and germanium transistors for the boutique trade, and those are posted.

For bulk lots of obsolete ICs, please try E-Bay or one of the many on-line brokerages out there.

ICs - Bucket Brigade Delays

  • Any source for the Reticon SAD1024A, SAD512, SAD4096, R5101?

    There are none left of the lot of SAD1024A that I had. As far as we know, that was the "last of the Dodos." If you log in to the Forum at diystompboxes.com and search past threads, there are posts that detail substituting an MN3007 for the SAD1024A. Same comment re the Coolaudio V3205 for the SAD4096.

    As for the other numbers, there may be scattered pieces left in broker warehouses. However, I have never seen any of them advertised for sale, at any price.

  • What about the MN3005?

I am happy to say that the XVive Audio clone of this chip has been widely accepted. SKU 1909M.

Knobs

 
  • What shaft size(s)/shaft style(s) do the knobs fit?

    Unless otherwise specifically noted, all of the knobs on the Stock List fit a 1/4-inch diameter, smooth, full-round shaft, and they have set screws. The ones that say "for knurled shaft" fit a 6mm shaft with an 18-tooth knurl.

  • I see the style I need on the Stock List, but my control has a "D" shaft...

    Make yourself an adapter by slicing a piece of metal rod or tubing in half and filing to size. Use this to "fill in" the missing half of the shaft.

Tube Amp Parts And Info

 

While some of SBE's offerings are useful to the amp DIY-er or repair tech, we are clear that amps are not really "us." Please try these sites: