OK, so I only work on tube gear for hire. There are good reasons for that, but electronics is still my life and, for that matter, my liveleyhood. I love building things, both solid state and tube-based, and even more so when that thing makes sound.
One of the liabilities of my guitar pedalboard was a Roland Blues Driver pedal. I truly love the tone I get when I use one of these just ahead of a tube distortion circuit. As a solo boost into a good sounding overdriven tube pre, it’s hard to beat. But, and there always is a “but”, the bypassed mode changes the tone of the signal in a HPF compressed kind of way that, at least in my opinion, kills the clean tone. Since the new pedal board was to be buffered at the front end with an AB switch/combination instrument leveler, and after that all units 100% true bypass, another solution for lead boost was in order. I found, while browsing online for the Blues Driver schematic, a site from a clever Scandanavian guy who had painstakingly reverse-engineered the schematic. That was all of the kick-start I needed for the “Blue Balls” project – a Blues Driver-inspired true-bypass overdrive that has exceeded my expectations. It’s quiet and musical and true bypass. Here is the project in pictures. This took a few evenings to build. I’ve not stopped using it since. It uses a grid approach and plated-thru hole proto-board (strong fiberglass industrial stuff) and the grid concept made it easy to realize the PCB artwork files onto the proto-board with no errors. I used the “solder-bridge” technique on the proto-board, which makes a clean durable layout. Full-size pots and a Hammond enclosure from the MTA stockpile of housings rounded out the project. I used carefully laid-out lettering tape so there are just a few strips of graphical tape wrapped around the housing as to never get a loose corner. This was a better approach than individual labels, which are lever quite lined up perfect and tend to come up at the edges. Great fun, and a great useful project!