Posts tagged ‘Bugaboo’

21/05/2019

Review: Bluetone Amps Fried Eye & Bugaboo distortion pedals

Finnish valve amp specialist Bluetone Custom Amplifiers has broken new ground by releasing a trio of handmade pedal effects, comprising a delay/reverb-unit, called Echoes, as well as two different preamp/distortion boxes, the Fried Eye and the Bugaboo.

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Bluetone’s Fried Eye Distortion (269 €) offers two high-quality effects in one box:

The boost circuit can be run separately from the pedal’s distortion side. It offers a considerable amount of boost (up to 12 dB), which is adjustable with the pedal’s Boost control.

But the Fried Eye Distortion’s main raison d’être is, of course, its comprehensive distortion section. The pedal’s distortion circuit is a solid-state version of the acclaimed Bluetone Fried Eye tube amplifier’s crunch channel. Its aim is to give you a wide range of Marshall-inspired crunch and distortion tones.

Bluetone’s Fried Eye Distortion pedal runs on nine to eighteen volts DC supplied by a PSU (not included) via a standard 2.1 mm plug (centre negative). A look under the hood reveals a large circuit board and clean and neat wiring.

Soundwise the Fried Eye pedal hits the bull’s-eye in my opinion, offering a wide range of Marshall-type tones from a light crunch to full blast. The effect’s three-band EQ works really well in tailoring the effects sound to your musical needs.

This short audio clip gives you an idea of the Fried Eye’s basic sound with the Gain control set to 12 o’clock. The first half showcases the distortion side on its own, with the boost kicking in for the second half. I used a Hamer USA Studio Custom with the bridge humbucker engaged. The clip was recorded direct off a Blackstar HT-1R’s speaker emulated output:

The Muse-inspired demo song shows you how the Fried Eye performs in a band mix. I used a Bluetone Shadows Jr. combo and a Shure SM57 to record all guitar tracks.

The demo features the following guitars:

• rhythm guitars – Hamer USA Studio Custom (left channel), Gibson Melody Maker SG (centre), Fender Stratocaster (right channel)

• reverse guitar – Gibson Melody Maker SG

• lead guitar – Hamer USA Studio Custom, Morley wah-wah

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The Bluetone Bugaboo Distortion pedal (249 €) is based on the company’s none-more-Metal Bugaboo valve amplifier’s crunch channel.

The Bugaboo is aimed more squarely at the Hard Rock- and Metal-crowd, offering much more gain and a lot more juicy compression than the Fried Eye pedal.

The wiring inside our review unit looks a bit less tidy, due to the long wires going from the circuit board to the pots and switches. I’d like to stress, though, that this specific pedal is a very early production model that has been superseded by a more compact version (but with completely identical specs and features) recently!

The Bugaboo-pedal, too, runs on nine to eighteen volts DC supplied by a PSU (not included) via a standard 2.1 mm plug (centre negative).

Bluetone’s Bugaboo does exactly what is says on the tin:

This pedal turns any amp into a fire breathing thing of beauty, offering plenty of gain. The three-band EQ has been bolstered by two very nifty mini-switches. Bite offers a presence boost that will help your guitar to cut through even the densest mix, while Tight helps you keep the bottom end from becoming too boomy.

This short audio clip gives you an idea of the Bugaboo’s basic sound with the Gain control set to 12 o’clock, Bite engaged and Tight turned off. I used a Hamer USA Studio Custom with the bridge humbucker engaged. The clip was recorded direct off a Blackstar HT-1R’s speaker emulated output:

The demo song shows you how the Bugaboo performs in a band mix. All guitar tracks were recorded direct off a Blackstar HT-1R’s speaker emulated output. The song contains the following guitar tracks:

• Rhythm guitars – Fender Stratocaster (left) & Gibson Melody Maker SG (right)

• Lead guitar – Hamer USA Studio Custom

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In my view, the clean, business-like look of the new Bluetone-pedals is a clear bonus, especially on stage. Sure, the Fried Eye and Bugaboo don’t sport any flashy paint jobs that scream ”Hey, man, I’m a weird boutique pedal”, but at least you can tell instantly what type of pedal you’re dealing with, and which knob (or switch) does what.

In terms of their sounds both units are winners, each offering a wide array of different shades of distortion, with the Fried Eye being a bit more ”Rock” and the Bugaboo a tad more ”Metal” in character. These are professional grade, handmade effect pedals at a fair price.Save

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03/04/2019

Bluetone Bugaboo Distortion – now on SoundCloud

All guitar tracks recorded through a Blackstar HT-1R’s speaker-emulated output.

• Rhythm guitars – Fender Stratocaster (left) & Gibson Melody Maker SG (right)

• Lead guitar – Hamer USA Studio Custom

Handmade by Bluetone Custom Amplifiers.

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18/03/2019

Bluetone Bugaboo Pedal – testi tulossa – review coming soon

Info: Bluetone Custom Amplifiers

21/02/2019

The Bluetone Bugaboo pedal played by Jussi Kaakkolammi

The Bugaboo distortion pedal (230 €) is Bluetone’s first floor effect. The Bugaboo’s circuit is based on Bluetone’s Bugaboo high-gain amplifier.

Contact: Bluetone Custom Amplifiers

06/06/2016

The Making of a Bluetone Amp – Part 4

Bluetone part 4 – 2

So here’s the finished guitar amplifier:

The new Bluetone Crossroad 2+2 amp head is fitted inside its cabinet, and Bluetone’s game-changing wifi-software is up and running smoothly.

Bluetone part 4 – 3

Bluetone’s wifi-protocol makes it easy to check and readjust the tube bias on your amplifier’s power tubes. No engineering degree or special tools needed – you only have to have a mobile device or computer to hand.

Bluetone part 4 – 4

The amp head is accessed as a web-address. The correct bias values for the power amp valves fitting your amp are listed in the owner’s manual. All you have to do is to type the new bias values into the correct fields, and save them by pressing the ”Change Bias” buttons.

Bluetone part 4 – 1

This is what the finished half-stack looks like. It has already been taken home by its lucky owner.

Contact: Bluetone

06/06/2016

The Making of a Bluetone Amp – Part 3

Bluetone Pt3 – 1

The time-consuming process of hand-wiring, assembling and soldering the innards of the new Bluetone Crossroad amp head was practically finished by the start of last week. The only thing still missing was the software to run the wifi power valve biasing (the traditional, hardwired bias adjustment already worked, of course).

Bluetone Pt3 – 2

Bluetone Pt3 – 3

Bluetone Pt3 – 4

This is the way a custom-made guitar amplifier should look on the inside – exemplary workmanship and top grade components.

Bluetone Pt3 – 5

Bluetone Pt3 – 6

Bluetone Pt3 – 7

There was still a tiny bit of adjustment work to be done on the metal chassis to make it fit properly into its cabinet.

Bluetone Pt3 –8

When all is finished the control panel should be flush with the cloth grille.

From a tonal perspective the Crossroad-head was all dialled-in, thoroughly checked and rearing to go. Matti and Harry gave me a run-through of the sounds offered by this amp’s three channels, and I must say it sounded fantastic!

Only a few hours after my visit to Bluetone’s HQ, I got a message from Harry that the wifi-application had arrived for inclusion in the head.

03/06/2016

Näin syntyy Bluetone-vahvistin – osa 4

Bluetone part 4 – 2

Valmista tuli!

Uusi Bluetone Crossroad 2+2 -vahvistin on sovitettu koteloonsa, ja firman mullistava wlan-softa pyörii ongelmitta vahvistimessa.

Bluetone part 4 – 3

Wifi-ominaisuus mahdollistaa pääteputkien biasointia kätevästi ilman insinööritaitoa tai erikoistyökaluja suoraan mobiililaitteen tai tietokoneen nettiselaimelta.

Bluetone part 4 – 4

Putkityypille sopivat biasointiarvot löytyy vahvistimen käyttöohjeesta, ja niitä voi muuttaa tallentamalla uudet arvot kummallekin pääteputkiparille nettiselaimen kautta.

Bluetone part 4 – 1

Nyt Bluetone Crossroad -puolistäkki on valmis luovutettavaksi asiakkaalle.

Lisätiedot: Bluetone

30/05/2016

Näin syntyy Bluetone-vahvistin – osa 3

Bluetone Pt3 – 1

Aikaavievän ja tarkkuutta vaativan kokoamisvaiheen jälken uusi Bluetone Crossroad -nuppi on viitä vaille valmis. Ainoastaan wifi-biasoinnin softa puuttuu vielä (perinteinen biasointi johdoilla toimii toki tästä huolimatta).

Bluetone Pt3 – 2

Bluetone Pt3 – 3

Bluetone Pt3 – 4

Tällaisia custom-vahvistimien sisälmykset voivat näyttää parhaimmillaan – erittäin siistiä työtä ja laadukkaita komponentteja.

Bluetone Pt3 – 5

Bluetone Pt3 – 6

Bluetone Pt3 – 7

Nupin kotelo kaipaa vielä pientä hienosäätöä, koska se oli koesovituksessa hiuksen verran liian tiukka, eikä etupaneeli mahtunut sulavasti kokonaan aukosta läpi.

Bluetone Pt3 –8

Tarkoitus on, että valmiissa vahvistimessa etupaneeli on samassa linjassa nupin etukankaan kanssa.

Uuden Crossroad-nupin elektroniikka on jo hienosäädetty, ja myös sen koesoitto on viety onnistuneesti läpi. Matti ja Harry esittivät minulle puolistäkin soundeja, ja erittäin hyvältä se kuulosti!

Sain juuri Bluetonelta viestin, että wlan-softa toimii nyt ja on valmis asennettavaksi – Crossroad-projekti lähestyy siis maaliviivaa.

13/04/2016

The Making of a Bluetone Amp – Part 2

Bluetone Crossroad – logic board

Bluetone Crossroad – layout sketch

A versatile tube amp, such as Bluetone’s Crossroad, is quite an involved design containing many different components. The exact component layout requires a good deal of planning.

As you can see in the picture above, Matti Vauhkonen has sketched the outlines of all the necessary parts going into the Crossroad onto the chassis’ protective foil. Next he has drilled the holes needed to mount the valve sockets, the circuit boards, the transformers, and the leads going through the chassis.

Bluetone Crossroad – layout test

Designing a tube amp is all about balancing the different requirements of the different parts working inside the amp – you can’t simply throw the components together haphazardly.

The large power transformer mustn’t radiate electromagnetic hum into the audio signal, which is why it is always placed as far as possible from the preamp valves. The power amp tubes, for their part, are best kept some distance from the audio transformer, to avoid hum and buzz induction. The audio transformer also has to be angled correctly in relation to the power transformer to keep things as quiet as possible.

Bluetone Crossroad – transformers

One special feature of Bluetone-amps is their use of (doughnut-shaped) toroidal transformers as power transformers, which is still quite rare in guitar amplifiers.

This is despite the advantages a toroidal transformer offers in comparison to a traditional laminated core transformer. A toroidal transformer weighs less than a similarly spec’ed traditional design, and it also radiates less electromagnetic hum, which makes it easier to find a good spot for the power transformer in the amp.

Bluetone’s Harry Kneckt puts it like this: ”If the toroidal transformer had been available to Leo Fender back in the 1950s, he would have used it in all his amps. I’m pretty sure of this!”

Bluetone Crossroad – boards and phone jacks

Matti Vauhkonen has first installed the transformers, tube sockets (the white components), and the output jacks (the black parts on the right) into the amp chassis.

The eyelet-boards and PCBs were added for these pictures only to give an idea of their placement inside the Crossroad head. The audio signal in all Bluetone amps runs through a pure, point-to-point soldered analogue-and-valve path, but for modern control features, such as channel switching via MIDI or tube biasing via WiFi, the company naturally uses modern technology.

Bluetone Crossroad – mounting control pots 3

Bluetone Crossroad – mounting control pots 2

Bluetone Crossroad – mounting the pilot light

The next step is the installation of all the front panel parts, such as the control pots, switches, and the pilot light.

Bluetone Crossroad – amp cabinet 1

Bluetone Crossroad – amp cabinet 2

Bluetone makes some of their cabinets in-house, depending on their current workload. For the head featured here, Bluetone ordered the arctic birch ply amp cabinet from their subcontractor.

Bluetone Crossroad – handwired board 3

At this moment Matti Vauhkonen is dealing with the time-consuming business of soldering and assembling the heart of the amp (here’s a picture of another Bluetone-model). Hand-soldering a point-to-point valve amp is something you shouldn’t do in a rush, if you want to avoid very time-consuming troubleshooting.

05/04/2016

Näin syntyy Bluetone-vahvistin – osa 2

Bluetone Crossroad – logic board

Bluetone Crossroad – layout sketch

Bluetone Crossroadin kaltaisessa, hyvin monipuolisessa putkinupissa on monta eri komponenttia. Osien toimiva sijoittelu vaatii hyvää suunnittelua.

Kuvassa näkyy Matti Vauhkosen merkinnät piiri- ja eyeletlevyjä, sekä muuntajia varten. Koteloon on porattu kaikki tarvittavat reiät putkikannoille, säätimille, tuloille ja lähdöille, levyjen kiinnikkeille, sekä johtojen läpivientiin.

Bluetone Crossroad – layout test

Putkivahvistimen tekijän täytyy miettiä nupin suunnittelussa osien sijoittelua useasta eri näkökulmasta – ei riitä, että kaikki osat vain mahtuvat koteloon.

Esimerkiksi isokokoinen verkkomuuntaja ei saa säteillä elektromagneetista huminaa kitarasignaaliin, minkä vuoksi muuntaja ja etuvahvistimen putket sijoitetaan aina niin kauas toisistaan kuin mahdollista. Audiomuuntaja ja päätevahvistimen putket taas ei kannata sijoittaa liian lähellä etuasteputkia, koska näidenkin osien välillä syntyy elektronista häirintää. Myös audiomuuntajan kelojen oikea fyysinen suuntaaminen verkkomuuntajaa nähden pitää häiriöääniä loitolla.

Bluetone Crossroad – transformers

Yksi Bluetone-vahvistinten erikoisuuksista on rengassydänmuuntajan (engl. toroidal transformer) käyttäminen verkkomuuntajana, mikä nähdään – ainakin vielä – melko harvoin kitaravahvistimissa.

Rengassydänmuuntajalla on useampi etu perinteiseen malliin nähden. Rengassydänmuuntaja on mm. kevyempi kuin perinteinen muuntaja samoilla spekseillä, ja laadukkaan rengassydänmuuntajan elektromagneettinen säteily on myös perinteistä huomattavasti pienempi, mikä helpottaa muuntajan sijoittelua vahvistimessa.

Tai miten Bluetonen Harry Kneckt sanoo: ”Jos Leo Fenderillä olisi ollut 1950-luvulla mahdollisuus käyttää rengassydänmuuntajia, hän olisi käyttänyt niitä. Tästä olen varma!”

Bluetone Crossroad – boards and phone jacks

Matti Vauhkonen on ensin kiinnittänyt koteloon Crossroad-nupin muuntajat, putkikannat (näkyvät valkoisina) ja takapaneelin jakit (mustat osat).

Eyelet- ja piirilevyt on lisätty koteloon vain näitä kuvia varten havainnollistamaan niiden lopulliset sijainnit. Vaikka Bluetone-vahvistimissa kitarasignaali kulkee aina ja vain käsinjuotetun point-to-point putki- ja analogielektroniikan kautta, käytetään luonnollisesti nykyelektroniikka, kun toteutetaan sellaiset ominaisuudet kuin esimerkiksi kanavanvaihdot MIDI:llä tai pääteputkien seurantaa ja biasointia Wifin kautta.

Bluetone Crossroad – mounting control pots 3

Bluetone Crossroad – mounting control pots 2

Bluetone Crossroad – mounting the pilot light

Seuraavaksi lisätään etupaneelin osia, kuten säätimet, kytkimet ja statusvalo.

Bluetone Crossroad – amp cabinet 1

Bluetone Crossroad – amp cabinet 2

Samanaikaisesti Bluetonen alihankkija on jo saanut nupin vanerikotelon valmiiksi. Aikataulusta riippuen Bluetone valmistaa myös osan koteloista omassa verstaassa.

Bluetone Crossroad – handwired board 3

Seuraava vaihe – joka on tällä hetkellä meneillään – on vahvistimen varsinaisen ”sydämen” valmistus (tässä kuva toisesta Bluetone-mallista). Näitä point-to-point juotostöitä ei kannata tehdä kiireellä, jos halutaan välttää turhauttava ja aikaa vievä vianetsintä. Maltti on valttia myös putkivahvistimen rakentamisessa!