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How stupid is this idea? "Homemade Poor-mans Preamp Pedal"

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by amadden, Oct 14, 2013.

  1. amadden


    Nov 25, 2011
    Ontario, Canada
    (Apologies if this isn't the correct subforum, I don't post here often.)

    Ever get that itch to make something? Doesn't even matter what, but you just want to put something together just for the heck of it? That's where I'm at.

    Every now and then, like many people, I hop onto ebay and see what I can find. And I stumbled onto these things. Preamps, straight from China, and less than $9. So I'm sure they're amazing... But I said "Huh, so they sell those for 9 bucks. Who would have thought!" and moved on with my life. Then, tonight, I want to build a pedal. That's what I decided. I want to bust out my soldering iron, and put a little box together. I dunno, just seems like a fun time.

    So, how stupid of an idea would it be to buy one of those and modify it a bit, then put it in a box, and have myself a "poor mans preamp pedal?" I don't have a single active bass (And, obviously I'm not putting those in any of my basses)... I also don't have a single pedal. Maybe it could help scratch those two itches here too. Three birds, one stone... It'd let me fool around with those things for only a couple bucks.

    So, what do you think: Neat way to kill an afternoon, or would I have more fun just throwing the $10 I'd spend on supplies straight into the trash?

    If you do think it's a totally stupid idea, or if it just wouldn't work at all or whatever, do you have any other ideas for super cheap things I can build? I'd totally be interested if someone was like "Yeah, that's dumb. But here's something neat you can try instead!". Keep in mind, my budget is extremely low. But I'm open to all kinds of suggestions! I'm not really looking for a specific sound or looking to do anything other than just building something, so I'm open to a lot of stuff!

    Thanks in advance!:)
  2. FretNoMore

    FretNoMore * Cooking with GAS *

    Jan 25, 2002
    The frozen north
    Don't see why that would be stupid, sounds like a fun DIY project for a couple of rainy days. As to whether it would result in anything useful is maybe another matter, that would be a bonus as I see it.
  3. Many have spent much more for temporary pleasures that have nothing to show for when it's over.

    Actually I did the same thing with an EMG preamp that I ripped out of a modified BB3000 bass I bought. Haven't really used it for anything, but it was fun.
  4. Plenty of people mod their pedals. Very common. If you want to solder, why not build the entire pedal. Do you know about http://buildyourownclone.com/ ? Just thought I'd ask since you said you don;t own any pedals.
  5. neuman


    Mar 24, 2009
    Denver, CO 'burbs
    Not stupid at all; socket everything so you can change resistors, capacitors and learn how each affects the circuit and sound to tailor it to your liking.
  6. I'm buying this too. The only problem is, how are we gonna take the circuit out of that epoxied box?
  7. X8X


    Aug 30, 2011
    For 10$ I'd say definitely go for it!
    The electronic components are surprisingly cheap, however if you want quality components the outer case + switches + pots will cost you some more (another 10$- 20$). You could always experiment a bit only with jacks and potentiometers and get the outside components later ;)
  8. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Sure, go for it. Lots of companies sell the little project boxes so you don't even have to make that.
  9. pbass6811

    pbass6811 Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2008
    Indy, IN
    I'm gonna subscribe to this thread! I wanna see what you come up with!!
  10. How stupid is this idea?:rolleyes: sounds like an invitation :rolleyes:
    modify you say :confused: have you ever worked with surface mount components before:meh:
    :rolleyes: because I'll bet you $9 that is whats inside that epoxied box;)
  11. amadden


    Nov 25, 2011
    Ontario, Canada
    Apparently it wasn't as stupid as I thought, so I went ahead and bought one... I'll try to answer everybody:

    I've heard of "Build your Own Clone" before, but the stuff there just seems too pricey for me. Maybe it's worth it, I don't know, but I don't feel like spending that much money.

    I've seen the project boxes that the one guy talks about. I think Radioshack sells them, they're like $5, I guess. They're everywhere though. I was going to see what I can find laying around the house first. I have all kinds of stuff I could probably use. But I want to wait until I actually get the thing to see how big it is before I buy a box for it. Don't want to get a massive box if I don't need to. Plus, I'll wait to see if it actually works too, since there's no point in buying a box if it's garbage.

    The one guy talking about surface mount parts: Yes, I've worked with surface mount stuff before. Not an expert by any means, but I feel totally comfortable with it. It's fun!

    As for the whole "it's in an epoxied box" thing... Yeah, it is. I'm thinking, patience and an x-acto knife. Should work, might take a while though.

    At first, I'm thinking about just wiring up a jack to it. It'd take two seconds, don't have to deal with cutting that epoxy out of there... It's not really very clear about what all the different knobs do. I'm assuming Volume, Blend, Low, Mid, Highs... I don't know if this is right, but I'm thinking I could just rip out the blend and replace that with a jack. You won't need the blend, since you're not blending anything. And that's where all the input stuff goes to anyway, last time I checked. So instead of it getting the signal from the two pickups when it's in a bass and then running it through the blend and all that, it'd just get a single signal from the bass through that input and then run it through instead. I feel like that makes sense. But I'm not sure if there just isn't something I'm not seeing..... Maybe the tone knob in my bass? That's the only thing that's different. And the long cable too, I suppose. I don't know, we'll see.

    I'll look into replacing all sorts of resistors and stuff someday too though. That seems like a fun idea too, I didn't consider that. But, something to try out!

    So, yeah... I thought it was a cool idea. Apparently it's not a stupid one, so I'll go for it... I've also named it, the "PiMP" pedal. Poor Man's Preamp. With an added "i" to make an acronym. It has to have a name, so that's what I"m going with.

    I'll be sure to update this, for that one guy who has subscribed. Don't expect too much, especially not right away (Since it'll take a few weeks to get to me anyway), but I'll see what I can do! :)
  12. Swift713


    Dec 4, 2006
    Florence, Ma
    I don't see any reason you'd have to open up the epoxified circuitry box. It's smaller than the battery box, just stick it inside your project box. Seems like a fine idea.
  13. gdavis


    Oct 18, 2012
    I'm always making stuff! I've built pedals, tube amps, a guitar and currently working on an analog poly synth. Google DIY, there's tons of info out there and pedals are a great way to start. Ya, produced kits can be a little expensive but depending on the project can be a lot easier than sourcing your own components. DIY is more for the love of it than saving money (economy of volume is very powerful) but there are some areas where you can save some money.

    You can find a lot of preamp circuit schematics, from very simple (even fitting inside the plug of an instrument cable) to more complex. Basic fuzzes and overdrives are pretty easy too and you can find many classic circuits. And of course there's nothing wrong with tinkering around with an existing product (as long as it's not a rare vintage item ;)), see "circuit bending".

    Places like Small Bear make it easy to find common components. Then there's places like mouser.com and digikey.com which have a much larger selection and better prices for some things (especially if you're ordering a batch of parts) but they can be much harder to find what you're looking for.

    I usually try to plan out a project an get all the parts for it in one mouser order.
  14. Itzayana


    Aug 15, 2012
    Oakland Ca
    Ever get the itch to make something really interesting and it turns out to be a total piece of crap not to mention a complete waste of time and money?
    Why heck yeah!
    Behind every great man is a stupid idea.
    If all ideas were good K-mart would have to be a lot bigger.
  15. 48thStreetCustom


    Nov 30, 2005
    Sub'd. Can't wait to hear how it works out. Might be nice to put a foot switch on it
  16. Sounds like a fun project.
    If not, you could make a 7 band eq by using an Opamp and a 7 tuned circuits.
    Amplify input -> 7 parallel tuned circuits with control pots -> output. Simple.
  17. edwinhurwitz

    edwinhurwitz Supporting Member

    May 13, 2003
    Boulder, CO
    Endorsing Artist: DR Strings, SMS
    I highly recommend Craig Anderton's book of projects for guitarists.


    I've built a few projects out of it and the clarifier is a great preamp. He's got quite a few buffer/preamp circuits in there and talks about how each one works, so you know what's going on. Every one that I've built, I've done on perfboard, so there's no need to deal with making circuit boards. Cost is usually under $10 and the most expensive, difficult part is usually case. I'm lucky because there's good electronics surplus store here in Boulder, JB Saunders, with lots of parts, from passive and active parts to boxes to house the projects in. Many towns have a similar place, so I'd hit up the phone book to see if there's such a thing near you.

    Have fun and make lots of projects. They only get better!
  18. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    I say go for it, whats the worst that could happen. My real question is, how in the world can they sell that for 9 bucks shipped from China and still make money?
  19. Parts are 3 $, labor 2 $, shipping is probably by boat in huge containers at bulk rate.

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