So you want to build guitar effects pedals? Well, a place to start might be at the hardware store, stocking up on a soldering iron, some reverse action tweezers, a multimeter, and maybe a soldering pump to undo things that have gone wrong.
And then you have to sift through the ether for components, those hard-to-find NOS germanium transistors, those bucket brigade chips… It’s a rabbit hole.
There are alternatives though, and perhaps a do-it-yourself kit might work better. In that case, Aion FX might just have you covered, having just released six more kits inspired by classic fuzz and treble boosters.
All six are available as standalone PCBs or with finished housing and components, and hard-to-find germanium transistors are the theme of these builds.
There’s the Deimos Germanium Fuzz, which is based on the Sola Sound Tone Bender Mk II Professional – the simple two-button fuzz pedal that helped usher in fuzz as the go-to electric guitar tone when it was released in 1966.
Aion has made some changes, adding a voltage inverter so it can be powered from a standard center-negative DC power supply, and there are internal potentiometers to adjust the bias without resorting to a soldering iron.
In addition to the Level and Fuzz controls, the box has a toggle switch to select the Tone Bender ‘Mk1.5’ circuit, which is a capacitor away from the MkII.
The Phobos Germanium Fuzz sees Aion tackle the next generation 1967/1968 Tone Bender Mk III, a completely new circuit design at the time, with controls for Level, Tone and Fuzz.
Next up is the Solaris Germanium Fuzz. Again, this takes a 60s classic as inspiration but adds a few new features, with a Dallas-Arbiter Fuzz Face augmented with three additional buttons.
The Solaris has controls for Volume, Body, Fuzz, Contour, and Input, as well as a switchable pickup simulator so you have more options for positioning it in the signal chain. The pickup simulator includes a transformer, resistor, and capacitor, and was designed by DIY pedal expert Jack Orman of AMZ, and deployed in EarthQuaker Devices Eruptor.
A more faithful Fuzz Face replica can be found in Aion’s Proteus PCB.
Those inspired by Brian May, Marc Bolan and Tony Iommi might find the Radian Germanium Boost to their liking.
This is a version of the Dallas Rangemaster Treble Booster that adds the voltage inverter and an internal bias potentiometer. A three-way toggle selects between treble, midrange, and full-range boost.
The final two kits from Aion’s 2022 releases bring us back to the present day, with two versions of Z.Vex’s modern classics. The Flare Fuzz Machine is a silicon/germanium hybrid in the style of a Fuzz Factory, while the Penumbra Bass Fuzz reproduces the low-end silicon fuzz of the Woolly Mammoth and Mastotron units.
Like the pedal that inspired it, the Flare Fuzz Machine has a busy cabinet, with plenty of scope to shape your sound.
There are controls for Volume, Gate, Drive, Stab, Comp, Body, Tone and Soft, and in the spirit of the Fuzz Factory, they’re all interactive. Helpful, Aion provides some suggested settings, but part of the fun of Fuzz Factory is experimenting, and after putting the pedal together, well, what’s a little twist knob?
Here you have three more controls than on a standard Fuzz Factory, with Soft reducing the gain of the input amplification, Body adjusting the pre-fuzz low end, and Tone adjusting the treble cut after the fuzz.
As for the Penumbra, it’s pretty much a Woolly Mammoth/Mastotron circuit with a switchable pickup simulator. And it sounds pretty radical, ideal for low-end Velcro tearing.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the Woolly Mammoth/Mastotron circuit take an evolutionary leap, with Z.Vex itself releasing the mini-pedal version in the form of the Fuzzolo.
These DIY kits are now available direct from Aion FX, priced at $12 for the PCB and $74 for the all-inclusive case plus components. For more details, visit Aion FX.