We’re very honored that Premier Guitar has deemed El Capistan worthy of their Premier Gear moniker, and extremely proud that it has received 5 out of 5 stars. They call El Capistan “one of the most ambitious and clever applications of DSP we’ve seen in a stompbox.”
Several months back our very own DSP engineer Pete Celi did a demo of Orbit Flanger for our friends over at Rock On Company.
In this video Pete goes over the three Feedback Types (Positive, Negative and frequency dependent Positive/Negative), the three LFO types (Logarithmic, Linear and Through Zero), and demonstrates how to get a wide range of killer flange sounds.
Recently, I ended up with a broken crybaby wah. I was already lucky enough to own a 70’s thomas organ crybaby which I love, so sacrificing this second newer crybaby for a project seemed like a fun idea. Since the crybaby chassis is extremely rugged and I like the action of the pedal, I set out to turn it into an expression pedal for my El Capistan. This article assumes that you have experience soldering and using basic tools like wire strippers, etc. Of course, always observe proper safety precautions and wear safety goggles while working on any type of electronics.
Here’s my wah on the workbench.
First, opening up this box couldn’t be easier. Just remove the 4 thumb screws from the back plate and remove the plate.
Then, unscrew the two jack nuts from the input and output jacks and also remove the single screw holding the PCB (printed circuit board) to the chassis. Unplug the cable connector, remove the PCB and set aside.
Connect your treadle pot to a standard 1/4″ TRS (tip/ring/sleeve) jack according to the schematic in tech corner #1. Desolder all wires from the pot and switch and set aside.
The “sleeve” of the jack is ground, so first connect that to the pin of the post closest to the footswitch. Then, connect a 1k resistor to the wiper (center pin) of the pot. Connect the resistor to the “tip” of the jack. Lastly, connect the pin of the pot closest to the jack to the “ring.” You’ve got an expression pedal!
Watch the youtube video for a walkthrough of the build process and an El Capistan demonstration with our completed diy project:
*All product names used in this article are trademarks of their respective owners, which are in no way associated or affiliated with Strymon or Damage Control, LLC.
Welcome to the first post of our new Strymon Tech Corner series! I will be posting technical articles on music electronics as part of our blog at least once a month. Pete, Dave and Gregg from our team may also write an article here and there when they can get time away from their PCB layout programs and DSP emulators. Hopefully you’ll find these posts helpful and informative.
In this first edition I’ll be going through the inner workings of the common expression pedal. Once we know how one works, then comes the fun stuff … tearing them apart, modding, etc, etc. But that will be left to next month’s article :)
We knew from day 1 that we wanted some of our pedals to feature expression pedal inputs. So, the question was “what’s the standard?” That is, do all manufacturers make their expression pedals the same way? Luckily the answer is yes … mostly.
Expression pedals work by feeding a control voltage to a device, such as a guitar pedal or synthesizer. The voltage is read by the device and then used to change some type of parameter. The voltage range depends on the design of the pedal or synth. Our Strymon pedals, for example, read control voltages from 0 to 5 volts DC. Turns out that this is a fairly common voltage range, especially in music electronics where MIDI (a 5V system) is still popular and widely used after over 25 years. The expression pedal itself, however has nothing to do with the voltage range. It’s only function is to manipulate that range and control the control voltage. The way almost every expression pedal out there works is that it takes a reference voltage from the device it’s connected to, divides that voltage down by a certain amount and then feeds it back to the device. In electronic terms, this is most commonly accomplished with a TRS (tip / ring / sleeve) 1/4″ cable where the reference voltage is on the “ring,” the control voltage is fed back to the device on the “tip” and the “sleeve” is ground.
Here is what a standard 1/4″ TRS plug looks like:
As you can see from this 1907 diagram, TRS has been around for a long long time ;)
Here is the schematic for a typical expression pedal:
As you can see, the simplest and most common method is to use a passive potentiometer. A reference voltage from the device would enter the expression pedal jack on the ring. Then that voltage gets connected across a 10k load which is the resistive element of the potentiometer. When you move the expression treadle up and down there is a mechanical mechanism that physically turns the treadle potentiometer or “pot” as it’s commonly known. You can visualize the arrow at pin 1 of the treadle pot moving from pin 3 to pin 2 as one moves his/her foot back and forth on the pedal. This is what varies the voltage at pin 1. This is the control voltage which then travels out of the pedal on the tip of the jack. R2 is only present as a current limiter and not applicable to this discussion.
The Moog EP-2, Roland EV-5, and M-Audio EX-P all work in this manner, and therefore, work with our pedals. The nice thing about this standard design is that the control voltage is very stable and the value of the potentiometer in the expression pedal doesn’t matter so much. The Line6 EX1 is the only one we’ve see that works differently, with only a simple resistor divider and a mono cable. The nice thing about their solution is that it uses a mono cable. Two disadvantages are: 1. The expression pedal input circuit is highly dependent on the value of the potentiometer in the expression pedal. 2. Their products won’t work with other manufacturer’s expression pedals and vice versa.
Watch our video for more info and audio demos with our Brigadier delay and Orbit flanger.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this first edition of the Strymon Tech Corner. Tune in next time where we’ll make our own D.I.Y. expression pedal from a broken crybaby wah!
*All product names used in this article are trademarks of their respective owners, which are in no way associated or affiliated with Strymon.
Have a Brigadier delay? Want to be able to store a preset of your favorite settings? The Favorite switch connects to your Brigadier with an included 1/4″ TRS cable, no additional power supply required. Press and hold bypass to save your Favorite. Engage to recall your Favorite. Turn off to revert to the current knob states of your Brigadier.
We’re building them soon and expect to have them available for purchase on our site in mid-July.
Here’s a quick workbench photo I took in the lab:
And here’s a Favorite switch sitting next to a Brigadier:
Questions? Let us know!
Want to be notified the minute the Favorite switch is available? Please sign up for our Favorite switch notify list. Thanks!
I just put together a quick demo of our Brigadier dBucket Delay and blueSky Reverberator together. We start off with a medium vintage-style delay with mod. Then we increase the repeats and add the blueSky plate reverb to build a dreamy sonic landscape.
Just put together a demo of our Ola Chorus & Vibrato, going through a wide range of chorus tones: dark, bright, shallow and deep choruses. We’ll go over Multi / Vibrato modes as well as the Ramp / Envelope features in future videos.