Variations on a theme. Further down the trail. The left hand path? The Greasebox GB-83. The slightly weirder sister to the germanium fueled GB-80. A simple idea from the get-go. Born as a thought to create a silicon version of big sister Grease Box, mainly so we could make them a little more readily and also because said task presented a few hurdles to tackle which made for an interesting challenge.
Simplify throwing silicon devices in place of the germaniums in that circuit type does not yield satisfactory results, and most certainly not when you require the extra grease. Long story short, I have bunch of old technical electronics reference books from the 1950's. Gifts from friends, discoveries found in library sales, things like that. I should also mention here in case you are not aware and so this all makes sense that the GB-80's circuit is based upon Tone Bender MKIII circuit. So to continue to the point, the input stage of this circuit type uses two transistors together in unison as an entity call a Darlington Pair. Now one of these crusty old yet pleasantly perfumed books has a wee section about the uses and principles of the Darlington Pair arrangement, FYI - The Darlington Pair arrangement was also known as the "Super-Alpha Circuit" How cool is that? Any ways part of a line in regard to the Super-Alpha Circuit stated
"The two-transistor combination can be regarded as a single transistor (with a high gain and high impedance)..."
Light goes on. Fuse is lit. So to jump from A-Z that teeny little snippet sparked a leap in the idea for a silicon Greaser. A common and obvious enough fact but seeing printed in there in black and white was enough to crystallize the idea.
So two becomes one. Simply put, the entire front end of the GB-83's circuit is based around a single yet carefully selected silicon device that in some ways synthesis the tonality of the GB-80. The schematics in both devices when laid out on paper wouldn't appear all that similar but the challenge was to create a silicon equipped pedal that would be as response and dynamic as it's germanium counterpart and not just be seen as a silicon equivalent with the common draw-backs.
You get what you give
Like big sister GB-80 the 83 is sonically vague. I guess a more positive way of putting it would be flexible. I'll put it like this, it's not something you plug in an it does sound A each and every time with whatever guitar and amp combo you throw at it. It's very gear specific. With that said the frequency response of the GB-83 is its tonal signature, the auditory finger print so to speak. Like the GB-80 the tone is all about the midrange attack, not overly honky but most certainly there and quite capable of cutting through the shittiest of mixes and the densest low end flab. If you want a tone reference on this it is quite an old trick in certain prehistoric fuzz devices. Thoughts of Zonk Machines and Buzzarounds wouldn't be on alien grounds for the GB-83.
The nature of the GB-83 is very responsive to pick-up impedance, pick attack, amplifier headroom and the general approach one takes towards the pedal. Offer the GB-83 low impedance pick-ups, a small valve combo all with the pedal played at moderate Volume and Sustain levels and you will likely be rewarded with a nice shiny drive tone with a more than workable volume boost and the ability push the amplifier into more saturated overdriven territories. Basically you do get what you give. If you want filth by the fist full you gotta crank the little bastard and you have to dig in and get dirty. At high control settings the GB-83 becomes quite a formidable tool and will smoothly go from a full gain distortion brute to an all out speaker wrenching fuzzy assault without breaking out a sweat. Subtle yet brutal. Pleasant yet painful.
To cut through the shit an offer up a matter-of-facts descriptive approach the GB-83 like a large percentage of old school fuzz boxes is just a glorified preamplifier circuit with a few bells and whistles. There is no hiding the fact here, the GB-83 firmly and honestly states it's origins by declaring "I will own your amplifier!"
Alien technologies and stealth bomber modifications
So I guess this a true D.A.Main design, said loosely with my tongue firmly in my cheek. I chopped and hacked this goes here that goes there and what was planned became something quite different, which is good I guess. In some ways it's as original as some ye olden fuzz designs that have roots of obviousness. Basically I was inspired by the Tone Bender MKIII but what we have here in the Greasebox ain't the same trip at all.
Secondly in the design department after the needs for said sounds was the way this was to be in its finished form. The original idea of the D*A*M effectors circa 2003 where I adopted the use of the compact MXR format and then crammed a vintage fuzz or booster inside was solely based on what I liked myself. The whole layout, looks and manner of construction on the GB-83 was based upon how Linz likes to build, she will be making them after all, so there is something of a departure from say the style of a Drag'n'Fly. Any ways, this all can be gathered from the photographs so no point yammering on with that. Bigger bolder looser are the main ingredients.
Lastly, a word or two on components. These pretty much follow the design stipulations and were selected for quality, performance and ease of assembly. The silicon device are selected specifically for the requirements of the circuit not for magic numbers. The two black components you may see on the circuit board are precision resistors that are required for the precise biasing of the first gain stage. My OCD with component colour matching is the cause for the black-out, bright blue and brown did not jive for me but it does add a crude mystery to the thing, even thought it's kinda obvious.
So there you go. Far too many words to state the obvious but I did want to make clear the nature of the beast. What it is it knows not. I guess you decide that for yourself.
Grease Box page sound clips written and performed by Philip James Johnston. Copyright 2012 Pinstripedclips