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Hi there, welcome to my blog - La Revolution Deux. It's an odd name - but I like it! Here you will find all the info on my various DIY Guitar effects builds, amplifiers and guitars. Everything from a humble Ibanez tubescreamer to the holiest KLON Overdrive.

You may also find a few effects builds that I am looking to move on - usually in exchange for other effects/gear/cash. You can always check my ebay account to see what I've got up for grabs.

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Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Catalinbread - WIIO & RAH


Live at LEEEEEEEEEDs! The Who - Live at Leeds is one of the best live albums ever recorded and one of the main reasons for this is Pete Townshends MASSIVE guitar tone created by his walls of super dynamic Hiwatt amps combined with a Univox SuperFuzz. Well - the Catalinbread "WIIO" pedal aims to give you the Hiwatt side of the equation and it does a damn good job of it too!

Firstly lets check out the Catalinbread description;

"Sheer raw power. Dynamics that feel like a roundhouse kick to the chest. Incredibly responsive clean up with the flick of the wrist. This is the WIIO.

The WIIO is an overdrive inspired by the powerfully unforgiving British amps from the ‘70s. Its all right there at your fingertips - your picking attack determines how much gain is delivered to the speakers. There is none of the typical compression found in most other overdrives to hide behind or to soften the blow - this is brass knuckle to the jaw type sonic impact we‘re talking here - you literally feel as though you plugged straight into the power section.

Like the amps, the WIIO has a wide freq spread so if your amp can deliver you’ll be rewarded with crisp clear highs and a very full tight low end. Lower gain settings are very clean and linear - you can hear every pick stroke and fingerprint, and the headroom allows for some very rich sounds when using modulation pedals. As you crank up the Gain the breakup is aggressive, powerful, punchy, and immediate then it decays quickly to a full clean sound. The midrange bark particular to the amps on which we based the WIIO is right there too as you crank it up. This pedal cuts like a broadsword so no need to fear being lost in the fray. It respects the integrity of your pickups, and loves being slammed with other overdrives or your favorite fuzz too.

The EQ controls on the WIIO are interactive with the Gain knob - increasing the Treble will not only give you more highs but also more grit to the gain. Likewise, increasing the Bass control will not only deliver more lows but will also alter the feel and attack. Plenty of output to smack your amp into submission as well.

The whole point of the WIIO experience is the dynamic interaction between you and the pedal. It reacts immediately to your picking hand, so cleans are easily attainable just by lightening up your attack. Conversely, you can get to the raging power chord stuff just by hitting the guitar harder. Running the WIIO at full gain will give you pushed transformer-style saturation for leads as well, so in reality you can have three levels of gain available just by using your wrist and your guitar’s volume control. It was designed to be intuitive with a minimum of tweaking, freeing you to follow your inspiration to wherever it takes you.

The WIIO won’t be for everybody and we‘re cool with that - hell, Nic has the real deal 100w full stack with eight Fanes and many of us in Teh Bunker cower and lose continence when its at full bore. Its unique sonic structure is very unforgiving and due to the responsiveness allows EVERYTHING you put into it to come through. But as the players who have had the experience of playing the amps know, there are great rewards to be had once you’re able to grab hold of the reins and attempt to ride the mighty beast."


Now a demo vid;


Sounds pretty impressive, it's dynamic range is absolutely huge!

Moving on lets check out these gut shots;


Looks like it's a cascaded BS170 mosfet design. From past experience we know these sound good - check out the Zvex Box of Rock for one example of a similar circuit topology.


Once again the tracing king that is WhiteKeyHole provides a schematic;


It's a pretty standard cascaded mosfet design: two gain stages into tonestack into a final gain stage. Note a few interesting design choices which make this mosfet pedal stand out;

1) The negative feedback from the third gain stage via the 200k resistor & 470n cap- this lowers the gain back earlier on in the signal path - it's an old trick used on many tube amps to tame the gain of the preamp. I like this approach to signal gain control - the BJF HoneyBee and Dyna Red Distortion also make use of feedback to lower higher frequency gain levels and it really works a treat by adding in another level of dynamics into the playability of the circuit. *NOTE* An interesting modification to this circuit would be to replace the 200k feedback resistor with a 500kB pot. Also try fiddling with the value of the cap - smaller values will retain more highs...

2) The biasing of the mosfets - not just 4.5v but altered via the offset 62k/100k voltage divider. Biasing the mosfets away from a central 4.5v forces them into asymmetrical clipping instead of their standard symmetrical clipping. Asymmetrical clipping better mirrors the manner in which a tube amp clips.

Here's a vero layout by ShortScaleMike:


And a link to the freestompboxes.org forum topic; http://freestompboxes.org/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=8046

Now, moving on, we've got the Catalinbread RAH (Royal Albert Hall). Why have I posted it together with the WIIO? Because it's roughly the same circuit with a few tonal tweaks.

Firstly, lets check out the Catalinbread's website description of the RAH:

"In January 1970 Led Zeppelin hit the stage of London's historic concert hall, Royal Albert Hall. At this performance Jimmy Page expressed himself masterfully with a broad pallet of tones and GIANT dynamic range. Of course this has a lot to do with Page's playing technique and Gibson Les Paul. His  backline amps, custom Hiwatt heads into Marshall cabinets filled the entire hall with a cornucopia of colors at levels ranging from a mouse whisper to rave ups louder than a jumbo jet taking off only inches over your head.


At Catalinbread we love the RAH performance, but we hadn't considered the possibility of capturing it to put into a pedal… One day our friend Charlie got ahold of Catalinbread's chief circuit designer Howard Gee to ask if we could do it. Charlie said that he'd been trying to get this tone for years and told Howard, if anybody can do it is Catalinbread. Having proven his ability capture the essence and experience of famous amplifiers, Howard began experimenting with what is now the RAH.


The RAH features the specific three-knob tone circuit straight from the custom “Jimmy Page” model Hiwatt. Like most traditional amp EQ circuits, the knobs are interactive, meaning turning one can alter the behavior of the other. The magic is getting the Mid and Bass controls dialed in together. Tweak those until you get the right tone for your guitar and amp. You’ll notice that the Treble knob is fairly subtle, adding a bit of bite as it is turned up. If you scoop the Mid and turn up the Bass however, the Treble knob will seem a lot more active.


The RAH is designed to deliver guitarists an incredible dynamic range that responds to  picking hand and and/or volume knob. Like a good amplifier the RAH is VERY uncompressed, which means there is little to "hide behind". This pedal is for players who appreciate the rewards and experience of a WIDE dynamic response. Plug the RAH into a clean(ish) tube amplifer, leave  the pedal on all the time accessing clean tones rolling back your guitar's volume knob, or turn it on and off as your "gain channel". "


And a proguitarshop demo video:



Here's some guts:


And a schematic:


As you can see the RAH is the same basic circuit as the WIIO (it makes sense - they both aim to emulate hiwatt amps!). The tonestack of the RAH is lift straight from the Hiwatt DR 2 input preamp that Jimmy Page was supposedly using that evening;


So, you wanna build one? Well here's a layout by Harald Sabro;


And finally, for reference, here's the freestompboxes.org forum topic for you; http://freestompboxes.org/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=16922

9 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Hello, I really like RAH tone. I haven't build circuits yet but I am familiar to electronics. I don't understand some things on the layout of RAH. What does treble, mid.... 1, 2, 3 mean? I don't get why there are bass 1, 2, 3 why not only one. On the layout I can't see bass 2,3 marked. I can't recognise master 1 or 2 too. Cut means cutting connection on the board? Can you describe how to connect potentiometers? Thank you very much, and sorry for the dumb questions.

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  3. Zoltan the pots 3 have different lugs. for the bass pot join lugs 2,3 together and run a wire to mid 1.Master 1 goes to a ground connection ,master 2 is the output that goes to the switch normally output comes from the pcb. treble and gain 1,2,3 means they get a wire from the pcb, mid 1 and master 3 do as well input goes to the switch. look up this link for help with veroboard http://www.sabrotone.com/?page_id=386. also this page http://www.sabrotone.com/?page_id=3480. General guitar gadgets has advice on wiring pedals as well

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  4. Good luck fet , pedals are hard to build and get working I deleted my post above cause no one posted advice, still havent got my WIIO working ,I just finished a hao rust driver but the WIIO is a mess, If you get in trouble hopefully someone will help you.Cheers

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  5. Anyone mod their RAH for increased gain? My plan was to have dual gain & level pots and switch between them, but anything less than 'near max' on the gain fails to excite my DlxRev copy. Maybe a good reason to build a TubScreamer variant, to put in front...

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  6. Peter, what problem did you have? I found that on my build I had to lower the value of the bias resistors(R2 and R3)in stages 2 and 3 to get the FETs to come on and stay on. 10M is a bit of overkill, it drops the voltage too much. A 10M trimmer would be the easiest method but I think I ended up with a 4.7M and a 3.3M or a 3.3M and a 2.2M to get it where I liked it. I tried as low as a 1M(I figured the parts were misread) but didn't like the sound. You may also be able to replace the R17 R18 voltage divider with a 100K trimmer to get the bias voltage right at the gates. And while this method may work, it doesn't allow for small individual tweaking at each gate like a trimmer per FET would.

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  7. I managed to build one and get it working, but I think I had at least one bad BS170 wich is not allowing me to really clean up the tone at lower gain settings. I think it needs transistor matching or at least a bias trimpot as suggested. I will try to run it at 18V to see if the increased headroom allows me to get clean tones out of it. :)

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  8. Ive got one of the latest wiio v2 pedal, (the one with the who logo). The lay out is not exactly the same like the diagram posted here, but I guess that they share most of the parts. When I plug it to my dr103, it sounds great, but I miss some air. Even if I crank the treble, there is an audible lack of "presence" on the pedal sound in comparison with the actual sound of the amp. In order to balance the sound, I have to roll off the presence control of the amp from 3 to 12 oclock, what is annoying. I readed here that playing with the negative feedback circuit values could solve the problem. I was thinking on swapping the 200k resistor and installing a 500k pot. Do I have to play with the cap value as well, or would the resistor swapping do¿
    Cheers, Gilberto.

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