It can be very difficult to find a pedal that really captures that sound you've been seeking.  And if you do find that perfect pedal, chances are it's very expensive.  Well, you don't need to spend a fortune to find your perfect sound!  Many of the moderately-priced pedals on the market can be turned into amazing tone machines with just a few modifications.  Here are some of the pedals that I have modified.

MXR Phase 90:
This "Block Logo" Phase 90 has been modified to sound more like the original "Script Logo" version.  The sound is much warmer and richer, and the feedback loop has been removed to improve clarity.  However, unlike the original, the filtering sections have been left in to remove unwanted noise.

Electro-Harmonix Small Clone:
So, I have this old, beat up, Small Clone chorus.  I like to use it on the pickup in my acoustic-electric, but felt like it could do a bit more for me if it was more flexible.  I disconnected the Depth switch, and added a depth knob, which allows me to dial-in exactly the right depth level.  That left me with an unused switch, so I turned it into a chorus/vibrato switch, giving me two effects in one.  While I had it open, I replaced the DC jack with a standard 2.1mm "Boss-style" jack.  This pedal will get a lot more use now!

Crybaby Wah:
Here is a great improvement on the original Crybaby wah.  I have installed a custom-tapered potentiometer, and altered the range and sweep to give it a more vocal quality.  I've also removed the input buffer, and wired the pedal for true bypass.  I have fixed the volume drop, and even replaced the unreliable plastic jacks with durable metal Switchcraft jacks.  See the demo on YouTube!

Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer:
This is an early 90s re-issue TS9, happily donated (in non-working condition) by my good friend Russ Hart.  Beside making it functional again, the frequency response has been widened so that the lows are not lost, and the drive range has been increased.  The pedal is now more transparent, and offers everything from subtle clipping to full-rocking distortion.

Russ was so impressed with the improvements I made to this pedal that he had me modify his new one.  I'm just glad he didn't ask me to give this one back!

Tube Screamer True Bypass:
Another Ibanez TS9, just like the one above, except this one is modified to be true-bypass.  This requires drilling a hole in the nameplate, and installing a mechanical switch.  There is a surprising bonus to this modification:  not only does the pedal no longer alter your tone while bypassed, but because I remove the buffer circuitry completely, it even improves the tone of the pedal when on!  See the demo on YouTube!

Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive:
This is actually a very good sounding overdrive as-is, and it is very similar in design to the Tube Screamer.  Because of that, it can benefit from many of the same improvements.  And beyond widening the frequency response, and smoothing-out the clipping, I remove one of the extra filter sections.  This gives the pedal more "breathing room" and allows your true tone to ring through.  See the demo on YouTube!

Electro-Harmonix Russian Small Stone:
The Russian version of the Small Stone phaser is an amazing sounding pedal.  My opinion is that it sounds better than the USA version.  But, it still isn't excempt from some wonderful improvements.  For starters, the Small Stone (both versions) is notorious for having a slight volume loss when activated.  I've fixed that issue, and improved the tonal range at the same time.  I've also replaced the DC jack with the more common 2.1mm "Boss-style" jack.

The Small Stone features a "Color" switch which feeds some of the phased signal back through the circuit for regeneration.  I've added a knob to control the amount of signal sent to the feedback loop, allowing full control of the effect color.  See the demo on YouTube!

Boss CE-2 Chorus:
This is the highly-revered "Made in Japan" version of the CE-2 from the 1980s.  Upon request, I have increased the range of the Rate control, and replaced key components to make the chorus more full and rich.  I was able to convince the owner to not convert this pedal to true-bypass, because a good buffer is not a bad thing, and this pedal has one of the best quality buffers ever made.

Boss DS-1 Distortion:
The original DS-1 from the 80s was a great distortion at a reasonable price, and that made it incredibly popular.  Unfortunately, Boss changed the design of the pedal some years later, and the newer models never sounded as good.  My mods to this pedal bring it back to where it should be.  The distortion is tubey and rich, instead of papery and thin.  At lower settings, it gives more of an overdrive sound that rivals the SD-1 Super Overdrive (in fact, some may say it sounds better).

Don't be fooled by some other pedal guys, this circuit can never be modified to be exactly the same as the original.  But this is as close as you could possibly get.  See the demo on YouTube!

Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi (USA Reissue):
The Big Muff is a legendary pedal, but when it comes to reproducing that legendary sound, the reissues fall short of the mark.  So, I decided to dive into this reissue Big Muff and see if I could get the sound back on track.  The amount of components that I had to change made this project more stupid than practical, but in the end this reissue finally sounds like its namesake.  As an aesthetic bonus, I changed the knobs to the pointer style knobs found on the originals.  Classic tone, vintage looks, reissue price!

Ibanez EM5 Echomachine:
This Ibanez digital delay belongs to my long-time friend (and jazz guitar master), Russ Hart, who asked me if I could do anything about the pedal's "tone-sucking" nature.  I went through the circuit and upgraded key components to much higher quality versions.  I also improved the high-end roll-off of the repeating signal, and repaired his broken switch.  Here's what Russ had to say about the results:

"This pedal NOW sounds amazing!!!  Before, despite the decent quality of the delay, I found that the pedal severely diminished the quality of the original guitar tone, not only when engaged, but when off, as well.  The unit killed so much of my tone while bypassed that it was discouraging, to say the least.  The best way to describe the original tone was that it shrunk the entire spectrum of my sound and diminished the output so much that the pedal was unusable and unacceptable to me.  Did I mention that the switch would not reliably turn on or off? YIKES!!!  Now, thanks to Scott, this pedal sounds like a million dollars, both on and off!!  Thanks, Scott!!!"

Visit the RST Custom Effects channel on YouTube for more pedal demos.

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