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Thread: Potentiometers always have static scratching noise

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    Potentiometers always have static scratching noise

    Hi all just having a problem for some time now with potentiometers (even good ones) always give a static scratching noise when you are physically turning them, but the other pots ive added in other areas of the board work ok. I will post a picture soon of the 2 places I have the pots soldered to. If I replace the volume pot with a micro PCB pot it works ok but for some reason the mini pots for external mounting are always noisy.
    Thanks for any help.

    pcb.jpg

    These are the type of pots im using...

    4979264.jpg
    Last edited by Fuzzdemon; 03-29-2017 at 05:52 PM.

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    Alpha pots, like the one shown, have rarely let me down personally. However, it has also been my experience that the smaller the diameter of the pot, the more abrasive the wiper tends to be. Keep in mind that pots can only work because the wiper is pressed up against the resistive strip. The implication is that sometimes pots will scrape off small particles of the resistive strip, and they can accumulate, as a form of "dirt" inside the pot, leading to tiny momentary discontinuities as the wiper is rotated.

    There are chemical treatments that can repair or avoid this, but the simplest and cheapest alternative is to gently pry up the tabs of the back cover of the pot to remove it and expose the resistive strip. You can then use a cotton-tipped applicator to wipe any residue off the resistive strip.

    Additionally, the connection between the solder lugs and the resistive strip is maintained by the little rivets you see in the picture. Every once in a while, a pot may arrive with one or two lugs not providing as snug a fit and connection as one might like. While the back of the pot is off, you can get in there and give the rivets a little "pinch" with your needlenose pliers to secure the connection, before you replace the back cover on the pot.

    I have found both of these procedures to help reduce potentially noise potentiometers. And, best of all, unless you have to actually go out and buy the tools, it's free!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hammer View Post
    Additionally, the connection between the solder lugs and the resistive strip is maintained by the little rivets you see in the picture. Every once in a while, a pot may arrive with one or two lugs not providing as snug a fit and connection as one might like. While the back of the pot is off, you can get in there and give the rivets a little "pinch" with your needlenose pliers to secure the connection, before you replace the back cover on the pot.
    Ive only ever experience the above part of your comment but in this case its not loose connections or dirt, ive had this issue from just these 2 parts of the circuit and another 1 which I changed to a switch instead but I really dont want to do that with these 2 pots, no room apart from anything else.

    btw I wasnt very clear in my first post I mean ive tried lots of different pots that I know are good and clean, its almost as if this part of the board is too sensitive for pots and needs switches.
    Last edited by Fuzzdemon; 03-29-2017 at 06:53 PM.

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    "Thermionic Apocalypse" -JT nickb's Avatar
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    Can't say anything without a schematic. Can you post it?
    Experience is something you get, just after you really needed it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nickb View Post
    Can't say anything without a schematic. Can you post it?
    This is the schematic, I envy you because I dont fully understand them yet, and it doesnt help when my resistor/cap/transistor location numbers dont match what I see in schematics.

    cry-baby-wah-gcb-95-schematic-parts.jpg

    This is closer to mine, I have Q1, Q2 and Q3 transistors but I cant cant find a schematic that has the Q3 on it. The Q3 is where I have my scratchy volume pot wired.

    cry-baby-wah-gcb-95-schematic.png
    Last edited by Fuzzdemon; 03-29-2017 at 07:22 PM.

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    "Thermionic Apocalypse" -JT nickb's Avatar
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    Sorry, but i'ts crucial to have the right schematic with the correct component refs but good try What I was thinking was you might have DC across the troublesome pot and by looking at the sch I could see if that might the case. What you could do is put a voltmeter across the pot and measure the DCV to see if it's an issue.
    Experience is something you get, just after you really needed it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nickb View Post
    Sorry, but i'ts crucial to have the right schematic with the correct component refs but good try What I was thinking was you might have DC across the troublesome pot and by looking at the sch I could see if that might the case. What you could do is put a voltmeter across the pot and measure the DCV to see if it's an issue.
    lol I will try and find the right one, its weird mine is so illusive and I have a few wah's like this. Im not sure how to do the voltmeter thing yet, I dont know what volts to expect, should it be plugged in when testing? do I measure the inner and outer lugs or both outer? I know how to measure everything except volts not needed to yet.

    I suspect the Q0 transistor in that schematic is the same as my Q3, im certain actually, kind of.

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    Supporting Member eschertron's Avatar
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    Are the pots you've soldered in replacing other pots, or replacing fixed resistors? I'm thinking the same thing as NickB, some of the resistors in that circuit possibly have enough voltage across them to cause a pot to be noisy. A schem would keep us from guessing.
    There may be workarounds for some pots with DC, not so much for others. If your desire is to find a sweet spot by tweaking and then leave it there, then the noisy pot is not an issue and can be left in that spot or swapped out for an equivalent-value fixed resistor.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Conner View Post
    If it still won't get loud enough, it's probably broken.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nickb View Post
    Sorry, but i'ts crucial to have the right schematic with the correct component refs but good try What I was thinking was you might have DC across the troublesome pot and by looking at the sch I could see if that might the case. What you could do is put a voltmeter across the pot and measure the DCV to see if it's an issue.
    ok I found the right schematic, looks like I could be wrong about the Q3 being the same as Q0. The Q3 is on the far right side.

    crybaby-gcb-95.png

    btw ive removed all the buffer components on this board so it looks like this

    gcb95-pcb.jpg
    Last edited by Fuzzdemon; 03-29-2017 at 08:00 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by eschertron View Post
    Are the pots you've soldered in replacing other pots, or replacing fixed resistors? I'm thinking the same thing as NickB, some of the resistors in that circuit possibly have enough voltage across them to cause a pot to be noisy. A schem would keep us from guessing.
    There may be workarounds for some pots with DC, not so much for others. If your desire is to find a sweet spot by tweaking and then leave it there, then the noisy pot is not an issue and can be left in that spot or swapped out for an equivalent-value fixed resistor.

    Yes the pots are replacing fixed resistors.

    So its a voltage issue then probably, at least im closer and its something ive overlooked, and no I really want pots on the volume control at least and preferably the R9 resistor. I hope that schem can help you decide what the problem is, im happy to do whatever it takes to fix, I dont want to drill more holes and use switches instead of pots, I think id rather live with the scratching but that really sucks.

    Wait, I should say only 1 pot is replacing a fixed resistor, the other is replacing a fixed transistor (the volume pot)

    I must say I was kind of hoping there would be a quick fix for this, maybe just solder something onto the pot to clean up the signal etc, I guess its not that simple.

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    "Thermionic Apocalypse" -JT nickb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuzzdemon View Post
    ok I found the right schematic, looks like I could be wrong about the Q3 being the same as Q0. The Q3 is on the far right side.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Crybaby GCB-95.png 
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    Oooo well done

    For measuring just go across the outer lugs. Anything greater than 0.1V or so is not good.
    Experience is something you get, just after you really needed it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nickb View Post
    Oooo well done

    For measuring just go across the outer lugs. Anything greater than 0.1V or so is not good.
    I set the MM to volts and touched the outer lugs of the pot and its showing me a different reading depending on which way the pots dial is turned, as if im measuring ohms. Its going from 0.0v to 0.262v.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuzzdemon View Post
    I set the MM to volts and touched the outer lugs of the pot and its showing me a different reading depending on which way the pots dial is turned, as if im measuring ohms. Its going from 0.0v to 0.262v.
    Then it's to be expected, you're changing a DC level and that makes for scratchy noises as you change settings.

    After that it's what eschertron said in post #8 ^^^.

    Note in some effects, crackle is to be expected, and labeled as such.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leo_Gnardo View Post
    Then it's to be expected, you're changing a DC level and that makes for scratchy noises as you change settings.

    After that it's what eschertron said in post #8 ^^^.

    Note in some effects, crackle is to be expected, and labeled as such.

    Thats a relief to see that pic, it looks like it could be unavoidable in some cases or he just cant be bothered correcting it, I find it too annoying to live with because it gets louder with gain and volume.

    I actually had a "super hard on" once and I played with the knob and it gradually got better and better.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuzzdemon View Post
    Thats a relief to see that pic, it looks like it could be unavoidable in some cases or he just cant be bothered correcting it, I find it too annoying to live with because it gets louder with gain and volume.
    Regardless of annoying scratch, Mr ZVex and his sister (who painted the boxes) must have made a fortune by now. Not at all a tough circuit to build, and they sell for gold dust money.

    I actually had a "super hard on" once and I played with the knob and it gradually got better and better.
    A little more information than we need...
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    T'wasn't his sister. It was a guy whose name escapes me at the moment. The fellow went off to do something else, and the time and cost required to provide the decoration and hand-legending was making the pedals rather non-competitively priced. Zach detailed on diystompboxes some time back all the steps required to prepare and protect the graphics on those original series of pedals. As I recall, the entire process took several days.

    Zach also detailed the many months he was living out of his car, driving around from music store to music store to drop off a few pedals. I assume he's doing okay now, but I'm also sure there were a lot of bills to pay off for a while, and that current sales provide for a decent place to live, a car that will pass safety inspection, and health insurance.

    I'm having a get together with a bunch of guys from a number of respected pedal companies at the start of May. I'll make it a point to ask for opinions on pots.
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    Old Timer Leo_Gnardo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hammer View Post
    T'wasn't his sister. It was a guy whose name escapes me at the moment.- - - -
    Oh well, that was the "legend" that arrived to my ears at the time those fx first appeared on the market, cute hand painted boxes with bees & flowers & whatnot. "You're not only buying a hand made effect from a craftsman, but you're also buying a work of art." Drat, I thought those kids were paying their way thru college. Another all-American dream, busted.

    Nonetheless it makes a case for the "scratch OK" sign. It happens, if you're moving a DC level, adjusting bias on a transistor or whatever.
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    Oh they absolutely are hand-painted and "a work of art". I just thought Jason Myrold should get the credit ( Zachary Vex of Z.Vex Effects | Tone Report ). To be honest, I don't even know if Zach has a sister.

    To link two seemingly disparate topics, there was a point, about maybe 15 years back, when Zach's product line was not as extensive as it is now, and when he didn't have quite so many competitors, that counterfeit Super Hard-Ons started showing up in Japanese stores. Zach was justifiably livid about it, and posted pics of the real and fake pedals. The parts used weren't as good, and situated differently, and the paint job wasn't as good either. Of course, since ZVex products weren't as widely available then as now, it was hard for anyone in Japan to see an SHO in the display case and think "Well that doesn't look right". Moreover, since the graphics were hand-painted on an otherwise nondistinctive Hammond 1590B chassis (as opposed to a proprietary chassis like a Klon or Mayer or Colorsound pedal), and normally looked kind of improvised, you couldn't look at the graphics and be as taken aback by differences as if, say, a different pedal in a 1590B had an "MRX" logo on it.

    Just one of those things in the ongoing history of pedals.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leo_Gnardo View Post
    Regardless of annoying scratch, Mr ZVex and his sister (who painted the boxes) must have made a fortune by now. Not at all a tough circuit to build, and they sell for gold dust money.



    A little more information than we need...
    Makes you wonder what they are doing thats so right.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hammer View Post
    T'wasn't his sister. It was a guy whose name escapes me at the moment. The fellow went off to do something else, and the time and cost required to provide the decoration and hand-legending was making the pedals rather non-competitively priced. Zach detailed on diystompboxes some time back all the steps required to prepare and protect the graphics on those original series of pedals. As I recall, the entire process took several days.

    Zach also detailed the many months he was living out of his car, driving around from music store to music store to drop off a few pedals. I assume he's doing okay now, but I'm also sure there were a lot of bills to pay off for a while, and that current sales provide for a decent place to live, a car that will pass safety inspection, and health insurance.

    I'm having a get together with a bunch of guys from a number of respected pedal companies at the start of May. I'll make it a point to ask for opinions on pots.
    Do you think he used cheap pots on purpose to keep cost down thinking people wont be too bothered about the scratching? if quality pots fix the issue id rather upgrade them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leo_Gnardo View Post
    Oh well, that was the "legend" that arrived to my ears at the time those fx first appeared on the market, cute hand painted boxes with bees & flowers & whatnot. "You're not only buying a hand made effect from a craftsman, but you're also buying a work of art." Drat, I thought those kids were paying their way thru college. Another all-American dream, busted.

    Nonetheless it makes a case for the "scratch OK" sign. It happens, if you're moving a DC level, adjusting bias on a transistor or whatever.
    oh yea I forgot the DC thing, im actually adjusting the bias on a transistor and resistor, either way its totally unavoidable then, damn, thanks for the info anyway guys much appropriated I can get on with living with it.
    Last edited by Fuzzdemon; 03-30-2017 at 07:53 PM.

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    Old Timer Leo_Gnardo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuzzdemon View Post
    oh yea I forgot the DC thing, im actually adjusting the bias on a transistor, either way its totally unavoidable then, damn, thanks for the info anyway guys much appropriated I can get on with living with it.
    From the point of view of an amp repair man, sometimes a capacitor carrying signal to a volume or tone control starts leaking DC, that makes pots that sound scratchy all the time no matter what quality or how much Deoxit or whatever cleaner / magic fixit goop is applied. When the cap is replaced or other source of DC is eliminated, the scratch goes away. So it's one of those inconvenient facts-of-life. Just smile and remember that "scratch OK" advice. (put smiling bumble bee face here)
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    "Thermionic Apocalypse" -JT nickb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuzzdemon View Post
    I set the MM to volts and touched the outer lugs of the pot and its showing me a different reading depending on which way the pots dial is turned, as if im measuring ohms. Its going from 0.0v to 0.262v.
    Changing R9 is really not a good idea because of the DC through the pot and because it messes up the DC operating point of the circuit so let's back right up. What is it you want to control / achieve?
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    "Thermionic Apocalypse" -JT nickb's Avatar
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    I knew RG had said something about this - it took me while to find it - very useful info: The Technology of Wah Pedals
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    Experience is something you get, just after you really needed it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nickb View Post
    Changing R9 is really not a good idea because of the DC through the pot and because it messes up the DC operating point of the circuit so let's back right up. What is it you want to control / achieve?
    Ive never liked the travel of the main pot on a wah, like the hot potz 2 or a new chase tone I bought or an even older 1990's pot, its too short and turns to bass too soon when you rock the pedal back so I thought modding would fix this but its only helped, so my main issue if you are asking is finding a pot that has a longer travel especially around the mids and highs.

    Obviously while im here im modding the wah as much as I can, so ive got a master volume knob, gain knob, middle gain knob, wah intensity knob, 12 position sweep switch, 12 position bass control knob, 2 position switch to choose between 2 fasels, thats the main stuff anyway, some upgrades too, got some vintage caps on the way and other goodies.

    Also theres another resistor that I havent touched yet, that needs a knob lol

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    Quote Originally Posted by nickb View Post
    I knew RG had said something about this - it took me while to find it - very useful info: The Technology of Wah Pedals
    Ive seen that before but it blew my brain, still a noob at this, I have it bookmarked some good troubleshooting tips on there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuzzdemon View Post
    Ive never liked the travel of the main pot on a wah, like the hot potz 2 or a new chase tone I bought or an even older 1990's pot, its too short and turns to bass too soon when you rock the pedal back so I thought modding would fix this but its only helped, so my main issue if you are asking is finding a pot that has a longer travel especially around the mids and highs.
    The pedal sweep is controlled mainly by the taper of the wah pot. Original pots in the '60s were very fast in tonal sweep, which contributed to their vocal phrasing sound. Through the years with different manufacturers, the tapers started to change and now pots are available in a number of different tapers, none of which have been documented of compared, as far as I know of, at least.

    Original pots had a reverse audio taper. To get a wider tonal range, I'd suggest that you try and find a pot with a linear taper.
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    "Thermionic Apocalypse" -JT nickb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuzzdemon View Post
    Ive never liked the travel of the main pot on a wah, like the hot potz 2 or a new chase tone I bought or an even older 1990's pot, its too short and turns to bass too soon when you rock the pedal back so I thought modding would fix this but its only helped, so my main issue if you are asking is finding a pot that has a longer travel especially around the mids and highs.

    Obviously while im here im modding the wah as much as I can, so ive got a master volume knob, gain knob, middle gain knob, wah intensity knob, 12 position sweep switch, 12 position bass control knob, 2 position switch to choose between 2 fasels, thats the main stuff anyway, some upgrades too, got some vintage caps on the way and other goodies.

    Also theres another resistor that I havent touched yet, that needs a knob lol
    I suggest you put it all back to stock and simply change C7 currently 10nF, e.g. 4.7nF will shift the resonance peak higher by half an octave.
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    Supporting Member eschertron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuzzdemon View Post
    Ive never liked the travel of the main pot on a wah, like the hot potz 2 or a new chase tone I bought or an even older 1990's pot, its too short and turns to bass too soon when you rock the pedal back so I thought modding would fix this but its only helped, so my main issue if you are asking is finding a pot that has a longer travel especially around the mids and highs.

    Obviously while im here im modding the wah as much as I can, so ive got a master volume knob, gain knob, middle gain knob, wah intensity knob, 12 position sweep switch, 12 position bass control knob, 2 position switch to choose between 2 fasels, thats the main stuff anyway, some upgrades too, got some vintage caps on the way and other goodies.

    Also theres another resistor that I havent touched yet, that needs a knob lol
    I think you're still missing a Tesla coil and a couple Jacob's ladders
    Just half-kidding. If you're aiming for laboratory gear, I say go for it! If you want something gig-able, take Nick's advice and scale back. I have a hard time coordinating standing up and playing; just thinking about tweaking half a dozen knobs and switches during a performance makes me dizzy
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Conner View Post
    If it still won't get loud enough, it's probably broken.

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    "Thermionic Apocalypse" -JT nickb's Avatar
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    Here's another approach I just thought of.

    If it's just the bottom end you don't like you can reduce the range of the wah by adding a resistor ( or pot) between ground and pin 1 of the the wah pot to avoid the bassy end that you don't like. The value of the WAH pot is not shown (100k?) so I suggest a pot wired as a variable resistor of half of the value of the WAH pot would be suitable. You can then tweak to get the desired range.
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    Experience is something you get, just after you really needed it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuzzdemon View Post
    Do you think he used cheap pots on purpose to keep cost down thinking people wont be too bothered about the scratching? if quality pots fix the issue id rather upgrade them.
    No, he used BETTER quality parts than the counterfeit ones, which is why he got so angry about them. Would you want someone passing off an inferior version of your product as "the real thing"? The "crackle" was simply an electronic artifact of making something that might normally be fixed a variable control.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 52 Bill View Post
    The pedal sweep is controlled mainly by the taper of the wah pot. Original pots in the '60s were very fast in tonal sweep, which contributed to their vocal phrasing sound. Through the years with different manufacturers, the tapers started to change and now pots are available in a number of different tapers, none of which have been documented of compared, as far as I know of, at least.

    Original pots had a reverse audio taper. To get a wider tonal range, I'd suggest that you try and find a pot with a linear taper.
    All I know is I heard theres a specific type of Vox wah pot that has a longer taper or travel or whatever its called. Its disappointing nobody has picked up on that and made one. Having said that I am happy enough with the control I have over the sweep control but the drawback is it removes a little treble the more bass side you go.

    I will look out for linear taper then thanks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nickb View Post
    I suggest you put it all back to stock and simply change C7 currently 10nF, e.g. 4.7nF will shift the resonance peak higher by half an octave.
    Ive got a few stock wah's ill try it on one of them thanks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by eschertron View Post
    I think you're still missing a Tesla coil and a couple Jacob's ladders
    Just half-kidding. If you're aiming for laboratory gear, I say go for it! If you want something gig-able, take Nick's advice and scale back. I have a hard time coordinating standing up and playing; just thinking about tweaking half a dozen knobs and switches during a performance makes me dizzy
    haha yea true but this started as an experiment to try to make the sweep the way I want and now I find its not that easy. Its not overwhelming all these knobs once you get one and use it, its easy to remember what does what without looking for a label. In a gig situation and you wanted to use totally different voicing then yea you would need to buy a few of them, I will do a discount for you though lol
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    Quote Originally Posted by nickb View Post
    Here's another approach I just thought of.

    If it's just the bottom end you don't like you can reduce the range of the wah by adding a resistor ( or pot) between ground and pin 1 of the the wah pot to avoid the bassy end that you don't like. The value of the WAH pot is not shown (100k?) so I suggest a pot wired as a variable resistor of half of the value of the WAH pot would be suitable. You can then tweak to get the desired range.
    Thats a good idea, ive already tried that on these mini pots, only problem is it isnt always consistent but i'll try it on these pots anyway, thanks for another good tip.

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