Introduction: Guitar-Mounted F/X for $5!

About: Go sit in the Faraday cage and think about what you've done...
Make a killer tone/WahWah filter effect on the cheap! Project uses a 'Remix' iPod module, made for 'scratching' effects with iPods. The audio quality is actually decent.

The Remix units have hit the discount stores (and ebay.) This one cost only $5 USD! With a 3V power supply, they are easily converted to AA batteries (or keep the AAA supply.)

Unlike many guitar projects, this one requires only minimal soldering and only a few extra parts. And no fabricating circuit boards, etc.

Build one like this for on-guitar use, or encase the guts in a stomp box! (use a volume petal to control the effect...)

And OK--I did have all the adapters and cables (and the textured paint) so the total cost will vary....

Keeping with the 'Ghetto' theme, I've installed one on a cheapo 70's guitar (my Les Paul looks on jealously in the video.) (Oh, and be nice about the playing--this was the first and only 'take'...)

Step 1: Parts and Supplies

You will need:

Soldering iron and Solder
Small screwdrivers (for electonics or jewelers)
Textured paint (optional)

Cords and adapters (I had these on hand)

With a host of adapters, custom cables don't need to be made (and the remix unit doesn't need any retrofitted jacks, etc.) Ultimately, it DOES make sense to add new jacks, etc. and NOT to depend on adapters.

But this is a quick-n-dirty hack, after all....;-)

Step 2: Disassemble the Remix Module

Remix units are well built, and there is a sequence to disassembly.

1) The iPod holder is snap-on but pretty hard to remove without breaking. Just cut it at that thin section, and it will pry off easily. The board is still fully enclosed, however.

2) Now remove the screws holding the inner side of the case. There are several. Once removed, the board is still screwed to the outer case side.

3) Remove the retaining screws, also.

4) One step remains--two screws for mounting the control wheel. Remove these through the access slot on the board. After removal, the wheel drops off and the Remix board lifts out.

Step 3: Connections

The images detail all the relevant connections.

Step 4: Jumper the 'Effect Bypass Switch'

The standard unit has a momentary effect bypass switch. It standard setting is 'Off.' The Remix is only 'filtering' when this button is pressed.

Add a jumper here and the effect is ON all the time (I've got only two hands, and need them to play.)

A remote switch or a foot on-off switch can be added here easily, especially if you build it into a stompbox.

Step 5: Modify the Controller Wheel

Here's how to reattach the controller wheel you removed during disassembly...

1) Drill a hole in the wheel to access the POT screw.

2) Reattach the inner wheel mount. Use the original screws, and a little glue...

3) Now the POT mounting screw can be accessed from the top of the wheel. Reattach the wheel to the Remix unit.

Step 6: Removing the Pot and Wiring an External Controller

The control POT on the Remix is 500K. But it can easily be removed and an external controller substituted. So making a wah pedal, etc. is easy.

Step 7: Apply Textured Paint to the Control Surface

I sprayed a couple coats of textured paint (clear) to the surface of the controller. The extra friction really helps the disc respond to hand movements.

Without it, my hand slips quite a bit....

Step 8: Add a Battery Holder

This puppy needs three volts, so AA or AAA batteries work great.

You can find a suitable holder @ Radio Shack, or rip one out of an old piece of electronic junk. I use the type that clips to a 9V battery connector, so the holder can be removed easily.

The solder the battery wires to the terminals detailed photo...

Step 9: F/X Chain

Like most variable filters (wahwah pedals, etc.), the module sounds best with a bit of distortion to thicken the effect. I used a Zoom 505 pedal.

The standard order for "killer sound" with a old school 'Dunlop' pedal is:

guitar ->pedal -> distortion ->amp

Adding an old-school Wah pedal after the distortion tends to quiet or mute the effect. For the Remix module, I found the output impedance a poor match for my guitar amp. Adding a preamp or a minimal circuit to convert it to hi-impedance output is probably trivial (maybe just a resistor attenuator will do the trick.)

However, the Remix unit is stereo and it's sound quality is quite good compared to an old Dunlop pedal. Reversing the f/x order works fine:

guitar -> distortion -> Remix ->amp

If the former (standard) f/x chain is followed, the guitar MUST be fed to both channels of the Remix input.

Step 10: What's With All the Cables???

Possibly due to impedance issues, the Remix unit sound best as described in the 'F/X chain' section. But when wired in this fashion, the signal travels:

guitar -> distortion -> Remix -> amp

This necessitates three sets of cables, unfortunately. A 'stompbox' unit wouldn't have this problem (although mounting the controller on the guitar would still require two cables.)

Step 11: Use

Just turn it on, and play. Rotate the knob for the desired effect. Use as a 'wah,' or just a band-pass filter to boost whichever frequencies you like.

The Remix has a 'zero' point (just above the high frequency boost) where the signal is passed without modification. Left here and the guitar sounds like itself.

It's fairly easy to dial in the 'resonant frequency' of any particular note--even in the bass range. 'Tuning in' to that frequency results in some cool sounds.

I've found that the 'tone' control on the guitar should be set low (3 or 4) or the FX quickly becomes the 'feedback machine!'

There is no signal passed with the switch in the 'off' position.