Components

Here's a great contribution by mirosol, a very useful guide for buying components.  Thanks for this Miro, I look forward to the next part!



Part One   |   Part Two

Builder's components, part one - Passive components

A Simple component tutorial for beginners, written by mirosol

I have been building guitar effect circuits with stripboards for some time now. All the information i needed was obtainable through searching the internet - but all i needed to know to start with was scattered around in tiny bits and pieces. That's why i thought i should write this article about basic components. I'm not going to inner details of what the components do, or electronics theory, as knowing all the physics and math is not necesserily needed to build a great pedal. This article is meant to help you to familiarise yourself with with basic components and help you decide what to source and use. There is some really special stuff available through ebay and other sources, but i'm going to touch only the basics - the components that are easily available from any store that sells electronic components.

Another anecdote to why i wanted write this document is one lenghty conversation with my sister. She started out a new hobby recently. Gardening. She searched the web for guides and tips for the beginners, but all she found was lenghty articles about soil's pH and nitrate count. Anyone wanting to grow tomatoes does not need that information for starting out. That's good to know for those who are advanced in gardening. Beginner needs a spot on practical documentation that helps him or her to get started. Same thing here. I would have saved a lot of time, energy and even money, if i didn't have to make some of the bad sourcings of my past. So this article is for past me and anyone who is building their first builds without a ready-to-solder kit and step-by-step instructions that come along with those.

If you want to know more about what these components do, just search the internet. There is amazing amount of information on electronics available. I'll get down to business and start with the resistors.

*Hint: Don't believe everything you read - you'll be better off with learning and trying out things for yourself. To find the way you see the components you use, you'll just have to play with them. Experience gained through doing is the best and the only way to really learn.


Resistors

With 9V and all the way up to 18V circuits, we're going to need 1/4W resistors. Or 0,6W. These are both small and convenient resistors. Usually about the same body size. These wattages mean how much power the resistor is capable of handling. All power ratings will work - the resistors just do get bigger bodied with every step up on that wattage scale. 1W is always bigger than 0,6W. 2W is going to look really funny on a vero... Most popular are 1/4 and 0,6W. Go with those. They are cheap and good way to begin.

Next big question: 1% or 5%? That means variance within the resistors. For example, 100K resistor can be in reality anything between 95K and 105K with those light brown four striped 5% resistors. With blueish 1% resistors the real value for 100K can be anything from 99K to 101K. Which is better? Well. It's more likely a matter of opinion than anything else. 1% resistors are more accurate, and 5% are a bit cheaper. For most circuits to work right and sound the same, the 10% variance would be ok. I bet you a bottle of cheap red wine that you won't be able to hear any difference with two TS9 clones, one built with 1% resistors and another with 5%. By the way, 5% resistors are usually made with carbon composition film, while 1% ones are made with metal film.

There will always be people who say they can hear the difference. These are the people that reverse their speaker cables on their high end stereos to see if that would sound better with their 16-bit CDs...

Resistor values we use, range from 10R (that's 10 ohms) to 10M (that's 10 million ohms, or megaohms). If you don't have the exact value at hand, you can always use the closest one. Or you could get hi-fi and set the resistors in parallel or in series to get exactly the value you want, but that's a issue for another time and document.

When i started out, i bought a starter's kit of of 5% E12. Bad thing is that when i decided to switch over to 1% resistors, i had, and still have, a fair amount of nonpopular 5% values left. I suggest that you choose your favourite and stick with it. That way your stash stays consistant. Or... You could always stock up on both.

*Hint: If you're charged more than 10 US cents per 1% 1/4W resistor, check out some other store.

Variable resistors (a.k.a. potentiometers)

Ok. Figure this: there's an open resistor inside every pot. And also, there is a conductor that touches that resistor. Let's say that it is 100K pot. Conductor, or the middle lug, touches the left lug in CCW position. Thus there's no resistance between the left lug and middle lug. But. In CW position the middle lug is connected straight away to the right lug - leaving 100K resistance between left and the middle lug. In the middle position, there is 50K resistance to both outer lugs. All this in a package that you can turn. Ingenious!

The most basic pots are the Alpha 16mm pots. Shafts are usually 6,35mm in diameter, which is the standard. You'll fit almost any knob to those shafts. Shafts have different types, like solid, D, knurled, split and so on. What does that 16mm mean? That's the width of the pot's base. 9mm pots are much smaller, and you could fit more of those in much smaller space. 24mm is another pretty popular size. You can find other brands (Bourns, Alps..) and other base sizes. There are some super high end pots available too, with price climbing exponentially. Check out the shaft lenght while you're at it.

Potentiometer tapers and values

Normal pot tapers are B, A and C. B is for linear taper. Which means that the resistance throughout the sweep grows linearly - The CCW postition with 100K pot is 0K, middle position 50K and CW position 100K. A is for logarithmic taper (sometimes referred to as "Audio taper"). Which means that the resistance throughout the sweep grows logarithmically - The CCW postition with 100K pot is 0K, middle position is onlly 10K but CW position is still 100K. C is for "Reverse Log", so it's the opposite  of logarithmic with 0K at CCW, 90K at the middle and 100K at the CW position. Some designs ask for W taper, which is log-antilog taper. Starting like logarithmic from zero, middle position is 50K like in linear and last 50% acts like reverse log. These are rarely used, but i though you should still know that.

Some documentation states that european way of indicating pots is A and B swapped, but i've never come across linear pot marked as A taper. Other documentation found on the internet says that those are thee olde way of marking the tapers. I think it's best to buy pots as linear or logarithmic instead of A or B.

Pots come in various values. From 100 ohm to 5 megaohm. Thankfully these don't come in as many values as normal resistors. Normally in our builds we would be using values like 1K, 2K, 5K, 10K, 20K, 25K, 50K, 100K, 200K, 250K, 500K and 1M. Yup. It's going to take a lot of money and time to have a stash with all three basic tapers and number of all basic values. For starters, i'd suggest to grab 1K, 10K, 100K and 500K pots. Those are probably the most used values.

*Hint: Print yourself a pot lug numbering guide like this: http://mirosol.kapsi.fi/varasto/boxes_other/pots_switches.png

Trimmers, or trimpots, work exactly the same way. But these are meant to be mounted on the circuit boards and set once for their purpose. Normally with 6mm width, you can find these little things for less than 10 cents a pop. And it's good to stock these up. Even if you don't think so right now, you'll be needing them eventually. Trimmers are usually used to bias transistors, so you're really going to need them. Sooner or later. More than one of each value.


Capacitors

Now. Here we do have a lot more to choose from. And we'll have to make some painstakingly hard decisions. There are two basic types - capacitors without polarity and ones with polarity. Normally most of the capacitors with values from 1pF to 820nF are non-polar and most of 1µF to 1000µF are polarized. Both do have exceptions. Capacitors are usually rated to have 5-10% varience within their values. Some electrolytics have even higher variances, like 20%. But we don't mind. From a first time builder to professional boutiquer, we're all using the same components from the same factories with the same variances, so even 10% variance can't be a problem in a real world. In electronics theory it might be..

*Hint: Print yourself a capacitor value conversion chart (something like this: http://www.justradios.com/uFnFpF.html) and pin it to the wall at your desk.

Ok, let's start with listing some of the basic types of non-polar capacitors and dissect the list after that:
-Ceramic discs
-Polyester Mylar
-Multilayer/monolithic ceramic
-Polyester Plastic (box or tubular)
-Metallized polyester (panasonic style)
-Other, like Silver Mica, PIO, Polyester in some exotic plastic like PETP, Polystyrene, and so on (there's just too many to list every type ever used).

Pros, cons and my personal biased opinions of each type listed:
-Ceramic discs: +Super cheap, cheaper than resistors. -Produce unwanted noise. -Unnatural sound
    I'd use these for some non-critical purposes with values below 500pF. But nowhere else. 470pF ceramic disc is pretty cool to try for BMP to get some 60's-70's warm, noisy feeling to it. These come in values from 1pF to 470nF.
-Polyester Mylar, a.k.a. Greenies: +Cheap. -Huge bodies in bigger values. -Cheap?
    I can't find that much negative sides to these. Underrated caps, that you can find in very cheap assortments to get you started. Usable sized values vary from 1nF to ~220nF, while even 100nF is noticeably bigger than 47nF cap.
-Multilayer/Monolithic ceramic: +Small. +Relatively Cheap (100 for $3 is very  decent deal). -None that i can think of.
    These come in values from 1pF to 1µF and they are all pretty much the same size. Pretty sick, but these are cheap to stock on and you're not going to have a bad time with them.
-Polyester plastic boxes (or axial tubes): +Industry standard for audio. -Relatively expensive.
    In my opinion, a bit overrated caps with prices around 10 to 50 cents a piece. Good to have and use anywhere. Body sizes stay reasonable even with values like 1µF and 2,2µF. values are usually from 1nF to 1µF. Bigger ones exist, but these are not used so often. At least, that's how it seems.
-Metallized polester caps (a.k.a. panasonics): +Sizes are sane. -Quite expensive.
    Really good basic caps, that you can score 50 pieces for 10 bucks. Usual values from 1nF to 1µF. I'm using more and more of these all the time.

All of the above are normally rated to handle voltages like 50V, 100V or 200V, so they are just perfect for our purposes. I personally feel that caps rated over 300V are too much for these circuits. And again, higher tolerance for voltages makes the bodies bigger and bigger.

Then the values over 1µF. These are usually aluminum electrolytic or tantalums. Basic electrolytics are cheap, but they are known to just die by time. Tantalums easily cost 10 times more, but they are small and last at least as long as cockroaches after the next world war. Electrolytics are rated all over the map for the maximum voltages. For our purposes, it's 16V and up. These come in all the way up to few KVs and higher. I'd use anything rated from 25V to 250V. Bigger tolerance means bigger component body. Do not use caps rated 10V or lower in these 9V circuits. Running the cap near its voltage tolerance will reduce its life expectancy even more. Some documentation on the internet says that you should always use twice the tolerance - meaning that for 9V ciircuits the caps should be rated at 18V at least.

Let's do the same dissection with these two types:
-Aluminum Electrolytic: +Cheap. -Relatively short life span
    Good for power filters. Values range from 100nF to 1F.
-Tantalum: +Long life. -Relatively expensive.
    I love these things. You can use four of these before you occupy the same space that 100V 10µF takes.Come in lower values topping at 33µF-47µF.

*Hint: You'll need to do this only once, but wire a 9V battery's plus terminal to the minus side of the 10µF aluminum electrolytic cap. Then battery's minus terminal to the plus side ot that cap. Now hands off and wait. You'll never be careless about electrolytics again.

Then we have non-polar electrolytics. These are not too popular, but they offer higher cap values without the polarity. These are more expensive than the usual parts.

Almost all capacitors come in various kinds of packages, like radial and axial. If the value, variance and tolerance for voltage is the same, then it's the same cap - regardless of it being new-old-stock-american-paper-in-oil-super-mojo axial or humble two cent radial electrolytic from tayda. It does exactly the same thing in both cases. Other costs you that two cents and the other, well, up to $8. But the latter will look much sicker on the board. And no. It doesn't sound better. It's exactly like comparing 180 horsepower Kia and 180 horsepower Mercedes. Both will take you to your family's summerhouse in the same amount of time. Latter will just look sicker on the lawn when you get there.

Once again. You'll have to make your own choices based on your own preferences and experiences. Or... You could always stock up on all of them.

*Hint: Nothing you can do with a working build is never wrong. Finding a default fault in a component type and taking advantage of it = profit.

That was my brief introduction to passive components. In the near future, i'm planning on writing a similar introduction to other components, like diodes, transistors and ICs.

27 comments:

  1. Thanks ever so much for this Guide. It has cured me of some nasty preconceptions on components, caps in particular, after surfing up and down the Internet for useful info. I would be and am very interested in reading a Guide on diodes, transistors and ICs. Thanks a whole bunch for this one!

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  2. Yes Miro did a great job on this, I'm looking forward to his next installment.

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  3. Thank you both. I've been working on the second part too, that'll have so much stuff that i still need to figure out myself, so it's going to take a while..

    Plus when i'm finished with that i could also check the errors from the first part and maybe add a few photos...

    As always, my hands are full at the moment, plus everything is more than a week behind due to me being ill, so.. Maybe we'll see the next part in october :)

    If everything goes to plan from now on, i'll have some exciting news up on http://fyaelectronics.com/ by the end of the next week...
    +m

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  4. Darn.. I should continue and finish the second part.. Just too much stuff going on. And like always, i'm the only one to blame for that :)

    It's coming along. Slowly...
    +m

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    Replies
    1. There's no rush mate, I'm sure it's going to be worth waiting for

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  5. is it possible to use a dpdt on/on switch in place of a spdt on/on? i have a build almost done, and realized i only have dpdt.

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  6. Ok, after reading... I still have a question.. When it comes to caps, should I just stick to the greenies? Or do I really need box caps? Or it it just use the correct value?

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  7. Bravo Miro Bravo Ivlar Bravo to ya all!
    Can some one please share a link on ebay kits that can be useful for beginners?
    I have seen this links so far http://stores.ebay.com/IC-Touch-Store/Capacitor-Kit-/_i.html?_fsub=2767262013;http://www.ebay.com/itm/1-4-Watts-Resistors-E-12-Series-86-Value-Assortment-Kit-/260594329692?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3caca1e85c; but I don't know if this is cheap or expensive...you are more experienced so please advice where to buy components from?
    Thanks a lot!

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    1. I've bought metal film resistors from here before:

      http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/320731083169

      Good polyester capacitor kit:

      http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/260840976632

      This is a pretty good ceramic multilayer kit containing pF values:

      http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/190806209590

      For electrolytics you probably don't need a kit, just buy something like 20 of each, 2.2uf, 4.7uf, 10uf, 22uf, 33uf, 47uf, 100uf and they will be very cheap. Then just re-stock up when you start getting low on individual values.

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    2. Thanks from me, and I'm sure that many will thank you for this post. Let me explain in few words: For example I'm from the Balkan. There are good stores here but for most of the components that they are selling, are replacements that are not always good.I have bought IC7660en and it costs me 2.5$. I didn't noticed and I bought 2 so I gave up 5$ for 2 IC's that don't work for the Katana...Capacitors problem No.2 and so on and so far :) That's why thanks again!

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    3. Almost everything is overpriced in the UK too. I can usually buy 100 of something from China on eBay including delivery for the price it would cost me for 10 in the UK. Basically now I buy boxes and the occasional thing from the UK, everything else I buy from various sellers on eBay, usually from the far east and the US.

      Tayda are a great seller as well, and you can get most of your supplies from there ay excellent prices, but you can sometimes save a bit more money buying the kits like those listed above on eBay.

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    4. In something I have shown an experience :)))) I found Tayda too and I'm already waiting order from them :)God bless you for this forum it's the most organised, simple and verified. I'm waiting for the enclosures to arrive this week and when I'll have more projects ready I'll be glad to post pictures and make my show room here.I think that I'll make you all proud since I don't know anything about electronics and I have learned so much from you all!

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  8. VERO BOARD?
    Hello
    Which kind of Vero board are mostl;y used in these new weekly fx pedal layouts? And if i could email someone for more questions that would be helpful
    thnks vince

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    1. It depends where abouts in the world you are. Try these:

      https://www.veroboard.com/
      http://www.taydaelectronics.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=stripboard
      http://www.rapidonline.com/Tools-Equipment/Stripboard-29453

      If you have any questions, sign up for the forum via the link in the menu at the top of the page, and you can ask any questions you have there.

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  9. I really liked this post. I know it is kind of a newbie but I have a question. I have been using Monolithic Ceramic Capacitors in place of regular ceramic. They seem to be less noisy. My question is, could you use them in place of other types of capacitors since they have the same value? And if so, would they sound ok?

    Capacitor examples:
    -Polyester Mylar
    -Polyester Plastic (box or tubular)
    -Metallized polyester (panasonic style)

    I appreciate your input

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  10. Hello. What do you think about polypropilene caps In dirty pedals? Could they be too clean and sterile sounding?

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    1. caps are caps, as long as the value is correct.

      typically you will find the following:
      0-999pF will be ceramic
      1nF-999nF will be either mylar or poly
      1uF and up will be electrolytic

      what you'll find is that in tight spaces a lot of us will use multilayer monolithic ceramics in place of poly or mylar, and that ceramics of higher values can be mircophonic, and produce noise, but that is higher value ceramics typically over 1nF.

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    2. Thanks. I know this is an old and polemic topic. I'm interested In mojo of non-linearities and harmonic distortion of some components, like greenies caps and carbon resistors. Same theorical values may differ in actual behaviour. Maths aside, I'd like to know the experiences and subjetive sensations of people here,building pedals. Thanks a lot.
      This site is fantastic. I've made my first two pedals from here. Thanks to IvIark And Mirosol specially for their work here.

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    3. Well you can't leave the math and science out of it. R. G. Keen posted about it on DIYSB a while ago and discussed the science behind it all, so I won't go deep into it. But, what I will point out that he showed is that regardless of material, if a component was the value listed it will perform the same way, and not change the tonality of the effect. IE: two resistors that are both 150k, one is metal film, the other carbon comp. Both will perform identical and sound identical.

      Now, when we will see differences is when the tolerances are different. So, using the same example above, if the 150k metal film resistor has a tolerance of 1%, and the carbon comp has a 10% tolerance we can see differenced because the part value is not as reliable. Think about it for a second, the metal film will have a value of 150k +/- 1.5k, while the carbon comp will be 150k +/- 15k. There is a huge difference now, and what you're putting in May not havea the value you think it does, so the tone can vary.

      Now, in my personal experience, I've built 2 identical effects, one mojo, one modern and had some people play them and tell me which they liked more, and which they though was mojo. 9 out of 10 picked the modern, and thought it was the mojo build. The thing is people will claim that the poor tolerances of a lot of mojo parts is what puts them in the sweet spot, while modern parts have to tight tolerances. I personally think the mojo stuff looks awesome, but why spend 3x the money just I have them when I can built it for less and have an effect that sounds awesome. It's the same discussion we had in the forum about POI caps in guitars, and if it's worth more then $10 for one.

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  11. Hello, Johns. Thanks a lot for your answers. I find very useful your experiment. One interesting thing is that there was differences in sound. It could be for tolerances, I understand your explanation.
    Let me explain my concerns, please. First, I´m not interested in fancy components, or NOS, or aesthetics at all. I´m interested in non-linear behaviour and harmonic distortion that can enhance the sound an add excitement, like the transformers in a mic-pre. I heard that greenies add third harmonic distortion..."terrible" for hi-fi, but maybe good for dirty pedals... It´s said that carbon comp resistors values are voltage dependent... it could be a great slight modulation source associated with picking dynamics... I´m interested in that kind of things and your own experiences. So, cheap and "defective"components like mylar, monololithics, tantalum, etc could be better options than perfect polypropylene caps. That´s the reason of my initial question about your opinion on polypropylenes. I am researching for now.
    Consider this: if even different types of wood sound different in a solid guitar... is not reasonable to think that the dielectric material contributes something to the sound?

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    1. honestly, there wasn't really any difference in the sound. from what i could tell, and i knew which one was which. it's just like an experiment that was done where people were give 2 pieces of food and were told one was organic, because people claim organic taste better. nearly every person chose the normal non-organic as the organic. it's all in the mind.i think that people heard a difference because they wanted to, ya know?

      you have to remember that this is a hot button issue, as are the concepts of tonewoods. i myself do notice a difference in tonewoods, but most of the time it's slight, just enough for me to notice. just like i hear a difference between bridge material, especially when you're talking about high mass bridges. but that's another discussion.

      but back to the question, the difference between tonewoods, and electronic material is what it's doing. when it comes to tonewoods you have to remember that the strings are essentially attached to the body, even though it is through the bridge, and as the strings vibrate the vibrations are transferred to the body. so the more resonant the body is the brighter the tone, hence denser woods like ash are said to be "punchier" then alder, alder is said to be "warmer" or "rounder" sounding. when you talk about electronics what each component does is control the flow of electricity. the material does not effect the ability for the component to do what it's supposed to, as the value is what's important. this is again why the tolerance is what will make a difference.

      example: i built the BJFE blueberry when i designed the layout. the original had a 147k resistor, which i didn't have, but i have a ton of 150k's. i spent a massive amount of time measuring each one to find one that measured as close to 147k. i had to measure the carbon film resistors, not the metal film resistors because it was impossible to find a 147k metal film due to the tolerance of 1%. when i was measuring the carbon film resistors, 5% tolerance, i found 1 out of 40, because it was on the lower end of the tolerance.

      now about the greenies. there's no problem using them at all. in fact i would still be using them if i didn't switch the panasonic red mylars, due mostly because they are smaller, but also have tighter tolerances which is nice. tantalums are usually expensive and very finicky, and can explode if put in backwards. monolythics are fantastic and just as good as any other mylar or poly caps.

      you are correct about carbon comp resistors, but there has to be a massive amount of voltage, ie guitar amp, not in a 9V or 18v or even 25v effect. read the link which R.G. Keen talks about them:

      http://diystompboxes.com/pedals/rgccmp.html

      btw, another example IME is when i've done keeley mods on a DS-1. i had two back to back, one with all the "high end" components, like silver mica & tantalum caps, and one with normal everyday components. not one of my customers could tell the difference. the only thing that did make a difference was the color of the clipping LED added. a cap is a cap if the value is the same.

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    2. Thank you very very very much.
      I appreciate your extensive answer. I am very serious about the sound, and I like to learn from your experiences. when I have time I will read the link.

      Your explanation has convinced me. I expected to find magic in some components, now I will look at the circuit design for it. I have experience with mic preamps and there are clear differences. I love the Focusrite ISA One, for example. It's easy to hear the compression and distortion in the bass when you crank gain, very nice. Then plug the mic directly to desk and suddenly you know what you're missing. In this case the input transformers are responsible, everybody knows.

      So I was interested in the same thing on the pedals. But now your experience teach me that in diy pedals other things are a lot more important.
      Diode switching, for example, could be the next thing.

      Any suggestions for great sound in diy pedals?

      Thanks a lot again. Best regards, Kique

      PD. I built a Timmy and I am really pleased with the sound. I feel lucky because I have a ´69 Fender Bandmaster Reverb and Timmy sounds great with it and my strat.

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    3. it's hard to give suggestions about what to do to get great sound from DIY builds. Sometimes its about following the original circuit exactly, others it making changes that you feel make it better, like you said changing clipping diodes, or for me i'll modify a lot of effects for bass, so i end up increasing some caps to let more bass through. it's all a personal opinion.

      what you want to think about is when you build something, it's all the parts working together, rather then just changing one part. in a lot of effects changing the active components, transistors & IC's, will have the biggest effect on the overall tone. Example, build 2 Si fuzzfaces each one with different transistors, and you'll hear massive differences, or changing the IC in a tubescreamer can lead to differences in tone.

      if you have a good supply of parts, not necessarily as much as some of us here have, but a good variety you can swap out parts and experiment to find what you like. it's all personal preference, and sometimes what we may like someone else won't, or maybe they will, so it's hard to say. i'm sure with each build, people will gladly make suggestions with what they think makes it sound better for you to try.

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    4. Thanks a lot for all. Very useful information for me. Regards.

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