Super Frequency

I made some ugly face PCBs back in 2009 and had a couple left over. I built this up when I first got the mill.

The Ugly Face is a DIY classic invented byTim Escobedo way back in the early mid 2000s if I recall. It’s a unique circuit with a surprising sound if you haven’t built this you should give it a try.

Check my OSH Park projects I have a great board for this project the builds easily and works well.

Fuzz Factory #3

Another Fuzz Factory clone. I used silicon transistors for this build I didn’t have any germanium transistors with the right gains. I think lower gain silicon works best here. I used a couple 2N5401 with gains of 115 and 120. These were about the lowest gain I could find in my parts bin.

I ordered three boards from OSH Park for $7.75. These worked well.

https://oshpark.com/shared_projects/xaBILSTV

I used the soft switching with the Madbean Softie. Which worked well. I’ve built four of these so far and they have all worked well.

AionFX Flare an 8 knob Fuzz Factory

I built this a while ago. I recently built a couple more Fuzz Factory clones. I used sockets for the transistors so this made a good place to audition transistors for the new pedals.

It got me thinking about the transistors I used in this pedal. I used germanium transistors in the new pedals but silicon in this one. The transistors here sound different not better or worse but definitely different. There is a lot of overlap in sound.

The germanium transistors fall in a gain range of 70 to 120 hfe. This is pretty low. It’s hard to find silicon transistors this low. I used 2N3906 types. These are pretty common, I had a bag them on hand. I measured the bag and chose the lowest gains I could find.

I used colored knobs with the idea that the color would remind me what each of the knobs did. Violet: Volume, Green: Gain, Chocolate (brown): Comp, Scarlet: Stability. It wasn’t working too well. The Sharpie worked better, with no ambiguity.

I may change these knobs for some with knurled grip. It’s hard to turn these smooth plastic knobs that are packed together so tightly.

the AionFX aboard was way to assemble. It uses 9mm PCB mounted pots for all 8 of the pots. The LED is also mounted to the PCB. This saves time and cuts down on the amount of off board wiring. This is older version of the Flare, they have a newer version which looks to have a few small updates. Definitely use sockets for Q2 and Q3. This will give a chance to experiment with transistors.

What’s it sound like?

Sounds like the Fuzz Factory. Like I said earlier it sounds different from the Germanium box but similar with it’s own character. There is something about the Comp control with the higher gain transistors where it goes very gated zippers fuzz at the very end of it’s range which the germanium doesn’t go if I recall correctly.

Boss Tonebender how about a Buzzbender?

We’ll call this the BZ-1. What got me started on these Boss rehousings was seeing the Boss Tone Bender TB-2w going for 3k on Reverb.com. These were super cool pedals but not worth more than than the list price of $350. I understand the idea of scarcity and knew there were only 3000 made, but I wasn’t going pay even $350 for a fuzz pedal. So I figured I could make one!

The Burns Buzzaround

If you’re curious about the Burns Buzzaround and how it relates to the Tone Bender check out here articles:

Building the BZ-1

There is always a solution when you can make your own! Since it was hard to get a two knob Boss enclosure, I decided to go with a three knob Tonebender variation. There are a couple to choose from. In the end I decided to go with the Madbean Pasty Face which is a clone of the Burns Buzzaround which is variant of the three transistor Tonebender family. I had read some good reviews of the Buzzaround and hadn’t built one before which made it more attractive.

Getting started


I started with a used Boss DS-1 from Reverb.com. Used these seem to go for about $40. I ordered a board from Madbean and I had most of the other parts on hand. The DS-1 comes with a lot of parts that can be reused: switch, LED, jacks, and the enclosure itself. I pulled everything out and except the jacks. I left all of the original wiring in place since I can reuse it.


The LED is mounted to a small PCB along with two wires. These wires were too short to reach the far side of the enclosure where the switching board will be so I replaced them with longer wires.

I built the Pasty Face circuit board first. I left the transistors off since these need some special selection. The build is pretty easy there are only a handful of parts and there is plenty of space to work.

Since I’m putting this into a Boss enclosure the pots will be mounted off board. I cut a piece of strip board to mount the pots to. This was tight fit using 16mm pots but just makes it. Then I soldered some strips of ribbon cable to the this board and then to the main PCB. I made the ribbon cable a generous length since to allow me to pull the PCB out without having to also remove the pots.


Boss uses an electronic switching and the enclosure is nice the way it is. I wanted the switching to work as it was without adding a 3PDT switch. To do this I used a MadBean Softie PCB. This is a relay switching system that works with a Microcontroller. The microcontroller is triggered by the original Boss SPST switch. The relay is a DPDT that handles true bypass switching, while the microcontroller handles the LED.

This system works pretty well and offers a couple advantages. The relay has a failure rate of 100k cycles which beats the 30k cycles of those blue 3PDT switches. Also, if power is lost, the relay switches to bypass. Overall I’d say this relay switching works well and is easy to install. The downside would that the cost is higher than the mechanical switch, and the parts are harder to get, I had to order relays from Mouser.com.

Choosing Transistors

The circuit uses three germanium transistors. With these old circuits there was a lot of variation with some Devices sounding better than others. I found this great thread with some suggestions about the gain and leakage for each of the transistors:

https://www.diystompboxes.com/smfforum/index.php?topic=98022.0

All pedal questions seem to lead to answers at DIYStompboxes.com. Great site and community, I highly recommend you check it out.

I have bag of germanium transistors. I got these from eBay and other sources and have been pulling parts from it for a while. What’s left are parts with less desirable values at this point. Luckily the thread above recommends lower gain devices for Q1 and Q2 and I have plenty of these!

In this circuit the first two transistors are setup in a Darlington pair. You can think of the two together as a single transistor with an hfe that is the product of the two. For example if both transistors had an hfe of 10 the pair in this configuration would act like a transistor an hfe of 100. This also multiplies the leakage of the two transistors. Which can increase noise.

Seems like the best choice here is low leakage, and low hfe/gain. Two transistors with an hfe of 50 would be considered low gain but in this configuration as a pair they would have gain of 2500!

Q3 seems like where all of the distortion/fuzz magic happens. From what I read in the thread above a higher gain, hfe 100+, is better here.

I identified three transistors that I thought would be suitable. I soldered some sockets into the board and auditioned the transistors with the back of the box open.

Everything was sounding pretty fuzzy good, so I removed the sockets and soldered the transistors to the board. I left about an inch of leg since I’d need to bend them over to fit everything into the enclosure with the back on. I wrapped the legs and the transistor body (not shown) in heat shrink tubing to make sure nothing shorted when I closed up the box.

What’s it sound like?

Sounds a lot like all those other 60s fuzz pedals but with its own character. The sound is thick and fuzzy. The tone control has a useful range. The sustain control goes from a muffled to tight buzz. Sort of like fuzzy bumblebee to swarm of wasps.

Parentheses Fuzz #5

I think this is #5 I’m losing count. These are so much fun to play the world needs a couple more! I used matte black sand textured enclosure. Which give this a good industrial vibe.

This is a pretty easy build for what you get. The board is a good size and parts are comfortably spaced. All of the pots are mounted to the board making wiring easy. The switches require some work but the pads are well organized.

The only down side is finding FETs and Ge diodes. Luckily D1 and D2 can be replaced by just about any type of type. D7, D8, and D9 could also be any type but Ge will have a noticeable sound to them. Ge diodes here will have a particular sound, not better or worse. If you’re looking for “that” sound you might stick with Ge for these. Otherwise test out any type of diode and use your ears to decide what sounds good here.

The main distortion circuit is based on the LM308 op-amp which are hard to get and can cost $5 or more, that’s a lot for an op-amp. Luckily the part is not critical. You can a few replacements. I used an OP07 which was $0.50 at Tayda.

The PF5102 FETs are hard to get. I used J112 from Tayda successfully.

And, it sounds amazing! This might be for sale check my for sale page.

ICBM (op-amp Big Muff Clone)

Here’s a purple sparkle op-amp Big Muff Clone. This fine specimen is for sale on my Reverb shop. If you’re in familiar, the Big Muff circuit is built around 4 transistors for all of the different versions except for one version made in 1978. This version has am similar but unique sound and was built around completely different circuit using op-amps and no transistors. Read more about the op-amp Big Muff here: Kit Rae’s history of the Big Muff.