Author Topic: 250 biturbo: high gain discreet distortion  (Read 2380 times)

Fancy Lime

250 biturbo: high gain discreet distortion
« on: December 26, 2019, 05:30:28 PM »
Hi there,

recently, Joe Davisson's wonderful EZ-250 came up (https://www.diystompboxes.com/smfforum/index.php?topic=122849.msg1169521#msg1169521), which I really like. But as with any low to moderate gain distortion, I asked myself: How would that sound with more gain? So I decided to dual-bootstrap it. Regular old impedance bootstrap on the first transistor (Cornish style), gain bootstrap on the second. I originally intended to do the latter like it is done in the Jordan Bosstone (direct coupled bootstrap) but that messed with the bias too much with the additional direct coupled source follower up front. So I went with an AC coupled bootstrap. Anyway, here it is, the "250 biturbo":



Q1, Q2 = 2N5088; Q3 = 2N4403; any low noise, high gain NPN should be fine for Q1 and Q2; the Q3 position is not picky either, 2N2907A, 2N3906 and a bunch of other should work fine. Depending on the transistors, R10 may need to be adjusted to get around half supply voltage at the collector of Q2.

I really like the sound of this thing. Smooth, thick distortion, transparent enough to be the "default sound" in many styles of music, yet dripping with character. As presented in the schematic, I would consider it a "desert rock" or "desert blues" type of distortion but by changing the clipping diodes, you can change the character quite drastically. Noise level is surprisingly good. I was unable to make out any noise that was not completely swamped by the remaining hum of a humbucker (so, pretty quiet then). What I like about the high input impedance is that this thing reacts extremely well to the guitar volume pot. No dulling or other changes in the sound as you turn it down. Just the desired effect on the distortion level. If you work with the Vol pot of your guitar a lot, try this on for size.

The interesting "trick" in the design is that the clipping diodes are placed between the gain transistor Q2 and the bootstrapping transistor Q3. This way, they do not only clip the signal directly but also limit the extend of the bootstrapping action as soon as the clip, which reduces the gain available from Q2. This keeps the transistors themselves from ever running into the rails and clipping harshly. If you want that lovely transistor clipping, remove the clipping diode arrangement (D2, D3, C7) or move it between C9 and the volume pot (C7 can be omitted in that case). Gain is controlled somewhat unconventionally by adjusting how much bootstrapping takes place. The rev-log 50k pot provides an OK range here, but C20k or C25k may give a better sweep over most of the range with only marginally higher minimum gain. I just happened to only have a C50k at hand.

I went with the back-to-back 2V7 Zeners for clipping diodes after some experimentation. They give a very nice soft-knee distortion, meaning you get strongly diminished higher-order harmonics compared to hard-knee clippers. This is even more pronounced for the Zeners than for back-to-back mosfets (BS170) with the gates and drains tied together. You can, and should, of course use whatever clipping arrangement you like. With the regular old anti-parallel 1N4148 pair, you get *a lot* of distortion, possibly too much. red and blue LEDs sound OK to my ears. Asymmetric (red LED + 1N4001) was pretty good too. Do experiment here but I definitely encourage to give the 2V7 Zener pair a try, I absolutely love it. Goes very gently into clipping, none of that annoying "brittle fizziness around the edges" that plagues many a diode clipper. It does not give crazy amounts of distortion though, due to the high clipping threshold (2.7V+0.7V). At low gain this also makes a very nice, slightly dirty boost with a lot of volume on tap (I will build me one like that without a foot switch as an always-on, first-in-chain dirt booster / sound maker / moderate driver). Remember though that at the position where the diodes are in the schematic, you need C7 for DC-decoupling (aka AC-coupling) in order to keep the diodes from upsetting the transistor bias. For that very special transistor distortion, leave out the diodes completely (C7 is not needed in that case either, obviously).

If you feel the need for a tone control, replace R12 and C9 with Mark Hammers Stupidly Wonderful Tone Control. I found it unnecessary with the Zener clippers but with harsher clipping diodes it will be useful.

The anti-pop resistor R1 should be left out if you build this without a switching circuit, like I will.

A word of caution: This was intended mostly as a proof of concept, regard it as work in progress. Some values were chosen because a particular resistor or cap happened to be lying around near the breadboard, so those still need optimizing. Updates will, hopefully, follow shortly.

And finally: Yes, all of this could be done even easier, even cheaper, even less noisy and just all-around better with a single opamp. If I were in the business of producing for-sale pedals, I would use opamps too. This is more of a design study to see if I could also do this discreetly and how to do it. It is meant to showcase some useful techniques that are fun for the tinkering DIYist. Plus, designing with bare-bones transistors is somehow more fun to me than with opamps. Maybe *because* it is often less predictable and sometimes more difficult to get what you want.

Cheers,
Andy
« Last Edit: December 26, 2019, 05:33:46 PM by Fancy Lime »
My dry, sweaty foot had become the source of one of the most disturbing cases of chemical-based crime within my home country.

A cider a day keeps the lobster away, bucko!

GibsonGM

Re: 250 biturbo: high gain discreet distortion
« Reply #1 on: December 26, 2019, 05:46:41 PM »
Looks interesting Andy, thanks!   Sound clips or it didn't happen  ;)
MXR Dist +, TS9/808, Easyvibe, Big Muff Pi, Blues Breaker, Guv'nor.  MOSFace, MOS Boost,  BJT boosts - LPB-2, buffers, Phuncgnosis, FF, Orange Sunshine & others, Bazz Fuss, Tonemender, Little Gem, Orange Squeezer, Ruby Tuby, filters, octaves, trems...

Fancy Lime

Re: 250 biturbo: high gain discreet distortion
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2019, 06:08:46 AM »
True, sound clips commin' up:

https://www.aronnelson.com/DIYFiles/up/250biturbodemo1.mp3

I did not have a guitar player at hand, so I had to amateur it myself. Signal chain is:
Not a guitar player -> Yamaha Pacifica 311 -> 250 biturbo -> Focursite Scarlett 2i4 -> Audacity
The updated schematic with which this was recorded:



I tried to play in a way that demonstrates the transition from almost clean to quite dirty, so the whole clip is played with the same settings just varying picking dynamics. The clip uses the neck P90 in parallel with the split neck humbucker. The Boost switch in is position 1 (22 engaged), the Clipping switch is in position 3 (both diodes engaged), Gain is just below 12 o'clock. This gain position is almost identical to full gain with the boost disengaged. In my opinion, this type of setting is where this circuit really shines for both guitar and bass. High gain stuff gets a bit muddy due to the lack of bass cut before clipping. Not too different from the Tube Sound Fuzz at higher gains, actually.

Cheers,
Andy
My dry, sweaty foot had become the source of one of the most disturbing cases of chemical-based crime within my home country.

A cider a day keeps the lobster away, bucko!

Fancy Lime

Re: 250 biturbo: high gain discreet distortion
« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2019, 11:06:20 AM »
Volume pot was drawn the wrong way round. Fixed it:



Cheers,
Andy
My dry, sweaty foot had become the source of one of the most disturbing cases of chemical-based crime within my home country.

A cider a day keeps the lobster away, bucko!

GibsonGM

Re: 250 biturbo: high gain discreet distortion
« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2019, 11:29:26 AM »
Cool, and very nice for not using a cab sim!   It seems like a pretty even (compressive) and 'creamy' OD/classic distortion.  I'd put one together :)  I bet that would sound pretty nice in a rhythm role.  You could jack the front end to make it dirtier, too. 

Playing was fine to me, BTW!
MXR Dist +, TS9/808, Easyvibe, Big Muff Pi, Blues Breaker, Guv'nor.  MOSFace, MOS Boost,  BJT boosts - LPB-2, buffers, Phuncgnosis, FF, Orange Sunshine & others, Bazz Fuss, Tonemender, Little Gem, Orange Squeezer, Ruby Tuby, filters, octaves, trems...

Kipper4

Re: 250 biturbo: high gain discreet distortion
« Reply #5 on: December 29, 2019, 12:37:17 PM »
I does sound nice. Have to agree Sir Gibson.
Reminds me of a tune on Nightingales and Bombers by Manfred Man.
Good work Andy. Thanks.
"Duck_Arse
otherwise, you might end-up with SOIC or gullwings, for surface mounts."


Smoke me a Kipper. I'll be back for breakfast.

Grey Paper.
http://www.aronnelson.com/DIYFiles/up/

Fancy Lime

Re: 250 biturbo: high gain discreet distortion
« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2019, 12:56:30 PM »
Cool, and very nice for not using a cab sim!   It seems like a pretty even (compressive) and 'creamy' OD/classic distortion.  I'd put one together :)  I bet that would sound pretty nice in a rhythm role.  You could jack the front end to make it dirtier, too. 

Playing was fine to me, BTW!

Thanks for the kind words! If that had been Take #1, I would have been happy with the playing too. It was very much not the first take, though...

I haven't tried but I agree that pushing the front of this with a treble booster would probably make a good lead tone. I will play around with some simple tone control options to see if that is worth the extra pot. I doubt that I would build this with a tone control because for me this is the sort of thing that is followed by something with a "proper" EQ anyway but for some people a tone control may make it more useful and versatile. Since I plan to ultimately design a PCB for this, t's probably a good idea to keep many options open.

Andy
My dry, sweaty foot had become the source of one of the most disturbing cases of chemical-based crime within my home country.

A cider a day keeps the lobster away, bucko!

GibsonGM

Re: 250 biturbo: high gain discreet distortion
« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2019, 02:35:26 PM »
I have to agree - I usually DON'T include a tone control, but some may want it.  Well - at times, maybe a high cut just for trimming off the icepick, if that's what's needed ;)   I love to follow things like this with some EQ!

(no need to call me "sir", Rich...I'm certainly not royalty, ha ha...Don't know how that got started)
MXR Dist +, TS9/808, Easyvibe, Big Muff Pi, Blues Breaker, Guv'nor.  MOSFace, MOS Boost,  BJT boosts - LPB-2, buffers, Phuncgnosis, FF, Orange Sunshine & others, Bazz Fuss, Tonemender, Little Gem, Orange Squeezer, Ruby Tuby, filters, octaves, trems...

Kipper4

Re: 250 biturbo: high gain discreet distortion
« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2019, 02:44:44 PM »
Tone control is an good option depending what amps you use.

No one wants to be associated with them..... :icon_wink:

I read it in fake news.
"Duck_Arse
otherwise, you might end-up with SOIC or gullwings, for surface mounts."


Smoke me a Kipper. I'll be back for breakfast.

Grey Paper.
http://www.aronnelson.com/DIYFiles/up/

GibsonGM

Re: 250 biturbo: high gain discreet distortion
« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2019, 04:30:39 PM »
(I guess a high cut qualifies...) 
MXR Dist +, TS9/808, Easyvibe, Big Muff Pi, Blues Breaker, Guv'nor.  MOSFace, MOS Boost,  BJT boosts - LPB-2, buffers, Phuncgnosis, FF, Orange Sunshine & others, Bazz Fuss, Tonemender, Little Gem, Orange Squeezer, Ruby Tuby, filters, octaves, trems...

bluebunny

Re: 250 biturbo: high gain discreet distortion
« Reply #10 on: December 30, 2019, 04:43:58 AM »
Sounds good, Andy.  One for the build queue, I think.   :icon_cool:
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Ohm's Law - much like Coles Law, but with less cabbage...

Steben

Re: 250 biturbo: high gain discreet distortion
« Reply #11 on: December 31, 2019, 05:53:24 AM »
Those mid voltage zeners (compared to high voltage) have a very soft clipping onset. The only reason they are not used more often is IMHO the typical supply voltage of effect circuits at 9V, usually touching non rail to rail opamp clipping before the clippers shine. At 18 volts it should be more than fine. It's what I call the "non feedback amp" sound, as in VOX AC's..... and perhaps the ideal 2 parts option. At around 3.3 Volts a double set of red LED's could be a good pairing to switch between F(back) and NF(back) setting.
« Last Edit: December 31, 2019, 05:59:58 AM by Steben »
Rules apply only for those who are not allowed to break them

Fancy Lime

Re: 250 biturbo: high gain discreet distortion
« Reply #12 on: January 01, 2020, 05:46:08 AM »
Those mid voltage zeners (compared to high voltage) have a very soft clipping onset. The only reason they are not used more often is IMHO the typical supply voltage of effect circuits at 9V, usually touching non rail to rail opamp clipping before the clippers shine. At 18 volts it should be more than fine. It's what I call the "non feedback amp" sound, as in VOX AC's..... and perhaps the ideal 2 parts option. At around 3.3 Volts a double set of red LED's could be a good pairing to switch between F(back) and NF(back) setting.

Yepp, hitting the rails can be a problem with 9V supply and this type of clipper. That is why I put them inside the bootstrapping circuit here. This allows to circumvent that problem pretty effectively because it compresses the bootstrapping before you hit the rails, while giving you the full bootstrap action until the diodes open up. I was surprised how well this actually works.

Andy
My dry, sweaty foot had become the source of one of the most disturbing cases of chemical-based crime within my home country.

A cider a day keeps the lobster away, bucko!

Fancy Lime

Re: 250 biturbo: high gain discreet distortion
« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2020, 04:16:59 PM »
Hi there,

finally, the version with a very simple tone control. It turned out to be rather useful, actually. If you turn up the Boost (either treble or full range) to get more transistor clipping (audibly asymmetric and not unlike a fuzz face with the volume knob rolled back but brighter, so it benefits from the tone knob), which gives a nice additional flavor that can be balanced at will with the very soft knee diode clipping. So the Boost knob is definitely recommended as well. Damn it, 4 controls again...
 


Please enjoy responsibly,
Andy
My dry, sweaty foot had become the source of one of the most disturbing cases of chemical-based crime within my home country.

A cider a day keeps the lobster away, bucko!

PRR

Re: 250 biturbo: high gain discreet distortion
« Reply #14 on: January 10, 2020, 07:34:40 PM »
> Damn it, 4 controls

There are only 11 possibilities; zero, one, or many.

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