Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Big Muff Tone Stack analyshenanigans.

So, I did a few crude experiments and have a few problems, but they've gotten me thinking about how difficult it to manage impedance-related losses in passive circuitry. Here is a more technical diagram of what I'm actually doing.
  bigmuff-atten-blockdiagram  

This is just a diagram of models. Basically I know that if a circuit fits a model, and the models work together a certain way, then I know that the circuits work together that same way. Every wire you see Zout in one stage, and Zin in the next stage, attenuation is occuring, and this time its unwanted. For a "perfect" transmission of voltage, Zout must be zero and Zin must be infinity. The problems with these impedance is that they change when you twiddle the knobs. If it was predictable it wouldn't be a big deal, but there are some variable resistors that have to be taken into account, so instead of saying Zin is a, we have to say Zin varies from b to c. It might take differentiation to find the min or max, depending on how you do it. Here's the schematic for the version of the tone stack I'm using:
  bigmuffstack
To find Zin, we just see what the equivalent resistance to ground of the whole thing is, assuming no load. To keep life simple, we're going to just do a DC analysis, and assume that capacitors are open circuits.
  bigmuffstack2 
There's only one path for current to go through, so the equivalent input impedance is trivial to find: just add up the three resistors. To find Zout, you see what the equivalent resistance going in BACKWARDS from the load is, assuming that the source is grounded. For this circuit, this means two branches which are effectively in parallel, and each one of them contains half of a potentiometer. bigmuffstack3 To really analyze this, we're going to have to split up the potentiometer. Let's call one half R and the other half (1M-R), since they have to equal 1M. So this means that the two parallel branches consist of R + 39k and (1M-R) + 8.8k. The formula for parallel resistance tells us that in terms of R, Zout is (R+39k)*(1008.8k-R)/1047.8k, a quadratic. It's easy to see that when R is 1M, Zout is approximately 8.8k, and when it's 0, Zout is approximately 39k, but when R is 484.9k, about halfway, Zout becomes its maximum amount: 261.95k. So there you have it. When I design the attenuator, it must be able to deal with this large change in output impedance by having an input impedance much large enough to be considered equally "larger" to both values. When I tested the circuit I plugged it directly into the 22k impedance effect return, and the result was that in the middle of the knob barely any sound came out, and it was crazy loud at the outside. Looking at the numbers, this is the result one would expect! More on attenuator design coming soon.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Getting the rig together--FX loop tube

So, I actually have a growing need for a working and/or more permanent guitar rig. For recording I've been able to hack things together as a kind of one-off, but most of the tones I got were things that I wouldn't be able to easily reproduce again, especially live, with the equipment I have now.

Anyway, one part of this is due to the fact that I rely on a (cheap) mic tube pre-amp to make my (cheap) solid-state combo amp sounds like an (expensive) tube guitar amp.


The problem with this is that to get the nice tone coloration out of a tube, you have to drive it hot, and it ends up being driven so hot that the signal level would be unsafe. So I just keep the volume as low as possible. I just nudge it up from zero until it sounds at all--and that's still usually too loud. I feel like if I turned it up any higher than that I'd blow my power amp or speaker for sure.


The combo I'm using is a Peavey Transtube Studio Pro 112, and the mic pre is an ART Tube MP Studio. Based on the specs, the amp nominally sends and receives -10dBV through the effect loop. The Tube MP has a maximum gain of 44dB, and a maximum output of about 20dBV. While it looks like I'd need a 30dB attenuator, I'd rather it be adjustable, so I'll probably end up testing several levels before committing to one.
Unlike a guitar amp preamp, the Tube MP also lacks any tone controls. I've been wanting to implement an idea for a new passive tone stack anyway, so I've decided to use it here. It consists of two Big Muff tone stacks, each with flat mids, but who have different cutoff frequencies. This would allow a wide range of mid cut and mid boost options in addition to regular Big Muff tone operation.

Both the attenuator and tone controls can be 100% passive, and since they're intended for the same device, I'm going to consider them the same project and put them in the same box, which with the ART TubeMP I'll hopefully be able to velcro somewhere on my amp.

Here's a diagram of how it would be.

rig Without the FX loop, the signal goes straight from the internal preamp to the power amp.

Next post I'll record a video of what it sounds like without the attenuator and tone stack (although I think I've done that before, but without really talking about it), and show what would have to hook up to what.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Guitar Action Adjustments

I've been doing a lot of guitar tech work on my various instruments lately. Let me tell you a little bit about guitar string action.

I used my new Dremel rotary tool to carve a replacement nut for my acoustic bass guitar, but I'm having trouble completing the setup process.

I corrected the neck curvature to 0.012", which made a huge difference, but it doesn't seem to be enough.

Here is a diagram showing the three adjustments that affect string action--the amount one must press down to fret a note--on a guitar.

guitar-adjustments

Basically if the action is too high, the intonation will be (more) sharp because your fingers will have to push so far that they actually change the tension in the string. In addition the player's fretting hand will hurt. (More.) And if the action is too low, then the string won't have enough room to vibrate--when it vibrates it will hit the next fret up, causing a buzzing sound, which is usually unwanted.

Nuts are slotted, and the action is set by filing the slot deeper--you can only reduce it. On an acoustic, the bridge is a single piece of plastic as well, that must be sanded to the right height. You set the nut and bridge heights for each string separately. But if you file them too low, you can raise it by cramming shims of wood (or sometimes razor blades) underneath--but this possibly slightly changes the sustain and tone of the guitar. Also, shimming raises the height for all of the strings, not just the one you're working on.

Anyway, 0.012" still seems to be too high. I sanded down the bridge until the strings started buzzing, but the action is still actually way too high, in terms of feel and intonation. So I guess the curvature is still the problem, even though the general recommended measurement is anywhere from 0.012" to 0.002".

Another problem with adjusting the bridge on this particular guitar is that it has a piezo pickup in it, which consists of two thin sheets of metal with four little ceramic blocks between them, and the bottom of the bridge is funny shaped so that the blocks fit between them.

Basically what I'm saying is that shimming is out of the question, as is buying a slab of plastic and carving the bridge from scratch myself.

The curvature is adjusted by manipulating a sort of tension rod that goes down the inside of the neck, called a truss rod. I'm a little nervous about tightening it any more than have already because it's kind of an adjustment that you don't want to have to mess with much, because if you break it you've basically ruined the neck, possibly "totaled" the guitar. But I guess it's what I have to do. If I get this right then the acoustic bass will hopefully cease to be the least favorite instrument I own.