Guitar Pedal Hack Via Manufacturer’s Shortcut

There seems to be no shortage of manufacturers that cut costs by using similar components across a wide range of products. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, since it makes it easier for someone with some know-how to quickly open up the product and figure out how to get more use out of it. [Lewin] noticed some peculiarities on the PCB of his EHX Screaming Bird guitar pedal, and used a manufacturer’s shortcut to turn this treble-boosting pedal into a flat booster.

Once [Lewin] removed the case, he noticed that there were some unpopulated pads on the PCB. Additionally, the potentiometer was labelled as 10k, but a 100k was actually installed. These were indications that something was awry, so after poking around on the internet, [Lewin] now believes that the same PCB was used to make at least three different effects pedals with similar internal structures.

The Screaming Bird pedal was a little harsh for [Lewin]’s taste, so he changed out some capacitors on the board to get it closer to the flat booster. There are some other things that could be changed, but now he has a pedal that suits his needs much more appropriately, thanks to the manufacturer making only minor changes across a range of similar products. Historically, guitar pedals are pretty easy to modify, but it’s nice that the manufacturer of these has made it so much simpler!

11 thoughts on “Guitar Pedal Hack Via Manufacturer’s Shortcut

  1. Why did you frame it in a way that makes it look like Electro Harmonix is being cheap here? This is a mod from a treble boost to a linear boost. Of course the only things are will be different are different values for a few small components. Why wouldn’t they be?

    It also gives the impression that a treble boost is “cheaper” than a linear boost, which it isn’t. Both have different applications depending on your setup.

      1. I think the sentence “This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, since it makes it easier for someone with some know-how to quickly open up the product and figure out how to get more use out of it.” pretty well sums up the author’s position.

        1. You’re reading this article on a website called ‘Hack a Day’. What may I ask did you expect the author’s position to be? ‘Let’s leave it alone even though we could modify it to suit us better?’

          Also tons of manufacturers reuse parts in their products, it doesn’t mean they’re being ‘cheap’ (as in making crappy stuff), they’re just trying to minimize manufacturing costs. You know, so that the end product is less expensive and still the same quality?

          1. Sorry if there was something ambiguous about my post. I thought it was completely clear that I quoted that sentence in direct support of what Brian Benchoff had just. Not sure how the original or the quote could have been construed otherwise.

            I’m out.

      2. “Additionally, the potentiometer was labelled as 10k, but a 100k was actually installed. These were indications that something was awry,”

        To me implies that the manufacturer was being dodgy. Dodgy is worse than being cheap. It’s expected of cheap things.

        1. No. It is just a poorly worded sentence in the HaD summary. If you look at the original article and the PCB photo, you’ll see that there are two positions for the potentiometer. One is silkscreened with a 10K label and has nothing fitted. The other position is silkscreened with a 100K label and has a 100K potentiometer fitted.

  2. Brian the way you framed this article was very similar to articles such as the one where people increased the sample rate of the rigol scopes by changing the firmware. You may not have meant it that way but the way it reads comes off that way.

  3. I think perhaps some people read “cut costs” in a negative way perhaps, when that’s actually a main goal for a manufacturer, and can be done in ways that doesn’t compromise quality? Thanks for the post Bryan :)

  4. Well, really pretty much all products are a lot cheaper to make than what they end up costing the end buyer, because it would be bad business to not make a profit on what you are selling. It’s kind of the whole point.
    The sum of the parts is only part of the cost of a product. Sorta should go without saying.
    I didn’t see an anyone calling EH products cheap. And if you’ve ever owned one of their products, you’d know how well made they actually are.
    They tend to have more costly pedals that are more of the hand made varity, typically the older ones, and newer pedals that cost a bit less that are made with more modern tech.
    Probably because some of the older chips and transistors don’t exist anymore and to give you a cheaper option if you don’t have the cash for the more expensive options. And you’ll see the “classic” EH pedals going on auction sites for crazy amounts of money because of their build quality and because nothing sounds quite as good.
    I know this because I used to buy “as-is” and “does not work” pedals from everyones favorite online auction site and repair them for my own rig or to re-sell as working. Much of the time it was a loose wire or bad solder joint, the occasional leaky battery mess. And a sad amount of guys trying to do some sort of bypass or sound mod that went wrong and they didn’t know how to go back.
    A lot of pedals are made like whats described above, it saves on tooling costs not having to have a different board for similar products. Some even have parts lists silkscreened on the board for the different variations, like a wah pedal that I have.
    Guitar techs are pretty famous for modding pedals to get “the sound” their bosses want, so maybe the pedal makers have that in mind as well?

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