K&K Pure Mini installation

I recently installed the K&K Mandolin Twin Internal in my mandolin, and I was really pleased with the results. Now that I’ve been doing regular solo acoustic shows, I decided that it was time to upgrade my acoustic with an internal pickup. I’ve been using the Duncan Woody for a few years, and while it certainly gets the job done at a fair price, it really doesn’t capture the acoustic sound of the instrument. I asked some friends who play acoustics live, and they recommended either the Fishman or L.R. Baggs systems. Nobody was recommending the K&K.

Given how pleased I was with the mandolin pickup, I thought I’d look into their offerings, and after watching this video I was sold! A passive pickups that sounds that much like a mic’d up acoustic? And it’s only $100?! I bought one on Amazon right away, and roughly 24 hours later it’s now in my guitar! I’ll be doing a full review of it after I’ve had a chance to try it live, but I’m quite pleased with it so far.

The installation was really easy. The pickup came with a little plastic jig and everything you needed to install it (except the super glue). It was a significantly easier installation than the mandolin pickup, as the sound hole of the guitar give you more room to work than trying to get everything through the f-holes on the mandolin. The whole process only took me an hour (including time sitting there waiting for the glue to set). You can watch me install it below, and hear a sample of the both the pure mini and the mandolin pickup.

Also, check out my high-tech overhead camera setup:

BYOC Classic Phaser demo & review

So I’m building my own pedals now! This was my first, the Classic Phaser from Build Your Own Clone. It’s a clone of a 70’s “script logo” Phase 90, but the kit includes an extra 22k resistor that, supposedly, turns it into a modern “block logo” pedal. This is a bit of an unusual kit from BYOC from what I can tell, because Keith apparently only sells kits for currently unavailable pedals. Word is when Bill Finnegan resumed production of the Klon Centaur (as the KTR), Keith pulled the Silver Pony kit from the website. The Phase 90 is stupid easy to get ahold of, even the vintage reissues, and for roughly the same price as this kit. Which brings me to my one, and really only, criticism of this kit: it doesn’t offer the same value as other diy kits because the pedal it copies is so readily available AND affordable. The kit cost me roughly $70 on sale, after shipping. That’s pretty much what reissue Phase 90s are going for on Reverb right now.

However, it IS a great phaser, and I’m satisfied with what I got for the price. The build was very simple and fun (you can watch the whole thing here). As I mentioned earlier, one of the really cool things about the kit is that it can be used to recreate an early spec version of the Phase 90 and the later spec (it’s just one resistor). In the video, I’ve rigged up some alligator clips (a little rig I usually use to hot swap tone caps when rewiring guitars) and clipped the extra resistor in to compare the sounds. In general, I prefer the extra resistor in there. There’s a bit more high end and volume in general, and the resonance peak seems to shift slightly higher with it in there. I also found the full-clockwise position to be a bit comical with the “script logo” spec compared to the “block logo”.

However, I could easily imagine myself preferring either in different situations. The vintage specs sound much better when playing Isletys, Jacksons, Zeppelin, or other classic 70’s recordings that feature a phaser part (be it guitar or keyboards). So my plan is to wire in a SPST toggle switch that will let me flip between the two versions. If Keith were to modify the kit to make that a standard feature, this kit would definitely be worth the price, as you’re getting both vintage and modern versions of a single pedal.

Not being a phaser fan, I was surprised at how much I liked this pedal. Maybe I’ve only tried crap phasers before, but this one sounds good to my ears. If you like how it sounds too you can buy the kit at the link below, but if you’ve already got a phaser, I’d recommend the Phase Royal or another phaser with more options.

Classic Phaser Kit

BYOC Classic Phaser build

No, I don’t expect you to watch a 4 hour video of me building this pedal (unless you really want to). I would like to say a few things now that it’s finished though!

This was the first electronics project I’ve done since I was a kid, but I never did anything with PCBs back then (I always did breadboard projects), so there was a bit of a learning curve for me. I’m used to doing mods and repairs, but populating a whole circuit board from nothing is a much different experience. The instructions were easy to follow, although they left out the part about orienting the IC sockets. Thankfully they include a photo of the completed pedal guts, so I was able to reference that to figure out the proper direction for the chips to face.

The kit includes an optional extra resistor that supposedly changes the pedal from an early Phase 90 spec to a later version. I left the extra resistor out (old spec), but I might try clipping it in to compare the sounds later. Perhaps I could add a mini toggle switch so I can go back and forth.

Anyways, it sounds… like a 70’s phaser. I don’t have a real Phase 90 to compare it to, but it sounds pretty legit to my ear. The pedal has a nice throaty tone to it and a focused sweep. The whole range of the speed control is useable. At slower speeds it provides just a little bit of movement that could help something stand out in a crowded mix, while at the top you get a rapidly oscillating phase sound reminiscent of JPJ’s Rhodes piano on “No Quarter” (which I will undoubtedly be using this pedal to cover).

The only downside to the kit is the value. A big part of the appeal of DIY pedals is that you can get some great quality stuff for half the price or less (since you’re providing the labor). This kit cost me about $70 after shipping (and a discount). I could buy a real Phase 90 for that price. If you don’t have a phaser, and are into electronics, I’d recommend it. But if you already have one, I don’t really see the value. Perhaps if I could compare the pedal directly with a vintage Phase 90, the various reissues, and the mass production models, and it outperformed them, then perhaps I’d change my tune.

I wonder if any of my buddies have a vintage one…

BYOC kits

BuildYourOwnClone.com was having a holiday sale recently: buy 3 kits and get a 4th free! I’ve been wanting to get into building my own pedals for a while. I used to build radios and other stuff when I was a kid, which is how I developed the skills to do all the various electronics repairs I’ve done on guitars, amps, pedals, etc over the years. But this will be the first time in over 20 years I built something.

I’m thinking about livestreaming the builds on my YouTube channel… Should be fun!