ANALOG TOM with ANALOG MIKE
Q & A, Continued
Hey there, pedal people! Welcome back to
“Stomp School.” This month we’re going
readers. These are answers to questions
that have been sent to us in response to
the column. If you have any questions for
us, please feel free to send them to
Q: I recently became interested in fuzz pedals and it seems there’s a big buzz about
what kinds of transistors are used, germanium or silicon. I’m wondering what the
difference is between them. A lot of people
seem to prefer germanium. Are they really
better than silicon or is it just hype?
A: The short answer is that it’s really a
matter of preference, and one is not necessarily better than the other. The silicon
versus germanium comparison is usually
made in reference to a two-transistor fuzz
circuit like a Fuzz Face, or in some cases,
a three-transistor Tone Bender-type circuit.
to be warmer and less saturated, whereas
a silicon fuzz is usually brighter, edgier, and
more fuzzed out.
The earliest transistors were made of germanium, which is why they’re most often
found in vintage fuzz pedals from the sixties. But germanium transistors were prone
to failure and sensitive to changes in temperature. By the late sixties, silicon transistors were widely available, offering better
consistency and temperature stability, and
were usually smaller in size as well. This
was considered a great improvement, and
germanium transistors became essentially
obsolete. The vintage and boutique effects
market has single-handedly revived interest
in germanium transistors over the past 15
years or so.
Q: Hi. My compressor sounds really noisy.
Can you fix it?
A: Any pedal that increases gain will
increase the existing noise, but most
compressors do not generate much noise
themselves. However, a compressor is the
opposite of a noise gate—when you stop
playing or play too quietly, a noise gate
kills the sound (and the normal noise from
your pickups, cables, etc). A compressor
goes to full gain when you stop playing or
play quietly, amplifying the normal noise
quite a bit.
The compressor is designed to boost the
signal, unless the signal is above a certain
sound level. When a larger amplitude signal
comes in, that signal tells the compressor to turn the gain down. As the signal
fades out, the gain is gradually turned
up again. If you feed a compressor a
quiet-but-hissy signal, the compressor will have a “hissy fit” and boost
whatever you give it until you start
playing. If the signal coming from
the guitar can be made strong and
clean, the compressor itself will
Keeping the signal before the
compressor quiet yet strong is
the secret of keeping a compressor quiet. Run your compressor
early in your signal chain before
effects that may contribute noise,
and turn it off when you are done
playing for maximum silence.
Q: I was reading your article on guitar pedal true bypass. I have a Maxon
SD- 9 with a 4PDT switch; the bypass
only sounds good when the pedal is not
powered up. That means no battery! But
when I put the battery in I can hear the
drag on my signal. Can I rewire my power
path so that I can retain my good bypass?
Is it a voltage or impedance thing that
changes the feel and sound?
A: An actual true bypass pedal should
not sound any different with or without a
battery. I think all Maxon SD- 9 pedals have
had a 3PDT, and did not have true bypass,
so they could possibly exhibit that phenomenon. To check the switch type, pull up the
foam under the battery: a 4PDT will have
12 solder points. In order to be true bypass
wires going to it.
Maxon SD- 9
(a.k.a. Analog Tom) is the owner and proprietor of For
Musicians Only ( formusiciansonly.com) and author of
Analog Man’s Guide To Vintage Effects. Questions or
comments about this article can be sent to:
( analogman.com) is one of the largest boutique
effects manufacturers and retailers in the business,
established by “Analog” Mike Piera in 1993.
Mike can be reached at AnalogMike@aol.com.