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Re: Big-Muff & Microsynth

11/13/2004 5:45 PM
Steve Dallman
Re: Big-Muff & Microsynth
I don't know Bob. I have an original Bass Microsynth and looking at the circuit boards, I believe it would be very difficult to copy. Schematics exist on the internet, but I've never seen a layout.  
There are so many great distortion projects on the net, you should be able to find something more do-able.  
I've got two Washburn distortions from the 80's (big box ones.) One is a "Stack in a Box" and the other is a "Super Distortion". Although I've not seen the schematics for these, they are unique and nail a rough character that screams 70' early Tony Iommi.  
If you're interested in the micro-synth, please check out the Digitech Synth-wah pedal. That thing does nearly everything the Micro-synth, and does it better...especially with the tracking.  
The distortion in the Micro-synth is pretty lame. The octave above is lousy. The sub-octave is a pretty good octave below, but requires clean, single note playing. The attack delay is OK, but I've never used it much.  
The heart of the MS is the envelope filter. You can select the frequency the sweep will start, and the frequency it will end, the speed of the sweep and the "Q" or sharpness of the signal. It's the most tweakable envelope filter I've ever worked with.  
I bought mine when it first came out, and as neat as it is, I've never found a use for it in any band I've played in. It spent most of the last 25+ years in a junk box. I originally bought it to use with some bass pedals I built...but it didn't do what I needed.  
Craig Anderton had a distortion that was pretty wild in his 2nd electronic project book. It was buzz extreme but it had an interesting noise gate in it.  
I'd like to suggest the Anterton design, the "Quad Fuzz". The kit or the plans are available from PAIA.  
This unit splits the signal into 4 frequencies...low, low mid, high mid and treble. Each frequency has it's own distortion circuit using LED's for the distortion. While the gain control is global, each band has it's own level control. There is a master out with a tone control and the range of adjustment is awesome. I modded mine to use silicon diodes for distortion, and put in a switch to take the clipping diodes out of the low band. This made it a fantastic bass overdrive.  
But perhaps the best feature is that each band has it's own signal out jack. This allows you to process each of the 4 bands with other effects. I've tried using 4 stereo choruses and ran each into a stereo mixer. It was extremely interesting.  
You could patch into different distortions, envelope followers, pitch shifters, delays, or whatever your twisted mind could come up with.  
It was designed to mimic the distortion used in the early Roland guitar synths, where there was a separate distortion for each string. Hex fuzz is what they called it. It allowed extreme fuzz settings, but the separation between the individual strings gave it a "coherence" not available with any fuzz/distortion or overdrive.  
Anderton got very close.  
That's my recomendation. Build that unit (or buy the kit and front panel) and go nuts with processing the various bands.